WWE Fastlane 2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s reckless and dangerous review of WWE Fastlane, a column that will make an annoying little airhorn sound every time you scroll down to the next slide. Just kidding, we don't have the technology for that — though if we did, that's definitely what we'd use it for. If you think you're irritated by the time you get to the end of reading the various opinions of WINC writers and editors, just imagine how much more irritated you could be in the process of reading it! That's the future, right there.

Anyway, while this column will at least touch on each of the five matches that happened at Fastlane, we might not always talk about the results of a given match, or important things that happened before the match was over. For that kind of thing, you'll want to check out our live coverage/results page. But if you want to know what we actually thought about Paul Levesque's speediest premium live event, you're going to want to scroll down (AIRHORN) for three things we hated and three things we loved about WWE Fastlane 2023.

Hated: Jade Cargill's Lackluster Onscreen Debut (Nick Miller, WINC news writer)

Ever since it was first reported that Jade Cargill was bound for WWE, she has fittingly been treated as a Big Deal. The company officially announced her signing with a press release first sent to ESPN, and they've played hype packages for the former AEW star on both "WWE Raw" and "WWE SmackDown."

That is why it was a baffling decision to have Cargill debut during the pre-show of a minor PLE in a segment that saw her do nothing except step out of an SUV and speak (inaudibly to the audience) to Paul "Triple H" Levesque. While there's something to be said for building hype, the company has already laid some groundwork introducing Cargill's name to its fans with the recent video packages. Did tonight's segment do anything to get fans more excited about the debuting star than they already were? I'd argue the answer is no. It was just some good old-fashioned wheel-spinning.

With only five matches planned for tonight, it seemed like it there was plenty of time for Cargill to come out and get a proper introduction in front of the live audience. If that had been the case, this short scene would have been fine to use as a brief introduction. Instead, the company opted to limit Cargill's entire appearance to the inconsequential pre-show segment. While this won't affect Cargill's prospects going forward, it's safe to say it was one of the more disappointing elements of tonight's show.

Loved: The Judgment Day Loses Because Of JD McDonagh (Colby Applegate, WINC news writer)

Full disclosure: I hated that The Judgment Day lost their Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship. Although I have been one of the fans complaining about Judgment Day being everywhere and running everything, I initially found myself a little sad to see their title reign end after just over a month. But, I did love that there was a logical reason behind it.

The match was very, very solid and was the perfect choice to kick off the PLE, and I say that despite the fact that I felt like we were in la-la land watching Cody and Jey team up in a title match after all they've been through in the last year. Nevertheless, I kind of felt like a kid again watching a match surprise me with what unfolded. Rhea Ripley tried her best to screw over Jey, but it was actually JD McDonagh who wound up costing the team he hasn't even officially joined. By doing so, it provided a natural reason for Judgment Day to come up short, and for Damian Priest to not cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on a day that fans were feeling like it could actually happen.

Now, we get to ask more questions. What happens next with McDonagh? How long will Cody and Jey hold those titles? Will The Judgment Day only grow stronger from here, or perhaps keep up their alliance with The Bloodline? I'm under the impression that Judgment Day will have a prominent role at Survivor Series, whether that's in a potential WarGames match or a traditional Survivor Series tag team match. In order to stretch out this story, I do think Balor and Priest needed a hiccup along the way. I mean, look, Dominik lost his title and won it right back. It could only be a matter of days before Balor and Priest do the same thing. After feeling burned out on "Raw" over the last few weeks, I feel like I have a reason to tune in on Monday.

Hated: I Spit In The Face Of ... This Match's Booking (Daisy Ruth, WINC news writer)

As someone who isn't a big fan of surprises as a general rule of thumb, knowing the Latino World Order would have a "mystery partner" and that certain "Caribbean Cool" superstar of my childhood had yet to make his debut after appearing at Backlash in Puerto Rico, despite being rumored to have been re-signed to the company for ages, I was stoked for this match. Because I knew what was coming, and it was awesome. However, the booking left quite a bit to be desired.

When Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar came out to take on Bobby Lashley, Montez Ford, and Angelo Dawkins, I assumed the iconic music Carlito would had come out to in days gone by would hit immediately as Mysterio and Santos stood on the stage, prepared to welcome him back. That sadly, however, was not the case. The match went on for a while as a handicap match, with both teams going back and forth before Carlito came to make the save. With different music. Thankfully, the camera angle on the broadcast caught the "Carlito" on the boards around the ring, so everyone, if they weren't entirely sure, knew who it was.

I don't hate Carlito coming back to join the LWO at all. But he really should have come out at the beginning of the match to stand beside Santos and Mysterio. It would have given the match a little extra spice on a card that really needed it.

Loved: And Still (MIles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

How did I feel throughout most of the championship match between IYO SKY, Asuka, and Charlotte Flair? Basically the way anyone feels when one of their favorite wrestlers defends a title against Charlotte Flair: worried that Charlotte would win. It would have been the wrong show, at the wrong time, ending the wrong title reign and telling the wrong story, but that has never stopped WWE from crowning Charlotte before, and I was legitimately concerned that IYO had gotten her obligatory two-month title run and that it was time to hand things back to "The Queen." Much to my relief, this was not the case. The match itself was not great, for which I largely blame Flair — shocking nobody who read the "SmackDown" review column Friday night — but there were several things I liked about the finish, the most obvious being that SKY is still the champion.

I like that Bayley got involved at the end; what story there has been around this match heavily involved her, and it was nice, in a vindictive sort of way, to see her cost Flair the title by distracting the referee while Asuka was tapping to the Figure Eight. Charlotte getting protected to that extent made me roll my eyes a bit, but hey, she took the pin in a triple threat, which I was not expecting. She also got pinned with IYO's moonsault, something which carries hints of irony considering how often Flair's wildly inaccurate moonsaults have been compared to SKY's perfect ones. And in a nice bit of trivia for those of us who have seen every "NXT" Takeover, the finish here — IYO hitting a moonsault on Flair and pinning her while she had Asuka in the Figure Eight — beautifully played off the finish to the main event match at Takeover: In Your House 2020, when SKY won the "NXT" Women's Championship (previously held by Charlotte) by hitting a moonsault on Rhea Ripley (the third member of the triple threat) and pinning her while Flair had Ripley in the Figure Eight. Very nice symmetry — only this time, instead, of taking Charlotte's title by pinning someone else, IYO defended her own title by pinning Charlotte. I can't think of a better way to demonstrate, for those who have been following her since "NXT" and before, that SKY has leveled up.

I don't know if a singles title match between SKY and Flair is happening sooner or later or never, but I would love to see IYO beat her clean, in a match that Charlotte cared enough about to not phone it in. And if/when that happens, I can promise you, my feelings throughout the match will mostly be "worried that Charlotte will win."

Hated: WWE Fastlane Had One Job — A Car That Goes Zoom (Ross Berman, WINC news writer)

I am told that LA Knight is a star. WWE likes him. Fans like him. Slim Jim likes him. This is why it was disappointing that Knight's automotive shenanigans were confined to a simple, albeit kickass, segment where Knight peeled into the arena in a Slim Jim-themed sports car.

Ross, you might say to yourself, what do cars have to do with wrestling?

Usually? Nothing. But when the entire PPV is automotive-themed, emanating from the home of the Indy 500, and has already shown a sweet Slim Jim-themed sports car is the background? Cars mean everything, and WWE Fastlane woefully underdelivered on awesome car moments. Now that Fastlane is no longer a part of "The Road to WrestleMania," it becomes twice as important to deliver on the car-centric thrills as ever, and WWE failed on that front.

Outside of the two Formula One racers that framed the entryway, Fastlane felt like any other WWE show. It didn't even feel grand enough to be a PPV — more like one of those themed episodes of "Raw," where they decide to add a British telephone box to the stage or something. What could have helped this air of bland sameness? LA Knight speeding out into the arena in his awesome Slim Jim car — that we all know was backstage because they showed it to us — the roar of the engine riling up the crowd's blood and making Knight feel like the star that people keep telling me he is.

Whether or not a stunt like that is feasible is, quite frankly, not my problem. I am not the one who brought a Slim Jim-themed sports car to Indianapolis and didn't use it to its fullest potential, that's on WWE.

It's a very simple principle: Don't show the audience something they can't have. Like so much of WWE's stunts, there was nothing tactile about seeing Knight drive the car on a big movie screen. LA Knight having a sick Slim Jim hotrod means nothing if the crowd doesn't get to bask in the glory of its rumbling American steel, going mad at the smell of burning rubber and gasoline. LA Knight deserves better. The fans deserve better. Slim Jim deserves better.

Loved: Rollins and Nakamura Create Beautiful Brutality (Jon Jordan, WINC news writer)

Last Man Standing matches have got to be hard to pull off. With a championship on the line, the viewer convinces themself that unless one of the combatants absolutely cannot continue, they'll do everything they can to get back up and keep fighting. So to reach that 10-count, they'll have had to go through a whole hell of a lot. And Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura did just that in the main event of "Fastlane" Saturday night.

This match was a hit right off the bat, with neither party wasting any time in getting right after each other and implementing weapons, abandoning the ring, and throwing caution to the wind almost from the opening bell. If you tell me there are no rules in a fight, I'm coming in hot with a pack of rabid wolves, a flamethrower, and whatever else I can find. I'm biting (saw that), spitting (saw that too), and utilizing whatever I have around me, and this match had a little bit of everything. Chairs, check; ladders, check; tables; check; nunchucks, check; blood mist, check. You get my drift.

Rollins' back problems have been heavily emphasized throughout this storyline, and Nakamura continued that through the match, backdropping him to the concrete floor, hammering him with precise chair shots on multiple occasions, and otherwise targeting what is shaping up to be the champion's Achilles' heel. The intensity we saw from the challenger was as high-level as he's shown in his entire WWE career in myab his best match since his debut against Sami Zayn at "NXT" Takeover: Dallas in 2016. Suffice it to say, this is the Shinsuke Nakamura we all want to see in WWE moving forward. If we get more of that, he'll get everything that's coming to him, and rightfully so.

The finishing spot was stellar, with a Pedigree and a Stomp atop an elevated platform that Nakamura was able to endure prior to a brutal Falcon Arrow through two tables that proved to be too much in the end. The champ now moves on with this feather in his cap and on to ... well, probably onto losing his title via cash-in at some point, but still, another challenger, while Nakamura is now in a new stratosphere.

Beautiful brutality pays off big. And these two delivered tonight.

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