By Chuck Carroll
WWE Fastlane is going to answer a lot of questions about the WrestleMania card. Will Brock Lesnar and Goldberg square off in a blockbuster Universal title match? That’s the biggest question of all.
Is WWE daring enough to take the title off of one of their hottest acts and cool off what could be an enormous match between Kevin Owen and Chris Jericho? The payoff for a war between ex-best friends would be so much more rewarding if the Universal title were on the line.
Putting the Universal title on Goldberg at Fastlane would be a dicey proposition with a finicky WWE Universe. It’s entirely possible that with gold around his waist Goldberg’s honeymoon would come to a crashing halt and fans would give him the chilly Roman Reigns treatment. It’s a gamble, and WWE must decide if they’re willing to go all-in on a legend who probably won’t be around for very long.
Picking the matches with me, as always, are my fellow wrestling insiders. Maybe they’re willing to plunk their money down on a spear and jackhammer.
You can also listen to our full half-hour WWE Fastlane preview show.
Universal Championship Match
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Goldberg
Chuck: WWE needs to perform a risk assessment on putting the gold on Goldberg. Is it really worth it? It is plausible that Goldberg-Lesnar vol. 3 (4 if you count the Royal Rumble match) would generate a sizable number of new subscriptions to the WWE Network. A win may be good for economics, but it’s not what’s best for business. Both Jericho and Lesnar are going to get involved in this one. I see a Goldberg victory by DQ, but the belt staying with KO. PICK: GOLDBERG
Aaron: We’re at this point. Goldberg is getting a WWE title shot in 2017 (okay, Universal, but you get the point). And I think he’s going to win it. It has nothing to do with Kevin Owens, and everything to do with the fact that they want one of their title matches to be a marquee match, and right now that’s not really happening on SmackDown. It makes Goldberg-Lesnar for the title the instant main event of the night. While I truly believe Owens-Jericho should be for the title, it just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards right now. And because of it, Goldberg is going to be a champion 14 years after he last held a belt. PICK: GOLDBERG
Scott: I am going to go with Kevin Owens here with some interference from Brock Lesnar. I also don’t think Chris Jericho will be that far behind in seeking retribution on Owens. I think the third installment of Lesnar vs. Goldberg is big enough at WrestleMania that it doesn’t need a title to be on the line. So I’m pulling for Owens, because I have enjoyed his story with Jericho and think having the Universal championship on the line makes it that much sweeter. PICK: KEVIN OWENS
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Chuck: Braun Strowman is rapidly becoming one of WWE’s hottest commodities, and it’s not hard to see why. This man has excelled in every facet of the ring. When was the last time you saw a dude that big do a kip-up? He’s over, perhaps a little too over, as a heel. But that may not be such a bad thing, as some of WWE’s biggest names made their mark as a “tweener.” Reigns isn’t going to get buried and will look plenty strong headed into WrestleMania, but he’s not going to win. PICK: BRAUN STROWMAN
Aaron: Two months ago, I don’t think most WWE fans would have admitted to wanting to see this match. After the past few weeks? It’s arguably the most anticipated match on the show. They’ve done a great job of building this match, and building Braun Strowman. In fact, they might be doing too good of a job building Braun up, to the point where he’s on the verge of becoming a face in the fans’ eyes. This is a match where both could use a win heading towards WrestleMania. So you know what, I’ll do that. Well, at least I won’t give either a loss. I’m envisioning a no-contest as The Undertaker gets involved, much like the Lesnar-Rollins match two summers ago. That sends Reigns towards Taker and keeps Strowman strong. PICK: NO CONTEST
Scott: WWE has been really smart in the way they’ve built up Braun Strowman as a monster. It is for that reason I hold out hope they give Strowman the big victory here. Maybe with a bit of chicanery, I will go against the “Make Roman Look Strong” movement here. PICK: BRAUN STROWMAN
RAW Women’s Championship Match
Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Chuck: A lot is being made of Charlotte’s undefeated PPV streak, and it only makes sense to keep that train rolling into WrestleMania. I see a triple-threat or fatal four-way for the title in Orlando, with Charlotte strutting to the ring with gold around her waist. PICK: CHARLOTTE
Aaron: This match, once again, comes down to Charlotte’s ridiculous pay-per-view streak. I don’t know who came up with the idea that it would be a huge gimmick, but they seem committed to it. If Bayley was going to win here, they would have just had her win here, not on RAW. Thus, Charlotte almost has to win this match. Now, just because she wins the match doesn’t necessarily mean she has to win the title. It could be a DQ or count out. But Charlotte will be declared the winner. PICK: CHARLOTTE
Scott: The build for this match has been somewhat bizarre with the way WWE is placing Bayley. I really don’t want to see the women’s championship play hot potato like it has in the past. So I’ll go with Bayley hanging on to the title, setting up a multi-women match at WrestleMania. At the same time there may come an ending where Charlotte doesn’t lose or win the title. That way her streak stays intact. So my final pick is Charlotte with an asterisk. PICK: CHARLOTTE
Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe
Chuck: I’m not 100 percent certain that Seth Rollins won’t appear here in some fashion. Whether he does or doesn’t is almost inconsequential though. This is Samoa Joe’s match, and even with outside interference, nothing will change that. PICK: SAMOA JOE
Aaron: As unfortunate as it was that Seth Rollins went down with an injury, the one person who it might have helped the most is Samoa Joe. Instead of serving as basically the mini-boss for Seth Rollins to defeat before he got to Triple H, Joe can exist as his own person. Unfortunately for Sami Zayn, that means that Joe probably needs to win this match. It could end up being a squash, but if WWE decides it doesn’t need to be, this could easily be the match of the night. PICK: SAMOA JOE
Scott: There is really no way I see Samoa Joe losing against Sami Zayn. Although I wouldn’t rule out a Seth Rollins appearance at Fastlane. That said, I hope these guys get some time to put on as good a match as we know they are capable of putting together. PICK: SAMOA JOE
Cruiserweight Championship Match
Neville (c) vs. Jack Gallagher
Chuck: I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been underwhelmed by the cruiserweight division of late. But that will change with the imminent in-ring reemergence of Austin Aries. Hopefully he gets involved here and sets up a match between him and Neville. Thus, I’m going with the champion to retain. PICK: NEVILLE
Aaron: Everything about this screams Neville should win this. They just made the big turn, he’s still a relatively new champ. Yet there’s one lingering doubt to me. If Austin Aries is returning imminently, you have to think he’d be in line for a major match at WrestleMania if anyone is. Would Neville-Aries make sense? It could, but I’m not sure. I’m still giving this to Neville, just because it feels too early for Neville to lose or Gallagher to win, but that’s the one circumstance I could see him winning. PICK: NEVILLE
Scott: I can see Neville heading into WrestleMania the cruiserweight champion. As much as I enjoy Jack Gallagher, I don’t think his time to win the gold comes at Fastlane. There is still the potential for more matches between these two, and Neville retaining leaves the door open for more encounters. PICK: NEVILLE
RAW Tag Team Championship Match
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
Chuck: It looks like the end is near for Enzo and Cass. It was just a few months ago that these guys were the cream of the WWE crop. But ever since Enzo was knocked unconscious by an in-ring mishap last year, he’s been booked as s-a-w-f-t, leaving Cass to do the heavy lifting. It’s no fault of his own, and WWE has reportedly been eying Cass as a singles competitor for a while. I’d like to see them get the gold before the gimmick rides off into the sunset, but I doubt it happens here. PICK: GALLOWS AND ANDERSON
Aaron: This match is such a mess. Anderson and Gallows have spent three weeks being made to look as bad as champs can. Meanwhile, Enzo is starting to even annoy Cass, and either WWE has decided to start planting the seeds for a breakup, or they have no idea what to do with Enzo and Cass. So this match really has no heat either way. It could go either way, but with no proper build at all to this, I’ll just stick with the status quo and say The Club wins. PICK: GALLOWS AND ANDERSON
Scott: I selfishly want Enzo and Big Cass to get their moment in the sun as tag team champions. I think it would be a nice WrestleMania moment if they kick off their reign on the grandest stage possible. So I will go with Gallows and Anderson at Fastlane. PICK: GALLOWS AND ANDERSON
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Chuck: It’s hard to see Nia Jax lose this one, and I wonder whether they’ll put her in a fatal four-way for the title with Sasha, Charlotte and Bayley at WrestleMania. I’m not sure where else there is for her to go without a title shot. There’s a way to book this match so Sasha still looks strong in defeat, and they’ll figure it out. PICK: NIA JAX
Aaron: This is a match that could go either way. On the one hand, another big win for Nia Jax would erase any questions on whether she feels like a main-event player. On the other hand, Nia has already cleanly pinned Sasha Banks and Bayley multiple times in recent weeks. Does another win really do anything for her? However, a win to even things out could do something for Sasha, so she seems like The Boss again going down the Road to WrestleMania PICK: SASHA BANKS
Scott: WWE will keep these women strong going into WrestleMania in what seems to be a fatal-four-way for the women’s championship. Since they have been trading wins here, this time around I’ll give this one to Banks. PICK: SASHA BANKS
Rich Swann & Akira Tozawa vs. The Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar (Kickoff Match)
Chuck: Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar. Why? Just to be different really. PICK: KENDRICK AND DAR
Aaron: Tozawa needs to win this. They started off really well with him, and he seemed to be getting over with the crowd. But this nonsense going 50-50 with Kendrick has not helped the build for his character. So he, and Swann, who has pretty much been off television since the Rumble, should get a kick start here as they head towards Mania, whether it’s towards the title or not. PICK: TOZAWA AND SWANN
Scott: It’s a toss-up here, but points for WWE to actually have more than one rivalry built-up within the cruiserweight division. I’ll just say Tozawa and Swann will get the feel-good win to kick off the evening. PICK: TOZAWA AND SWANN
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.