Welcome to another edition of WWE Heat Index, wherein we discuss the interest level for the various feuds heading into the pay-per-view events. This time around, we’re focusing on Fastlane 2018 coming this Sunday night.
The way this works is a pretty simple three-way breakdown of Hot, Lukewarm and Cold. If you like something and you’re very interested in how WWE is setting up the program, it’s Hot (aka Good). If you’re a bit on the fence about it and see some problems, but it’s not awful, then it’s just Okay or Lukewarm. The ones that are the most problematic that you have no interest in are Cold (aka Bad).
Without further ado, let’s get started!
WWE Championship Six-Pack Challenge Match: AJ (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena = Hot/Lukewarm
This one is kind of tricky for me, as it’s a mixed bag of pros and cons.
In one way, I like the idea that this was such a hectic road to get us to the point of having a Six-Pack Challenge, but part of me also thinks the chaos was a little too weird and disjointed.
I didn’t think this would be the match we’d get, especially when it started as a Triple Threat, but I had to keep changing my expectations, which is kind of fun, even though part of me feels like it’s an empty feud with little personal involvement.
One of the positives is that I feel confident AJ Styles is retaining the title, but one of the negatives is that it’s somewhat predictable. Then again, they can offset that by having who he beats be the unpredictable part, so that’s a good thing.
I’d be more inclined to give this a Hot if there were some more depth to Dolph Ziggler’s and Baron Corbin’s roles. Right now, they both come off like nothing but filler to me and that hurts my excitement for their involvement, even though both do have value in my mind.
Such is the problem with an event like Fastlane: it’s either predictable and kind of pointless fun (assuming the match is good) or it’s a frustrating last-ditch switch before WrestleMania that makes things rushed. Thankfully, I think we’re more in store for the predictable fun, so this is still a thumbs up.
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ruby Riott = Cold
Ruby Riott was never someone who I was the biggest fan of in NXT, but when coming to the main roster with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan to form The Riott Squad, things became even worse, as they were just a copy of Absolution with even less dynamism.
It’s been months and zero progress has been made in giving this crew some character and some motivation outside of “we’re the heels so how about you boo us because we are fighting the babyfaces?” which is just not good enough.
Basically, this is Ruby Riott being the No. 1 contender because everyone else has had their share of matches and Morgan and Logan aren’t as qualified right now to fight Charlotte Flair as Ruby Riott is, while The Queen wants to retain her title merely because that’s what she’s supposed to do. There’s nothing else going on.
I’m sick of the six-woman tag team matches, I’m not invested in worrying about the state of the belt because it’s WrestleMania season and they’re not going with Ruby Riott over Charlotte Flair as the go-to champion, and I don’t think the match will be anything to get excited about, either.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day = Hot
WOW was that promo the other week awesome—something that I wouldn’t have imagined would be as effective as it was.
I’m a big fan of both The Usos and The New Day, and I loved their matches together a few months back, but I was okay with their feud ending as I thought it reached a point where it would overkill for them to fight anymore.
Once The New Day won the title shot, I kind of winced at how this was something we’d already seen enough, and another match could hurt the legacy of what came before it. I also doubted anybody caring about it, until that promo came about.
The passion behind it was real, and within just a few minutes of talking, I was sold once more on how these two teams are going to tear it up and potentially have one of the best matches of the entire year in WWE.
Plus, I’m extremely curious how The Bludgeon Brothers are going to factor in. Are they going to interfere before a winner is declared, will they attack after The New Day win the titles or The Usos retain, or is there something else afoot?
In any fashion, I’m in, 100%.
United States Championship Match: Bobby Roode (c) vs. Randy Orton = Hot/Lukewarm
Very much like the SmackDown Tag Team Championship affair, part of the intrigue for me with the United States Championship match is whether or not we’ll see some interference from Jinder Mahal to set up an angle for WrestleMania.
Clearly, he hasn’t stopped being an element to this feud, and I don’t think this will just pass by with Bobby Roode and Randy Orton fighting a clean fight and settling their differences before one of them has a singles match with Jinder Mahal in a few weeks, so something must be up WWE’s sleeves.
I’ve also been very much looking forward to an Randy Orton/Bobby Roode singles match since before the glorious one was even signed to WWE, so this is the time to find out whether that lives up to the hype.
I don’t think this will be the most amazing segment in the world, but I do think it will be one of my favorite parts of the pay-per-view if all goes well, and with the potential of seeing one of these two turn heel, a new champion being crowned or some wacky shenanigans with Jinder Mahal, I’ll be very focused when tuning into this.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev = Cold
For some reason, WWE decided the best way to go about pushing Shinsuke Nakamura following his Royal Rumble win was to keep him off television.
Now, at the last minute, they’ve thrown him into a D level feud with Rusev Day just to get him on the card in an easy way.
There’s no substance to this (even if there was a funny backstage segment of Shinsuke Nakamura singing) and I think it’s a mistake to have the guy who is supposed to be pushed to the moon at WrestleMania and struggles with personality spend time off television before being set up to fight someone who gets cheered every week but is still supposed to be the bad guy.
Shinsuke Nakamura can’t lose, so this becomes a waiting game until he scores the pin. In the meantime, I’m anxious about how being paired with Rusev will hurt his momentum, as I can definitely imagine the crowd not being too receptive to him putting down The Bulgarian Brute.
Naomi and Becky Lynch vs. Carmella and Natalya = Cold
Why in the world should any of us really care about this match unless specifically a big fan of some of the people involved?
Granted, I do think all four women are talented, so I’m not calling that into question whatsoever. This isn’t their fault, this is WWE’s fault for just throwing a random tag team match onto the card with the littlest effort possible.
Nothing is on the line for this, no bitter feuds are taking an interesting turn and there’s been no attempt to build intrigue. This is as much of a throwaway match as you can get and it reeks of the pre-show from the Elimination Chamber, as well as a textbook example of how while the co-branded events going forward pose some problems, one of them is certainly not going to be having matches like this on the card.