From Sunday night’s WWE Fastlane pay-per-view on, it will be a 20-day sprint to the first night of WrestleMania 37. Three of the four major singles titles on Raw and SmackDown have their matches for WrestleMania 37 either locked in or coming into focus, and yet there are many questions left to be answered in less than three weeks.
The recent storyline chaos led to WrestleMania matches being locked in alongside Fastlane matches in recent weeks on Raw and SmackDown, and even with a few additions to the two-night WrestleMania card there are still just four confirmed matches currently set for April 10 and 11 at Raymond James Stadium.
Fastlane could even alter one of those matches, as the highest stakes contest of the night features Daniel Bryan challenging Roman Reigns for the Universal championship with Edge at ringside as a guest enforcer. Is Bryan’s creep into the world title conversation simple a diversion to kill some time ahead of WrestleMania? Or could he legitimately make a triple threat match a reality, even with a loss on Sunday?
There are three other title matches set for Fastlane, but let’s set aside Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler’s women’s tag title defense against Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair for a moment, as that seems tailor made to simply generate tension for the WrestleMania SmackDown women’s championship bout between Banks and Belair. Riddle and Mustafa Ali clash in a United States championship rematch, while Big E puts his Intercontinental title on the line against Apollo Crews in a conflict that got deeply personal in a hurry.
Finally, there are a trio of one-on-one clashes that project to be drastically different. Drew McIntyre and Sheamus settle their problems once and for all in a no holds barred match, while Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura square of in a wrestling purist’s dream. Then there’s the intergender match between Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton that could be the trigger point for the return of the long absent “Fiend” Bray Wyatt.
Follow along throughout the night as we break down the action, match by match.
Match in progress: Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Braun Strowman def. Elias
This was merely a filler match, as Shane McMahon suffered a “knee injury” and abused his power to thrust Elias into a showdown with Strowman in his stead. Despite a brief glimmer of hope with a chop block and a top rope flying elbow, Strowman was essentially playing with his food as long as he wanted to. He eventually pinned Elias, and nothing was gained.
What’s next: Strowman vs. McMahon, for real. Maybe green paint/goo/slime will be involved.
Intercontinental championship: Big E (c) def. Apollo Crews
It was hard to predict an ending for the Intercontinental championship match at Fastlane. Would Big E get a definitive win and stop Apollo Crews’ newfound momentum cold? Or would Crews win the Intercontinental title, and bring Big E’s title reign to an unspectacular end?
Turns out, neither of those scenarios. Big E squeezed out a win by getting one shoulder up just in time as both men locked in simultaneous roll-ups, but the victory wasn’t enjoyed for long. Crews immediately launched into a post-match attack and landed three Angle slams and many slaps to Big E’s face to show his anger. Despite losing five times in Intercontinental title matches thus far in 2021, Crews is seemingly on track to get another come WrestleMania.
Strangely, the WrestleMania shot still feels earned, at least from an emotional standpoint. Big E continued to wear his heart on his sleeve, shouting throughout the early stages of the match as he beat up Crews. “You asked for this ass whuppin’,” Big E screamed, as he hit a spear through the ropes and a few apron splashes. “This is what you begged for… you brought this side out of me.”
After a couple of overhead belly-to-belly suplexes, Crews used Big E’s aggression against him and flipped the script. A trio of German suplexes and a frog splash got Crews a two-count. Two step-up Enzuigiris and a standup moonsault followed, Big E got his knees up on the last move to spin into the final sequence.
Big E fought out of a powerbomb, Crews got out of a Big Ending, and then the battle of rollup attempts was won by Big E.
— WWE (@WWE) March 21, 2021
What’s next: It seems like tensions have only begun to boil over, and Big E and Crews have scores to settle. What better place than WrestleMania? Hopefully next time, it’ll be a match that’s long enough to show off more of what each of them can do.
Women’s tag team championship: Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair
In terms of the most transparent and predictable stories on the Fastlane card, the women’s tag team championship match played out exactly as anyone who has watched five minutes of WWE TV in the last month knew it would.
Banks and Belair — in fantastic matching gear, mind you — started fast, hit some great double team moves including an assisted running knee. But it all devolved because of an intrusion from a guy named Reginald, a moment of miscommunication in the ring, and finally the dissolution of the short-term pair with rising tensions heading into their WrestleMania title match.
From the moment Banks hit the assisted knee on Shayna Baszler, as Belair held Baszler up in a double underhook position, Banks fell right into a Banks statement submission. Belair tried to stop Nia Jax from breaking up the attempt, but Jax shoved Belair into Banks, and Banks took it the wrong way. Banks and Belair started arguing, Banks called Belair a rookie and then pie-faced her. Baszler rolled up Banks as Belair took her time getting out of the ring, and when Belair couldn’t break up that pinfall fast enough, it was game over.
They argued again, Banks called Belair a rookie again and then connected with a full swinging slap to Belair’s face. With three weeks to go until WrestleMania, tensions are rising, but you can’t help but to think there could’ve been a better way of doing that than having the SmackDown women’s champion pinned, yet again.
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) March 21, 2021
What’s next: Hopefully a Reginald-free future for Banks and Belair. Let them build to their match, keep it simple, and it will be great. As for Jax and Baszler, they keep spinning their wheels without really going anywhere. Find an up-and-coming team that could use the boost, and let these two go their separate ways as singles competitors.
United States championship: Riddle (c) def. Mustafa Ali
It’s a shame that this match was relegated to the Fastlane Kickoff show for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the match itself, especially the last four minutes, was an incredible reminder of the talent that Ali and Riddle both possess. There was one particular sequence when a small package roll-up attempt by Ali was rolled through to Riddle standing up with Ali in his arms, picking Ali up and hitting a small package driver, straight into an Ali submission. To attempt it was ludicrous, to succeed and make it look that good was stunning.
There was barely a moment to catch your breath towards the end, and Riddle resorted to hitting his finishing maneuver, the Bro Derek, from the middle rope to win and retain.
Post-match, Retribution finally fell to pieces and turned their backs on Ali. Reckoning and Slapjack were first, and then Mace and T-Bar double chokeslammed Ali to remove any doubt.
HIGH JUSTICE for @AliWWE.
— WWE (@WWE) March 21, 2021
What’s next: Could Retribution continue without Ali? Sure. Should they? Absolutely not. Dominik Dijakovic (T-Bar), Mia Yim (Reckoning), Shane Thorne (Slapjack), and Dio Maddin (Mace) were saddled with a silly gimmick that Ali tried his hardest to save, but with no creative juice behind it and no major wins to speak of, it was left dead in the water. Each of them, especially Dijakovic and Yim, have incredible solo potential if given a fresh start.
As for Riddle, he’ll either have a multi-way match at WrestleMania, or dive head-first into something new on Monday night.
Still to come:
Universal championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Daniel Bryan
Randy Orton vs. Alexa Bliss
No Holds Barred: Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus