By the time Fastlane airs, we will be less than three weeks away from WrestleMania. But, of course, we can’t get to ‘Mania without the potential spoiler show. Not spoiler in the modern sense – to give away the plot of a film, show, book – but spoiler in the terms of disrupting the status quo. An example of this came at the very first Fastlane, in 2015. Roman Reigns had won that year’s Royal Rumble match and was scheduled to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31. But Daniel Bryan had other ideas, he wanted to challenge Brock for the title, so he challenged Roman Reigns to put his title shot on the line. Roman accepted the challenge, but the Yes Movement was unsuccessful in derailing the momentum of the Roman Empire that night.
Similarly, the following year, Triple H was the reigning WWE Champion and was scheduled to defend against Roman Reigns, while Dean Ambrose was scheduled to face Brock Lesnar. Dean Ambrose challenged Triple H for the title at that year’s “spoiler show”, Roadblock. Had Ambrose been successful, he would have completely scrapped the direction of two matches and it’s unclear what the outcome would have been. In the end, the point was moot as Triple H retained and the Mania plans remained as they were. Many fans will say the outcome was never in doubt, in either example, but such is the challenge for WWE to maintain storylines between the Rumble and Mania that they need to provide at least the threat of disruption to keep the fans guessing.
Fastlane is back in the WWE calendar after a one-year hiatus. Its slot last year was taken by the Super ShowDown in Saudi Arabia. For obvious reasons, WWE has been unable to return to Saudi Arabia since. In fact, it has now been over a year since WWE last had a live audience in attendance. Last year’s Elimination Chamber was the last show to do so, and it was also the first PPV that SteelChair provided predictions for, and we’re happy they’ve been a staple of what we do ever since.
(Message from Steph: the same way a wrestling fan has these staples in the year, moments he wouldn’t miss for all the money in the world, we, wrestling writers, are more or less the same. This year of predictions was a reason to show you, Mr Cause and myself may not be the same, we’re in fact the same wrestling fan, fueled by passion and a good sense of humour. Ready for Year Two?)
Note: Predictions are pure that, predictions. Nobody at SteelChair has heard anything ahead of time, we promise.
Braun Strowman vs Shane McMahon (if it happens…)
This has been an absolutely bizarre storyline. First of all, Braun Strowman claims that he was left out of the Elimination Chamber match on a technicality – he wasn’t he was simply never a former WWE Champion, as clearly stated by Adam Cole. At which point, the Monster Among Men then seems to believe there’s a conspiracy against him from WWE Management. At this rate, Braun may as well align himself with Sami Zayn and become a part of that documentary.
But Shane McMahon’s behaviour has been the real head-scratcher. Even if we skirt over the issue that he’s randomly back on WWE screens without explanation after being “fired” following a loss to Kevin Owens in 2019. There was the really awkward and clumsy promo, a few weeks on RAW, where it took Shane forever and a day to beat around the bush and call Braun stupid. They were set to have a match on the last edition of RAW, but Shane managed to outsmart Braun, put him through the commentary table and cover him in green slime. Make of that what you will.
Will this match even happen? There have been conflicting reports on that answer, but it was listed by Michael Cole on last night’s SmackDown.
Danny Cause’s Prediction: Shane McMahon – purely thinking from the logic that Shane will find a way to technically ‘win’ this match, via count-out, DQ or something. Giving them a reason to have a blow-off match with bigger stakes at Mania.
Steph Franchomme’s Prediction: Shane McMahon. And they’ll do bigger at Mania…
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Seth Rollins
The King of Strong Style will be out to get payback from Seth Rollins on behalf of Cesaro at WWE Fastlane this Sunday. Upon returning to SmackDown, Rollins was quickly disregarded by the majority of the locker room when he once again began to seek followers to help him bring about his grand vision of a better Friday night. When Cesaro was the last to turn his back, he suffered a sneak attack by the would-be saviour. The Swiss Superman got retribution with a humiliating Cesaro Swing on The SmackDown Saviour. In response, Rollins attacked Cesaro as he was executing the same swing mid-match on his one-time discipline Murphy and unleashed a brutal attack that included several vicious stomps. Shinsuke Nakamura took exception to Seth Rollins’ attack on Cesaro and shut down The SmackDown Saviour at the mic before embarrassing him with a beat down that ended with Kinshasa that paved the way for their pay-per-view showdown.
Danny Cause’s Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura – although Rollins hasn’t had a singles match since November, he doesn’t ‘need’ the win here. Besides, he’s cocky. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a distraction from Cesaro that sets up their match at Mania.
Steph Franchomme’s Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura – I was expecting Cesaro vs Rollins but we can imagine they will keep it for Mania…
Alexa Bliss vs Randy Orton
We haven’t seen “The Fiend” since TLC, the last PPV of 2020, where he lost a Firefly Inferno match and was “set on fire” by Randy Orton. The Viper considered his problems with Wyatt to be behind him. But it seems the Fiend has continued to haunt the Apex Predator, ‘from beyond the grave’, as well as through Alexa Bliss. The mystical powers of Bliss have cost Orton on a couple of occasions, including a recent episode of RAW where a mysterious black substance began to flow from Orton’s mouth. As much as Orton tries to ignore the situation, it’s become apparent that Alexa Bliss will not leave him alone. On the most recent episode of RAW, Alexa Bliss challenged Randy to a match at Fastlane. While Orton may not want to face her, he may not have a choice.
Danny Cause’s Prediction: Alexa Bliss – WWE doesn’t generally do Intergender matches, so I don’t expect traditional pro-wrestling here. I think it’s more likely that this will be a cinematic angle where Alexa’s mind games get the better of Orton, leading to the return of the Fiend and a final match at WrestleMania. Possibly a Firefly Funhouse match.
Steph Franchomme’s Prediction: Alexa Bliss/The Fiend. I have desperately wanted to see that kind of match happen in WWE one day, true intergender action. Stephanie McMahon told me it was in serious talks because some fans want to see it. Ok, I don’t expect a “true” intergender bout (think Lucha Underground) but at least trying is already a good start.
No Holds Barred Match
Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus
The long-time friends have turned bitter rivals, as the two have waged war in a series of punishing showdowns. In the leadup to WWE Elimination Chamber, The Celtic Warrior bested a winded The Scottish Warrior in a high-stakes Gauntlet Match on the red brand, but McIntyre overcame Sheamus’ advantage to retain his championship.
Bobby Lashley imposed his will on McIntyre’s reign, but The King of Claymore Country has remained steadfast in squashing his old friend’s thirst for retribution with one eye on the WWE Title. McIntyre’s quick-hitting Claymore provided an exclamation point in a battle with Sheamus that garnered early Match of the Year buzz on RAW. A No Disqualification rematch resulted in a no-contest after an earth-shattering steel steps collision grounded both men.
Will McIntyre be able to overcome his old friend and continue his unfinished business tour into WrestleMania in a title showdown with The All-Mighty? Or will Sheamus throw a wrench in the plans?
Danny Cause’s Prediction: Drew McIntyre – As we already know that Drew will be challenging for the WWE Championship at ‘Mania, he needs to maintain his momentum and vanquish his former friend en-route.
Steph Franchomme’s Prediction: Drew McIntyre. He needs to come to Mania as the strong one.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (c) vs Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
Before the SmackDown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks battles 2021 Royal Rumble Match winner Bianca Belair on The Grandest Stage of Them All, the two elite Superstars will join forces to challenge the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax.
Although Baszler and Jax may not always see eye-to-eye as individuals, the destructive tandem has personified squared circle dominance as two-time titleholders. But will they able to rebuke the combined opposition of two Superstars currently at the top of their game?
Banks has proven that she is, in fact, every bit of the “Blueprint” of the Women’s division as of late, and Belair has all the momentum in the world. The two overcame Baszler & Jax alongside sommelier Reginald on SmackDown, but the champions fired back with a win at WWE Elimination Chamber. But will they be able to work together effectively to conquer the champions with the WrestleMania showdown on the horizon?
Danny Cause’s Prediction: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler – Once again, WrestleMania is a two-night event. Therefore, one would expect that there’d be room for a Women’s Tag Team Championship match on one of those two nights and there’s no reason for the Tag titles to be tangled into the SmackDown Women’s Championship picture. Sasha and Bianca seem to tempestuous to work effectively as a team. And you never know what effect Reginald may have on the outcome here.
Steph Franchomme’s Prediction: Sasha and Bianca, oh my hole…
WWE United States Championship Match
Riddle (c) vs Mustafa Ali
Mustafa Ali laid down the challenge on social media after the loss and has pledged to bring honour back to the United States Championship. Riddle has managed to evade Mustafa Ali and his RETRIBUTION troops in the early days of his United States Title reign. Following a gritty win over the brutal faction’s leader on Monday Night RAW, The Original Bro will now clash with Ali in a United States Title rematch at WWE Fastlane.
Meanwhile, the King of Bros is so laid back and takes everything in his stride. There should be no surprise that Riddle accepted this challenge from Mustafa Ali. It’s been a fast journey for Riddle, from NXT up to SmackDown and then RAW. He’s looking to coast all the way into his first WrestleMania, but can he do so with his United States Championship intact?
Danny Cause’s Prediction: Riddle
Steph Franchomme’s Prediction: Ali.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Big E (c) vs Apollo Crews
After failing to capture the workhorse title from Big E in several attempts, a frustrated Apollo began to feel disrespected when the champion wanted him to step aside to make way for other would-be challengers. As a result, he lost control and unleashing a vicious steel step assault on the titleholder before eventually dropping the unforgiving implement out of the ring and on top of The Powerhouse of Positivity. The attack was so vicious that Big E was taken out on a stretcher.
Apollo Crews soon emerged wearing new colours of wealth, dominance and power of his ancestors and explained that he was now bringing the “real” Apollo Crews. Channelling his powerful Nigerian routes, he said that he showed Big E the steel after he defied him and that he would show anyone else the same. The following week, flanked by his imposing Royal Guard that had been protectors of his family’s wealth for generations, Crews demanded that The Powerhouse of Positivity give him a rematch for the Intercontinental Championship and promised the titleholder would fall at his feet.
On the March 12 edition of SmackDown, Big E returned from his injury and called out his attacker for an Intercontinental Title Match right there and then. When Crews didn’t emerge, Big E went on to defend the title in an Open Challenge against Sami Zayn. Moments after the victory, however, his brash adversary unleashed another vicious attack from behind. Then in a WWE Network Exclusive, Crews went on to inform the WWE Universe that he would accept the challenge for an Intercontinental Title Match at WWE Fastlane.
Some might say that Intercontinental Champion Big E will once again be putting his title on the line against Apollo Crews. If you ask his imminent challenger, however, he will insist that Big E is facing the “real” Apollo Crews for the very first time.
Danny Cause’s Prediction: Big E – it seems early on in the post-New Day, solo career of Big E. He seems like the sort of guy who Vince McMahon would be high on, and that ought to get Big E a singles match at WrestleMania.
Steph Franchomme’s Prediction: Apollo Crews.
WWE Universal Championship Match – Special Enforcer: Edge
Roman Reigns (c) vs Daniel Bryan
As hinted at in the introduction, this is the potential spoiler match. As things stand, the Rated-R Superstar, Edge won the 2021 Men’s Royal Rumble match, earning him the right to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. It would be especially fitting as it’s a decade since Edge was forced to retire and had to vacate the World Heavyweight Championship.
Meanwhile, there have been reports that Daniel Bryan is looking at winding down, becoming a part-time performer and spending more time at home. As a result, this has been incorporated into SmackDown storylines with Bryan concerned that he doesn’t know how many WrestleMania’s he has left and he wants to main event one last time. The only way Bryan can do that is if he defeats Roman Reigns for the Universal title and, thus, take his spot in the Championship match at Mania. It won’t be easy, but Bryan has made a habit out of overcoming the odds. Can he do it again here?
Danny Cause’s Prediction: Roman Reigns – I don’t think anybody truly expects Bryan to win here and disrupt the currently planned Mania match. That said, this should still be a great match, especially with Edge, as the Special Enforcer to come into play too.
Steph Franchomme’s Prediction: Roman Reigns – but I expect the Mania match to turn into a Triple Threat one…
WWE Fastlane is streaming this Sunday at 7 PM EST (11 PM GMT – USA daily savings) on the WWE Network. The Kickoff Show begins at 6 PM EST (10 PM GMT) on WWE Network and WWE social platforms.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE