WWE Fastlane 2017 Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
The Raw brand of World Wrestling Entertainment rolled into Milwaukee for its Fastlane pay-per-view Sunday night, headlined by an epic encounter between Goldberg and Kevin Owens for the WWE Universal Championship.
Roman Reigns battled Braun Strowman in a battle of the big men with momentum and pride at stake, and Bayley defended the Raw Women's Championship against Charlotte Flair in the third marquee match on Sunday's WWE Network broadcast.
Which Superstars emerged from the show riding a wave of momentum ahead of WrestleMania 33 on April 2?
How did each match grade out, and how did the results affect storytelling going forward?
Take a look for yourself with this exclusive recap of the March 5 pay-per-view extravaganza.
Akira Tozawa and Rich Swann vs. Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar
Two midcard cruiserweight stories came together for a tag team match on Sunday's Kickoff Show as Akira Tozawa and Rich Swann battled Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar, accompanied to the squared circle by Alicia Fox.
The babyfaces cleared the ring of the heels and were poised to deliver a set of suicide dives when Fox stepped in front of Dar and Kendrick, shielding them.
The heels isolated Tozawa and worked him over until the Japanese star made a hot tag to Swann, who exploded into the match. The former cruiserweight champion took the fight to both Dar and Kendrick, scoring a few near-falls in the process.
A well-timed knee to the back sent Swann to the arena floor, and the heels regained control as Fox danced, celebrating the performance of her boyfriend and his partner to that point.
Swann fought out of The Captain's Hook but ate a suplex from Kendrick. Swann did manage to deliver a big kick that provided the opening he needed to make the tag to Tozawa.
A senton, stereo suicide dives and a Shining Wizard had the babyfaces rolling.
Swann kicked Kendrick into the Snap German, and Swann delivered the Phoenix Splash to Dar for the win.
Akira Tozawa and Rich Swann defeated Noam Dar and Brian Kendrick.
This never lived up to the quality of the Superstars involved.
It was clunky to start and never broke out of the typical tag team formula that is prevalent in all WWE tag bouts.
Swann managed to shine brightest, with his Phoenix Splash proving the most memorable moment of the contest.
While Tozawa may be the priority, Swann's in-ring charisma will help keep him over as the most popular babyface in the cruiserweight division.
From a storyline perspective, this did nothing to resolve the differences that exist between any of the four men.
Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe
Sami Zayn sought revenge for the vile assaults he suffered at the hands of Samoa Joe over the last month as the two former NXT stars squared off in the opening match of Fastlane.
Joe dropped Zayn with a single jab, than an enzuigiri to take control of the match. The Samoan Submission Machine utilized a modified bow and arrow to work the head, neck and back of Zayn.
The Underdog from the Underground began mounting a comeback, but Joe cut him off with a big atomic drop and a powerslam that netted him a near-fall. Zayn played possum and scored a small package for two.
Joe cut off a high-risk maneuver from Zayn with another enzuigiri kick. Zayn fought back and tried for a sunset flip powerbomb, but Joe used his weight advantage to stop it. Joe caught Zayn with the uranage suplex out of the corner and applied the same move for the win.
Samoa Joe defeated Sami Zayn via submission.
This felt like a match that should have been so much better but never really kicked out of first gear.
Joe was the intimidating ass-kicker who punished Zayn at every turn. The Underdog from the Underground was resilient and inspirational, but ultimately this storybook did not have a happy ending.
Sometimes, the good guy doesn't win. Sometimes, the bad guy is just better and for Zayn, that was the case Sunday night.
Now, Joe prepares for what should be a high-profile WrestleMania slot, presumably involving Triple H and Seth Rollins. For Zayn, his role is less certain thanks to an uneven booking and a propensity by WWE Creative for overlooking him.
Raw Tag Title Match: Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Enzo Amore and Big Cass fired the Milwaukee crowd up prior to Sunday's Raw Tag Team Championship match, but titleholders Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson wasted little time reminding fans why they are the top dogs in the division.
They isolated the smaller Amore, cutting him off on several occasions as he tried to make the tag to his larger partner.
Big Cass exploded into the match late, running rampant on Anderson and Gallows. He blasted Anderson with a big boot and partnered with Amore to deliver the Rocket Launcher to Gallows.
After clearing Big Cass at ringside, Anderson blasted Amore with a big boot and scored the pin-fall victory, despite the popular babyface's foot being draped over the bottom rope.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows defeated Enzo Amore and Big Cass.
The finish was incredibly hot, especially when it looked like the babyfaces may actually pull off the title victory. Before that, though, it was a generic and mediocre tag bout which did nothing to expand upon the formula that has been utilized by tag teams in WWE since the 1980s, much like the cruiserweight tag bout from earlier in the night.
The psychology was good enough, and it appears as though we are headed for another bout between the duos, but there needs to be a greater sense of urgency from the Superstars involved to deliver something beyond the standard fare fans are exposed to every Monday night.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
In a rematch from a one-sided Royal Rumble Kickoff Show match, Sasha Banks looked to avenge her defeat at the hands of Nia Jax Sunday night.
Jax overwhelmed The Boss from the beginning, running her over and working her back and core in an attempt to wear her down. She continued the punishment, trapping Banks in the Torture Rack and doing squats as she showed off her considerable strength.
Banks fought out and applied the guillotine choke, then switched to a sleeper as she tried to squeeze the life out of her much larger opponent.
Banks delivered a tilt-a-whirl DDT right into the Bank Statement as the fans came alive.
Jax powered out and caught Banks with a single-arm spinebuster. She followed up with a running legdrop to the back of her opponent. Too much talking and overconfidence led to Banks scoring a bridging rollup for the upset victory.
Sasha Banks defeated Nia Jax.
This was an extraordinarily fun big vs. little match that saw each woman perform their roles to near-perfection. Jax's arrogance was on full display and ultimately led to her demise. Banks was resilient, staying alive and fighting through the pain just long enough to seize an opportunity for the win.
Storytelling was on point, and the result was an emotional rollercoaster fans bought into by the end.
Now Jax will likely unleash her fury on the division, and the result will be more intriguing television leading into WrestleMania.
Cesaro vs. Jinder Mahal
Earlier in the night, Mick Foley vowed to give insistent villains Rusev and Jinder Mahal singles matches after their tag team seemingly imploded.
Mahal and Rusev brawled to kick off the festivities, but Cesaro and Sheamus interrupted. The Swiss Superman squared off with the former in singles competition.
Mahal controlled the majority of the match, working over the back of his opponent as the crowd's excitement came to a screeching halt.
Cesaro fought back and delivered a popup uppercut to end Mahal's night on a losing note.
Cesaro defeated Jinder Mahal.
There was nothing technically wrong with this match, but it was slow, heatless and never should have existed.
In fact, Cesaro should not have struggled nearly as much as he did with a guy who has been primarily an enhancement talent for the majority of his career.
So much wrong, with little in the way of encouraging action or Creative, it was a pointless segment designed only to eat up time.
Big Show vs. Rusev
Moments after Jinder Mahal was beaten by Cesaro, Rusev attacked him and sent him out of the ring like a piece of garbage. Suddenly, Big Show's music played and The World's Largest Athlete hit the ring.
Big Show overwhelmed The Bulgarian Brute early, but Rusev was able to gain control of the bout. His offense proved ineffective, though.
Three Machka kicks failed to put the giant away as the former United States champion demonstrated great frustration.
Big Show fought back into the match, dropped the straps of his singlet and blasted a mostly unconscious Rusev with the knockout punch for the pin-fall victory.
Big Show defeated Rusev.
This...was not good, and it was clearly thrown together at the last minute.
Big Show looked impressive, a giant more motivated than he has been in years, but a win over the inconsistently booked Rusev does nothing to improve his standing on the Raw roster.
Rusev is floundering as WrestleMania approaches, leaving many to wonder if he will even appear on the card in any meaningful scenario. For him, it may be the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal if he is to leave his mark on the biggest card of the year.
Cruiserweight Championship Match: Jack Gallagher vs. Neville
Could 205 Live's resident gentleman overcome the ferocity and ruthless aggression of cruiserweight champion Neville on Sunday night as Jack Gallagher sought to dethrone The King of the Cruiserweights?
Neville controlled the match, delivering a scary release German suplex at one point that threatened Gallagher's safety, let alone ability to score the victory.
The Gentleman fought back, though, using his unorthodox headbutt-based offense to thwart Neville's offensive onslaught.
Late in the match, the action moved to the ropes, where the challenge seemingly knocked Neville unconscious. The champion fought off a superplex attempt and dropped Gallagher to the mat below with a front suplex, and he then delivered The Red Arrow for the pin-fall victory.
Neville defeated Jack Gallagher to retain the Cruiserweight Championship.
This match did more to make a star out of Jack Gallagher than anything he has been part of to this point.
The comedy was there early, but by match's end, Gentleman Jack displayed incredible toughness. More importantly, he looked like Neville's peer rather than pale jobber with an umbrella gimmick. A star was born Sunday night and now, it will be incredibly difficult to shove him to the background in favor of Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander and the other babyfaces in the division.
WWE Creative will try but fail miserably.
The teases of commentator Austin Aries' return to the squared circle would seem to indicate he will be the next challenger to Neville's title. If that is the case, The Man That Gravity Forgot will face his biggest challenge to date, a Superstar he cannot merely toss around the ring with reckless abandon.
More importantly, their match will provide the division with its highest-profile bout to date.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
The fight between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman wasted little time becoming an intense war Sunday night as the action spilled out of the ring and on to the arena floor.
Reigns frustrated his massive opponent early, taking the fight to him until a massive spinebuster out of the corner halted his momentum.
Strowman used his considerable strength to work over Reigns, wearing him down with a vise-like headlock as a pocket of fans chanted "Let's go Roman." As the babyface fought to his feet, Strowman caught him with a shot to the ribs, withstood a series of clotheslines and delivered the reverse chokeslam for a count of two.
Strowman charged at Reigns and collided shoulder-first with the steel post.
Reigns followed up, unloading with a series of hard rights to the body and a flurry of clotheslines that had the relentless babyface surging. He evaded a chokeslam and delivered a big Samoan Drop for a near-fall.
Strowman dodged a Superman Punch and delivered a big powerbomb for two.
The big man crashed to the arena floor and appeared to be holding his knee, creating questions about a potential injury. Reigns capitalized, delivering the Drive-By and eyeing a ringside spear. Strowman caught him and delivered an enormous powerslam through the announce table as chants of "holy s--t" broke out.
Strowman, slowed by the knee injury, fell victim to a spear but was able to escape before the referee slapped the mat for a third time. Strowman cut off Reigns' comeback attempt and climbed the ropes. He tried for a splash but Reigns rolled out of the way.
A spear from Reigns finished Strowman as The Big Dog scored the clean win.
Roman Reigns defeated Braun Strowman.
That was the best match on this card—and it wasn't even remotely close—to this point in the night.
Reigns was fantastic, selling the incredible beating from Strowman. He absorbed a hellish amount of offense but stuck around long enough to capitalize on a mistake from the still unproven Strowman.
The big man was frustrated, unable to put Reigns away, and he climbed the ropes. He tried a high-risk maneuver and found out the hard way what happens when those moves do not pay off.
Reigns seizing the opportunity and delivering a spear was luckier than it was good, something his harshest critics will not take into account when they claim he "buried" Strowman.
The big man looks like a monster still, and Reigns is the opportunist whose ring awareness is improving with every match.
A match every bit deserving of the hype that preceded it, this was a titanic clash between two of the best big men in the sport.
Raw Women's Championship Match: Bayley vs. Charlotte
Charlotte accepted Bayley's challenge to leave Dana Brooke in the locker room, banishing the former NXT star from "her stage" before taking to the squared circle, determined to regain the title she had stolen from her weeks earlier on Raw.
The challenger controlled the early portion of the match, using her superb in-ring ability to keep Bayley at bay. The champion dug deep and pulled out the intestinal fortitude that has defined her character from the beginning, refusing to give into her opponent.
Bayley turned the tide in her favor, delivering a big hurricanrana from the top rope.
Charlotte answered with Natural Selection, but she was only able to keep her opponent's shoulders on the mat for two.
The fight spilled outside. Charlotte climbed the ropes, teasing a moonsault, but Sasha Banks hit the ring and provided a distraction. She would get involved once more, leading to the champion delivering the Bayley-to-Belly for the successful retention of her title.
Bayley defeated Charlotte to retain the WWE Raw Women's Championship.
This was disappointing, to say the least.
It lacked heat, though that may be the result of Reigns-Strowman stealing the show right before Bayley and Charlotte took to the squared circle. It lacked structure and a suitably hot conclusion befitting a monumental moment such as the end of Charlotte's pay-per-view win streak.
The match did not feel nearly as important as it was billed, nor did it really reflect its stature on this card.
Banks' interference, her win over an enraged Jax and this match are clearly setting up a Fatal 4-Way match for WrestleMania, where Charlotte will probably get her win back.
WWE Universal Championship Match: Goldberg vs. Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens vowed to outlast Goldberg in the week preceding Fastlane.
His strategy was on full display early Sunday as he repeatedly dropped off the ring apron, milking the clock and avoiding contact with the challenger. It was master manipulation.
When the overconfident Owens got in the ring and ordered the match started.
Chris Jericho's music played, providing a distraction. Goldberg launched across the ring with a spear, followed by a Jackhammer and was the new universal champion.
Jericho applauded from the ramp, and Goldberg celebrated to end the show.
Goldberg defeated Kevin Owens to win the Universal Championship.
At some point, the WWE Universe will come to the realization that Goldberg cannot hang with today's Superstars, thus necessitating the short matches, and it will turn on him.
The match was an afterthought to the angle within.
Jericho returning and costing Owens the title will have longer-reaching effects than Goldberg winning the title. That was a foregone conclusion, but Jericho's return was not. Monday's Raw begins the build to Owens-Jericho, a match that should prove to be one of WrestleMania's marquee ones.
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar may not be a match that goes down as a classic, but it is a battle between two iconic figures befitting the grandest stage in sports entertainment.