Tim Fiorvanti recaps every match in Sunday's WWE Fastlane pay-per-view card, which took place at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Senior stats analyst Sean Coyle offers ratings worth a maximum of five points. Criteria for ratings is based on storytelling, in-ring execution, match psychology, timing and innovation -- worth up to one point each.
The following was updated in real time.
Goldberg def. Kevin Owens (c) to win WWE Universal Championship (0:22)
Full recap for this match can be found here.
WWE Raw women's championship: Bayley (c) def. Charlotte via pinfall
Full recap for this match can be found here.
Roman Reigns def. Braun Strowman via pinfall (17:20)
Anytime a monster or seemingly unbeatable force is disrupted in the WWE, you'd hope that it's for a good cause. Whether it's to drive home how powerful an up-and-coming superstar can be, or build someone up for a shot at a major title, hanging the first major loss on a character should not be handled lightly.
Going into his Fastlane match with Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman had only three one-on-one losses to his name in his entire career -- and none of them by pinfall or submission. That changed Sunday as Strowman fell at the hands of Reigns by pinfall after an admittedly brutal and entertaining match. However, the result certainly raises a familiar question as to why the WWE continues to push Reigns as the destructive force capable of overcoming all odds for little long-term gain.
Reigns came out to his customary pay-per-view mix of boos and cheers, but Strowman, on a strong run to this point, got a surprisingly strong reaction from the crowd as well. Strowman exhibited his strength and dominance early on, but after a few false starts, Reigns finally started to build some momentum in clotheslining the monster out of the ring. No matter what he did, though, be it the throw to the outside or a superman punch, Reigns could not bring Strowman down until he ducked him and let him crash into the ring steps.
Strowman continued to impose his will with a spinebuster and tossed Reigns all over the ring at will. A nerve pinch and a Samoan drop left Reigns nearly motionless in the ring, and a splash soon followed. Strowman locked in a headlock and really slowed down the pace of the action, and even after a pair of full force clotheslines from Reigns, Strowman bucked right back up and hit a reverse chokeslam. The action spilled back out of the ring for the second time, and Strowman ripped the cover off the Spanish announcers table to set Reigns up for a powerslam. Reigns bought himself a few moments by sending Strowman into the ring post, but Strowman caught Reigns midway through a drive-by kick attempt by the shoulders and sent him into the post instead.
As was the case almost every time Reigns got momentum, it took a mistake from Strowman for Reigns to establish any momentum whatsoever. Strowman was truly prone for the first time after a one-armed Samoan drop from Reigns, but it was still only a two-count as both men slowly made their way back to their feet. A missed Superman punch led Reigns directly into Strowman, missed yet another move -- a big kick -- and tumbled over the ropes. Reigns successfully hit a drive-by, but a spear attempt on the outside got caught midway through as Strowman caught him in mid-air and powerslammed him through the announcers table.
Reigns hit a spear out of nowhere as Strowman slowly climbed into the ring, but Strowman kicked out at two to an incredulous reaction from Reigns. Reigns hit a pair of Superman punches, but as Reigns tried to build up momentum for a massive second spear, Strowman acted as a brick wall in driving Reigns to the ground.
Desperate to put Reigns away, Strowman climbed to the top rope and missed, allowing Reigns to hit a second spear on Strowman and secure the pinfall victory. It's uncertain as to what each man's path will be to WrestleMania, but after all of the incredible work they did to build Strowman into the monster that he's been, one can only hope that this loss doesn't short-circuit it.
WWE cruiserweight championship: Neville (c) def. Jack Gallagher (12:10)
The tension was palpable during the early feeling-out stage of the match, as Gallagher looked to make Neville look foolish, including his signature headstand spot in the corner, and Neville tried to use sheer aggression to punish Gallagher for his shenanigans.
Early on, though, Neville's brutality worked against him as Gallagher had a counter for nearly everything they did. That all changed when Neville finally got a hold Gallagher and sent him crashing into the ring barrier.
Neville continued to batter Gallagher to great effect, imposing his will throughout, and yet Gallagher would not go quietly. The challenger laid in a number of forearms and a pair of dropkicks to send Neville to the outside, allowing Gallagher to hit what Austin Aries called a "wounded duck plancha" -- an unconventional sideways dive through the middle rope. Gallagher hit an incredible top-rope belly-to-back suplex on Neville for a two-count, but got sent into the ropes and then planted as Neville re-established control.
Neville bounced Gallagher and then dumped him on his head with full force, followed by a second-rope Phoenix splash. Neville and Gallagher had a violent exchange that went: Gallagher headbutt into Neville head kick into Gallagher headbutt, that left both men dazed. Another headbutt seemingly left Neville on dream street sitting on the top rope, but Neville knocked Gallagher out and dropped him on his head.
In a move of seeming desperation, Neville pulled the ace from up his sleeve -- his now rarely-used Red Arrow -- and finally put away Gallagher.
This was as vicious a match as we've ever seen in the WWE cruiserweight division, and despite some of the lukewarm reactions the 205 Live roster has received over the last couple of months, this showdown showed just how creative and effective their deep roster can be, given the right opportunity.
Cesaro def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall (8:20)
The Big Show def. Rusev via pinfall (8:45)
Jinder Mahal and Rusev scrapped to see who would get the first shot at their mystery opponent. Mahal won that right and would face Cesaro first.
It was as good a showing as we've seen in a long time from Mahal, breaking down Cesaro and hitting a significant portion of his signature offense with very little resistance from Cesaro. With a focus on Cesaro's lower back, several attempts at a deadlift suplex by Cesaro got stifled until he finally brought Mahal up and over with just one arm.
A flurry of European uppercuts, both in the corner and otherwise, led to a "Swiss-19" and a top-rope flying crossbody for Cesaro, though it only earned a two-count.
Mahal briefly took control, but got distracted as he stared at Rusev on the outside of the ring, who glared back. Cesaro threw Mahal up in the air and connected with a massive uppercut to earn the three-count.
Rusev ran into the ring and destroyed Mahal, only to have The Big Show come out as his foe. Big Show easily handled his opponent early, continuing his recent run of physical domination since his return. A pair of clotheslines finally connected for Rusev, but after a response from The Big Show, it ultimately took a chop block to Big Show's left knee for him to take control. Big Show rolled it through to take over once again, but a chokeslam attempt was foiled by another chop block to the knee.
Despite three direct kicks to the head, Rusev could only get a two-count. Rusev attempted to lock on the accolade, but Big Show pushed him through the ropes and then hit him with three chokeslams upon his return. Big Show set Rusev up in the corner and then hit a knockout punch to finally finish off the match.
The intensity definitely picked up late in the match, and the Bradley Center crowd got as loud as it had been all night to that point in chanting for the third chokeslam. But as good a showing as it was for Big Show going into the home stretch of the "Road to WrestleMania," it was also an indication of just how far Rusev has fallen in the pecking order.
Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax via pinfall (8:15)
Sasha Banks took the brunt of Nia Jax's brute force in their first two one-on-one meetings, but the opening moments, when Banks shook Jax off when lifted up in the air, seemed to indicate that this match might end a little differently.
Jax still imposed her will by driving Banks into the corner and then stretching her back over her knee. The back became Jax's focus throughout the match, rather than the pre-existing knee injury, and that led to a progressive series of more and more painful back-based submission maneuvers. Banks got very little in the way of offense in the opening few minutes, and things got worse when Jax utilized the leverage of the bottom rope to continue to wear down Banks' back.
Even when Banks got a few elbows in, she paid for it with punches to the back. Jax got Banks up in a fully prone human torture rack, but Banks slapped on the same guillotine that earned Bayley a victory over Jax during an NXT confrontation in reply.
After using Jax's own momentum against her multiple times, a DDT allowed Banks to slip right into the Banks Statement and seemingly set herself up for the win, but Jax struck back with her biggest flurry of offense yet. A leg drop across Banks' injured back seemed to put the boss into big trouble, and Jax further aggravated that pain by grabbing Banks by the hair and ragdolling her head back and forth.
It all fell apart for Jax when she went up for a Samoan drop to finish Banks, which got countered by Banks with a roll-up of a full back bridge to leverage herself into a shocking three-count victory as she scuttled away from a furious Jax.
This was a far better exchange than the first two matches between this pair, and giving Banks a victory only adds more fuel to the fire for both women as they each set their sights on the Raw women's championship
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. Enzo Amore & Big Cass (Anderson on Amore) (8:40)
Big Cass and Karl Anderson started things off and, much like he did against Luke Gallows on Raw, imposed his physical will on his opponent.
Cass used Enzo as a projectile multiple times, including a toss over the top rope onto both Gallows & Anderson, but Gallows' distraction allowed them to take control with Amore in the ring. For upward of five minutes, Amore performed to one of his biggest strengths, taking a beating and getting an empathetic crowd behind him as he tries to make the tag.
He seemingly did so as he hit an enziguri on Anderson and ducked Gallows as he went headfirst into the ring post, but he got cut off as Anderson struck him in the face with a dropkick. Amore continued to falter, but when Gallows missed two offensive moves, and Anderson similarly missed a charge to the corner, Amore finally reached Big Cass and unleashed the house of fire.
A pair of fallaway slams and stinger splashes, followed by a sideslam and an Empire Elbow, neutralized Karl Anderson, and a big boot for both Gallows and Anderson seemingly set up Enzo & Cass for victory.
Air Enzo connected, but Gallows was able to interrupt the count from the outside and drew Cass out with him in the process.
A big kick from Anderson leveled Amore, and while he was able to get his leg up on the rope, Gallows was able to knock Amore's leg back into the ring before the referee could see it, sealing the cheap win for the champions.
It was far and away the strongest effort between these two teams thus far and a breath of fresh air for a stagnating division. The fate of the Raw tag-team titles at WrestleMania seems uncertain, but this was as good an argument for a spot on the card as these four could have made.
Every indication we had going into this match made it seem as though Samoa Joe was going to annihilate Sami Zayn, but in both the positioning of this match and its presentation, this encounter proved to be a stellar opening contest between two game in-ring masters.
Zayn came out first to a big reaction, and the Milwaukee crowd proved right off the bat that they were raring for a big night. There was a slow pace at the beginning of the match, as Joe focused on Zayn's left leg with a kick and continued to stagger him throughout the contest with quick-strike offense. Zayn proved why he is the perfect foil for a competitor like Joe, as he sold every major strike like it was executed with killer force, particularly early on when a kick to the chest left him laying.
It looked like Zayn would fail in his uphill battle when his first big salvo, a deep arm drag, got blocked, but when Zayn hit a hurricanrana, the feel around this match started to change. Zayn continued to get bursts of offense, but each counter from Joe, be it a kick or a punch, left Zayn reeling.
Zayn had his moments, though, to be sure. His first Blue Thunder Bomb attempt, which got him a few elbows to the neck for his troubles, was followed by a successful (and impressive-looking) Blue Thunder Bomb on his much larger opponent.
The final sequence started as Joe hit an inverted atomic drop, kick to the face and a senton for a two-count, followed by a powerslam and another two-count. Zayn played possum and got a near-fall two-count, and then climbed up on the top rope. A sunset flip powerbomb failed, but Zayn momentarily regained control by tripping Joe and driving his head into the turnbuckle.
As he's often capable, Samoa Joe turned things around in a hurry when he hit a ura-nage followed by a Coquina clutch, which caused Zayn to pass out and earned Joe the victory. A strong start, and a strong showing for both men in a spot where Joe very easily could have demolished his opponent.
Rich Swann & Akira Tozawa def. Noam Dar and The Brian Kendrick via pinfall (Swann on Dar)
Rich Swann and Akira Tozawa showed some great chemistry in a tag-team match that, ostensibly, doesn't have many long-term implications. We were robbed of synchronized high-flying moves from the pair (for the time being) after Alicia Fox moved to block and protect Noam Dar and The Brian Kendrick, but the match was an overall success in driving some excitement ahead of the main pay-per-view card.
The crowd rose after each side found the hot tag, and we got a combo tope suicide (Tozawa) and front flip over the top rope (Swann) as each chanted "Ah" to a great reaction. Swann picked up the pinfall victory on Dar with a Phoenix Splash after a strong high kick/German suplex combo neutralized Kendrick. The chemistry on display for both teams was surprising, but made this match deliver beyond its place on the card.