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Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 3.01.24

March 1, 2024 | Posted by Robert Winfree
WWE Smackdown Kevin Owens Randy Orton Image Credit: WWE
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Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 3.01.24  

Well everyone, the month of February has finally ended and what better way to celebrate the inexorable march of time than with another episode of WWE Smackdown? We’re on the heels of a very predictable but generally well executed Elimination Chamber event and it’s full steam ahead for WrestleMania. Elimination Chamber provided plenty of illumination for most of the relevant Smackdown players, LA Knight and AJ Styles will be a battle between two letter first names, Randy Orton seems poised to take on Logan Paul which could be pretty good, Kevin Owens is still a little bit out in the cold but he might find his way into the Orton and Logan situation or any different creative direction what might start tonight. Speaking of tonight, The Rock will be here to talk and Roman Reigns will be around as well, Bayley and Dakota Kai will team up to take on the Kabuki Warriors with the looming question of just how long Dakota will wait to stab Bayley in the back, Carlito takes on Santos Escobar in a Street Fight, and we know Tiffany Stratton will take on Naomi. The big Mania absence right now is Bianca Belair, after a few years of title matches at the Grandest Stage she’s out in the cold this year and whatever program she’ll be working needs to start very quickly. Adjacent to Belair, The Final Testament and the Hurt Profits are still feuding and expect that to continue for a bit. Bron Breakker debuted on Smackdown last week but still no word on where Jade Cargill is signing, she and Belair had a Rumble moment but I’m not sure if that’s a match we need to see this quickly. Lastly there’s some growing drama between Austin Theory and Grayson Waller, Waller has been getting a little cozy with the Bloodline and didn’t help Theory out when Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes beat him up recently. A face turn for Theory is something I’ve thought might be a good move for a while now, and if they’re going to move things in that direction tonight would be a pretty good time to start. Well that’s the preamble, so let’s get to the action.

Up first after our regular recap, here comes Roman Reigns with his retinue in tow. Roman soaks in the boos then gets a mic from Paul Heyman and provides Glendale, Arizona the chance to acknowledge his greatness which they sort of do, but he doesn’t like the sound and so tells them to do so again. Second time around seems to work better but then we get a “Rocky” chant, Roman doesn’t like that at all and so for a third time he demands acknowledgement, Roman isn’t happy again and says they’re leaving. Paul Heyman reminds Roman that they can’t leave yet and asks for a moment. Heyman says the people’s champion will be out here, and Roman seems to seethe a bit as Heyman says he’ll be out here after this commercial break.

Post break, here comes The Rock. He’s wearing another very loud shirt, and Roman seems less than pleased with everything. Roman still feels like he’s seething as Rock gets a mic and enjoys some “Rocky” chants, then he asks if the people are sure they want to boo him. Well either way Rocky has good news for the people, apparently Glendale is 10 miles away from Phoenix, and he asks if there are people form Phoenix. There are, and Rocky informs us that Phoenix is the number once city in the USA for cocaine and meth use, the crowd seems to support this. And that means “Finally” your life has meaning, because finally you crackheads have something worth shooting into your veins as you sit and listen to how the Rock has finally come back to Arizona. Roman is looking real twitchy right now. Well the Bloodline is in a good mood, Solo actually has to fight to keep his stoic face, and Rocky tells us that for the first time in decades professional wrestling is cool. Professional wrestling is electrifying, it’s why the last three stops for Smackdown has been sold out, and how the upcoming shows are sold out. Greatness is here because of the Rock and Roman Reigns and the Bloodline. But you know who’s not cool? Our hero Cody Rhodes. Cody can run his mouth and challenge The Rock, well Rocky can see and here Cody and his answer to the challenge is no. You can’t just go one on one with the Great One just because you ask, everyone wants to take on the Rock including everyone in his arena. He settles down the crackhead Karen’s and methed out Mary’s, because they’re not ready for the Rock’s 22 inches of heaven. Get your head out of the gutter, he’s talking about his arms and while he’s willing to take on Cody but Cody’s stupid, Cody is coming up on a match with the most dominant champion in WWE history and he wants to fight the Rock? Stupid. Well they laughed about Cody’s offer but they’ve got a counter offer for him, Cody and his walking clown show buddy Seth Rollins how about a tag team match on night one of Mania, Cody and Seth vs. Roman and Rock in the biggest tag team match of all time. But this wont be a regular tag team match, if those two jabroni’s can win on night one then on night two the Bloodline will stay out of Cody’s title match. No Jimmy, no solo, no Rocky and we’ll put it in writing. So if Cody and Seth can win, then Cody will get his chance to finish his story one on one. But, and there’s always a but, if/when Rock and Roman beat those two candy asses on night one, then on night two for Cody’s title match it’s Bloodline rules and anything goes. Rock might pull up a chair, Jimmy could be the ref, Solo might be there to sing the national anthem. Solo looks shocked and horrified by public singing and this gets a “Solo” chant. But Bloodline rules could also mean that Rock bashes Cody’s head in with a chair. So Cody and his clown and companion can think this over and next week in Dallas they want an answer. And the thing is if you don’t accept the challenge, then we all know that Rocky will make sure Cody loses, and there’s not a man back there who can stop Rock, he’s on the board, he owns this whole thing. No GM, no VP, no one is getting in his way. That prompts a “Triple H” chant, but if Cody doesn’t accept then Rock and Roman will end Cody’s story in tragedy. Next week they give their answers. Roman interrupts the “If you smell” bit, Heyman looks like he’s seen a ghost at this interaction but Roman gets a mic from Heyman and then says he needs something from Rocky. Roman will do anything for his family but he needs one thing from Rock, he tells Rock to acknowledge him. Rock removes his sunglasses and then tells Roman Reigns, his family, that he acknowledges him as the Tribal Chief. That seems to mollify Roman and they two share a handshake then a hug to “you sold out” chants. Rock then explains to the idiots in the crowd, this is family and we will do anything for family, now to home and smoke some more crack “if ya smell” but he stops and hands the mic to Roman who closes this with “what the Bloodline is cookin'”. Rock and Roman have some impressive chemistry on the mic, when that explodes it’s going to be massive.

In the back Austin Theory and Grayson Waller get walked up on by LA Knight, Knight is looking AJ Styles with the same chair that AJ hit him with. Randy Orton walks into the background while Theory and Waller are watching replays of Logan Paul knocking him out with knux. Randy wants them to replay the clip and Theory and Waller get more and more nervous while Randy promises to rip off one of their heads tonight, doesn’t matter which of them later tonight. Waller then tosses Theory under the bus and Randy is very happy and he heads out. Theory isn’t happy but Waller tells him he just got him a main event tonight as we head to break.

Tiffany Stratton is mostly in the ring as come back, Naomi got the jobbers entrance.

Match #1: Tiffany Stratton vs. Naomi

Some posturing to start then they tie up, Stratton hits a shoulder block then some gymnastics. Naomi then hits a jumping back elbow and her own little athletic showcase. Stratton slams Naomi down by the hair but then Naomi sends her into the corner and starts stomping on her. Basement dropkick from Naomi, then she kicks Stratton in the head and hits a slingshot X-Factor for a 2 count. Stratton rolls out of the ring for a powder as we head to break.

Stratton hits a handspring elbow in the corner then follows up with a running double stomp for a 2 count as we come back. Naomi heads to the apron and hits MJF’s Heatseeker on the apron but only a 2 count. They trade slaps in the ring now, Naomi lands a knee strike but runs into a spinebuster for another 2 count. Jawbreaker from Naomi then slams Stratton into the corner. They fight over the ropes and Stratton rakes the eyes then posts Naomi. Prettiest Moonsault Ever follows and that’ll do it.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Tiffany Stratton won in 8:08

Rating: 2.5 stars
Thoughts: Fine enough match and Stratton seems to be gaining serious momentum at this point.

Next a recap of the Bayley leaving Damage Control saga and how Dakota Kai seems to be in limbo but is trying to align with Bayley.

The Kabuki Warriors head to the ring with Iyo Sky, that tag team match will be up after this break.

Post break here come Bayley and Dakota Kai.

Match #2 – Tag Team Match: Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) w/ Iyo Sky vs. Bayley and Dakota Kai

Asuka and Kairi jump Bayley to start and unload on her with kicks. Bayley fights back but Kairi shoves her off of the top rope when she goes up there. Kicks from Asuka now but Bayley catches one and then fights back by tripping her up and laying out Kairi on the floor. Back in the ring Asuka stops the tag and launches Bayley into Dakota, the force knocks Dakota off of the apron. Bayley and Asuka trade strikes but Kairi with a blind tag then Bayley gets double teamed for a near fall. Kairi slams Bayley on the floor then tags in Asuka and sends her into a double kick from Asuka. Bayley makes her save and kicks down Kairi then snaps Asuka between the ropes. Dakota has climbed back onto the ropes and wants a tag, but Dakota jumps away from the tag at the last second. Bayley charges at Dakota on the floor but Asuka and Kairi show up to attack her again and I think this has ended.

OFFICIAL RESULT: No Contest at about 4:20

Rating: 2 stars
Thoughts: I’d have waited until Mania for this moment, but I like maximum tragedy and Bayley getting stabbed in the back at Mania is more compelling personally than just a random Smackdown. The match was fine but more about the drama about what Dakota would do than the actual action.

Post match Dakota lays into Bayley then Iyo lands a meteora to the back of the head and laughs over the fallen Bayley while holding her title.

In the back Bron Breakker walks and will be in action after this break.

In the back Damage Control is happy and walks around but they run into Jade Cargill, she stares Iyo down before Nick Aldis heads in to talk with Jade and diffuse the situation.

Match #3: Bron Breakker vs. Xyon Quinn

Immediate Spear from Bron and we’re done.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Bron Breakker won in :07

Rating: Cushaw. . . SQUASH
Thoughts: More delicious squash for Bron.

Next a little video package on the Legado del Fantasma vs. Latino World Order feud.

Carlito heads to the ring with the LWO behind him for the Street Fight. After this break we’ll get that match.

Post break here comes Santos Escobar with Legado del Fantasma in tow, Elektra is not dressed for physical altercations so I doubt she’s bumping much for Vega tonight.

Match #4 – Street Fight: Carlito vs. Santos Escobar

Neither man came out with the supports to the ring but I imagine we’ll see something later. They start trading strikes right away then Carlito with allegedly a Thesz Press. Carlito tosses Escobar out of the ring and starts bouncing Escobar around the ringside area while the crowd wants tables. Carlito looks to oblige them and finds one under the ring to a massive pop but Escobar then cuts him off with strikes. Escobar gets sent into the ring steps, and now the crowd wants apples apparently. Carlito goes under the ring again and finds a kendo stick, it’s not fruit but the crowd seems to approve, and then finds an apple to anther big pop, but all this stalling let Escobar recover and he hits a suicide dive then laughs at the apple as we head to break.

Escobar has stuffed Carlito into a trash can as we come back, then hits a flying double knee strike to earn a 2 count. Carlito gets tossed out of the ring and Escobar sets for a dive but runs into a chair shot from Carlito. Carlito is pissed and starts unloading with strikes in the ring then hits Escobar with the trashcan before stuffing it over Escobar’s head and starting to smash him with the chair over and over again. Corkscrew neckbreaker onto the chair from Carlito but only a 2 count. Carlito sends table into the ring but Escobar lands a knee strike then claims there will be no table spot to some heat. Escobar puts Carlito up top but Carlito crotches him on the top rope but here’s Angel and Humberto to attack Carlito. Triple team powerbomb to Carlito but only a near fall. Now Escobar wants the table to Humberto and Angel set it up just before Cruz and Wilde show up to neutralize the heel reinforcements. They fight on the floor but Cruz and Wilde are still jobbers so they’re taken out, but here comes Rey Mysterio on crutches. Rey limps down the stage and Escobar sends Angel and Humberto after him but Rey was playing possum and wallops them with a crutch. Escobar looks pissed as Rey stalks towards him now, Rey gets in the ring with him and Carlito spits the apple and hits a Backstabber, that sets up Escobar for a 619 which Rey hits after Cruz and Wilde take out Angel and Humberto again. Carlito then with a slam through the table to win.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Carlito won in 11:11

Rating: 3 stars
Thoughts: Fun enough, Carlito still has some pacing issues with his matches but at his age that’s hardly too much of a knock on him and the whole thing was about the return of Rey.

In the back we see Randy getting ready for his match which is up next.

Next week we’ll get Bobby Lashley vs. Kariron Kross, Logan Paul will be back for something as well. In the back Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate lobby Nick Aldis for a rematch for the tag team titles, they’ll do whatever it takes to earn a shot at Mania. Aldis saw their match but thinks Mania might be a tough sell, he and Adam Pearce will be talking about that in the future. Noise draws Aldis and it’s LA Knight still stomping around looking for AJ, Aldis told AJ to stay away this week. Knight is pissed, AJ flew across the world to screw him out of a title shot and Knight promises to get even and wrap the chair around AJ’s head.

To the ring, but here’s Kevin Owens and he’ll be on commentary for our main event. After this break we’ll get that main event.

Post break Austin Theory is walking to the ring. After that Randy Orton heads to the ring to a very big pop.

Match #5: Randy Orton vs. Austin Theory w/ Grayson Waller

Randy quickly takes down Theory with uppercuts. Randy with the 10 punch in the corner but stops at 9 and then uses an uppercut to hit the 10th. Theory rolls out of the ring but Randy follows him and bounces him off of the announce table, Owens wants him to do the back drop but Waller pulls Theory to safety and Theory tosses him into the ring post. Theory then with the release back suplex onto the table and then poses while we head to break.

Theory is still in control as we come back, Theory goes up top but Randy cuts him off with a right hand and then climbs up top with him. Randy slips on the superplex, Theory tries to switch it into a Blockbuster and they fall, Randy then no sells the bump and stomps away on Theory. clotheslines from Randy then a snap powerslam. Randy clotheslines Theory out of the ring, Owens again wants the table spot and Randy obliges him to the glee of Owens on commentary. Waller tries to get involved and he gets slammed onto the table as well for good measure. Owens then unties Waller’s shoe because he’s a troll. Back in the ring Theory eats the draping DDT and now Randy sets for the RKO, Theory blocks him and posts Randy then hits a rolling Blockbuster for a near fall. Theory wants to finish things, but Randy slips free only for Theory to hit a cross chop then a chop block, an elbow follows but Theory still can’t keep Randy down. Theory wants the hanging DDT now, but Randy counters, then catches Theory trying the rolling dropkick with an RKO and we’re done.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Randy Orton won in 9:15

Rating: 2.5 stars
Thoughts: Theory still has a lot of athletic ability but his heel stuff is running stale and his building friction with Waller might lead to something better for him. Randy is still really really good at this.

Post match Waller looks to attack, Owens comes in to help and Stuns Theory then Randy floors Waller with an RKO for good measure.

Randy and Owens share a moment then Randy poses to end the episode.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
This was almost entirely carried by the opening two segments, but the atmosphere and intensity between Roman and his group and Rocky is so palpable and compelling that the feeling bled through into the rest of what would have been a fairly pedestrian episode. The wrestling was fine but more about the stuff around it than the actual matches with Dakota turning on Bayley, Rey returning, and a few more angles being advanced towards Mania. But in general Smackdown is starting to cook along, Rock and Roman's budding tension is starting to build week to week and when it blows up it'll be tremendous.

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WWE Smackdown, Robert Winfree