The Outlook: WWE Fastlane Edition
Hello wrestling fans, and welcome back to another edition of The Outlook.
With WWE Fastlane in the books, it’s time to look forward and evaluate the shape each Raw championship division is in as well as some of the major players heading into WrestleMania. I’m not great at small talk; so let’s just dive right in:
The Outlook: POSITIVE
Following Braun Strowman’s puzzling clean loss to Roman Reigns at Fastlane, Samoa Joe is now the best booked character currently on the main roster, and his match against Sami Zayn at Fastlane further cemented that. The term “match” isn’t even the right word to use here; it was more of an exhibition, which is exactly what it needed to be. It actually kinda reminded me of Joe’s TNA debut match against Chris Sabin way back at No Surrender 2005. The Destroyer got all his dynamic monster shit in, Zayn got a few hope spots here and there, but in the end Joe comes out on top. WWE is clearly behind Joe with wins over Roman Reigns, Cesaro, and now Zayn. But most importantly, his characterization so far has been pitch-perfect. There is nothing hokey or comical about him, he is just a straight beast. They did it successfully with Brock Lesnar, then it worked with Strowman, and now they’re applying it to Joe. The plus for Joe is that he doesn’t have a mouthpiece and he is just as legitimate on the mic as he is in the ring. It took a while to finally get here, but damn is it fun to watch on the main stage.
WWE Raw Tag Team Division
The Outlook: NEGATIVE
Boy was I wrong about my outlook on this division following the Royal Rumble. I really should have known better. Back then, I went optimistic and gave them a Positive. Just a mere month later and I’m going full Negative following Fastlane. I really thought Gallows and Anderson were gaining some momentum and personality, which would in turn invigorate creative to give them some better material to work with. Unfortunately, we’ve been treated to the same old crap every damn week. Number one contender’s match, singles matches between each member of the two feuding teams, guest commentary, blah, blah, blah. It is just so tired and uninspired, and it is helping no one get over. We all know that Vince McMahon doesn’t exactly view tag team wrestling as a money-maker and really only gives the entire division any attention in general when certain teams truly breakout as something special (i.e., Edge/Christian, The Hardy Boys, The Dudley Boys, New Day). And unfortunately, following New Day’s historic championship run, it appears we are firmly back in a tag team wrestling lull. At this point, we really need a significant shake-up within the division, especially with New Day seemingly completely out of the championship picture. Maybe a couple call-ups from NXT will help, but I am not getting my hopes up this time.
WWE Raw Mid-Card
The Outlook: NEUTRAL
Jinder Mahal just had a singles match on PPV. I mean, that pretty much sums up the Raw Mid-Card better than any other words I can string together. Jinderoids should not be having a singles match on Superstars let alone PPV. That said, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here because at least they’re trying to build something within the mid-card. We’ve got the uber-talented Rusev, a motivated Big Show, the always fun Cesaro and Sheamus, Sami Zayn, and of course, Titus O’Neil. It’s not the greatest mid-card roster ever, but at least they are giving everyone something to sink their teeth into. Rusev’s got a little thing going with Mahal, Big Show is slowly being re-introduced as a force to be reckoned with, Cesaro and Sheamus continue their one-upsmanship turned bromance, Zayn is holding it down as the plucky underdog, and O’Neil is always getting himself into some kind of trouble. I mean, it could be worse.
The Outlook: POSITIVE
Yes! Finally! Not only did we get a kick-ass sprint during the Fastlane Pre-Show, but also they followed it up with an awesome Cruiserweight Championship match on the main show. This is exactly how the Cruiserweight division should have been showcased since its return last summer. Fun, innovative matches that standout from the rest of the roster. This, combined with the fact that they’ve slowly been building distinct and interesting characters within the division with clearly defined roles is a formula for success. Hell, we finally got a “This is Awesome” chant during a Cruiserweight match, which is a far cry from the crickets they normally get. I applaud WWE for not giving up on this experiment. Honestly, they have stuck with it far longer than I thought they would have, and it is finally starting to work. And what with Neville leading the charge, Brian Kendrick keeping the mid-card in check as the wily veteran, Jack Gallagher emerging as a fan favorite with an ever-growing following, and the high-flying greatness of guys like Akira Tozawa, Rich Swann, TJ Perkins, and Cedric Alexander, this success was bound to happen eventually. And I haven’t even mentioned that goddamn Noam Daar, who just infuriates me to no end (and honestly speaking, I’m still not sure if that’s because he’s just a great heel, or because I have something against him for some reason). Either way, I enjoy seeing him get his ass kicked. That said, it’s perfect timing that the entire division is peaking just in time for WrestleMania.
The Outlook: NEUTRAL
I’m not going to overreact and say that Braun Strowman’s career is ruined because of his clean loss to Roman Reigns at Fastlane. I mean, it was stupid. Like, unbelievably idiotic especially after the near-perfect buildup of his character over the last eight months. But he’s a strong enough character to overcome the loss and keeping trucking along. Unfortunately, his trajectory following Fastlane should have been a clear Positive instead of a middling Neutral. There were so many ways to end this match, and they chose literally the only one I thought they would never go with. They could have ended it as a No Contest; they could have had Strowman demolish Reigns to the point of disqualification; they could have had The Undertaker return and cost Reigns the match to setup their inevitable WrestleMania showdown. But no, they went with the clean pin on Strowman. What’s worse is that there was no follow-up. Reigns won and that was it. Why couldn’t Strowman kip the fuck up and plant Reigns with a powerslam? Something!
WWE Raw Women’s Division
The Outlook: NEGATIVE
The Raw Women’s division is just getting too cutesy for its own good. Not only did they manage to butcher what could have been an all-time classic WWE Raw Women’s Championship coronation for Bayley at WrestleMania, but they are starting to ruin the sham of a replacement coronation they treated us to instead. Please correct me if I missed something, but why did Bayley not get disqualified when Sasha Banks ran down and attacked Charlotte in plain sight of the referee? Why are we as fans supposed to be happy that Bayley won? It’s these lapses in logic that make it hard to cheer for a babyface, especially one like Bayley who is still trying to get her sea legs under her on the main roster. They take for granted the following Bayley has, and it seems they believe fans will cheer for her no matter what. I’m surprised they didn’t have Banks pull a gun on Charlotte, shoot her dead in the ring, and have an unsuspecting Bayley pin her for the win. On top of that, there is absolutely no depth in the division beyond the big three and Nia Jax. It’s the same cast of characters, and the only one who really stands out as a star is Charlotte. Those post-Mania call-ups can’t come soon enough.
WWE Universal Championship Picture
The Outlook: NEUTRAL
I’m really torn on this one. On one hand, I have loved Goldberg’s return and his entire journey to the WWE Universal Championship. He has busted his ass and you can feel the passion he has for what he’s doing right now. On the other hand, and I’ll be as blunt as possible here: it sucks that his first title defense is against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. I feel that they revisited that rivalry and executed it perfectly at Survivor Series, and it really should have ended there. Not every monster needs to “get his win back.” Lesnar will be just as over as an unbeatable force as we was before losing to Goldberg, and they should each go their own separate ways and have unique first-time-ever matches on the grandest stage of them all. Unfortunately, that’s just not in the cards and our WrestleMania main event is set. That said, I won’t go full Negative here because at the end of the day it is Goldberg and I’m still super excited every time he shows up, and I am curious to see if we get a formal match between the two. There is also the added intrigue of the wildcard in this entire championship picture: Finn Balor. Does he return before Mania and implement his rematch clause turning this into a Triple Threat? You never know.
That does it for the latest edition of The Outlook. Let me know your own outlooks for each division down below!