The John Report: WWE SmackDown 04/26/24 Review (WWE Draft Part 1)

WWE Smackdown April 26

This week’s WWE Smackdown was the start of the WWE Draft while Cody Rhodes & AJ Styles had a contract signing for their match at Backlash.

There are some important rules for the WWE Draft, so I’m going to paste them below right from WWE’s listing of the rules.


  1. Champions on each brand will be protected and are not eligible to be drafted. As a result, Damian Priest, Becky Lynch, Awesome Truth and Sami Zayn will remain on Raw. Cody Rhodes, Bayley, A-Town Down Under and Logan Paul will remain on SmackDown.
  2. Even though their status as champions allows them to go to both brands, WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Asuka and Kairi Sane are eligible to be drafted. They will be assigned to that brand if they lose the titles.
  3. Friday’s SmackDown will feature four rounds of draft picks being announced. Each round will consist of the brands making two picks apiece for a total of 16 picks being announced (8 for SmackDown and 8 for Raw).
  4. Monday’s Raw will feature six rounds of draft picks being announced. Each round will consist of the brands making two picks apiece for a total of 24 picks (12 for Raw and 12 for SmackDown).
  5. SmackDown will have the first pick on Friday, and Raw will have first pick on Monday.
  6. Rosters will go into effect on Monday, May 6, two days after Backlash France.

There is also a listing of wrestlers who are available to be drafted on Friday. If you don’t see a name here, they are either injured, inactive or eligible on Monday’s Raw.


I was going to list the names eligible, but here’s a handy graphic instead.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to it.


From the Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, this is Smackdown for episode #1288. Follow me on Twitter/X @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

They showed arrivals and backstage walking scenes featuring WWE Champion Cody Rhodes and AJ Styles separately. They also showed Bianca Belair & Jade Cargill walking together.

The commentary team of Corey Graves and Wade Barrett did a rundown of the rules. They showed the Raw and Smackdown “war rooms’ featuring Raw GM Adam Pearce and Smackdown GM Nick Aldis talking to people in their rooms.

Paul Heyman was interviewed by Kayla Braxton backstage. Heyman said that Roman Reigns has withdrawn from eligibility for the 2024 Draft. Heyman said that this is a positive. Heyman said that Reigns doesn’t want to be the first pick when he’s not set to return in the immediate future. Heyman said that this puts the pressure on Nick Aldis about who he is going to pick.

Analysis: We don’t know when Roman Reigns will be back so keeping him out of the draft makes sense.

They showed the WWE NXT Performance Center with NXT wrestlers sitting in the arena. Jackie Redmond spoke about how NXT wrestlers are eligible to be drafted while the NXT wrestlers were sitting around there. Jackie mentioned a year ago when Grayson Waller got picked and look at him now as a Tag Team Champion. There were also a lot of fans there too. Lots of cheering and excitement. We will see more of the NXT crew later.

Cody Rhodes-AJ Styles Contract Signing

The ring was set up for the contract signing with Corey Graves moderating it since Smackdown GM Nick Aldis is busy. There were two tables with chairs on opposite sides and a podium. AJ Styles was introduced first as the heel challenger. I’m still getting used to the new song. Cody Rhodes was next as the Undisputed WWE Champion and he got a huge pop. Cody was in a red and black suit that’s more fitting for Raw, but I guess that’s okay.

AJ Styles did a promo saying that he didn’t like LA Knight and he got under his skin. Styles said that’s why he lost at WrestleMania. Styles said he got his composure back and he beat LA Knight to earn the right to face Cody Rhodes at Backlash. Styles told Cody he respected him. Styles said that they went down the same roads and they had to prove themselves outside of WWE. Styles talked about how the same man gave them the same advice – the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, which led to a “Dusty” chants. Styles told Cody he learned a lot from his dad, who was a good man. Styles said Dusty taught him how to carry himself and the weight of a champion. Styles said that the weight of this title isn’t just leather and gold. Styles said at Backlash, we’ll see if Cody can carry it. AJ signed the contract.

Cody: “So…Cincinnati…what do we want to talk about?” Cody said every single person in the locker room respects AJ Styles. Cody said that AJ is the modern day Excellence of Execution. Cody said that he respected the roads that AJ has been on. Cody spoke about how AJ seemed to imply that Cody can’t handle the pressure. Cody talked about the man that trained him said that it’s not about winning the title, it’s keeping it. Cody said that this is not a dream match for him – it’s a must win. Cody signed the contract.

Cody extended his hand for a handshake. Styles said it was beautiful thing to see Cody finish his story and get the championship. Styles said it’s a shame that Cody’s title reign will end at Backlash. They shook hands. Styles left. Cody posed with the WWE Title to end it.

Analysis: I like AJ Styles as much as anybody, but I don’t think any fan watching this thinks that Cody is going to lose the WWE Title to Styles at Backlash. Cody is very early in what will be a long title reign. I think it should be a good match with Cody and AJ because they are outstanding performers, but I don’t think the result of that match will be a shock to anybody watching it.

Triple H, the WWE Chief Content Officer, walked out to shake Cody’s hand and raise his hand. Triple H welcomed Cody to the podium on the left side to announce the first draft picks.

WWE Draft Round 1

Triple H said that this is the night that changes the landscape of WWE going into the future. Hunter said that as the GMs think about their next step, they need to understand it’s about protecting the roster they have and bringing in the roster they want. Hunter said that they could gain one superstar and lose another superstar. Hunter said since Cody is the WWE Champion who will stay here on Smackdown, he can read Smackdown picks while Hunter will read the Raw picks.

Smackdown – Bianca Belair

Raw – Jey Uso

Smackdown – Carmelo Hayes

Raw – Seth “Freakin” Rollins

Analysis: Bianca Belair is obviously a big name and she stays on Smackdown. Jey Uso staying on Raw makes sense since he’s challenging for the World Title at Backlash. Carmelo Hayes is a big pick coming from NXT and he has a bright future. Seth Rollins is out for a while with knee surgery, but we all knew he was staying on Raw with Women’s World Champion Becky Lynch, who is Seth’s wife.

Triple H shook hands with Cody Rhodes and here comes Carmelo Hayes.

Carmelo Hayes did a promo was greeted by “Whoop That Trick” chants. Melo said that ever since Cody has won that championship, he has heard him say that if you come for the king, you best not miss. Melo said when he shoots, he doesn’t miss. Melo wants to shoot his shot here on Smackdown by shooting it against Cody.

Cody asked the fans if they wanted to see him in action and Triple H laughed because of course it led to cheers. Cody made it clear that he didn’t forget his gear. Cody said that Hayes is on and they shook hands.

Analysis: That’s a big match for later. I’m all for it because I’ve covered Melo’s entire NXT run over the last two and a half years. Melo is an awesome performer, so seeing him getting a big spotlight like this is wonderful to see. He deserves it. That’s a great match for later and nice to see Cody in action as well.


LWO – Rey Mysterio & Dragon Lee (w/Carlito & Zelina Vega) vs. Legado Del Fantasma – Angel & Berto

There were no entrances. Everybody was already in the ring. Lee sent Berto out of the ring quickly and Lee hit a somersault dive over the top onto Berto on the floor. As Lee ran the ropes, Angel held the ropes open and Lee went tumbling to the floor. They went to break quickly.


Rey got the tag and hit a seated senton on Angel. Rey hit Code Red on Angel for two because Berto made the save. Angel set up Rey for a move, but Rey countered to send Angel into the ropes. Rey hit the 619 kick while Lee got the tag and Lee hit the Project Dragon spinning reverse DDT slam for the pinfall win after about six minutes.

Winners by pinfall: LWO – Rey Mysterio & Dragon Lee

Analysis: ** The match was rushed due to the promo segments opening the show going so long. We only saw a few minutes of action here and it was all about giving Dragon Lee a win.

After the match, Santos Escobar walked out with Elektra Lopez. Escobar said he is many things, but a liar he is not. Escobar said that when he said he didn’t attack Dragon Lee on the night before WrestleMania 40, he meant it. Escobar said that Elektra tracked down the security footage. Escobar cued up the footage.

The security footage played and it was Carlito throwing Lee into the wall and into a trash can. Carlito walked out of a door and then Carlito showed concern for Lee. Carlito shoved Lee into Rey and Carlito hit a Backstabber on Lee as well. Carlito left through the crowd.

Analysis: There’s the payoff for that mystery attack. I think we all saw it coming with Carlito being jealous that Rey picked Dragon Lee as his tag team partner instead of Carlito, so that’s why Carlito attacked Lee. Anyway, Carlito doing a cheap attack and running away fits his character historically since he’s usually a heel.

The WWE Draft war rooms were shown again leading to a break.


It’s official for later: Cody Rhodes vs. Carmelo Hayes in the main event.

Bron Breakker vs. Cedric Alexander

Bron charged, Cedric avoided him for a bit, but then Bron slipped out, sent Cedric into the ropes, Cedric did a backflip and Bron hit a Spear. It was a pinfall win after less than 30 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Bron Breakker

Analysis: Squash city. Bron is going to be a huge star. It’s just a matter of when he gets a meaningful feud and how things go from there.

A Progressive Match Flo replay was shown of Tiffany Stratton getting involved in the WWE Women’s Title match between champion Bayley and challenger Naomi last week. Stratton attacked Bayley and then she attacked Naomi, so there was no clear winner.

Nick Aldis was shown leaving his office when Tiffany Stratton showed up wanting her title match against Bayley. Nick wanted to punish her, but somebody else had another idea. Nick informed Stratton she’ll face Naomi and whoever wins that match gets a Women’s Title shot against Bayley at Backlash. Bayley walked in saying it was her idea. Stratton invited Bayley to watch the match.

Michelle McCool was shown walking backstage because she’s going to announce Smackdown picks. Torrie Wilson was shown walking backstage also to announce Raw picks.


WWE Draft Round 2

The next picks were announced by Michelle McCool (Smackdown) and Torrie Wilson (Raw).

Smackdown – Randy Orton

Raw – Bron Breakker

Smackdown – Nia Jax

Raw – Liv Morgan

Analysis: Randy Orton stays on the blue brand, which is fine. Maybe we’ll see him challenge Cody Rhodes for the WWE Title at some point. Bron Breakker going to Raw gives him a shot to really move up the card on that brand. They made a big deal out of Bron “signing” with Smackdown a few months ago, but it really didn’t last long for him. Nia Jax comes to Smackdown from Raw so it’s a fresh start for her. Jax feuding with Bayley soon makes sense. Liv Morgan staying on Raw is the right call because when Rhea Ripley comes back likely on Raw they can pick up that feud.

The announcers talked about how shocked they were that The Bloodline wasn’t drafted yet.

There was a replay of last week when Solo Sikoa & Tama Tonga beat up a bloody Kevin Owens last week on Smackdown. Later that night, we saw Tama Tonga crashed his car into Kevin Owens’ car. That led to Smackdown GM Nick Aldis telling Paul Heyman that losing isn’t the only thing that has consequences.

Paul Heyman was shown backstage as Solo Sikoa & Tama Tonga arrived. Solo asked if The Bloodline was drafted yet and Heyman said not exactly. Solo wanted the details. Heyman said that Roman Reigns withdrew from the draft while Heyman said that Solo is adding new members, so nobody knows what they are getting from The Bloodline. Tama Tonga walked up and Solo wanted Paul to repeat that. Kevin Owens showed up from behind Tonga leading to Owens punching Tonga repeatedly. They were separated by WWE Officials before it became a big brawl.

Analysis: That makes sense that Owens would want to go after Tonga like that.


There was a replay of Kevin Owens going after Tama Tonga before the break.

Bianca Belair was interviewed by Kayla Braxton by the entrance area. Belair mentioned that at Backlash, Belair and Jade Cargill will challenge The Kabuki Warriors for the Women’s Tag Team Titles. Belair said she hopes Jade gets drafted to Smackdown with her. Belair talked about taking those Tag Team Titles at Backlash and how Damage CTRL was falling apart, so the last piece was to take those titles. The Kabuki Warriors duo of Asuka & Kairi Sane walked out with their titles to confront Belair. They exchanged some words. Jade Cargill made her entrance to stand beside Belair. The four women exchanged words.

Analysis: I think Jade & Bianca will win the Women’s Tag Team Titles. I don’t see them losing a match like that.

In the background, Kevin Owens and Tama Tonga went fighting down the aisle and they made their way down to the ring.

Owens tackled Tonga in the ring, but Solo Sikoa went into the ring to help Tonga. There were security guys who went into the ring and Tonga threw them all out of the ring. Solo went after Owens with punches with Tonga joining him. Randy Orton made the save for Owens. Orton delivered punches and clotheslines to clear the ring. Solo & Tonga left. Owens hugged Orton in the ring. Owens left the ring to try to fight some more, but security held Owens back.

Analysis: I liked the intensity shown by all four guys. Owens especially stood out looking like a crazed man wanting revenge. It was cool to see Randy Orton in that spot since he has been an ally of Owens in the recent past, so it makes sense for him to make the save for his friend. That was a good fight that will likely set up a tag team match.

They showed Bubba Ray Dudley backstage to announce the Smackdown draft picks while D-Von Dudley was backstage and he’s going to announce the Raw draft picks.

This Monday on Raw: The WWE Draft continues. Logan Paul will be on Raw and the new Women’s World Champion Becky Lynch will be there too.


WWE Draft Round 3

The next picks were announced by Bubba Ray Dudley (Smackdown) and D-Von Dudley (Raw). The Dudleys put their classic Dudley “glasses” on to read the picks.

Smackdown – LA Knight

Raw – Ricochet

Smackdown – The Bloodline’s Solo Sikoa, Tama Tonga & Paul Heyman

Raw – Sheamus

Analysis: LA Knight remains on Smackdown. That seems the right place for him to be. Ricochet remains a Raw guy where his fiancée Samantha Irvin is the ring announcer, so of course they’re going to be on the same show. The Bloodline finally getting picked and staying on Smackdown is where I expected them to be. Sheamus recently returned on Raw so it’s a fresh start for him. Those first three picks all stayed on the brand they were on already.

It’s Tiffy Time because Tiffany Stratton entered for her match. Naomi made her glow entrance.

Naomi vs. Tiffany Stratton

The winner gets to challenge the WWE Women’s Champion Bayley for her title at Backlash. The WWE Women’s Champion Bayley was on commentary.

They left the ring quickly. When they went back in ring, Stratton set up Naomi against the ropes and Stratton jumped onto Naomi’s back. Naomi used her legs to ram Stratton’s head into the apron. Naomi jumped off the apron with a split-legged body press onto Stratton the floor. They went to break there.


Stratton was in control with a slam for a two count. Naomi got a sunset flip pin for two. Naomi hit a back kick followed by Naomi using her legs to drive Stratton’s head into the mat. Stratton shoved Naomi into the turnbuckle. Both women charged leading to each of them grabbing the hair of the other leading to double facebusters. Naomi hit a jumping kick followed by Naomi sending Stratton into the turnbuckle. Nia Jax showed up at ringside and beat up Bayley on the floor. Naomi went after Jax, so Jax shoved Naomi into the ring post. The referee called for the bell with Graves saying it was a No Contest. It went about eight minutes.

Match Result: No Contest

Analysis: **1/2 It’s the second straight week on Smackdown where there was a non-finish to a women’s match due to interference. Those finishes are getting repetitive. Nia Jax just got drafted to Smackdown so she made her presence felt with the cheap attack on Bayley. I thought Stratton & Naomi were on their way to having a good match, but then it just ended abruptly.

After the bell rang, Jax ran over Bayley with a running body attack on the floor. Jax left to the back. Stratton set up Bayley & Naomi in the ring. Stratton hit the Prettiest Moonsault Ever onto Bayley & Naomi at the same time. Stratton celebrated.

Analysis: It was another week where Stratton got to look strong by hitting the Prettiest Moonsault Ever on both opponents.

The Street Profits with B-Fab were interviewed by Byron Saxton. The Street Profits will get to challenge A-Town Down Under for the WWE Tag Team Championships. B-Fab said it doesn’t matter where they get drafted because they’ll take the titles next week. A-Town Down Under’s Grayson Waller & Austin Theory showed up with their Tag Team Titles for some trash talk. Waller said this is a championship, which is something the Bengals know nothing about – that’s a shot at Cincinnati and Dawkins, who is a Bengals fan. Bobby Lashley showed up, grabbed A-Town Down Under from behind and Waller/Theory left.

Teddy Long was seen leaving the Smackdown draft room and JBL was seen leaving the Raw draft room for some more pick announcements up next.


There was a backstage scene with The Final Testament’s AOP beating up Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate backstage. Karrion Kross & Scarlett were there with Kros saying that the beatings will continue until they get what they want.

WWE Draft Round 4

The next picks were announced by Teddy Long (Smackdown) and John Bradshaw Layfield (Raw).

Smackdown – AJ Styles

Raw – Alpha Academy: Chad Gable, Otis, Akira Tozawa & Maxxine Dupri

Smackdown – Andrade

Raw – Kiana James

Analysis: AJ Styles remains where he is on Smackdown and where he has been for most of his WWE career. Chad Gable recently turned heel, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the group does. Andrade had been on Raw, so no we’ll see how he does on the Smackdown brand. Good for Kiana James getting picked to Raw.

A short video aired about NXT’s Kiana James, who is now heading to Raw. Kiana James was interviewed at the WWE Performance Center. James said that she was filled with gratitude. James said that she’s excited to show why she is the 1%. James said she was surprised. The NXT boss Shawn Michaels congratulated James and everybody from the NXT crew cheered for her.

Analysis: Kiana James is a polished all-around performer who has wrestled as a heel over the last two years on NXT. There might be other people on the brand who could have been called up before her, but I think James will do fine as long as she gets a fair shot to show what she can do.

A short video aired about Trick Williams winning the NXT Title this past Tuesday.

Carmelo Hayes was shown walking backstage for the main event up next.


Nick Aldis, the Smackdown General Manager, spoke about how he was happy about the Smackdown draft picks. Aldis announced that at Backlash, Bayley will defend the WWE Women’s Title against Tiffany Stratton & Naomi in a triple threat match. Teddy Long walked in to announce the next match. Long said that it will be The Bloodline’s Solo Sikoa & Tama Tonga facing Kevin Owens & Randy Orton at Backlash.

Analysis: Those matches make sense based on the stories from earlier in the show. That’s fine with me.

A clip was shown of Kofi Kingston handing New England Patriots rookie QB Drake Maye a Patriots WWE Title. Cool. Go LA Rams.

The WWE Draft continues this Monday on Raw.

Next week on Smackdown in Lyon, France:

* Cody Rhodes and AJ Styles go Face to Face

* New Catch Republic – Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate vs. Authors of Pain – Akam & Rezar

* WWE Tag Team Championships: A-Town Down Under – Austin Theory & Grayson Waller vs. The Street Profits – Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins

* The first-ever edition of the R-KO Show with co-hosts Kevin Owens & Randy Orton.

Carmelo Hayes made his entrance for the main event. Cody Rhodes was next as the Undisputed WWE Champion and he got a huge pop as usual.

Cody Rhodes vs. Carmelo Hayes

This was not for Cody’s WWE Title. Cody hit the dropdown leading to the uppercut punch. Melo hit Cody in the throat followed by a springboard attack. Cody knocked down Melo leading to a break.


The match continued with Melo working over Cody with some strikes. Cody came back with a hard chop to the chest. Cody gave Melo a back body drop. Melo jumped up to Cody’s shoulders leading to a facebuster. Melo jumped off the middle ropes leading to a springboard DDT for two. Cody got an inside cradle. Cody hit a springboard Disaster Kick and Melo did an incredible flip bump to sell it. That led to a two count. What a great sell by Melo doing a back flip to sell that. Cody hit a running powerslam for a two count. Cody hit a Cody Cutter for two and was frustrated that it was just a two count even though he never wins with that move. Cody went for a lift, Melo landed on his feet and Melo hit he double knees. Melo went up top, he jumped off the top, Cody avoided him and Cody hit a superkick. They each went for springboard moves, but Melo missed first followed by Cody missing right after. Melo went for a move, Cody powered out of that and Cody hit Cross Rhodes for the pinfall win after about ten minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Cody Rhodes

Analysis: ***1/4 A good match for the time given. I would like to see them have a longer match, but there wasn’t enough time left in the show. I liked the way Melo got a couple of his big moves in there and Melo also sold Cody’s offense very well. That Disaster Kick by Cody that Melo sold by doing a flip was really cool. Anyway, Cody getting the win was the obvious result here.

After the match, Cody Rhodes picked up Carmelo Hayes in a seated position and Cody tapped his fist against Melo’s chest as if to tell Melo he did a good job.

Cody Rhodes celebrated with the Undisputed WWE Championship. After some replays, Cody jumped off the apron and was confronted by AJ Styles. It looked like Styles might attack, but instead there was a staredown. Styles warned Cody about how he was this close to taking him out. Styles wanted a handshake and Cody shook his hand. That was the end of the show.

Analysis: I am surprised by the lack of physicality in the Cody Rhodes-AJ Styles story. That would have been a good spot to have Styles do a cheap attack. Instead, it was a handshake to end the show.


After the show, WWE announced more draft picks on social media.

SmackDown: Baron Corbin, The O.C. (Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Michin), Cedric Alexander, and Ashante “Thee” Adonis.

Raw: Shayna Baszler, Zoey Stark, Ivar, Alba Fyre, and Isla Dawn.


Three Stars of the Show

1. Cody Rhodes

2. Carmelo Hayes

3. Tiffany Stratton/Naomi


The Scoreboard

6.5 out of 10

Last week: 7.5

2024 Average: 7.30


Final Thoughts on WWE Smackdown

This was a weaker episode of Smackdown. The WWE Draft took up plenty of time, so that led to shorter matches. I don’t think the draft was that exciting overall. There were so many picks where it was wrestlers who ended up being drafted to the show they were already on. I don’t think there was much drama. I liked seeing names like Carmelo Hayes, Bron Breakker and even Kiana James being drafted, but I just have a tough time being that interested in the draft.

The angle with The Bloodline and Kevin Owens was booked well again. Randy Orton coming to KO’s aid was cool to see since they’ve had some recent history. That will lead to a Backlash tag team match. I thought the Cody Rhodes-AJ Styles Contract Signing was okay, but I kept hoping for something interesting to happen and it just didn’t happen. Cody’s match with Hayes was easily the best on a night with short matches.

I did like that they added three matches for the Backlash PLE, which is just eight days away in France. It’s a hard show to build because WrestleMania had so many new champions and I don’t think many people believe those new champions will lose their titles at Backlash.

The next WWE Premium Live Event is Backlash on May 4th. Here’s the lineup so far.

* Undisputed WWE Championship: Cody Rhodes (c) vs. AJ Styles

* World Heavyweight Championship: Damian Priest (c) vs. Jey Uso

* WWE Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Naomi vs. Tiffany Stratton

* The Bloodline – Solo Sikoa & Tama Tonga vs. Randy Orton & Kevin Owens

* Women’s Tag Team Championships: Kabuki Warriors – Asuka & Kairi Sane (c) vs. Bianca Belair & Jade Cargill

You can watch Backlash France, streaming live, Saturday, May 4, at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT on Peacock in the United States and on WWE Network everywhere else.


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

John Canton


Twitter/X: @johnreport