by Daniel Johnson, Kyle Childers and Dave Pendleton
Editor’s Note: Part of The Johnson Transcript since 2012, Kyle Childers/Hawk Jefferson is a cornerstone of the WWE Pay-Per-View Roundtable series and the author of the Hawkeye’s Hangout series. Elsewhere Childers is the co-host of the Ruthless Aggression Podcast, which can be found on iTunes, Sticher and Podbean here, here and here, respectively. Childers can also be found on Twitter @hawkjefferson. Dave Pendleton is a writer for The Johnson Transcript who first came on board through this interview with independent wrestling star Victor Andrews.
The Usos (c) (with Naomi) vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (with Natalya) for the WWE Tag Team Championship
Daniel Johnson: This match should be entertaining, but the outcome is predictable. The Usos pretty much have to retain. Heck, to go a little further with my prediction I’ll guess that Jimmy Uso pins Tyson Kidd. It could just as easily be Jey Uso pinning Cesaro. The bottom line is The Usos retain. With the tag division picking up again The Usos will most likely go into WWE WrestleMania 31 with not one challenger, but two or three. Yet, I fear the days of WrestleMania having a great TLC match are in the past for now. Still, I look forward to seeing WWE Monday Night Raw the following night and what direction The Usos go from here.
Kyle Childers: I like all four of these guys and I’m glad that WWE seems to be doing something with them, but I wish it was in a division they actually gave a toss about. There doesn’t seem to be any real storyline direction for either team at the moment outside of feuding with each other so here’s hoping Cesaro and Natalya’s husband pick up the win to at least add a modicum of drama to this otherwise dry angle.
Dave Pendleton: I expect The Usos to retain the titles at WWE Fastlane. This match could easily be the best match of the show. Kidd and Cesaro have really come a long way as a team and it is refreshing to see Tyson get a featured match on a big show after being stuck in limbo for so long. I feel like Tyson and Cesaro will eventually dethrone The Usos, I just hope WWE allows them to stick together as a team long enough to do so.
Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Dean Ambrose for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Daniel Johnson: Comparatively, of the former members of The Shield, Dean Ambrose has been left in the dust. While it may be a shame as I view him as the most talented of the three, having a successful career in WWE is a marathon, not a sprint. Ambrose will take a step in the right direction by beating Bad News Barrett with a clean win to capture the WWE Intercontinental Championship. I’m going to be positive here and say the WWE booking team are reinvesting in the midcard titles. More on that later.
Kyle Childers: Dean Ambrose wants his picture in WWE headquarters. I just had to state that so we could all take a second to appreciate the fact that the guy that they call “The Lunatic Fringe” has a corporate recognition based goal. Let’s also take a second to appreciate the fact that said “Lunatic” is seemingly the most logical guy in the company based on the fact that he asked for this shot based on the fact that he beat the champ once. Good on ya Deano. I’m a big fan of both guys and consider Barrett one of the biggest missed opportunities WWE has ever had considering he should have been a bonafide main eventer several years ago, but I don’t see any outcome other than Ambrose winning this one.
Dave Pendleton: I do not see many options for Wade Barrett to keep the Intercontinental title in this match. Ambrose has been very hot since last summer and I only see his rise to continue, even though it seems to have been put on a bit of a hold with the championship scene focusing on Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar. I fully expect Ambrose to come out of this match with the Intercontinental title, it is just too bad that the title does not mean anywhere near as much as it did in the days of Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect and Davey Boy Smith.
Goldust vs. Stardust
Daniel Johnson: The greats can turn crap into gold. So far with Stardust, Cody Rhodes has turned crap into…crap. Don’t get me wrong Stardust always looks good in the ring and turns in a respectable performance at worst, but as a character? Yuck, just yuck. Still, characters can have rough starts and develop into something better. For example, The Undertaker wasn’t nearly as interesting as he would become when he first debuted in the WWF a quarter of a century ago. That being said, Rhodes has a hell of a long way to go before he can make Stardust into the next Undertaker. I’m predicting Stardust wins this match dirty in any case.
Kyle Childers: They’ve been teasing this for months and they finally pulled the trigger. It’s going to be a good to great match regardless of what happens, but I think Goldust pulls out the win to cause Cody to shift back to his older persona, we’ll likely see a rematch at WrestleMania.
Dave Pendleton: This match no longer has the appeal to me that it would have had a couple of years ago when it could have been presented as Dustin Rhodes looking for one more shot at glory against little brother Cody who grew up getting more attention from Dusty Rhodes than Dustin did. Now we have two goofy characters facing off. WWE has succeeded in doing two things I hate in this feud, they are completely ignoring history by making it all about the Rhodes brothers characters instead of being about the brothers and they are breaking up yet another tag team and further weakening an already weak tag division. I believe Goldust should go over in this match and a WrestleMania rematch should feature Cody going over, Goldust retiring and then Stardust dying.
Nikki Bella (c) (with Brie Bella) vs. Paige for the WWE Divas Championship
Daniel Johnson: Hell, I’d like to be positive about this match, I really would. WWE has a number of talented in-ring performers capable of wrestling for the WWE Divas Championship. For goodness sakes, one of them is even in this match! That being said divas matches on pay-per-view have had so, so many misses in the past few years it is impossible to get excited for this. Nikki Bella being the defending champion doesn’t help. The less talented of The Bella Twins retains while many fans go to the toilets.
Kyle Childers: Ever notice that every single Bella feud is the same? Seriously, go back and watch a few, or don’t, I’m not your boss, but they all seem based around the fact that Brie Bella and Nikki are the proto-divas and nobody else will ever be as diva as them. I don’t care about the outcome of this match because WWE hasn’t given me a reason to. Let’s say that Paige wins because in an alternate dimension (hopefully it’s Pete’s World, that place seems awesome.) she’s Mrs. Jefferson and we have a flock of adorable, pale little Hawks and Hawkettes.
Dave Pendleton: The anti-diva Paige and one of faces of the diva’s division Nikki Bella will provide my bathroom break for this event. I cannot even feign interest in this match. I expect Paige to come out of Fastlane with the Divas Championship and hopefully they can set up a decent diva’s match for WrestleMania with Paige defending against AJ Lee, Natalya or maybe even Charlotte, although most NXT debuts are usually saved for after WrestleMania. Paige is quite entertaining to watch and both Bellas have gotten considerably better in the past few years, I just cannot get interested in the main roster divas. I would rather watch Charlotte and Sasha Banks any day of the week.
Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan vs. Seth Rollins, The Big Show and Kane
Daniel Johnson: It really seemed at WWE Survivor Series 2014, Dolph Ziggler would finally break away from the pack. But here we are. Stuck in a six man tag. Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan win this one and then probably get stuck in a battle royal or something come WrestleMania. If WWE is smart they’ll slowly build on the little history Ziggler and Rollins have by having Ziggler pin Rollins. This may happen too since Rollins has been a very naughty boy. The Big Show and Kane will continue to exist.
Kyle Childers: This match likely only got booked to give them an excuse to get Ryback, Rollins and Ziggler on the card, which I’m okay with, but I wish Rollins and Ziggler were going one on one instead of getting stuck in this mess. I’m thinking Ziggler or Ryback pins Kane to give an excuse for Kane to turn face again.
Dave Pendleton: I really should have seen this match coming. WWE’s booking is either ignorant or obvious, in this case it is completely obvious. Some form of this match has been on TV since November and it is nothing new. The only thing that could breathe some life into this match would be a returning Randy Orton coming in to save the faces or to simply attack Rollins to get ready for their Mania match. No matter what, the faces win this one.
Rusev (c) (with “The Ravishing Russian” Lana) vs. John Cena for the WWE United States Championship
Daniel Johnson: I’m actually excited for this match. Actually, maybe even more so than I am about Ambrose and Barrett. If John Cena wins the WWE United States Heavyweight Championship it has the chance to elevate the title substantially. Further if this strap is finally unified with the WWE Intercontinental Championship, WWE is posed to finally have a really prestigious midcard title capable of making stars rise rather than anchoring them. Cena/Ambrose could be one hell of a WrestleMania match and the two contrast in such a way that it would be an interesting and unique unification program even if Cena crushes Ambrose in the actual match. That being said I’d like to stay optimistic, but I can’t be that hopeful. I’m thinking Cena wins by disqualification and fans are treated to a rematch at WrestleMania.
Kyle Childers: Why? WHY? WHY GOD, WHY?! What have we done to anger thou so vastly that we’re stuck with this match? On a b-show none the less. Cena has a shown a bit more aggression recently as part of this feud which I like and a lot of fans have asked for, Rusev and Lana (aka the Bolshevik of Booty (that name will catch on damn it!) have been fantastic as usual, but what’s the point? Cena is bigger than the US title and already established enough that being Rusev’s first loss will do nothing for him and hurt Rusev and there isn’t a big enough focus on this show for it to make sense to give Rusev his first main event win so why are they doing this to us? I predict a schmooze of a finish to give them reason to do this all over again at WrestleMania. In other words, nobody wins, especially not the audience at home.
Dave Pendleton: Rusev must win this match. Coming into this match, John Cena has been portrayed as an aging veteran and not as the superman he once was. Rusev has never faced a challenge like John Cena and although I do not think a loss would destroy Rusev’s momentum it definitely would not help him in anyway. Beating Rusev would also not help Cena at all. Cena is now what he has always said he was, untouchable. At 37, Cena has already won the world championship 15 times and is closing in on Ric Flair’s 16 time championship record and is the same age Flair was in 1986 when he was only a four time world champion. Imagine Cena’s career lasting as long as Flair’s and the potential title wins he could have with another 15 years of active competition. A win over a star the caliber of John Cena will propel Rusev into the main event picture and brawls against Reigns after WrestleMania or submission and wrestling clinics against Bryan would make for some fresh and interesting television.
Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan in a match where the winner will receive a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WWE WrestleMania 31
Daniel Johnson: I see this one going one of two ways. The less likely way is that Bryan goes over cleanly. The more likely way is that we get a screwy finish. I’m thinking at this point it has to be a screwy finish as this is the type of match where if it was going to end cleanly the WWE brass would really drive home the point that there must be a winner. To appease the Memphis fans, regardless of what screwy ending the WWE booking team come up with, the announcement of exactly what will go down at WWE Wrestlemania 31 could very well be announced that night. Well, that would be the case if it wasn’t for WWE having Sting as the ace up their sleeve to send the fans home happy. The main event match for the big event will then probably be revealed at the next night’s Raw. As for what the screwy finish is I’m thinking The Authority hit the ring and let loose on both Bryan and Reigns leading to Sting making his long awaited return to WWE pay-per-view. As far as how WrestleMania is booked I think it may be a case of deja vu and fans get treated to another triple threat match in the main event.
Kyle Childers: This match happening is basically WWE saying, “Yeah, we done goofed with that Rumble.” And it’s not doing any favors for anyone involved. Daniel Bryan has legitimately been one of my absolute favors for the better part of a decade and unlike most people of my ilk, I think Roman absolutely has the potential to be a top guy one day (along with his former Shield partners), but stuff like this isn’t going to get him there. There’s going to be a weird finish that sees Roman vs. Bryan vs. Lesnar booked as the Maina main event mainly because I don’t think Lesnar or Reigns could take charge in a main event situation without it turning into a trainwreck and there has to be a ring general like Bryan involved, but don’t be surprised if after this match we end up seeing Seth Rollins in the mix on the grandest stage of them all.
Dave Pendleton: The story of this match has nothing to do with the match and all about the backstage atmosphere inside WWE. Last year, the WWE did not feel Bryan was worthy of a WrestleMania main event and went ahead with plans to have Batista and Randy Orton collide and it seemed the plan was for Batista to win the championship. CM Punk seemed to be slated to face HHH and become the face to fight The Authority and Daniel Bryan would have had a good match on the undercard somewhere, probably against Sheamus. We all know how that went after WWE caved in to fan pressure after the birth of The Yes! Movement following Bryan’s omission from the WWE Royal Rumble 2014. Fast forward one year and the WWE is allowing themselves to be placed in the same position as last year. WWE was obviously going to put their full power and strap rocket boots onto Roman Reigns after he won the Royal Rumble match, but once again the WWE allowed the fans to change everything they had planned. I know most fans are thrilled to see Bryan getting inserted into the WrestleMania main event picture again, and believe it or not I am quite happy with it too. I have been a fan of Bryan since I first saw him wrestle in Ring of Honor (ROH) 13 years ago and followed his career through every up and down. I want Bryan to be the WWE champion, but I want WWE to choose to give it to him, not for him to win because WWE bowed to the pressure of a vocal minority. Vince McMahon has been assisting with or promoting wrestling since the early 1970s and his direction is what has driven the WWE into the powerhouse it is today. He might not have booking meetings with Pat Patterson by his pool any longer, but he still makes the final decision on what happens in the WWE and dictates his vision to his creative team. By bending to fan pressure WWE may be cheating the fans out of what could be a very good WrestleMania season. We are supposed to be the fans, not the writers. Fans should sit back and enjoy the show once in a while. As for the match, I believe there will be some sort of swerve. A double countout, a double pin or something, the end result will be a triple threat for the championship at WrestleMania. Again.
Photos 1-4, 6: en.wikipedia.org
Photos 5, 7: Daniel Johnson / Johnsontranscript.com
Categories: Smooth Runs