Raw’s Road to WrestleMania 34 is a lot more clearer now that the Elimination Chamber has concluded.
Now it’s finally up to SD Live to make its ‘Mania 34 offerings much clearer. After Fastlane, a lot of answers will be answered as to what matchups from the Blue Brand will take place on April 8. WWE Champion AJ Styles has a huge feat to conquer – a Six-Pack Challenge defense against Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, and Dolph Ziggler. As for the United States Champion, Bobby Roode will confront the “The Viper” himself Randy Orton. Along with those two standout title bouts, the SD Live Women’s and Tag Team Championship will also be up for grabs during this March PPV. Fastlane 2018 looks to top everything Raw put out during its previous February event.
Now with all that out of the way, let’s break down Fastlane 2018’s stacked match card from the bottom of the card to the very top.
Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Natalya and Carmella
Predictions & Winners: Can’t say I care that much about the end result of this one. I’m guessing a lot of the same people who saw this last-minute PPV match get put together feel the same way. Becky got the submission victory over Carmella on the last edition of SD Live, so now I’m getting the feeling that Carmella and her fellow heel will get the win. Miss Money in the Bank has to get her heat back somehow, right?
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev (with Aiden English)
Predictions & Winner: It’s kind of sad to see that WWE isn’t really attaching themselves to the “Rusev Day” train. They let him have his moments here and there, like when Aiden English introduces him and allows Rusev to hype the crowd with his signature catchphrase. The crowd loves the “Bulgarian Brute” and want to see him pushed to a higher level. That newfound sense of popularity hasn’t led to much in-ring success, however. I’d love to see him get a run with a midcard championship or even the WWE Championship down the line (Jinder Mahal got to run with it, so betting on Rusev as a future WWE Champ isn’t too far off). Unfortunately, Rusev is running right into the 2018 Men’s Royal Rumble winner. And there’s no way Shinsuke Nakamura is taking a loss to Rusev during this afterthought of a PPV matchup. Nakamura’s walking away with the victory here and will then test himself by facing AJ Styles at ‘Mania 34.
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ruby Riott (with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan) (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Predictions & Winner: It’s pretty wild to see how far Ruby Riott has come. I’ve personally watched her make her way from the indy scene (take a few moments to check out her CHIKARA work if you can) to NXT. After showing the Full Sail University that the hype behind her signing was well warranted, she shockingly showed up on SD Live with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan by her side. Ever since then, the Riott Squad has caused plenty of headaches for the Blue Brand’s women’s roster.
After months of competing in multi-women tag and singles matches, Ruby has finally secured a SD Women’s Championship opportunity. While this match should be a solid contest between two of the better women’s athletes over on SD, the end result is pretty easy to predict. I still get the felling that Asuka’s setting her sights on Charlotte and her title at ‘Mania 34, which is a huge match that’s bound to happen. Ruby’s being set up as a flavor of the month encounter for Charlotte who’ll be soundly defeated here. After Charlotte’s big win, don’t be surprised if Asuka makes her way out and finally makes her ‘Mania 34 plans clear – she’s coming for Charlotte.
The Usos (Jey and Jimmy Uso) (c) vs. The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and/or Xavier Woods) (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Predictions & Winners: This tag team feud is one of those rare instances where I’m still not tired of watching their matches. The Usos and The New Day dominated 2017 thanks to their amazing SummerSlam Kickoff Show match, their HIAC encounter, and their numerous Tuesday night classics. At the start of the year, my gut instincts were telling me that Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable would get a run with the SD Tag Team titles. The Usos struggled with them for a while, but they eventually came out on top. Now they’re back to revive one of the best tag team rivalries in recent memory. Are we going to get another MOTY candidate here? OF COURSE! I know it, you know it, and both teams know they’re capable of making it happen. The Usos have been running roughshod over everyone since they reclaimed their titles and their reign of terror will continue after this bout concludes. So who’s left for The Usos to take on at ‘Mania 34? Easy answer – the juggernauts known as the Bludgeon Brothers.
Bobby Roode (c) vs. Randy Orton (WWE United States Championship)
Predictions & Winner: Now I have to be completely honest with you all – Roode’s babyface main roster run pales in comparison to his stay in NXT. I get it – the powers that be thought it would be a better move to make him a good guy since the crowd loves him and his theme song so much. But I feel that his act works so much better when he’s a condescending blowhard. He’s made his way to the US Championship at least, so I have a hard time knocking everything he’s done thus far. His upcoming PPV match will pit him against Randy Orton, who’s an individual I stopped caring about since 2013. Looking at this bout on paper doesn’t give me any incentive to really get excited about it.
Both men work that classic NWA heel champion style that’s more slow and methodical. It works so much better against wrestlers who employ a high-flying or more technical style. What we have here is the makings of a slow and plodding match that will only get a tad bit more exciting during its final 5-6 minute stretch. Roode’s just getting into the swing of things as US Champion, so I can’t see him dropping the strap here. Aw man…I just groaned so hard at the prospect of Jinder Mahal taking on Roode at ‘Mania 34. Yeah, just stick that on the Kickoff Show please! Here’s hoping that Roode gets a better dance partner or a whole bunch of them in some sort of multi-man match.
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena (Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Championship)
Predictions & Winner: At first there were three. Then that number increased to five. And now we’ve finally settled into six. AJ Styles will now have to fight tooth and nail to keep his WWE Championship away from five top contenders. Owens and Zayn got their chance at the “Phenomenal One” before, but they’re back for another opportunity to annoy him all over again. Two wrenches have been thrown into their plans, however – the surprising inclusion of Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler to the match. And finally, John Cena’s free agent status has come into play and allowed him to make a play for the WWE Championship.
The 2018 Elimination Chamber event was good, but this match alone has the potential to make Fastlane even better. There’s going to be nail-biting near falls, a hype Tower of Doom spot, crashes through announce tables, and moments that’ll see friends turn into foes. AJ will be the one who manages to beat back his foes and remain WWE Champion (I’m putting money on Corbin being the one who eats the final pin). Afterwards, Nakamura will do what Asuka did earlier in the evening – confront his ‘Mania 34 opponent and give the live crowd something else to excitedly cheer for.