The John Report: WWE SmackDown 03/01/24 Review

wwe smackdown february 16 tjrwrestling

This week’s WWE Smackdown featured The Rock & Roman Reigns, plus Naomi in action against Tiffany Stratton, Randy Orton in the main event, and more.

It’s the first Smackdown since the Elimination Chamber PLE last Saturday. The Smackdown brand didn’t have a strong representation at that show since Raw wrestlers won both Chamber matches and the other two winners are part of The Judgment Day group on Raw. There are no more PLE shows on the Road to WrestleMania 40, which is about five weeks away.

Earlier on Friday, The Rock posted a 21-minute video on social media where he told Cody Rhodes “f**k your story” and bashed Seth Rollins for thinking that WWE doesn’t need Rock. It’s obviously in-character and I get that, but it’s a great thing to see a legend like The Rock heavily involved in this story and posting videos on socials like that. The Rock has 397 million followers on Instagram while WWE’s account has 31 million followers, so when you think about how many people his promos can reach, it’s a great thing for the company too.

From the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, this is Smackdown for episode #1280. Follow me on Twitter/X @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

A video aired showing Elimination Chamber PLE highlights.

The commentary team was Corey Graves and Wade Barrett as usual for Smackdown.

Let’s Hear from Roman Reigns and The Bloodline

The Bloodline made their entrance including the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns, Solo Sikoa, Jimmy and the “Wise Man” Paul Heyman. No sign of The Rock yet, but he is there. The graphic reminded us that in five weeks at WrestleMania 40, Reigns will defend his title(s) against Royal Rumble match winner Cody Rhodes. Reigns and the group took their time getting into the ring as usual.

Reigns: “Glendale, Arizona…acknowledge me.” That led to a lot of boos from the crowd along with some 1’s being thrown up into the air. Reigns said that it used to be louder as fans booed. Reigns tried it again saying “Phoenix, Arizona” this time and it was a similar reaction with boos. Reigns said he’s fulfilled his obligation, so he might just leave. Reigns tried it again, this time doing it with anger and he was booed again. Reigns said that they are done there. Reigns said that this appearance is done and told Heyman to fire up the jet because they are done there. Heyman said they had some other business because “he’s coming out” referring to The Rock. Heyman said that in just a moment, the People’s Champion, the greatest movie of all time will be out here live, The Rock…after this commercial break. More boos.

Analysis: It really wasn’t that interesting of an opening segment because it was just Reigns getting booed for a few minutes. Telling fans that The Rock was coming after the break will keep them tuned in. It took about 13 minutes to reach that break so it was really dragged out a lot.


Let’s Hear from The Rock and The Bloodline

The Rock made his entrance wearing a colorful dress shirt as usual along with shades. The Rock was in heel mode rather than being nice to the fans on the way to the ring. Huge reaction for Rock with plenty of cheers to go with the boos. When The Rock stood in the ring, there were some “Rocky” chants supporting the People’s Champion. There were also plenty of boos from the crowd.

The Rock: “Are you sure you want to boo The Rock?” Rock said before he drops gospel on you, he has good news to share. Rock said that he has news you might like and be proud of. Rock said that Glendale is 10 miles from Phoenix, so he asked if there were a lot of people from Phoenix. Rock claimed that the number one city in America for cocaine and meth use is Phoenix, Arizona. Some fans cheered that. The Rock called the fans “cactus-loving crackheads” and Jimmy Uso was laughing about that. The Rock: “Finally The Rock has come back to Arizona.” More Rocky chants and more booing.

The Rock said that his body was covered in chills. Rock said that everybody is in a good mood and even Solo was even though you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. Rock said that professional wrestling is cool and electrifying once again. Rock mentioned being sold out everywhere they go. Rock said that wrestling is cool again because of The Rock, Roman Reigns and The Bloodline. The fans booed that statement.

At that point, The Rock asked who is not cool? Rock said that’s your hero Cody Rhodes. The Rock said that Cody wants to challenge The Rock and go one on one. The Rock said “no” to Cody’s challenge for a one on one match. The Rock said that you’re not going to one on one with him just because he wants to. The Rock said that everybody wanted to go one on one with The Rock and he claimed eery woman in this arena wanted to go one on one with The Rock, which led to some women screaming happily. The Rock told “crackhead Karen’s” and “meth-head Mary’s” to settle down because they aren’t ready for him. The Rock wondered if Cody Rhodes was an idiot for challenging Rock to a match. The Rock said you’ve got Roman Reigns and you’re challenging Rock? The Rock said that they’ve heard your challenge, but they had a counter offer for you.

The Rock issued a challenge for Night 1 of WrestleMania – the biggest tag team match in WWE and the history of professional wrestling. The Rock said it will be Cody Rhodes & Seth Rollins against The Rock & Roman Reigns. The Rock said that it won’t just be a regular tag team match. The Rock said that if you two jabronis beat The Rock & Roman Reigns at WrestleMania then Cody’s championship match will be free of The Bloodline because they will be barred from WrestleMania. The Rock said if they win on night one then Cody Rhodes will get a shot to finish his story with Roman Reigns.

The Rock said that if The Rock & Roman Reigns win over Cody Rhodes & Seth Rollins then it’s Bloodline Rules at WrestleMania for Roman and Cody’s match. Rock suggested that he could be an announcer, Jimmy could be a referee and even Solo could sing the national anthem, which led to a shocked Solo face. The fans chanted “Solo” for that. The Rock said that he could take his chair and bash Cody’s brains in and it will be legal. The Rock told Cody that he and his walking clown show Seth Rollins have a lot to think about. The Rock told Cody & Seth to meet them next week in Dallas face to face to give them their answer. The Rock said that if you don’t accept this challenge then The Rock will do everything in his power to make sure that Cody doesn’t win that title. The Rock reminded them that he sits at the Board and that means The Rock is your boss. Rock said that there’s no GM or Vice President of whatever (muted due to swearing) Triple H that could stop him. The fans were chanting “Triple H” after that. Rock said that if you don’t accept the challenge then Rock & Reigns will end your story tragically. Rock told Cody & Seth to meet them on Smackdown next week and give their answers.

The Rock was about to end the promo with “if you smell” but Reigns put his hand on Rock’s wrist to stop it. Heyman had a stunned look on his face. Reigns was handed a microphone.

Roman Reigns said that he needs something from The Rock. Reigns said he’ll do anything for his family, but he needs this one thing. Reigns told The Rock to acknowledge him. The crowd let out an “ooohhh” reaction and even a mild “holy shit” chant too. The Rock took his sunglasses off.

The Rock: “Roman Reigns, my family…I acknowledge you as my Tribal Chief.” They shook hands and hugged. Fans chanted “you sold out” which doesn’t make sense. The Rock said that they are family and they will do anything for family…now go home and smoke some crack. The Rock: “If ya smell…” and he handed Reigns the microphone: “What The Bloodline is cooking.” The Bloodline held their hands up to remind us they were “The Ones” to end it.

Analysis: There’s a lot to unpack there, but we got the official challenge for the WrestleMania 40 tag team match that has been reported as likely to happen for several weeks now. Cody Rhodes is actually at Smackdown in a dark match after the show, but they are waiting until next week to have Cody & Seth accept the challenge. That’s fine because it builds anticipation. The Rock was great with his promo while finding a way to insult the crowd by mentioning their crack and meth issues, which isn’t really family-friendly trash-talking, but that’s just how The Rock is when in heel mode. The other big thing there was that The Rock acknowledged Reigns as his Tribal Chief, which some fans didn’t think would happen due to how they reacted, so having Rock do that shows that he is on the same page as Reigns now. Those two promo segments took about 40 minutes. This Rock segment alone was well over 20 minutes without a commercial. I don’t mind it because I think Rock is great and I’m a fan.

Grayson Waller and Austin Theory were in the locker room talking. LA Knight asked if they had seen AJ Styles, but they didn’t seem to know. Waller and Theory were watching Logan Paul costing Randy Orton in the Elimination Chamber and Orton was in the background. Orton thought it was hilarious while saying he’ll face one of them later tonight, so they could pick. Waller volunteered for this, so Orton said that’s fine and Randy left.

Analysis: That’s an easy way to set up a match for later.


PLUG CITY: Please check out the Too Much To Cover podcast hosted by my close friends John V and Justin, who are lifelong wrestling fans like me. Plus, they have very unique personalities too. It’s new and they are going to reference a lot of my work in it too, so that’s wise. It’s available right now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and it should be everywhere else too. The latest episode is a great example of how they cover current topics as well as historical shows. Please give it a listen if you support what I do because it would mean a lot to me. Thank you.

The end of Tiffany Stratton’s entrance was shown while Naomi was already in the ring. There were some “Tiffy Time” chants.

Naomi vs. Tiffany Stratton

Stratton showed off her athleticism with a backflip so Naomi did her own flip after she knocked Stratton down. Stratton delivered a kick followed by head whip into the mat. Naomi sent Stratton into the turnbuckle followed by a running dropkick. Naomi delivered a kick to the head while on the apron and Naomi jumped over the top rope leading to a facebuster into the mat. Stratton rolled out of the ring leading to a commercial.


Stratton was in control with a running double foot stomp on a seated Naomi for a two count. Naomi hit a shoulder tackle to the ribs followed by Naomi using her legs to spike Stratton’s head into the mat for a two count. They exchanged slaps, then forearms from Naomi and Naomi hit a knee lift. Stratton hit a spinebuster for two. Naomi hit a jawbreaker followed by a bulldog into the middle turnbuckle. Stratton was by the ropes, the referee held Naomi back, so Stratton did an eye rake and Stratton sent Naomi into the ring post. Stratton hit the Prettiest Moonsault Ever (triple jump moonsault) off the top rope for the pinfall win after nine minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Tiffany Stratton

Analysis: *** It’s Tiffy Time as Stratton picked up a big win to continue her ascent on Smackdown. They have booked Stratton well since joining the main roster and this was another quality win for her. Naomi could use a big win too, but you can’t have everybody win. I’m not sure where either woman fits moving forward, but I hope both of them have spots on the WrestleMania card.

A video package aired about Bayley winning the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile, Damage CTRL as a group has fallen apart due to IYO SKY, Asuka & Kairi Sane turning on Bayley, Meanwhile, it appears that Dakota Kai is supporting Bayley as we head into this match.

The Kabuki Warriors duo of Asuka & Kairi Sane entered as the Women’s Tag Team Champions joined by WWE Women’s Champion IYO SKY for that tag team match after the break.


Bayley & Dakota Kai vs. Kabuki Warriors – Asuka & Kairi Sane (w/IYO SKY)

Dakota Kai was in her wrestling gear after missing about nine months with a knee injury. Asuka & Sane hit some double team moves including a bulldog by Asuka and a dropkick by Sane. Bayley fought back with a punch on Asuka. Bayley went up top, but Sane did a cheap shot when a referee wasn’t looking and Bayley hit the mat. There were “Bayley” chants since she’s a face again. Bayley tripped up Asuka and a forearm to Sane on the floor. Asuka sent Bayley crashing into Kai on the apron and Kai bumped to the floor. Sane got a tag leading to a double team kick on Bayley for a two count. Asuka was back in with two boots to the face of Bayley. Asuka sent Bayley to the corner, Bayley went over the top to the apron, Bayley knocked down Sane and Bayley snapped Asuka’s body against the middle turnbuckle. Bayley went for a tag, but Kai bailed to the floor and the fans booed. Bayley nailed two clotheslines on Asuka & Sane. Bayley left the ring and fought with Kai on the floor. Asuka & Sane went after Bayley with punches on the floor. The referee just left the ring so the match ended without any sort of ruling. It went about six minutes.

Match Result: No Contest

Analysis: ** This was about the angle, not the match. I think as an angle, it worked well and the crowd reaction told you that. It’s hard to really rate the match because there was not any sort of ruling.

After the referee left, the Kabuki Warriors held Bayley while Kai slapped Bayley in the face. Iyo Sky went into the ring and hit a double knee smash to the back of Bayley’s head. Sky laughed at a fallen Bayley while Kai celebrated with her allies. Bayley was left alone in the ring.

Analysis: My prediction last week was that Dakota Kai was going to turn on Bayley and that’s what happened. I think most people following the show likely predicted something similar. Last week they had Kai claim she was attacked, but we never saw it, so that was a giveaway that a setup was coming. It leaves Bayley on an island of sorts since she’s without any allies going into WrestleMania 40 while Sky has the rest of the group with her. I still think Bayley beating Sky was a lock.

Still to come: Randy Orton vs. Austin Theory in the main event.

Bron Breakker was shown walking backstage because he’s up next.


Dakota Kai was shown walking backstage with Iyo Sky, Asuka & Kairi Sane. Jade Cargill was standing there and had a staredown with the group. Nick Aldis, the Smackdown GM, spoke to Jade saying he wanted to talk to her as a tease of Cargill possibly signing with Smackdown. Sky and friends didn’t say anything.

Bron Breakker vs. Xyon Quinn

The bell rang and Bron Breakker hit a Spear. Bron pinned him to win in about five seconds.

Winner by pinfall: Bron Breakker

Analysis: Match of the year. At least it puts over Bron in a big way. I don’t remember the last time Quinn had a televised match, but this wasn’t about him.

A video aired about Santos Escobar and his Legado Del Fantasma group of Angel, Humberto & Elektra Lopez. They talked about how they had to get rid of the LWO group. There were comments from Carlito and Santos Escobar leading to their Street Fight match up next.

Carlito made his entrance for the Street Fight joined by LWO members Joaquin Wilde, Cruz Del Toro & Zelina Vega. That match was next.


An “In Memory Of” graphic was shown for Mike Jones aka Virgil, who passed away earlier this week.

Santos Escobar made his entrance joined by Angel, Humber & Elektra Lopez, but the group went to the back just like Carlito’s group did.

Street Fight: Carlito vs. Santos Escobar

A Street Fight means there are no countouts and no disqualifications. You can only win by pinfall or submission in the ring.

Carlito tackled Escobar leading to punches and tossed Escobar out of the ring. Carlito sent Escobar into the steel steps. The fans chanted “we want table” so Carlito grabbed a table from under the ring. Escobar fought back with punches, but Carlito sent Escobar back-first into the steel steps. The fans chanted “we want apples” so Carlito looked under the ring again. Carlito found a kendo stick, but then he found an apple under the ring. Escobar put a stop to that with a suicide dive onto Carlito on the floor.


Escobar was in control with a running knee attack into a trash can that was on Carlito’s head. Escobar tossed Carlito out of the ring. Escobar went for an attack, but Escobar stopped that with a chair shot to the body. Carlito came back with a clothesline and he threw a trash can at Escobar. Carlito put the trash can on Escobar followed by Carlito hitting the trash can (that was on Escobar) with a steel chair. Carlito hit a neckbreaker onto the steel chair that was on the mat for a two count. Carlito grabbed a table from under the ring and brought it into the ring. Before Carlito could set up the table, Escobar hit a running knee to the head. Escobar set up Carlito on the top turnbuckle and Carlito sent Escobar groin first onto the top rope. That’s when Angel & Humberto showed up in the ring to attack Carlito. They lifted up Carlito leading to a triple Powerbomb by Escobar with friends leading to a two count. Escobar told his buddies to set up a table. That led to Cruz & Wilde to get into the ring to help Carlito. They went after Angel & Humberto, but Angel & Humberto sent Cruz & Wilde into the steel steps and ring post respectively.

Rey Mysterio’s music hit and he appeared with two crutches. The fans popped huge for Rey, who was wearing an LWO shirt. Angel & Humberto left the ring, so Rey attacked them with a crutch. Rey was fine physically. Rey beat up Angel & Humberto with the crutch. Rey was back looking healthy after Escobar took him out back in November. Escobar tried an attack, Rey avoided it and Carlito spit an apple in Escobar’s face. Carlito hit a Backstabber on Escobar. Del Toro & Wilde hit dives onto Angel & Humberto on the floor. Rey hit a 619 on Escobar. Carlito gave Escobar a spinebuster through the table for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Carlito

Analysis: ***1/4 It was a fun match and segment considering everything that happened. Escobar has been pushed to a decent level to where I think some people might have thought he would win here, but I’m glad they used this match to bring back Rey Mysterio because the fans loved seeing him. That win was also meaningful for Carlito because he hasn’t won that much since coming back, so having him win thanks to his team helping him is a satisfying result if you’re a fan of the LWO group. The crowd reaction to Rey’s return was very loud so that was great to hear because Rey deserves it. It wasn’t like the Street Fight tag team match on Raw. It was a good match, but more about the angle and Rey’s return to help Carlito get the win.

After the match, the LWO guys celebrated with Zelina Vega. They picked up Rey and held him up in the air. The five LWO members celebrated in the ring together.

Analysis: I think Rey was close to being ready to come back round the Royal Rumble, but I think WWE wanted to wait until the right time for his return. Now that Rey is back, it seems like they are going to go with Rey against Escobar at WrestleMania 40 and that’s certainly fine with me.

Randy Orton was shown getting ready in the locker room for his match coming up.


Next week on Smackdown:

* Bobby Lashley will face Karrion Kross.

* United States Champion Logan Paul returns.

Tyler Bate & Pete Dunne were shown talking to Smackdown GM Nick Aldis about how close they came to becoming WWE Tag Team Champions at Elimination Chamber if it wasn’t for Dominik Mysterio getting involved. Bate said they wanted to get into the title picture for WrestleMania 40. Aldis said that he’s been talking to Raw GM Adam Pearce about the Tag Team Titles and they’ll have an announcement they can share soon. There was some noise, so Aldis left.

LA Knight was shown walking around with a steel chair and GM Aldis saw him, so Knight wondered if Aldis knew where Styles was. Aldis said he told AJ Styles not to be there tonight. Knight talked about how Styles screwed him in the Elimination Chamber match. Knight said he’ll find Styles at home if he has to and he has a gift for him – a steel chair. Knight said that there’s nothing anybody can do about it. Aldis: “Oh yeah?” Knight: “Yeah.” Well played at the end.

Analysis: It’s obviously going to lead to LA Knight facing AJ Styles at WrestleMania 40, which is good because it’s been building for several months. As for the WWE Tag Team Title situation, it sounds like there could be multiple teams involved in that match. I’m interested to see what WWE books for WrestleMania 40 for the Tag Team Titles.

Kevin Owens was introduced as the special guest commentator for the next match.


This Monday on Raw: Becky Lynch vs. Nia Jax and Drew McIntyre vs. Jey Uso.

The end of Austin Theory’s entrance was shown with Grayson Waller by his side. Kevin Owens bundled his insurance with Progressive, which I’m sure Smackdown’s main sponsor appreciates. Waller was on commentary calling Theory & Waller idiots. Randy Orton got a huge pop for his entrance with the fans loving The Viper as usual. Orton was proud of his 275-pound weight that was part of his introduction. A replay was shown of Logan Paul costing Randy Orton with a brass knuckle punch to the face in the Elimination Chamber match. That led to Drew McIntyre pinning Orton to win the Men’s Chamber match.

Randy Orton vs. Austin Theory (w/Grayson Waller)

They showed Orton at 9:31 p.m. ET saying his match was next. By the time Orton’s entrance ended, it was 9:47 p.m. ET at the start of the match. Just saying that sometimes there is a lot of stuff in between “next” and when a match actually happens. Orton hit Theory with a few uppercut strikes to the jaw. Orton did the ten punch combo that ended with an uppercut that knocked Theory out of the ring. Orton sent Theory onto the hood of the commentary table. Orton went for the slam onto the table, but Waller saved his buddy Theory. That led to Theory sending Orton into the ring post. Theory slammed Orton back-first onto the hood of the commentary table. That led to a break.


The match continued with Theory taking way too long to get to the top rope, but Orton stopped that with punches. Orton was going for a superplex, there was a slip off the ropes and Theory basically took the bump while Orton suplexed Theory. That was some great athleticism by Theory but the announcers put it over as Orton using his power. Anyway, Orton got some offense going with a powerslam and a clothesline that sent Theory over the top to the floor. Orton gave Theory a belly-to-back suplex onto the commentary table. Owens: “YES!” Orton kicked Theory in the gut and gave Theory the belly-to-back suplex onto the commentary table too. The fans loved that and so did Owens. Back in the ring, Orton hit the “vintage Orton” draping DDT. Orton went for the RKO, but Theory pushed Orton into the turnbuckle. Theory sent Orton into the ring post followed by Theory hit an impressive Blockbuster neckbreaker for a two count. Theory with a lift, Orton slipped out of it and Theory hit a forearm to the jaw. Theory hit a chop block to the leg. Theory hit a lefty forearm smash to the face for a two count. Theory hit a neck snap from the apron. Theory jumped into the ring going for a rolling attack, but when he jumped up, Orton was ready for it and he hit an RKO on Theory for the pinfall win. It went about ten minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Randy Orton

Analysis: *** Incredible RKO to end it. Any time you do an RKO on a guy leaping in the air, it will look great and in this case, it was perfect because Theory’s a tremendous athlete. A good match that had an obvious result with Orton picking up the win as expected. Theory doesn’t win much anymore and we know going into a match like this he’s there to do the job to the bigger name in Orton.

After the match, Waller hit Orton with a forearm to the back to knock Orton out of the ring. Owens went into the ring to fight off the heels. Owens hit a Stunner on Theory and Orton hit an RKO on Waller. Orton touched fists with KO to celebrate. Orton did his posing on the ropes to end the show.

Analysis: I would have liked a quick promo from Randy Orton about wanting to kick Logan Paul’s ass for costing Randy in the Elimination Chamber. I get that it was the end of the show, but even if it was 20 seconds I think they should have done it. Anyway, they promoted Paul on Smackdown next week so hopefully Orton will try to get some revenge on him.


Three Stars of the Show

  1. The Rock and Roman Reigns
  2. Randy Orton
  3. Carlito and Santos Escobar


The Scoreboard

7.75 out of 10

Last week: 7

2024 Average: 7.39


Final Thoughts on WWE Smackdown

It was a newsworthy show because The Rock pitched the WrestleMania 40 Night 1 tag team match with Rock & Roman Reigns against Cody Rhodes & Seth Rollins. That’s the match we expected. I thought Rock’s promo was very entertaining although maybe a bit too long in terms of insulting the local fans. Anyway, the end of it was certainly interesting since Reigns wanted Rock to acknowledge him and Rock willingly did it because they are family. It shows how close they are at least right now. Those two segments with them talking took about 45 minutes so it took a while to get to the matches. Cody & Seth are on next week to answer the challenge, so the big WrestleMania 40 tag team match should be official at that point.

I’m not surprised by Dakota Kai turning on Bayley because I predicted it and I think most fans could see it coming. That’s fine because it leaves Bayley alone, which will make the fans like her even more since she had all four of her allies turn on her. It gives Bayley some fan sympathy support, which is nice.

I think WWE booked the rest of the show well (after The Bloodline) since there were still five matches…even though one of them took about five seconds with Bron Breakker winning with a Spear. It’s good to see Rey Mysterio back after being off for about four months. They booked that Street Fight really well with Rey coming out to save Carlito and help him beat Santos Escobar. The fans were really into that.

Next week should be big with Cody Rhodes & Seth Rollins answering the challenge from The Rock & Roman Reigns. I’m looking forward to it.


Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. You can contact me using any of the methods below.

John Canton


Twitter/X: @johnreport