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    Wednesday, March 24, 2021

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Fastlane 2021

    Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns on WWE Fastlane


    Ever since it was instituted in 2015, the Fastlane PPV—or the idea of a March pay-per-view event, in general—was used as a last milestone before WrestleMania. It was a time that somehow allowed Creative to hold off on booking their biggest WrestleMania matches until March, but I don't believe it's ever been as egregious as this year's event, with very few Mania bouts being confirmed until the proverbial last minute.

    Fastlane allowed what should've been a sealed WrestleMania main event to still be in flux, as even though Edge won the right to challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship at the big event, the whole thing could have still been upended by Daniel Bryan. 

    By the time Fastlane started, only two WrestleMania matches were officially set in stone: Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship, and Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair for the SmackDown Women's Championship. Everything else was still up in the air with three weeks left until April 10, all because there was a March PPV.


    So if it feels like we've been limping into WrestleMania more so than previous years, you can point to this entire setup. Instead of grand plans that began at the start of Royal Rumble season, we've been getting small-picture month-to-month ideas that cut it real close—and why not, if you can have a third PPV before Mania where there wasn't one before? The problem is anyone can tell that the whole thing is disjointed, even when it looks like things have been building up naturally. 

    For example, nobody figured Daniel Bryan to be in the Universal Championship picture until maybe after Elimination Chamber, because he was putting people over on the way to the Rumble. The entire Bobby Lashley championship reign could've been kickstarted as early as the Rumble, too, but they didn't know what to do with Drew McIntyre just yet, making him go through a pointless match with Goldberg. Now, they'll need to play catch-up for the next three weeks, as though they didn't have three whole months to make some WrestleMania matches.

    The good thing about this year's Fastlane is, once again, the show's runtime. At two hours and around 45 minutes, it felt like a PPV from the 2000s, with a quick (if unsatisfying) undercard in the first half and better matches in the main event spots. There's definitely room for improvement, as not everything seemed to go down the way it should have, but this should be the blueprint they need to go on for non-Big Four events.

    Despite that silver lining, on the whole I'd still argue against Fastlane and the concept of a March PPV. It's way too convenient an excuse to not write good TV. On the road to WrestleMania, it feels more like a speed bump than anything.

    Fastlane 2021 Rating: B

    Match of the Night


    Thanks to the quick undercard matches of the first half, the main event really felt like the main event. It's tough for Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns to put out a bad match, so the honors automatically go to them—yes, even with the overbooked finish. (Drew McIntyre and Sheamus did give them a run for their money, although the lack of real stakes hurt them a little.)

    Photo from WWE

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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Fastlane 2021 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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