Traditionally, the WWE has released all its big shows individually, be it on VHS, DVD or Blu-ray. But with the sheer number of events now happening over the calendar year, with on average two events per month it was difficult to see how WWE could continue to gain revenue from these releases at the traditional level, especially with the network at a mere £9.99 a month. However, the completionists and collectors will always want to be able to own physical media, and with that in mind it should be no surprise to anyone that WWE has opted to try packaging shows together to seen as a double bill of sorts, starting with Fastlane and Elimination Chamber which both took place this past February and provided the final stop on the "Road to Wrestlemania".
First up is Elimination Chamber, which was overall an enjoyable if not truly spectacular card. The undercard has a few bright spots, with Mickie James and Becky Lynch providing a fun opener, the tag team turmoil match was a nice showcase for American Alpha (although it did demonstrate how threadbare the Smackdown tag division is since the brand split), Naomi vs Alexa Bliss was as good as expected if not better than I had hoped for, and of course Randy Orton vs Luke Harper was a cracking little match which kept Orton busy while the main event picture was reshuffled to set up his Wrestlemania match. It wasn’t all great, the Kalisto/Apollo Crews vs Dolph Ziggler match was a colossal bore and made the babyfaces look terrible, while Nikki Bella and Natalya had a fairly dull brawl until the finish. However, the main event of this show was utterly dynamic and hugely engrossing. The set up for the Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin programme, as well as the John Cena vs The Miz feud was handled excellently and laid the cards on the table for the Wrestlemania build, while Bray Wyatt and AJ Styles had a fun chemistry and a good showcase for their respective strengths. Wyatt winning was certainly the right call, regardless of the booking since, and AJ Styles lost very little by taking the fall here. A great match, and one that certainly needs to be remembered when we look back the best matches of 2017 at the end of the year.
The second part of this massive double header comes in the form of Fastlane, the last stop for the Raw brand before Wrestlemania. Much like Elimination Chamber this was a combination of holding pattern feuds to keep various people busy until Wrestlemania, as well as shuffling the pieces into place for the various Mania programmes. Also much like its counterpart show on the blue brand, this event had some real high; lights on the undercard as well as its share of duds. Samoa Joe vs Sami Zayn was fine opener, although we've seen these two have better bouts since then, Neville vs Jack Gallagher was probably the match of the night with both men looking really good here especially Neville. Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman was pretty good, although it pales in comparison to what we've seen from these two in the past few months, while Bayley and Charlotte had a very good match, even if the booking of this feud including Charlotte losing her unbeaten PPV streak here seemed very odd. On the downside, we had the odd booking of Rusev and Jinder Mahal both taking losses in random impromptu matches with Big Show and Cesaro respectively, which very much felt like a time filler. Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax was passable, but far from memorable for either really. The main event here was exactly as expected with Goldberg squashing Kevin Owens in a matter of seconds after several minutes of stalling and the interference of Chis Jericho (operating the most devastating move in wrestling history, the music interruption distraction). It was exactly what it needed to be and it was a nice moment for Goldberg who has been arguably the top babyface on Raw for much of the past six months or so.
This is a good release from WWE, and you certainly get your money's worth across the two shows. I completely understand why it is experimenting with packaging multiple shows this, and in this instance it certainly works well. A good set overall, even if there are a few fairly obvious lulls.
EXTRAS: The bonus material here encompasses the two respective pre-shows which each featured a match that served to warm up the crowd ahead of the main card starting. For Elimination Chamber we were "treated" to a match between Curt Hawkins and Mojo Rawley, which was tedious beyond belief simply due to the competitors involved. The Fastlane offering was far superior with Akira Tozawa & Rich Swann vs The Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar in a match that was arguably as good as anything on the main card even if the crowd weren't really into it particularly.