Tag Archives: Bayley

Review – WWE Fastlane

A sense of deflation is not ideal amongst WWE fans going into the biggest WrestleMania of all time.

But given its proximity – just four weeks away – Sunday’s Fastlane event, presented by the RAW brand, had a huge weight on its shoulders.

The best that can be said of Fastlane – and I’ve always thought that it sits far too close in WWE’s calendar to WrestleMania – is that it showcased the right talent, and planted seeds for storyline progression in the coming weeks and months.

The worst is, however, more noticeable. Milwaukee’s Bradley Centre witnessed two impressive winning streaks, those of Braun Strowman, yet to be pinned or submit, and Charlotte Flair, until now undefeated on pay-per-view, come to unnecessary and anti-climactic endings.

Fastlane, considered by fans and WWE officials a ‘B’ show, was not the right platform on which to halt the progress of two rising stars.

That is not to say that Strowman and Flair have been irreparably damaged by their respective defeats to Roman Reigns and Bayley.

Charlotte remains the best women’s wrestler in the company and Strowman has huge potential as the product’s only credible monster.

Painfully predictable

Clearly, though, WWE wanted Reigns to look strong heading into WrestleMania, where it is rumoured he will face The Undertaker.

“Sunday night’s event produced a painfully predictable main event… 22 seconds in total”

Fans will have seen his victory coming, but what made the whole thing worse was the lack of surprises in the match. It wasn’t spot-filled enough and, in defeat, Strowman didn’t look as convincing as his recent run suggested.

Flair will surely have a place in WrestleMania’s fatal-fourway match for the women’s title, set also to feature Nia Jax, Bayley and Sasha Banks.

It is likely that she will not drift too far from the championship picture, given her talent and popularity with fans. Banks’ match with Jax was slow and a little sloppy; I blame Jax for her stiff, methodical style.

Sunday night’s event also produced a painfully predictable main event. It was clear that either Brock Lesnar or Chris Jericho would interfere in Kevin Owens’ Universal title defence against Goldberg.

But obvious time constraints (thanks to the addition to the card of two unannounced matches) told fans that the show’s final bout would be short. And it was – 22 seconds in total.

Pleasant surprise

I did not want Owens to lose the belt. He is a much younger talent who has been on an incredible run of late. Goldberg is in the twilight of his career at 48, and since it was confirmed that Lesnar would be his WrestleMania opponent anyway, he did not need a belt to add any value to such a marquee match.

“Gallows and Andrews, are bland, and I can’t understand why WWE tag team gold remains around their waists”

Judging by the way he celebrated victory with his young son, the match felt like such a throwaway.

For Owens, the path ahead is clearly Jericho, a former partner whom he turned on mercilessly a few weeks back.

It was at least a pleasant surprise to see Jericho back on WWE duty; his absence from RAW the past few weeks has been glaring.

I think the two will have a stellar match in Orlando at WrestleMania 33, and having him screw Owens in his title defence provides a more heated backdrop to their feud.

Momentum

There were few particularly interesting things to take away from this year’s Fastlane.

The return of a 375lb Big Show was nice to see, the fans clearly into his new look, though this could possibly be due to the knowledge that his current run will be his last in WWE after almost 20 years with the company.

I wasn’t a fan of the manner in which he beat a much younger Rusev, but if WrestleMania is his final match, he must go in with solid momentum behind him. The break-up of Rusev and Jinder Mahal wasn’t going to be anything other than a mild understatement.

Enzo and Cass, whom I have come to like immensely, continued their losing streak in pay-per-view matches, which is shocking when one considers the excitement generated by the duo.

Their opponents, Gallows and Andrews, are bland by comparison and I can’t understand why WWE tag team gold remains around their waists. It is possible that a split for the former is in the works, but that does not mean a title run cannot work.

Lack of charisma

Even the opening contest, a decent match between Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe, couldn’t allow me to rate this PPV event at any more than two stars.

“If this is the Fastlane to WrestleMania, then I’d suggest we find a side route…”

Both men are undoubtedly technically gifted, but lack the charisma to really, fully integrate a crowd with a match.

Joe’s victory was made predictable by his recent introduction to WWE Television, and his relative freshness makes the crowd’s lack of investment into him somewhat odd.

In fact, ‘somewhat odd’ aptly summarises Sunday night’s show.

The wrong superstars were stunted just weeks before the biggest show of the year.

A part-timer, who has contributed just 48 seconds of match time since his return in the autumn, has been rewarded with a major championship run, and WWE insists on putting its lower-card belts on talent who just aren’t managing to capture the excitement of the live crowd.

If this is the Fastlane to WrestleMania, then I’d suggest we find a side route…

Hyped to the max as NXT takes over London

Enthralling action, gripping plotlines, larger-than-life performances and personalities – I’ve seen all of this and more on my TV as a wrestling fan.

But actually being at a big-time live show turns all of those qualities up by 1,000, and for three hours you are removed from reality and immersed in the crazy, captivating world of pro wrestling.

“Young, old, families, friends, people on their own – none of those categories mattered. We were all in one category, wrestling fans”

When WWE NXT scheduled a network special event at the SSE Arena in Wembley for the finale of its UK tour, I knew I had to move fast.

Tickets sold out in less than five minutes, but luckily I secured mine and so became one of the privileged 10,000-plus fans in attendance on the night.

As somebody who had only ever watched wrestling on television, you could say I was than a little excited.

The moment I walked into the arena and saw the ring and the crowd, a massive grin spread across my face and pretty much stayed there for the whole evening.

As I located my seat, it was refreshing to see all types of people at the event. The young, the old, families, friends, people on their own – and none of those categories mattered. We were all in one category, wrestling fans.

Hyped up

Whatever you think of pro wrestling, it knows how to put on a show that makes fans feel it’s worth paying their hard-earned money to attend.

The party-like atmosphere at this one was in evidence even outside the arena, with the gathering hordes of WWE aficionados in high spirits, chanting all the way as they moved up the queue to get in.

” It was the perfect match to get the crowd up and gave the show a sense of momentum that never flagged”

The televised show started with a special appearance by probably the most recognisable face on the night, former superstar and now executive vice-president of talent relations/live events of WWE, Triple H.

It was like the Triple H of old. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand and hyped things up to the max as the first rendition of the NXT chant echoed around the cavernous venue.

The first match on the card was actually one of the night’s best, between Japanese star Asuka and Emma. These women really left it all in the ring, delivering intensity in every move.

Asuka showcased her submission expertise and hard-hitting style to claim the victory. It was the perfect match to get the crowd up and gave the show a sense of momentum that never flagged as the night went on.

Death defying

If I was to tell you what came next blew the roof off the place and produced the largest reaction of the night, you’d imagine it must have been a really intense back-and-forth contest with an array of exciting moves and death-defying leaps – but it was simply an entrance to the ring!

When Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy’s music was pumped out, it really did feel like England had scored at the nearby national stadium. The crowd roared and sang along with every word of their famed opening entrance skit, complete with their native New York accent.

This segment really brought home why I originally became a pro wrestling fan. It’s an art that elevates audience participation to a level that leaves other forms of entertainment trailing in its wake.

A lot of the time, the wrestling isn’t what garners the loudest reaction but rather it’s the entrances, promos and catchphrases in which the crowd really feel most deeply involved.

Egged on

A fairly rudimentary match followed between crowd favourite Apollo Crews and the villainous Baron Corbin.

Some viewed this as the right time to get more drinks and food. Others aimed some vulgar chants at the evil Baron, who egged on the crowd, embraced their bile and basked in the hatred. Corbin went on to win and afterwards endured more profane abuse before, in typically British fashion, we clapped him off all the way.

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As we got further into the card, I could really sense the anticipation building for the last two matches – the championship contests were most likely the ones that people had really paid to see.

As Bayley made her memorable entrance and wrestled Nia Jax for the NXT Divas Championship, we Londoners started the now famous Bayley chant based on Hey Baby, the former UK no 1 song made famous by DJ Otzi.

Since the Wembley show, the chant has taken off and is now sung in Bayley’s honour at all the events she appear at back in the USA and elsewhere around the world. We were not only just there to witness and admire, but we were making history.

Brutality    

The main event was finally upon us and one word comes to mind when looking back – brutality. Reigning NXT heavyweight champion Finn Balor and challenger Samoa Joe really put it all on the line. The promise of blood, sweat and tears has become a cliché in the fight world, but this match lived up to it.

It truly had everything. Drama, emotion, violence, technical wrestling and no little amount of brawling. It truly did live up to its hype and delivered on all fronts, so much so that after Balor retained his belt to the delight of the crowd, he had to be carried out by medics. That’s what steel chairs, a table and a 300lb Samoan monster will do to you…

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The event drew to a close and I truly felt like I’d got my £60 worth, and left with a new-found respect for all the performers who had put their bodies through so much for our entertainment.

Wrestlers are on the road 300 days a year, fighting in a new city every night, and to experience it live was truly special – one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride.

I recommend anybody to go next time WWE rolls into your town. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan, by the time you come out of the arena at the end of the show, you will be.