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The Smackdown Rundown 3/17/24: Set Up Mania

Welcome to the Rundown where we go through Smackdown and give you consensus reviews on what mattered, what didn't, and most importantly how good the show was as a whole.

Opening Segment

The One Man Show

Rock sings Smackdown

Reverse Hipster: Mattered

This opening segment was middling. The Rock came out and did his stuff, and he even went back to his Hollywood Rock roots by making a song. He had a special moment with the crowd by reminding him that he has a special connection to Memphis from his early wrestling days. Rock was able to get the crowd hype, but he's a heel, and people still love them. Rock playing to the crowd does not help the program because he's supposed to be the bad guy.

However, The Rock's song was funny. He called Cody and Accident and made fun of his Stardust gimmick. Rock also went at Seth by making fun of him being number two in his house and calling him walking cringe. The Rock even got a jab at Ja Morant for playing with guns. Still, this segment suffered because nobody interrupted the segment. There was no conflict, which made it less interesting. However, this was Rock's official response to Cody, which advances their storyline and gives Cody & Seth something to respond to in the future, so it matters.

Rob: Mattered

The Rock showed everyone that he could still make fifteen minutes of nothing entertaining. The transition to his Hollywood Rock theme song solidified his character change as a heel. In a segment where many current superstars would have floundered, the Rock was over and hated at the same time. We will have to wait for another show to see him get his comeuppance.

Legado vs. LWO

Humberto breaks up pin

Reverse Hipster: Mattered

Both these tag teams are good, but this match was pretty regular. They both got in their standard spots, and Legado 2.0 won. This match mattered because the winner earned a chance at a spot in a WrestleMania 6-pack tag team title match. However, I hate the idea that these two teams had to face off for it. They have a feud, and it would have been nice to see it play out in some form at Wrestlemania.

Rob's: Mattered

The only reason this could matter is because of the stakes, but I agree with Reverse Hipster that it didn’t really service the intensity and length of the feud. Legado and LWO would both be incredible tag teams, but the tag team division continues to flounder when the only championships are on Raw. 

AJ's LA Knight Attack

LA Knight attacked

Reverse Hipster: Mattered

Once again, this was a moment that barely mattered. LA Knight cut a promo about looking for AJ. The promo was uneventful and added nothing entertaining or new to the feud. The only thing that happened was that he challenged AJ Styles. AJ Styles then blasted LA Knight with a chair. It's a very basic booking, but it sets up a title match, so it matters.

Rob: Mattered

LA Knight is a 40+ year old who somehow still feels like an up and comer. AJ Styles is a 40+ year old that somehow still feels relevant, even though he hasn’t been presented as a serious threat in years. While that matchup sounds horrible on paper, something about it works on-screen. Knight is a great promo, and when he called out Styles, Styles responded. Something about sitting on the chair and choking Knight made the feud look vicious, personal, and worthy of a WrestleMania spot.

Logan Paul's Apology Demand

Logan paul entrance

Reverse Hipster: Mattered

Logan Paul came to GM Nick Aldis to get him to do his dirty work. Randy attacked Logan the week before while he was introducing a brand deal. Logan tried to hide behind sponsors to get Randy to apologize. Nick saw right through this and told Logan to go ask Randy in person. Logan then said it was Nick's job, but he couldn't expect Nick to do it because he couldn't even trust him to do his job to get a United States Title opponent for Wrestlemania. Logan Paul is one of the few good heels on the roster, and his back-and-forth with Nick was actually my favorite thing on the show so far. Plus, this foreshadows what Nick will do for the U.S. Title.

Rob: Mattered

Logan Paul is using his real-life perception of him excellently, leaning into being a demanding YouTuber, putting his Prime brand over everything else, and not respecting other wrestlers. Nick Aldis is one of the rare GM’s I can remember with a backbone, so he put it right back on Paul. Great segment.

Jimmy Uso Accept Jey's Challenge

Jimmy Uso Yeet

Reverse Hipster: Mattered

It's official: we are getting USO vs. USO, a match years in the making. Jimmy has ruined opportunity after opportunity for Jey, and Jey finally snapped and challenged him. Jimmy announced to Kayla that he would be facing his brother at Wrestlemania. This match could steal the show.

Rob's: Mattered

The Jey vs. Jimmy start to the Royal Rumble was electric. With the brothers on different shows, I had feared WWE forgot about the feud, but they made it official here. Jimmy brought his signature fire to a backstage promo, and I’m excited to see if their chemistry extends in-ring to being opponents. A nearly year-long personal feud will pay off at WrestleMania.

Randy Orton vs. Waller Mattered

Austin Theory RKO

Reverse Hipster: Mattered

This barely mattered once again. Orton beat Waller with a sweet RKO that Waller flipped into, but we already saw him do the same thing as Austin Theory. After the match, Theory attacked Orton, and it looked like he was going to hold him while Logan knocked him out, but then Kevin Owens ran out and saved Orton. After Orton almost hit Kevin with an RKO from instinct, but then he stunned Austin Theory, who popped up and got caught with an RKO. However, this all matters because Nick Aldis came out and then announced that Kevin Owens and Randy would be Logan Paul's opponents.

Rob's Mattered

This match didn’t matter because I have never fully bought into the Grayson Waller, Austin Theory, and Logan Paul alliance. It didn’t do anyone any service for Randy Orton to beat Grayson Waller. What did matter occurred entirely after the match, as Theory attacked Orton and Kevin Owens ran out. Nick Aldis set up a triple threat for WrestleMania, as two fiery babyfaces will get a chance at Paul. What goes around, comes around.

Damage Control Put Bayley on Notice

Damage Control entrance

Reverse Hipster: Didn't Matter

Dakota Kai did a backstage interview where she said Bayley was jealous of her own faction, so they had to take her out to grow stronger. Dakota then vowed to make sure Bayley didn't make it to mania and warned all the women in WWE that Damage Control runs the show now. This was quick and didn't provide any new information. You could cut this from the show without consequence.

Rob: Didn't Matter

Dakota Kai is not the strongest talker, but on top of that, Damage Control’s perspective doesn’t really make sense to me. Bayley has continually spotlighted the other wrestlers of that faction, so they would need to find some concrete evidence to sell me on their perspective that she was the problem with Damage Control.

Dragon Lee vs. Santos

Dragon Lee Stomped

Reverse Hipster: Didn't Matter

Santos made quick work of Dragon Lee. I don't know how Dragon Lee is supposed to be the future of Lucha Libre if he keeps getting jobbed out. After the match, Dragon Lee got jumped by Legado, and then Carlito and Rey came out to save him. Rey challenged him to a match, and we were left wondering if he would accept. We all know he will accept it, and this segment/match was a very bland way to get there. Thumbs down.

Rob: Didn't Matter

Agree with Reverse Hipster here. NXT debuts used to be special, but when people like Dragon Lee are brought to the main roster and lose continually, they’re dead on arrival. This segment was also another example of the never-ending feud between LWO and Legado without giving the story proper progression and pay off.

The New Catch Republic Def Pretty Deadly

The New Catch Republic

Reverse Hipster: Mattered

This was the first real wrestling match of the night. Leave it to two NXT UK teams to tear the house down in the ring. These two teams are just so good together. After going back and forth, Dunne and Bate hit their tag finisher and got the win. I was rooting for Pretty Deadly, but you really couldn't go wrong with these two teams. The New Catch Republic will advance in the bracket for a chance at a Wrestlemania match.

Rob: Mattered

Sometimes, the best thing you can do on a wrestling show is get four really good wrestlers and let them…wrestle? For the second segment this show, tag teams proved that they deserve more opportunities in-ring, and I hope WWE will consider splitting the tag team championships again.

Main Event Bayley vs. Dakota Kai

dakota attacks Bayley

Reverse Hipster: Didn't Matter

It's pretty sad when you have to say the main event of a show didn't matter. Going in, it seemed like it would be a good match because Bayley would get a chance to get revenge on Dakota, and Dakota would get a chance to take Bayley out, but it ended in DQ. Ending the last match of the night in a DQ made the whole thing feel pointless. Damage Control jumped Bayley in the middle of the match, and Naomi came out to help, but the numbers caught up to her. Iyo hit a Spirit Squad Moonsault. Damage Control held Bayley in the air by all of her limbs like the Spirit Squad used to do, and then Iyo backflipped onto Bayley. I'm shocked they took such a risk with Bayley ahead of Wrestlemania. However, what would be different about the Damage Control feud if you cut this from Smackdown? Would we be missing a legendary main event match? No, this did not matter.

Rob: Didn’t Matter

The match in-ring wasn’t a lot and it ended in a non-finish. The After the match attack, emphasized that Damage Control was united against Bayley, but we already knew that. This also followed one of my least favorite tropes. Naomi came out to help Bayley only because they are both babyfaces or maybe because of their history but was overcome regardless. The crowd chanted for Bianca Belair to come out, and she never did. The segment would have been way more effective if Damage Control had just jumped Bayley from the beginning, and nobody had come out to save her, emphasizing the isolation she feels from being kicked out of her own group.

Reverse Hipster's SmackDown Final Grade 6/10 D-

IYO sky spirit squad

Smackdown set up Wrestlemania feuds in the most bland and basic ways possible. A lot of the moments on the show were meaningful for set up but most of them weren't very exciting and there was so little wrestling featured on this wrestling show. The Catch Republic vs. Pretty Deadly was the moment of the night, and the main event was the lowlight of the night. It was that kind of night.

Rob's SmackDown Final Grade 7/10 C-

Asuka Iyo Sane

I think this was an average SmackDown on the Road to WrestleMania. They established three matches for WrestleMania with somewhat uninspired booking, but I’m honestly excited for all three of the matches. The tag teams had good matches in-ring, and the Rock made headlines with his one man show. Bayley vs. Damage Control is a feud to watch. While they fumbled here, I’m still optimistic they have all the pieces of a great story.

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