The John Report: WWE SmackDown 05/17/24 Review

WWE Smackdown May 17

This week’s WWE SmackDown featured a Cody Rhodes-Logan Paul contract signing, Randy Orton against Carmelo Hayes, Tiffany Stratton facing Bianca Belair, and more.

From the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, this is Smackdown for episode #1291. Follow me on Twitter/X @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

A video package aired setting up the King and Queen of the Ring tournament matches coming up on this week’s show.

They showed some arrivals from earlier in the day including LA Knight on one side and The Bloodline on the other side. Jade Cargill was also shown arriving on one side with Nia Jax on the other side. Randy Orton was shown on one side while Carmelo Hayes was on the other side. They also showed Cody Rhodes walking in an empty arena before the show.

It was Corey Graves and Wade Barrett on commentary as usual.

Queen of the Ring Tournament Quarterfinals: Bianca Belair vs. Tiffany Stratton

Belair is one half of the Women’s Tag Team Champions, so she had her title with her. They are two incredibly athletic women so this will be fun to see.

They exchanged shoves leading to Stratton slapping Belair in the face. Stratton did a hair pull takedown so Belair slapped her. Belair ran over Stratton with a shoulder tackle. Stratton avoided a move followed by a kick to the body. Belair hit a gutbuster driving Stratton’s ribs into Belair’s knee. Belair hit a moonsault for two. Belair with punches, Stratton broke free and Stratton pulled Belair’s hair when they were by the ropes. Belair’s left knee was twisted against the ropes. Stratton sent Belair hard into the steel steps with Belair’s left knee hitting the steps.


Stratton was in control with a submission trapping Belair’s left leg while doing a bridge. Belair got her hand on the bottom rope to force a break. Belair kicked Stratton out of the ring. Stratton tried to ram the knee into the ring post, but Belair kicked Stratton to knock her back. Belair hit a fallaway slam across the ring. Belair sent Stratton into the ropes leading to a spinebuster. Stratton countered a power move and sat on top for two. Belair countered that to sit on top for two. Belair nailed Stratton with a forearm. Belair went for a move, Stratton broke free and splashed Belair’s back against the rope. Stratton hit a running stomp on Belair’s chest for a two count. Stratton went for a handspring attack against Belair by the turnbuckle, but Belair caught her and hit a German Suplex leading to Stratton flipping over and bumping onto her front. The fans chanted “this is awesome” for the ladies. Belair went for a submission, Stratton held the ring apron, the referee made Stratton let go so that led to Stratton doing an eye gouge that the referee didn’t see. Stratton did a chop block to Belair followed by a sliding clothesline for a two count. The fans bought that as a finish while Stratton was stunned by it. Stratton went for her moonsault, but Belair stopped that and Belair hit KOD (while selling the knee injury) and Belair covered for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Bianca Belair

Analysis: ***1/2 A very good match between two very athletic women as I noted at the start of the match. Belair did a decent job of selling the left knee injury but there were times when she didn’t sell it at all. I’m glad that Stratton had a few moments where it looked like she might win. Stratton continues to impress every time she’s out there and she has such a bright future. Belair did a nice job of hitting her big moves and finding a way to win as the babyface that is loved by the fans. I liked the story of this match a lot. They got plenty of time and made the most of it. This is a match I want to see again in the future. That’s for sure.

Bianca Belair, who is one half of the Women’s Tag Team Champions, was interviewed by Cathy Kelley in the ring. Belair said that her knee was not 100% but she doesn’t make excuses. Belair reminded us she is the EST. Belair said that next week, injury or not, nothing is stopping her from being Queen of the Ring.

Analysis: I think Queen Belair is a possibility for sure. I don’t really have a pick to win, but obviously, she has a one in four chance now.

A video aired recapping the Cody Rhodes-Logan Paul promo from last week on Smackdown.

Logan Paul, the United States Champion, was shown walking backstage. Paul went to the office of Smackdown GM Nick Aldis. LA Knight left the room and Knight stared at Paul. Aldis walked out of the room and told Paul to go into the room.

Analysis: I think LA Knight is the guy who should take the US Title from Logan Paul. I don’t think it should be somebody else. Hopefully, WWE agrees with me because I think it would be a nice boost for Knight. They certainly teased it happening with that staredown.


They showed some members of the US Military at ringside since it’s Military Appreciation Month.

Jade Cargill, who is one half of the Women’s Tag Team Champions, was interviewed by Byron Saxton. Jade was asked about how to prepare for somebody who is dominant like Nia Jax. Jade said that Jax was just somebody in her way. Bianca Belair, the other half of the Women’s Tag Team Champions, walked up to Jax celebrating her win. Jade told Belair to take it one match at a time since a Jade win would mean they face eachother next week.

A video aired from last week when Solo Sikoa told Paul Heyman that he (Solo) is calling the shots for The Bloodline and Heyman will be his Wise Man.

The Bloodline was shown in their locker room. Tama was pacing around while grunting. Paul Heyman asked Solo Sikoa if he talked to “him” likely referring to Roman Reigns. Solo said “all the time” and Solo left.

Analysis: They are booking Tama Tonga like he can’t speak English because he’s a savage kind of guy. It’s weird, but I guess it makes him feel different.

LA Knight was introduced by Cathy Kelley backstage. Knight said he would introduce “Tommy Tonga” to a BFT in the middle of the ring. Carmelo Hayes walked up to Knight bragging that he was a first round draft pick. Knight trashed Hayes for his “H-I-M” catchphrase and Knight called for the fans to chant his name so the fans did that. Knight told Hayes to go play somewhere because he was busy.

Tama Tonga made his entrance with the rest of The Bloodline including Solo Sikoa, Tanga Loa & Paul Heyman. Tama’s match was up next.


LA Knight got a big ovation for his entrance and “LA Knight” chants. Good crowd.

King of the Ring Tournament Quarterfinals: LA Knight vs. Tama Tonga (w/Solo Sikoa, Tonga Loa & Paul Heyman)

Knight hit a back elbow to knock down Tama. After Tama jumped on Knight’s back, Knight slammed him down. Tama came back with a clothesline. Tama sent Knight out of the ring, but Knight jumped right back in the ring. Knight hit a clothesline. Knight hit a back body drop. Knight delivered some kicks followed by a running knee strike against the turnbuckle. Solo and Loa got on the apron, so Knight tried going after them, which led to Tama hitting a splash to the back. Tama sent Knight shoulder-first into the ring post. Tama hit Knight with a clothesline on the floor.


The match returned with Tama in control while I think the fans were chanting “We Want Roman” at The Bloodline. Tama hit a sliding clothesline while Knight was seated in the ring. Tama went up top, jumped off with a splash and Knight avoided it so Tama hit the mat. Knight ran the ropes leading to a cross body block followed by Knight hitting a clothesline. They left the ring where Knight rammed Tama’s head into the apron, which is really just Tama’s hands hitting the apron to make noise. Back in the ring, Knight hit a popup powerslam followed by an elbow drop. Knight set up for the BFT, but Loa pulled his brother out of the ring. Knight kicked Loa into the commentary table. Knight sent Tama back into the ring. Knight dared Solo to hit him, but Solo didn’t do it. When Knight went back in the ring, Tama hit a jumping flatliner for the pinfall win after nine minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Tama Tonga

Analysis: *** A pretty good match here with Knight losing his focus by looking at the guys on the floor, which led to Tama capitalizing and hitting his finisher to get the win. They are both solid workers who had an even matchup most of the way. The crowd was strongly behind Knight as usual. It wouldn’t shock me if Tama wins the tournament because there is some family history since his father Haku was a former King of the Ring, so I can see WWE wanting Tama to be king as well.

The Bloodline celebrated the win outside the ring with Solo crowning Tama by simulating putting a crown on his head.

The Cody Rhodes-Logan Paul contract signing was up next.


LA Knight was shown walking backstage to referee Charles Robinson. Knight complained about how it was three on one. Carmelo Hayes was there to say Knight couldn’t get the job done. Knight shoved Hayes. Referee Robinson kept them separated while Knight and Hayes exchanged words.

Analysis: That seems like it will probably set up a singles match between them. That’s cool.

Contract Signing: Cody Rhodes and Logan Paul

The Smackdown General Manager Nick Aldis was in the ring to host the contract signing. There was a table with some chairs in the ring along with a black carpet. Logan Paul entered first as the US Champion with the fans booing him. Paul brought some guy in a suit with him along with three short guys in “Prime” shirts to support Logan.

Cody Rhodes got a huge pop as the Undisputed WWE Champion. It was a loud entrance as usual with the fans popping for the “WHOA-OH” part of the song and singing a lot of it. Cody was in a suit as usual. Graves put over the huge ovation for Cody. Both titles were displayed on a podium in the ring between the two tables. There were loud “Cody” chants before it began.

Cody: “So Duval…Jacksonville…what do you guys want to talk about?” Cody said he loves this place. Cody said that on this day 32 years ago was WarGames 1992 in this city. Cody said that it was the Stinger Squadron and the Dangerous Alliance, which is widely considered the greatest WarGames of all time (it’s amazing). Cody said he knows this because he’s a fan of professional wrestling and he is a fan of what he does. Cody said that Logan is not a fan. Cody said that Logan is a tourist who is passing through and making viral memories. Cody told Logan it was time to drop that United States Championship to make Cody a WWE Grand Slam Champion.

Logan said that he was saying what the last guy said and the guy before him. Logan said we’ve heard it. Logan wondered why Cody was stalling because he didn’t come here to hear him talk. Logan said he was here to sign a contract. Aldis presented Logan with the contract on the table while the fans chanted “you suck” at Logan. Paul: “What a horrible crowd.” Logan looked at the contract, but he hesitated a bit.

Logan said there is one little thing in the contract he didn’t like, so Logan ripped up the contract. The fans chanted “you can’t read.” Logan said that the contract was not what he agreed to. Logan said he agreed to face Cody Rhodes at King and Queen of the Ring PLE for the Undisputed WWE Championship only. Logan said he didn’t agree to put his title on the line. Logan said he had litigator Jim Gillery, one of the best lawyers in the country, to draw up a contract that they made. Logan said “your contract is not on the line, mine isn’t” and he told Nick to get this done. He meant to say “title” there not “contract” but that’s okay. Logan told Nick to get Cody to sign it.

Aldis told Logan that he has had enough of him and his entourage. Aldis said that this isn’t what they agreed to. Aldis said it’s unprofessional and he won’t stand for it. Lawyer Jim asked Aldis if he was threatening his client Logan?

Cody told Aldis he has known him for a long time and he knows what happens when he gets angry. Cold told Aldis he was doing a great job. Cody said he’ll finish up the paperwork and take it to Nick’s office. Cody thanked Nick, who left the ring.

Logan said he signed the contract, it’s done and the match is made. Logan said that Cody didn’t deserve a shot at the US Championship. Logan claimed he deserves a shot at every title in the industry. Logan said like his brother Jake Paul’s next victim Mike Tyson would say: “Sign the contract, big boy.”

Cody got out of his seat while calling Logan a “fly by night, human hat rack.” Cody told Logan that the honeymoon with him was over. Cody told Logan he’d find out who he was. Cody said that a WWE Hall of Famer will knock Logan’s brother out. Cody said that in eight days, a future WWE Hall of Famer is going to beat Logan. Cody signed the contract. Logan went for a cheap shot, Cody ducked it and Cody clotheslined Logan out of the ring. Cody punched one of Logan’s stooges and Cody gave the stooge a Powerbomb through a table. Cody held up the WWE Title and tossed the US Title back to Logan. Cody stood tall in the ring while Logan left with his buddies.

Analysis: There is some clarification about what title is on the line at the King and Queen of the Ring. When the match was announced last week we really didn’t know if it would be for one title or both titles. I figured it would only end up with one title on the line and that is Cody’s title, which protects Paul as a champion after Cody wins the match. I have said for months that I think LA Knight is the guy that should beat Logan Paul for the US Title and I think that’s still the best choice. As for this segment, I thought it was executed well with Logan getting a lot of heat throughout due to being the cocky heel that he is who acts like he is confident, yet he’s not putting his championship on the line, so it shows that he is a coward too. I think Cody winning at King and Queen of the Ring is a lock. It should be a great match.

Nia Jax was interviewed backstage by Cathy Kelley. Jax said that Jade Cargill is impressive and she is so strong, but Jade is not going to be the Queen of the Ring. Jax said that she would be Queen of the Ring. Jax made her entrance for her match.


Jade Cargill made her entrance as one half of the Women’s Tag Team Champion. Jade has one of the coolest entrances in WWE right now.

Queen of the Ring Tournament Quarterfinals: Nia Jax vs. Jade Cargill

Jax knocked Jade down, but Jade nailed a spinebuster. They left the ring where Jax tossed Jade down on the floor. Jade hugged her daughter at ringside. Jax told Jade that her mom sucks and Jade’s mom said “no she doesn’t.” Jade continued to battle Jax at ringside. Jade sent Jax into the ring apron. Jade charged on the floor, but Jax avoided her and Jade hit the ring post. Jax had a steel chair in her hand. Jade took the chair from Jax and used the chair to hit Jax in the back. That led to a DQ after about two minutes.

Winner by disqualification: Nia Jax

Analysis: 1/2* A poor match with a weak ending to protect Jade by not having her lose her first match in WWE. They wanted Jax to advance, but they didn’t want Jade to do the job to her, so booking a DQ is an easy way out. If Jade let Jax hit her with the chair then Jade would have won. Instead, Jade took the chair and hit Jax with it, so there’s a loss for Jade.

That win by Nia Jax means she’ll face Bianca Belair in the Queen of the Ring tournament semifinals next week on Smackdown.

After the bell, the two women kept fighting at ringside and went tumbling over the barricade at ringside. Jax nailed Jade with a headbutt. Jade tackled Jax into the ring post. That led to referees, officials and security going out to ringside to break it up. Jade was in the ring while Jax was smiling about the win. Jade ran through a wave of people and attacked Jax in the aisle. They were broken up again.

Analysis: This could lead to a longer Jade-Jax match at some point down the road. Jax outsmarted Jade to get the win, but I think we’ll be seeing this match again.


#DIY – Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano vs. Legado del Fantasma – Angel & Berto (w/Santos Escobar & Elektra Lopez)

The WWE Tag Team Champions Austin Theory & Grayson Waller were on commentary.

Berto hit Gargano with a suplex. Theory and Waller weren’t impressed by any team on Smackdown. Gargano got a headscissors takedown on Berto. Ciampa tagged in leading to a knee/kick combo and Ciampa hit a clothesline. Angel went into the ring so #DIY clotheslined both opponents out. Gargano & Ciampa hit dives on their opponents on the floor. Back in the ring, Angel made a tag and when Ciampa ran the ropes, Angel opened up the ropes so that Ciampa bumped to the floor.


The match continued with Ciampa trying to tag out, but Berto pulled Gargano off the apron. Angel held Ciampa on his back and Berto tagged in for a double team neckbreaker. Legado hit a double team move where Angel hit a dropkick leading to Berto getting a two count on Ciampa. Angel and Ciampa fought over a suplex, which led to Ciampa hitting the suplex and Gargano tagged in. Gargano hit an impressive bulldog followed by a slingshot Spear and Gargano hit a suicide dive on Angel on the floor. Escobar went on the apron, so Lopez went over to Gargano on the top rope and she tripped up Gargano, who bumped to the mat while holding his groin. The referee saw enough of it to eject Santos & Elektra from ringside. Johnny recovered quickly leading to #DIY hitting the Meet in the Middle knee/kick combo on Berto. Gargano covered Berto to win.

Winners by pinfall: #DIY – Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano

Analysis: **3/4 A solid tag team match to put over #DIY with the clean win. All four guys are really good in the ring, so no surprise that there was a lot of action in this match and it was fast paced. I didn’t like the finish because Gargano was knocked off the top, he was selling a groin injury and then popped up like it was nothing. They should have had Gargano sell a bit more before hitting the finish. Anyway, the win could certainly set up #DIY for a Tag Team Title match in the weeks ahead.

The announcers mentioned the glitch before the break and the QR Code that appeared as well. They mentioned the QR Code on Raw leading to this happening on WWE’s Twitch channels. Graves said they have more questions than answers.

Analysis: It’s obviously a tease for the group featuring Bo Dallas as Uncle Howdy along with other wrestlers. The announcers addressing it likely means the reveal is coming soon.

AJ Styles was interviewed backstage by Byron Saxton, who asked where does Styles go from here? Styles said you saw the match with Cody Rhodes saying it was unbelievable. Styles said he was this close and he lost. Styles said he lost in the King of the Ring tournament to Randy Orton. Styles said next week he’ll go into Nick Aldis’ office and we’ll find out where we go from there.

Analysis: I don’t know what’s next for Styles, but he is too good to sit around doing nothing, so hopefully there’s something interesting for him.

Randy Orton made his entrance for the main event. They showed Randy Orton at the UFC event last weekend. Orton got a big ovation, but the fans didn’t sing his theme song like the Lyon, France crowd. When Orton posed in the ring, it did sound like some fans were singing at least. That main event match was next.

This Monday on Raw: Gunther vs. Jey Uso and Iyo Sky vs. Lyra Valkyria in the King and Queen of the Ring Semifinals.


Bayley, the WWE Women’s Champion, was interviewed by Byron Saxton in the backstage area. Bayley said that we’ve got Nia and Bianca and…here’s the interruption from Piper Niven & Chelsea Green. That led to Green saying that Niven lost last week because of Bayley. The champion Bayley said they don’t have much time to talk, but she’ll face one of them next week.

Next week on Smackdown:

* Queen of the Ring Semifinals: Bianca Belair vs. Nia Jax

* King of the Ring Semifinals: Tama Tonga vs. Randy Orton or Carmelo Hayes

The Smackdown newcomer Carmelo Hayes made his entrance for the main event. Melo beat Baron Corbin last week to move on in the KOTR tournament.

King of the Ring Tournament Quarterfinals: Randy Orton vs. Carmelo Hayes

It started with Melo tripping up Orton leading to a kick. Orton was down on a knee, so Melo slapped him in the head. That pissed off Orton, who sent Melo into the turnbuckle a few times. Orton nailed Melo with uppercuts. Orton tossed Melo over the top to the floor near the commentary table. Orton got a hold of Melo and went for the slam, but Melo did an eye gouge to get out of that. Melo celebrated, so Orton tripped up Melo on the table. Orton broke the referee’s count and Orton slammed Melo on the commentary table. Orton picked up Melo and slammed Melo on the table again. The fans chanted “one more time” so Orton slammed Melo on the table for a third time. They went to break there.


The match returned with Melo in control as we saw a highlight of Melo hitting a springboard clothesline. Melo put Orton’s left knee against the ropes since Orton had some tape on the knee. Melo charged with a kick, but Orton avoided it and Orton hit multiple clotheslines. Orton went for a powerslam, but Melo held onto the ropes to avoid it. Melo tried a running kick, Orton avoided that and Orton hit a powerslam for two. Orton wanted the DDT, Melo slipped out of that and Melo hit the First 48 double knees for a two count. Melo went to the top rope and jumped off with his leg drop attempt, but Orton moved out of the way. Orton hit the draping DDT off the ropes. Melo countered an RKO attempt with a rollup for two. Orton kicked Melo off him, Melo charged, he ducked a clothesline and Melo did a springboard leap leading right into the…RKO! Orton covered for the pinfall win after about 11 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Randy Orton

Analysis: ***1/4 An entertaining main event match with the veteran Orton methodically working over the younger opponent Melo and Orton getting the big win. I’m glad they had a competitive match where Melo hit a few moves that gave him a shot to pick up the W although I assume most people watching knew Orton would win. Great finish to the match with Orton hitting that RKO on a flying Hayes to pick up the victory.

That win by Randy Orton means he’ll face Tama Tonga in the King of the Ring semifinals next week.

Randy Orton was about to be interviewed by Cathy Kelley in the ring, but Tama Tonga interrupted with Solo Sikoa, Tanga Loa & Paul Heyman.

Orton did a promo telling The Bloodline that he is a 14-time World Champion and soon to be the King of the Ring. Orton said he’s going to introduce his foot directly up Tama Tonga’s ass next week on Smackdown. Orton said he’ll re-introduce Tonga to the three most dangerous letters in WWE: R-K-O. The fans chanted it there. End show.

Analysis: The King of the Ring semifinals are a tough call. I could see it being a Jey Uso-Tama Tonga finals, but is WWE really going to have Gunther and Randy Orton lose? I don’t know. We could get a Gunther-Orton finals as a first-time-ever matchup that would be cool to see. I think it’s going to be King Gunther over Orton in the finals.


Three Stars of the Show

1. Bianca Belair

2. Randy Orton

3. Tiffany Stratton/Carmelo Hayes


The Scoreboard

7.25 out of 10

Last week: 7.5

2024 Average: 7.30


Final Thoughts on WWE Smackdown

It was a solid show overall as the King and Queen of the Ring Tournaments continued. I thought the Bianca Belair-Tiffany Stratton match was the best of the night. Belair is awesome while Stratton continues to impress. Good stuff by Randy Orton and Carmelo Hayes in the main event. The Tama Tonga-LA Knight match was okay too with a distraction finish. The Nia Jax-Jade Cargill match was kept short with a cheap DQ finish to protect Jade without having her take a pin. It also sets up a future match for them.

I thought the Cody Rhodes-Logan Paul contract signing was effective. They made it clear that only Cody’s Undisputed WWE Title will be on the line, which is what I expected because WWE wants to keep the US Title on Logan Paul. That’s fine with me because I want LA Knight to beat Paul for that title. There was a Knight-Paul staredown backstage to tease that and I don’t think that was an accident. It’s coming this spring or summer, I think.

The Smackdown brand isn’t on fire right now or anything like that. However, I think it’s a consistently good show. I also think Raw is a bit better at this point.

The next WWE PLE is King and Queen of the Ring on Saturday, May 25th from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Here’s the lineup so far.

* Undisputed WWE Championship: Cody Rhodes vs. Logan Paul

* Intercontinental Championship: Sami Zayn (c) vs. Chad Gable vs. Bronson Reed

* Women’s World Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Liv Morgan

* King of the Ring Tournament Finals: Randy Orton/Tama Tonga vs. Gunther/Jey Uso

* Queen of the Ring Tournament Finals: Bianca Belair/Nia Jax vs. IYO SKY/Lyra Valkyria

You can watch WWE King and Queen of the Ring, on Saturday, May 25, 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. You can contact me using any of the methods below.

John Canton


Twitter/X: @johnreport