Cheap Pops - Special Edition - Fastlane Predictions

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by Chris Delloiacono, Mike Maillaro and Jeff Ritter

Chris: I've got to say, I'm not really certain where a lot these matches are going.  WWE TV has certainly picked up on the Road to Wrestlemania.  Roman Reigns' stock has risen in my eyes because he has Daniel Bryan there to help get him over.  My first thoughts on the show are a lot of title changes.  I miss Elimination Chamber, which was a super fun gimmick match, but this is shaping up to be a solid show with lots of fresh matches.

Mike: There are some new matches here...but not a lot of star power.  At this point, they don’t even have a match for Seth Rollins or Dolph Ziggler for that matter.  I am really hoping they bring back Randy Orton.  I’m not always his biggest fan, but at least he would be something for the fans.

And one huge pet peeve of mine: I hate when they announce “segments” for PPV.  At this PPV, Sting will meet HHH face to face.  Nothing better than paying $60 to see something that is setting up a match at the next PPV...and yes, yes, I know I am only paying $9.99 for PPV’s these days, but that’s besides the point.

Chris: Fair points.  I don't believe Orton hasn't shown up yet.  It can't be long now.   Been saying that since Survivor Series, but they have to get him in a Wrestlemania program.  

Well, let's get to the matches we know so far!

US Championship: Rusev (c)  Vs John Cena

Chris's Prediction: Rusev

Jeff's Prediction: Cena

Mike's Prediction: Rusev

Chris: I can't remember the last time the U.S. Title was a focal point for a big show.  Cena competing for the U.S. the belt is a great sign for the future.  You could put Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect in a bout for the newly reinstated AWA Championship and it would immediately be a major title that can be used at the top of the card. Cena no longer needs to be at the tippy top.  He's still the face of WWE and that won't change too quickly.

I'm not a huge fan of Rusev's work, but he's certainly not terrible in the ring.  WWE has booked him as an unstoppable killer since he came up.  The only flub was the horrible under ring hiding he did at Royal Rumble.  Rusev has PPV main events in his near future, so I don't see his momentum slowing quite yet.  I won't be clean, but Rusev has to win here.

Mike: I know people give Cena a lot of flak for being the superman who wins every match (and a lot of that is fair and deserved), but I can’t see WWE blowing Rusev’s streak of never being pinned or giving up to Cena.  No one benefits from that.  I honestly would love to see Cena lose clean like he did to Daniel Bryan at Summer Slam about a year ago, but I just don’t see that happening.   I’ll give the win to Rusev, but it will be a dirty win.

Jeff: My good friend Edwin Reese runs an informal wrestling “pick ‘em” game with a circle of wrestling fans/friends and  I’ve learned from that experience you never, eh-eh-eh-ever pick against Cena. The secondary titles have long been neglected in terms of being notable and interesting. I’ve even asked Chris once or twice this year who had the Intercontinental or US titles, because I honestly had no idea and barely even cared. I don’t hate Cena, but I hate his incessant push and the fact that they won’t turn him heel because he’s the all-time leader in “Make A Wish Foundation” wishes granted (and for that I absolutely applaud the man!) so we’ve been stuck with this same character for more than a decade now. Heck, I’d be thrilled with a little basic thuganomics (word life!). Anyway, I pick Cena, if for no other reason than he’s freakin’ Cena.. Plus I think the main event at Wrestlemania is still extremely unsettled, so the brass is making sure they keep all of their options open.

Mike: I have the same issue with the US and IC titles quite often.  And it’s not like the WWE Title is ever on TV.  WWE has a huge problem with titles lately.  More on that in next week’s Cheap Pops.  (Cheap Plug for Cheap Pops!)

Diva’s Championship: Nikki Bella (c) Vs Paige

Jeff's Prediction: Charlotte...oh wait...nuts.

Mike's Prediction: Nikki Bella

Chris's Prediction: Paige

Mike: I actually hate to make that pick, because I am a huge fan of Paige, but the WWE seems to have this image in their head of the Bellas as their top female stars. I really don’t see Paige winning this one...but I definitely hope I am wrong.

Chris: I really hope you're wrong, bro.  They've been building Paige up so much, other than Natalya she's their best Diva, so it makes the most sense for her to be champ. That said, I'm almost always wrong when it comes to the Divas title.  The Bellas are so lousy in the ring, but, like you said, they're the image WWE wants to run with.  I'm going to stick with Paige as my guess and hope Charlotte is on her way to challenge at Wrestlemania!  That's the type of match that could jumpstart interest in the main roster ladies.

Jeff: Nobody really wins here. This is the ladies equivalent of a Lex Luger vs Buff Bagwell match. Pay the pizza guy, take a leak, get a refill, hope it’s over by the time you reclaim your space on the couch from the dog. Okay, okay, Paige isn’t that bad. But the ladies division on the main roster is all about that bass, about that bass, about that bass (and Total Divas on the WWE Network!). Meanwhile, the ladies of NXT could probably work very solid matches with the men on NXT! I’d love to see Sami Zayn and Bayley team up against Natalya and Tyson Kidd, and Charlotte feud with Tyler Breeze. Say...where’d AJ Lee go? Wasn’t she back? I still need to pick someone, I guess...Nikki Bella, because frankly I don’t see too many titles changing hands in a lame PPV before the “Granddaddy of Them All” and I already picked Cena.

Mike: I am just hoping we get Charlotte to come in the scene real soon and demolish both Bellas.  

Chris: Wooooooooo!

#1 Contender’s Match: Roman Reigns Vs Daniel Bryan

Mike's Prediction: Draw

Chris's Prediction: Reigns

Jeff's Prediction: Bryan

Mike: The only way this match makes sense is to set up a three-way for Wrestlemania.  If Reigns win, the crowd is going to just be ugly.  If Bryan wins, it sort of made the Royal Rumble pointless.   On the bright side, the set up for this match has been really good for both men.  Reigns needs more experience working with someone like DB, who pretty much never has a bad match.  

I still say it’s way too soon for Reigns to be this high on the card, but I would rather see Reigns than Cena again.  WWE needs to start building new star power and quickly.  

Chris: This one could go a few different ways, and I'd love to see a shock win by DB.  The fact there's some doubt is one effective aspect to recent booking.  Mike is definitely right about WWE needing new star power.  How Kane and Big Show still squeak into key storylines, I'll never know.  Has Kane won a meaningful match since the Clinton administration ended?  I don't think Reigns is ready for this push, but at least it's different than Big Slow and the Lead Machine.

Daniel Bryan in the WM main event will probably just be a big tease.  On the other hand, the reason I think your prediction is correct, what the hell is DB going to do at 'Mania if he's not in the title match?  Still, I'm going to stick with my gut, and say Reigns wins a really close match.  If Bryan can carry Roman to an elite match, maybe he can do the impossible, and give him the rub that leads to future greatness.

Jeff: I’m going to buck conventional wisdom again and go with my own personal booking plan on this one. I’ve been thinking about this since maybe the Survivor Series, and my belief is that the best thing for Roman Reigns is to go to Wrestlemania and face...The Rock. Certainly Vince would have no problem putting The People’s Champ in the ring against The People’s Chump. Roman is just not ready as a singles wrestler. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins are, but Roman worked much better in more limited duty as part of the Shield team. Vince McMahon said on the Stone Cold Steve Austin podcast that he listens to the fans and gives them what they want. I think deep down the Rattlesnake wanted to say, “WHAT?!? Since when?” That’s what I was saying as I hurried to blot the spit take off my carpet. If there’s a chance, even a slim one, that Vince isn’t that out of touch with what the WWE universe wants, this is his pitstop, his one chance to change course and push Daniel Bryan, the current “people’s champ,” to the main event at Wrestlemania. Meanwhile Reigns will benefit from his cousin’s knowledge and Rock can put him over, perhaps turning him heel where a limited moveset isn’t such a hindrance and setting up a variety of angles to work with going forward. Plus, Brock Lesnar versus Daniel Bryan is about as David and Goliath as anyone could possible want. That would be a riveting main event.

Chris: I hope the main event is Bryan/Lesnar!  It would be an epic confrontation and the storyline would be such a blast to watch unfold.  Getting Reigns out of this main event would give him a great storyline of his own for the next year.  That all said, what if Lesnar is going full baby to face a heel Reigns this year!  I could see Brock remaining champ.  The title is never on TV anyway, so perhaps that's an option.  Imagine the stunned looks on the crowd if Lesnar retains!  Of course, that's getting well ahead of Fastlane.  At least I'm looking forward to this match, which is better than a lot of February PPVs.

Mike: I love that we all picked a different result for this one!

Intercontinental Championship: Bad News Barrett (c)  Vs Dean Ambrose

Chris's Prediction: Ambrose

Jeff's Prediction: Barrett

Mike's Prediction: Ambrose

Chris: I have grown to love BNB, but the IC title is a joke when he holds it.  What's he have five reigns now, but he constantly loses non-title matches.  He lost to R-Truth on Smackdown this week!!!!  I just can't take the belt seriously when he's got it.  Ambrose basically hasn't won a PPV match since the Shield broke up, so he's due a major victory.  The IC Title could mean something with Ambrose booked as a fighting champ.  Dean deserves a chance to main event, but it looks like he's not getting there anytime soon.  His job seems to be bringing some IC shine back.  Then, with Ambrose and Rusev as midcard champs, the WWE might have finally made these titles worthwhile again.

Mike: Yeah...unfortunately I think Chris’s analysis is dead on here.  I actually really like Barrett, and I think he has potential to be a huge star if WWE does right by him….BUT I’M AFRAID I’VE GOT SOME BAD NEWS...I just don’t see that happening any time soon.  WWE has put a lot of weight behind Ambrose (he’s still the only SHIELD member who’s held single gold), and I can definitely see him as IC champ sooner rather than later).

Jeff: Personally, I wish it was Sandow instead of Ambrose here. I confess I don’t “get” Ambrose’s character right now, or at least the direction they’re trying to take him--and by they I mean WWE (not so) Creative. Still, I see no reason to hot-shot a bunch of titles before Wrestlemania, so I’m going with Barrett because, again, Cena is hogging the glory on this show. Of course I mean that in the nicest possible way. They really do need to book Barrett better; I completely agree with you fellas on that (Sorry, that was not a Sheamus reference--I’m just a midwesterner, ya’ll come back now, heah?) Nobody should have to job to R-Truth. Ever. Except Adam Rose.   

Chris: I like Truth, I really do, but he's booked like a jobber most of the time.  So, jobbing to him is horrible.  Barrett lost to Sin Cara recently too.  That's some epic booking.

Mike: At least he hasn’t lost to Zack Ryder yet!  Poor, poor Zack Ryder...If there is any justice in the world, he’ll be showing up in Pro Wrestling Syndicate soon...

Tag Titles: Usos (c) Vs Cesaro and Tyson Kidd

Jeff's Prediction: Usos

Mike's Prediction: Usos

Chris's Prediction: Usos

Chris: Cesaro and Kidd are turning into a wonderful team to watch. They do some brilliant double team moves!  Just like the Usos!  This should be an up-tempo, can't miss battle.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was match of the night!  Let's all be thankful the potential show stopping match isn't relegated to the preshow!

Rumors are swirling that Kidd/Cesaro are due a huge push, but I can't see it happening.  The Usos make much more sense with the straps going into Wrestlemania. As bad as they are, I feel like the Ascension will be champs sooner than later.  I hope I'm wrong on that end, but I don't think the belts are going through Kidd/Cesaro either.

Mike: Remember at Mania 29, someone had asked Cesaro who the most underrated guy in the WWE was...and he pointed to Tyson Kidd.  That always stuck with me, because I’m a fan of Tyson too.  He had a huge career renewal in NXT, and I’m glad to see they have brought that to the main roster.  

I honestly can’t see them keeping Kidd and Cesaro together that much longer, so the belts will probably stay on the Uso’s.  But I do think this match has huge potential to be the best match of the night.  Kidd and Cesaro do make a great tag team.  

Chris: Funny how Axxess keeps coming up.  Who would have thought that Cesaro's nod to Kidd was precursor to such a nifty tag pairing down the line.

Jeff: I don’t know what to make of the general apathy people seem to have towards the Usos. It’s not their fault they don’t have enough of a tag division to stay interesting, but who else would they put the belts on? The Ascension? They buried them upon arrival. The Dust Brothers are engaging in a family feud. Bubba Ray Dudley seems to be a one-time surprise at the Rumble and D-Von isn’t around. The Lucha Dragons and the Vaudvillains are fun in NXT but they’re not ready yet. The only feasible opponent, barring a completely unexpected re-emergence of Paul London and Brian Kendrick or the even less like debut of the Motor City Machine Guns is Cesaro and Kidd. I think Kidd gets pinned, they tease a little heat between him and Cesaro, and then they get it together and eke out the win in a good match at ‘Mania. It just isn’t going to go down that way at...what is this forgettable PPV called again?

Chris: The Lucha Dragons main roster debuted on Main Event this week.  Wow, we have discussed Sin Cara twice in this column.  I feel mediocrity instead of forgetability looming for Mr. Without a Face!

Goldust Vs Stardust

Mike's Prediction: Goldust

Chris's Prediction: Stardust

Jeff's Prediction: Goldust

Mike: How can I not go with Cody Rhodes?   It’s pretty well known that I am a huge fan.  But I think he pretty much HAS to lose this match.  I’ll explain…

I’ve been waiting for this fight for a very long time now.  I would have rather it happened at Mania, but knowing WWE, I can almost guarantee that there will be a rematch next month.  So Goldust takes this one. Cody goes back to the drawing board, and comes back next month as Cody Rhodes, and we get a real huge match to end this feud and comment Cody’s future.

Chris:  That's a great booking decision.  I'm for anything that moves Cody out of the horrible makeup.  I'm a fan of Goldust's work, but I don't care to see Cody doing a bad impression of his brother.  Just the same, I wouldn't want Cody out there being the American Dream, Jr.  He has main event talent and it's never getting tapped with some awful retro gimmick.  Cody Rhodes deserves to be pushed as his own man!

Here's the thing, Vince loves sideshow crap, and I don't see Cody dropping the makeup yet.  I'd love to see what you said, or some kind of gimmick match at 'Mania, but I don't know if the card has room for the match.  8-9 bouts tops and I bet the Dusts are relegated to the battle royal.  Here's hoping something more interesting develops.

Mike: With WWE’s booking lately, watch it be a Dusty Rhodes on a pole match...if you will.

Chris: A flip, flop, and fly swatter up his a$$, on a pole, match!  Live and in livin' color!

Jeff: Here’s another angle: Dustin Runnels has had a brilliant swansong to a very interesting career. He’s nearing the very end of his regular in-ring career. I think he wins here, and does something to get Dusty to hit the ring to get between these two sons of a son of a plumber. This sets up the Rhodes Brothers Family Feud match at ‘Mania with The American Dream as the special guest referee, if you wheel. That’s when Cody will win, Dustin takes his boots off and leaves them in the ring, they all hug it out and Goldie goes into the Hall of Fame in 2016 or 2017. For the record, I love Stardust, and I hope he goes back to that persona from time to time, like Keiji Mutoh does with the Great Muta. Cody is ready to get back to being on the periphery of the main event picture and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was Mr. Money in the Bank next year. It also wouldn’t surprise me if someday, after Vince retires to play with the grandkids, Triple H does what’s best for business and stop having February Pay Per Views altogether. Build the stories longer on free television between the Rumble and ‘Mania, and don’t get anybody hurt right before the biggest payday of the year. Thank God they put away the Elimination Chamber! Now they just need to eliminate Fastlane so i can get that Eagles song out of my head.

Mike: I would definitely be in favor of LESS Pay Per Views every year.  Storylines have no time to breathe these days.  NXT’s quarterly model seems to work really well. Maybe have 9 WWE PPV’s a year, and fill the other months with NXT specials.  If nothing else, it would stop having the NXT specials outshine the WWE PPV’s. That is exactly what happened with the last two NXT specials.

Chris: I definitely agree.  Less would be so much more.  The long break between the February PPV and 'Mania always makes for a strong build.  The worst month is whenever they squeeze the two PPVs into the single month.  I think it was July last year.  It makes for awful television!  9 a year would be just right.

Mike: They might add some kind of Ziggler, Ryback, Rowan  Vs Kane, Rollins, Harper match.  I’m not going to make a pick on that one, but I did want to mention it (actually I kind of stole that from Chris would texted me a few days ago suggesting it).

Jeff: (grumbling while driving to work):  Really? Adding a 6-man match two days before the PPV featuring Rollins and Ziggler and four other guys I couldn't care less about? Like I didn't already have little to know interest in this card. I'll pick the Authority here since I can't see any reason that they'll need to go over at Wrestlemania. Rollins will probably get booked against Ziggler one on one, put on a nice match, win relatively decisively early on the card so he can cash in the Money In The Bank briefcase on Daniel Bryan and crush the fans by taking the belt off of him just minutes after his giant upset victory over Lesnar. Because that's what the fans want--right Vince?

Chris: There's no point behind pulling this refried turd out again, but I'm sure they will.  Zigs & Ryback are afterthoughts right now, Rowan is a gigantic jobber, Kane & Show take time away from guys that deserve it.  The only guy getting any meaningful TV time is Rollins.  This mess has been going on for months, though, and the storyline needs to end for good. I'll say an Authority win.