WRESTLING REPORT

Fastlane not exactly set up for success with Wrestlemania lurking right behind

PHOTO CREDIT: WWE IMAGES

Born with a comic book in one hand and a remote control in the other, Cory DLG is the talent of Conroe's very own Nerd Thug Radio, Sports and Wrestling. Check out the podcast replay of the FM radio shows www.facebook.com/nerdthugradio!

The road to Wrestlemania hit a speedbump in the sendoff week for Fastlane.

This week on Raw there was some good - the reformation of The Shield, which is a little odd considering the unknown status of Dean Ambrose's future post Wrestlemania. There was some bad (most of the matches this week) and there was some ugly - the Ronda Rousey heel turn and the changes made to the Raw Women's title matches for both Fastlane and Wrestlemania.

The unexpected return of Roman Reigns has helped redefine the direction of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose who seemed to be rudderless even with Rollins having a title match against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. It's hard to tell a story with no champion to play off of so Seth Rollins is left to feud with people who aren't holding the belt he's trying to win. Triple H cut a great promo for what was hinted at last week, a likely Wrestlemania match between Bautista and Triple H and that about wraps up the good parts of Raw this week unfortunately. A gauntlet match between Heavy Machinery and three weak tag teams went as scheduled and Ricochet and Aleister Black continued their tag team feature tour against Raw tag team champions the Revival. The big ending for this match was Ronda Rousey laying down terms and Stephanie McMahon seemingly giving in, after saying last week that she was the boss and no one tells her what to do. So now Fastlane is Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch, if Becky wins, she gets into a triple threat for Wrestlemania. Not sure why Charlotte is factored into any of this; Becky has cut a white hot streak through the WWE universe lately and sticking Charlotte into this mix just muddies Becky's seemingly inevitable title reign.

Smackdown wasn't much stronger overall as a send off for Fastlane, with R Truth losing a fatal four way to Samoa Joe and now he's the US Champion. The title has changed hands several times over the past few months and at this point there isn't a reign to speak of as every few weeks someone else is winning the belt. It feels a bit like a weird game of hot potato. Ricochet and Aleister Black returned yet again making this their third week in a row on both Raw and Smackdown in a tag match. Without real certainty where they will end up or what the end game is they have done a good job in their matches and seem to have won over the WWE universe. Kevin Owens return continues and he seems to have added more than just Stone Cold's stunner to his move set, including even throwing in a nod to Steve Austin during his banter with Daniel Bryan with a "that's the bottom line. Smackdown continued the trend of finishing with the women's rivalry, featuring Becky and Charlotte yet again. Becky Lynch is owning this character turn with great mic skills but Charlotte Flair in the role of spoiler hasn't quite worked out as well, but the story is where it is.

Fastlane is this weekend and after this WWE can do itself the favor of only having to focus on one big event at a time, as all the set up for Wrestlemania has gotten in the way of both Fastlane and Elimination Chamber.

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The future is bright for the Astros. Composite image by Jack Brame.

2020 has shown us lots of things. A few of the things it's shown us is that anything is possible, expect the unexpected, and do not be surprised at the outcome. Well, the Astros checked all three of those boxes in this pandemic season and post season. Anything was possible when they finished the 60 game season 29-31 and barely made the playoffs (yes, the new format helped, but they made it). We should've expected the unexpected when they were able to beat the Twins in the first round 2-0 after the A's ran away with the division this season. We for damn sure shouldn't have been surprised at the outcome of their ALCS series when they forced Tampa to a game seven after being down 3-0 because this team is experienced and scrappy. We are talking about the team that's made it to the ALCS four years running and won it all in 2017.

Sure, there are some high dollar guys that mean a lot to this team that they may lose (looking squarely at George Springer and Michael Brantley), but that's the end of it. They'll also be without Justin Verlander after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Some will say coming back from a 3-0 deficit to force a game seven was good enough. They'll tell this team to accept its fate and fall into the background. They replaced their manager and general manager after the cheating scandal, no way they can move forward and succeed right? (insert your favorite GTFOH GIF)

Springer and Brantley could both leave as free agents

This team may not be thought of a contender moving forward, but I have faith in the talent that's still there. I believe Jim Crane knows who and what he can't live without moving forward, so I think he'll shell out the cash necessary to keep guys like Springer and Brantley...as long as it's within reason. Crane won't, and shouldn't, get into a bidding war with another team for either guy, but I think he will make a fair offer to both. Verlander being out in his last season under contract is a big blow. However, I think it can work to the team's advantage.

Let's say they're only able to bring back Springer OR Brantley, but Kyle Tucker takes that next step. Let's say Forrest Whitley, Framber Valdez, and Jose Urquidy all take that next step while Lance McCullers continues his accent. What will the league say when Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman return to their previously dominant forms? All of this speaks to the continued era of the dominant Astros.

Even if they lose Brantley and/or Springer this offseason, I still think they have enough in place to keep the lineup competitive and threatening. The pitching staff has enough firepower to put some fear into opposing lineups. If they continue to make the right moves and develop the talent they have in-house, this team won't fall off or take a dip. Instead, they'll continue to be a force if they hold true to the talent they have, and acquire the complimentary talent they need to accent the players they have now. The pitching staff will be in good hands. McCullers, Framber, and Urquidy are guys I feel that can carry the load. Meanwhile, Forrest Whitley is waiting in the wings. Kyle Tucker is poised for the next step in the lineup, and Captain Correa clearly established himself as a leader this post season.

The future is bright for Astros fans. If ownership and the front office pony up the money to keep some guys, it'll be even better.

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