By Chuck Carroll
(CBS Pittsburgh/CBS Local) — The road to WrestleMania will near its conclusion Sunday, as WWE presents Fastlane from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
While it is WWE Champion Daniel Bryan and the returning Kevin Owens whose faces are on the poster, the true main events will feature the red-hot women’s division as well as what is being billed as the final match for the freshly reunited members of The Shield.
On the women’s side, the ongoing saga of Becky Lynch’s quest to reclaim the gold is front and center, as “The Man” can do no wrong at the moment. Lynch’s surge in popularity appears to have RAW Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey on the cusp of turning heel because of it.
At stake for Lynch, who is in the midst of a storyline knee injury, is a shot at Rousey’s title in the main event of WrestleMania. With a win over Charlotte Flair, she will punch her ticket to a three-way dance with The Queen and Rousey at MetLife Stadium. But per an edict from Stephanie McMahon this week, a loss would cut her out of the picture and leave Flair to face the current champion one-on-one.
Since his dramatic return from battling cancer, Roman Reigns has been pushing to put the band back together. As storylines go, it’s all water under the bridge for Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, despite the fact the latter turned on his teammate the night Reigns announced he was relinquishing the Universal Title due to the recurrence of leukemia. Not part of the storyline, however, is the very real fact that Ambrose is preparing to depart the company when his contract expires in the near future. In a rare move, WWE has confirmed that he informed officials of his decision. Thus, the reunion is being billed as a one-time deal and for the last time ever.
But will it truly be a one-time occurrence? The Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa has announced the faction will appear on the April 22 edition of RAW.
As for the WWE Champion Bryan, he will be defending his eco-friendly title against Owens, who is returning from a long hiatus following knee surgery. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see members of The New Day get involved in the match after Vince McMahon denied Kofi Kingston a title shot at the pay-per-view. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mustafa Ali make his presence known after saving Owens from a lopsided beatdown this past week. Whatever happens in this match will become a key storyline for the SmackDown brand through early April.
Five other matches are on the Fastlane card, four of which have titles on the line. Here is a look at the odds along with predictions for how everything should shake out. Aaron Oster from The Baltimore Sun and Rolling Stone will be picking the matches as well.
(Note: All odds as of Thursday morning.)
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Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch
Odds: Becky Lynch (-700), Charlotte Flair (+400)
Chuck: It has been reported for months that Becky Lynch would be facing Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania, and then a decision was made to add Charlotte Flair to the mix. The triple threat has all the makings of women wrestling in the closing match of the grandest pay-per-view for the first time ever. Obviously, that lends itself to The Man walking tall at Fastlane, crutches and all. WWE could theoretically have her lose here and come up with another way to get her in the match later, but that seems unnecessary. With Lynch as hot as she is with fans, you’re going to want to be able to promote the fact that she will be in the main event. Pick: Becky Lynch
Aaron: Of course this is Becky here. And, as nonsensical as the past few weeks have been, presumably it will get all the pieces properly in place for a perfect build towards WrestleMania. Pick: Becky Lynch
The Shield vs. Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre & Bobby Lashley
Odds: The Shield (-300), Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre & Bobby Lashley (+200)
Chuck: There is absolutely no way that Roman Reigns will lose his return bout after giving leukemia a Superman Punch for the second time in his life. The real drama here is whether his brothers in The Shield can co-exist. I expect they can, and they will. But is it really for the last time, or will Ambrose wind up re-signing? Reigns has stated in interviews that he’s working on making the latter happen. Pick: The Shield
Aaron: There is a little bit of doubt in this one. Could Dean turn on The Shield again, setting up Roman vs. Dean at WrestleMania? I’m actually against that match, as I think the fans could end up siding with Dean in his farewell match, which isn’t something they want under the circumstances. So because of that, and the fact that if they do have him turn, I don’t think it would be in the match, I have The Shield winning. Pick: The Shield
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Odds: Daniel Bryan (-400), Kevin Owens (+250)
Chuck: Somehow, someway Kofi Kingston will be getting involved here. Also, keep an eye out for Mustafa Ali. I wouldn’t completely rule out the reemergence of Sami Zayn from injury either. WWE teased his return in December and Kevin Owens alluded to friends in his SmackDown promo this week. But all of this chaos probably won’t be enough for Owens to become champion. I’m going to agree with oddsmakers and expect Daniel Bryan to retain and face Kofi at WrestleMania. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Aaron: Daniel Bryan is definitely walking away with the title. The only question is if this becomes some sort of non-finish. Kofi will be there. I’m still not convinced that Kevin Owens is heading into WrestleMania as a face. Could it be a situation where this match is one big setup to beat down Kofi? Pick: Daniel Bryan
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. The Miz & Shane McMahon
Odds: The Usos (-900), The Miz & Shane McMahon (+500)
Chuck: The show is being held in Miz’s hometown, so you can expect some fireworks here. Something big is going to happen, and because I’m not seeing a title change in this one, the breakup of The Miz and Shane McMahon is a distinct possibility. Look for Shane O’Mac to be the heel when it happens. Pick: The Usos
Aaron: This is the moment we’ve been waiting to happen for nearly three months now. Miz and Shane are definitely splitting up. The only question is who turns on who. I think that Shane turning heel would be way more fascinating going forward. My hunch is they play it safe and it’s Miz’s dad helping Miz turn heel again here, though. Pick: The Usos
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Sasha Banks & Bayley (c) vs. Nia Jax & Tamina
Odds: Sasha Banks & Bayley (-400), Nia Jax & Tamina (+250)
Chuck: It would be shocking if the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection doesn’t walk into WrestleMania as champions. The feud with Nia Jax and Tamina has always felt like a stop-gap measure, until they can set the wheels in motion for a bigger title defense. That could spell outside interference or a post-match beatdown by a yet-unknown group to set up that Mania showdown. Regardless, no title change here. Pick: Sasha Banks & Bayley
Aaron: Bayley and Sasha clearly are winning this, but I can’t quite figure out where the tag titles are heading for WrestleMania. They didn’t introduce them at Elimination Chamber without a plan for Mania, right? Could it be a high-profile match against someone like The Bellas or Trish Stratus and Lita? Pick: Sasha Banks & Bayley
SmackDown Women’s Championship
Asuka (c) vs. Mandy Rose
Odds: Asuka (-800), Mandy Rose (+425)
Chuck: With all of the attention being given to the RAW Women’s title, Asuka has almost become an afterthought. But she was thrust back into the headlines this week following an injury scare at a live event. Fans in attendance tweeted that her match against Rose was stopped following a botched spot. One fan wrote that “Mandy dropped Asuka on her head/neck so hard.” The reigning champ later tried to calm fears by tweeting that she was fine and had suffered a back injury, but not a concussion or neck injury. Even without the injury, I wouldn’t be stunned to see Rose get the gold here. Part of me also wonders whether they’ll be saving a title change for WrestleMania. Lacy Evans continues to be featured prominently on the shows but has no opponent. Perhaps she’s ready for Asuka. Pick: Asuka
Aaron: Asuka is going to win this match. I do wonder if this is the moment where Lacey Evans finally gets physical. Asuka celebrating in the ring only to have Lacey ambush her feels right and sets them towards WrestleMania. If that’s not the case, I have no idea where Asuka goes at Mania. Pick: Asuka
RAW Tag Team Championship – Triple Threat Match
The Revival (c) vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet vs. Chad Gable & Bobby Roode
Odds: The Revival (-275), Aleister Black & Ricochet (+225), Chad Gable & Bobby Roode (+500)
Chuck: I would love to see a title change here and let the recent NXT call-ups stake their claim on the main roster. The Revival are favored here, but I think Aleister Black and Ricochet pull off the upset in what could be the match of the night if given enough time. The NXT guys have been pushed heavily since moving up a level last month, and the titles are the natural progression. Pick: Aleister Black & Ricochet
Aaron: If this was a singles match between The Revival and Black and Ricochet, I could maybe see a title change. Since it’s a triple-threat, it feels like Roode and Gable are there to eat the pin. I still don’t totally know if they have real plans for Black and Ricochet, but putting the belts on them here feels too early and a little bit wrong. Those guys shouldn’t be a long-term team. Pick: The Revival
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade – Kickoff Match
Odds: Andrade (-150), Rey Mysterio (+110)
Chuck: Andrade may be favored here, but Rey Mysterio should walk away victorious. This match has all the makings of a classic, and both men may have a chip on the shoulder after being relegated to the kickoff show. In fact, it has the potential to steal the main show before it event starts. One thing is for sure, you’ll want to tune in early to watch this one. Pick: Rey Mysterio
Aaron: This one is a real tossup. You could make a case for Rey, since Samoa Joe now has the US title to set that up for WrestleMania. However, I realized something going into this match. Despite getting some attention over the fall and winter, Andrade hasn’t been in a PPV match, save the Royal Rumble, since Summerslam. So give him this win, and hopefully there’s a plan for both of these guys for WrestleMania. Or let them go again. Would anybody be against a hair vs. mask match? Pick: Andrade
Odds courtesy of BetOnline