Results from last Sunday’s Fastlane pay per view, the accelerated build for WrestleMania on this week’s television, which included a retirement announcement from a celebrated former champion, and a glance at this year’s Hall of Fame class, are some of our major headlines this week “In This Corner.”
The Fastlane show at the Quickens Loan Arena in Cleveland was an up and down event. There were some really good matches, but some booking that managed to make sense where it took things didn’t help the enthusiasm of the live crowd with how things transpired. Shane McMahon and The Miz lost to the Usos in a match designed to set up a heel turn by Shane that will lead to a match between the two at Mania.
Since they were in Cleveland, that guaranteed Miz would be having a long night as WWE tradition is to embarrass the hometown hero whenever possible. Miz sported a “Cleveland Is Awesome” shirt that Shane made sure to destroy when he attacked the Miz post-match after pretending to console him after he took his father’s ringside seat suggestion to go up top for a finishing maneuver that backfired and resulted in a pin fall defeat. There was a spectacular coast to coast dropkick during the match by Shane to the knee of one of the Usos while he was in mid-air on his way down for a frog splash that was quite the unique visual.
The story for getting Becky Lynch into the three-way for the Raw women’s title ended up having Ronda Rousey attack Lynch during her Fastlane bout with Charlotte Flair, resulting in a disqualification victory for Lynch that secured her spot in what some people speculate might be a history making show-ending women’s title match headlining this year’s spectacular. The live Cleveland crowd did not seem to appreciate the brief match between Flair and Lynch or the DQ finish, but it got them (creatively) where they wanted to go.
The main event of Fastlane was not Daniel Bryan’s WWE title defense over Owens and Ali, who was inserted by Vince in another devious move by McMahon designed to frustrate Kofi Kingston and his growing legion of fans. It was the Shield reunion six-man tag, which was an awesome brawl with Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin. Samoa Joe retained the U.S. belt in a four-way over R-Truth, Andrade and Rey Mysterio in another solid bout.
The Revival retained the Raw tag belts over Roode, Gable, Black and Ricochet in what was probably the most spectacular 10-minute stretch of the night. They should have been given more time. The promotion wastes time on Elias and his nonsense and lead-ups and recaps. Then it cheats other guys on their match time. Asuka bested Mandy Rose to hold onto the Smackdown women’s title and the tag straps stayed around the waist of Bayley and Sasha after they defeated Nia Jax and Tamina. The New Day beat Rusev and Nakamura in a pre-show encounter.
At Raw, Batista showed up with a batch of security to demand a match with Triple H for WrestleMania and they went back and forth on the microphone before that was cemented. Bobby Lashley defeated Finn Balor to capture the Intercontinental championship. Kurt Angle announced he will be having a retirement match at Mania. He upended Apollo Crews in about three minutes to get a win in Pittsburgh in a rare variation from WWE booking. Rumor has it that Angle may be paired with John Cena for Mania.
This year’s Hall of Fame class will include De-Generation X, including Chyna, the Honky Tonk Man, Torrie Wilson and Harlem Heat. Some of the selections are probably a bit surprising considering various historical factors, including the heat that existed with some of the names and WWE after the active wrestling careers ended. Vince eventually seems to be able to put all of that aside when it comes to the HOF. My lone appearance at the Garden for the inductions of Bruno, Backlund, Foley, Booker T, Trish Stratus and Donald Trump in 2013 will always be a tough one to top.
Charles Barley, on a half-time show of an NBA game on TBS on Thursday night, wished his friend Ric Flair the best with his surgery that was apparently to take place this past Friday.
Ron Simmons Interview — Part 3
The Insider: Being old school, how did you feel when “kayfabe” went by the wayside?
Simmons: I hated it. If you were watching a movie and as you got to the climax and the guy in front of you told you what was going to happen, it would ruin the whole thing. There’s no surprise. We prided ourselves in giving people the unexpected and surprising people or even shocking people with our wrestling. People don’t want to know what is going to happen ahead of time.
The Insider: What are your thoughts about the new AEW promotion?
Simmons: I would love to see it work out. I am looking forward to it. Competition is always good. Just like the new football leagues. I really am looking forward to seeing how they do. It means more opportunities for everybody, too.
While that was the gist of the answers to the questions asked during the short interview that I broke into three parts over recent columns, our personal conversation was more wide-ranging, informal and very enjoyable. Ron was a very down to earth, articulate individual. A man simultaneously proud of his accomplishments, yet quite humble. He inquired about my work and we talked family, both of us recently having had grandchildren. There was a moment there where a young black man approached him respectfully after his advertised signing time had ended and somewhat sheepishly asked for an autographed picture, telling Simmons he was his idle and would gladly pay $100 for the opportunity. One could tell Simmons was visibly touched by the comment.