The Real Winners and Losers from 2021 WWE Fastlane

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2021

The Real Winners and Losers from 2021 WWE Fastlane

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    For the Superstars of WWE, Fastlane represented the final opportunity to build momentum for themselves on The Road to WrestleMania.

    A key victory or strong booking could catapult someone into the limelight ahead of wrestling's most prestigious event.

    But not everyone would be so lucky.

    Some would fall victim to questionable creative or drop a match they simply could not afford to, diminishing their credibility and extinguishing their momentum.

    Who would fall into which category on a night with so much to gain or lose? Find out now with this recap of the final pay-per-view before WrestleMania 37 on April 10-11. 

Loser: Mustafa Ali

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    Following his loss to Riddle on the Kickoff Show, Mustafa Ali again berated his Retribution cohorts. This time, instead of taking the verbal abuse of their leader, Reckoning and Slapjack walked out, and Mace and T-Bar left him lying in a heap and bringing the faction to its end.

    Now, Ali faces an uncertain future.

    Retribution was meant to be his star-making vehicle. It should have catapulted him up the card and given him more exposure than ever before. To an extent, it worked. He was on television regularly and had the opportunity to express himself in ways he never did as a nondescript babyface. Now, though, he has no clear path outside of the obligatory matches against his former teammates.

    If anyone came out the winner of this whole ordeal, it was Reckoning, who can now turn her attention to the women's division as Mia Yim.

    What started with a loud, noisy bang last summer as an attempt to reverse sagging ratings ended with a whimper Sunday—not on the pay-per-view main card but rather an afterthought Kickoff Show.

    Ali earned better than that, and who knows what he can expect for the foreseeable future.

Winner: Sasha Banks

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    A frustrated Sasha Banks slapped Bianca Belair after their loss to Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler in their WWE Women's Tag Team Championship match, effectively turning herself into the de facto heel for her WrestleMania 37 program with The EST of WWE.

    Banks has proved time and again that she is an infinitely better heel than she is a babyface.

    As the arrogant, cocky, self-assured villainess, she was instrumental in making Bayley a championship-worthy competitor in NXT. Her work with The Role Model last year helped elevate Asuka to a division-leading babyface on Raw.

    In the same role, she will benefit a Belair who is in the middle of her first foray at the top of the card. 

    As the overconfident egotist, The Boss is exactly the sort of character that meshes well with Belair's determined upstart persona.

    The experienced Banks repeatedly referred to Belair as "rookie" Sunday, so we can expect her to underestimate her top contender all the way to 'Mania, where she learns the hard way why Belair refers to herself as The EST.

    Not only does a Banks turn benefit both her and Belair, but it also prevents a scenario in which WWE asks the fans to choose between the respected champion and the inspirational challenger. 

    This was  the right call and sets Banks up for a fantastic pre-WrestleMania run as The Legit Boss who long-time fans know and love.

Loser: Braun Strowman

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    Braun Strowman did not battle Shane McMahon Sunday as advertised as late as the Kickoff Show.

    No, The Monster Among Men took on Elias, who talked his way into the bout by way of his desire for a spot on the WrestleMania 37 card.

    Instead of Strowman steamrolling the musician in seconds, the match went on too long and even saw Elias get a few blows in on his opponent. The problem with that being The Monster Among Men was portrayed as this unstoppable force hellbent on revenge.

    He should have been ferocious and unforgiving. He should have bowled over Elias, a Superstar who has been little more than a tackling dummy for fellow competitors in recent months. In fact, The Monster Among Men should have run over Jaxson Ryker at ringside as well.

    What we got was an abbreviated television match that could have been saved, you know, for Raw.

    As a result, Strowman further had his credibility chipped away as WWE continues to figure out what it wants to do with a guy it affectionately labeled the "Monster Among Men" way back when it still eyed him for a long-term main event run.

Losers: Apollo Crews and Big E

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    Maybe it was a botch. Maybe the producer in charge of the match just picked a bad finish. Either way, the closing seconds of Big E and Apollo Crews did both Superstars and their match an incredible disservice.

    Theirs was, arguably, as hot as any feud entering Fastlane. They had heat behind them, a rare Intercontinental Championship feud that had fans genuinely invested in the competitors and their narrative.

    Then, Big E kinda, sorta pinned Crews' shoulders to the mat for what might have been a three-count, leaving everyone from the referee to the Superstars themselves momentarily confused.

    Crews covered it up well enough, attacking Big E and leaving him lying while adding a slap or two for good measure, but it didn't make up for what was a major dud of a finish that could have single-handedly erased all the goodwill this program had built through strong booking in the weeks preceding the PPV.

    It was a major disappointment that Big E and Crews will, hopefully, recover from in short order. Their program and the intensity both men have shown throughout deserves it.

Winners: Drew McIntyre and Sheamus

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    Drew McIntyre and Sheamus added to their incredible series of matches in 2021 with a classic brawl that saw the Scot deliver Future Shock, followed by the Claymore for a hard-fought victory.

    There were kendo-stick shots that left welts and lacerations about the body of the competitors. There were spine-shattering suplexes on the concrete. Sheamus drove McIntyre through a table, but the Scot rebounded and put The Celtic Warrior away to erase any doubt that he deserves the title opportunity against Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania 37.

    While the match was undeniably a showcase for McIntyre, it was also a chance for Sheamus to further prove why he is one of the more underrated performers on the WWE roster. Oftentimes undercut by questionable creative, he has repeatedly performed up to the moment.

    This was no different.

    The Irishman was spectacular here, dishing out punishment, talking a big game, and bumping for his former friend when necessary. His performance was key to the success of the match and integral in getting McIntyre ready for his latest dance on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

Winner: The Universal Championship Picture

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    The Universal Championship picture became muddied in the best way possible at the conclusion of Sunday's pay-per-view.

    Late in the main event, Daniel Bryan tapped Roman Reigns out, only to have Edge bash him with a steel chair. The furious Rated-R Superstar bashed both competitors with the weapon before leaving The Tribal Chief to secure the win. 

    In forcing the submission, Bryan created reasonable doubt that Reigns is the rightful champion. And Edge further escalated his feud with The Yes! Man while continuing to target The Head of the Table ahead of their WrestleMania clash.

    Suddenly, what looked to be a rather uninspired Universal Championship program on the surface now takes on the added element of Bryan.

    This isn't the first time the leader of The Yes! Movement has interjected himself into less-than-stellar WrestleMania plans. If WWE goes in that direction and does, in fact, add him to the main event, it will create a scenario that keeps audiences guessing.

    Does history repeat itself with Bryan overcoming the odds and winning in what might be his farewell 'Mania appearance? Does Edge complete the improbable comeback with a title victory? Maybe Reigns silences the doubters and reaffirms his position at the head of the table.

    Whatever the case, there is more for the audience to sink its teeth into at this point than there would have otherwise been had plans stayed relatively one-dimensional.

    The creative enhanced what was a genuinely great main event and the latest chapter in Reigns' string of extraordinary work since turning heel.