WWE SmackDown Grades and Reactions for January 26, 2024

WWE SmackDown brought the heat on January 26, 2024 before The Royal Rumble PLE
Randy Orton Dec 2.jpg
Randy Orton Dec 2.jpg /

Tempers flair before WWE Championship Fatal-4-Way

The night kicked off with Randy Orton being welcomed to the ring by famous recording artist, Eladio Carrion. Orton talks about how unbeatable Reigns has become, claiming no one can take down the Tribal Chief, except him. Orton is then, of course, joined by AJ Styles. Styles reminds Orton about the history they have and that Orton should not be overlooking him. 

Styles then goes on to talk about LA Knight, a man who has been gunning after Styles for weeks. Not to mention, Knight was the only one who was scheduled to compete on last night’s card.  Styles made his return last month and shocked the world when he made an enemy out of Night for supposedly stealing his championship match with Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel. Tempers have flared between the two, only increasing the heat for the title match match less than 24 hours away. 

Night enters the ring, makes a bold theory that includes him walking out of Royal Rumble as champion and then exits the ring. On his way up the ramp, Styles attacked Orton in the ring. Knight turns around at the top of the ramp and sees Styles looking right back at him. One thing is for certain, all three of these men simply cannot wait for their shot at the Rumble.

Grade: B+

Santos Escobar Vs. Carlito

After last week’s cheap victory for Legado Del Fantasma, Carlito looked to get even with Santos Escobar. This time, in one-on-one action. Carlito didn’t waste time to rally the crowd behind him, along with the rest of the LWO and surely Rey Mysterio from home. The excitement Carlito has also been able to bring to any match has never slowed down once since he made his return last year. This made the match so much more fun to watch, adding to the exceptional action in the ring.  In Santos’ case, this is tremendously beneficial, as fans have had a hard time truly getting excited over Escobar.

Not too long into the match, Angle and Amberto show up to ambush the LWO at ringside. As they make their attack, Zelina Vega is taken out by a debuting Electra Lopez,  the evident

 The newest member of Legado Del Fantasma. This distraction left Carlito vulnerable to an attack from Escobar, causing Carlito to lose the match. This is just another chapter of what has been building week after week on Smackdown. Sufficient storytelling while giving opportunities to the talent that deserves it is always “what’s best for business.” The future looks bright for the new faction that is Legado Del Fantasma. 

Grade: B

The Kabuki Warriors Vs. Kayden Carter and Katana Chance (Women’s Tag Team Championships)

After last week’s challenge from Carter and Chance, This match was bound to happen sooner rather than later. Damage Control has been the most dominant women’s faction for at least a decade. It’s only expected that the two members who have a history as a team, (Sane and Asuka) are the ones from the group to challenge for the tag titles. Given that we are on the doorstep of the road to Wrestlemania, there’s no doubt that Bayley is pushing every member of Damage Control to obtain gold. 

Carter and Chance put on a hell of a performance with an aggressive level of offense, making both the crowd and myself falsely believe they had the match in the bag on several occasions when they didn’t. Ultimately, Kairi Sane hit Carter with a thunderous elbow from the top right, securing the victory and the tag titles for Damage Control. As amazing as things look for Damage Control, one has to wonder if that could take a turn if Bayley were to win the rumble Tonight…

Grade: B

Bobby Lashley and Street Prophets get ambushed by Karrion Kross and AOP (Again)

Bobby Lashley came out to the ring once again with Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins. Dressed for a fight, Lashley invites Karrion Kross’ newly formed faction to the ring to do just that. Karrion arrives at the top of the rap and sends his partner, Scarlett to face Bobby Lashley in the ring for him, something Lashley immediately calls Kross out on. Kross begins to talk cryptic and dodges his explanation for standing at a distance from the ring. Completely ignoring Scarlett, Lashley attempts to exit the ring and march up the ramp. Distracted by Scarlet blinding his eyes, Kross finally enters the ring and ambushes Lashley. AOP takes out Ford and Dawkins and Kross’ stable remains on top of this rivalry.

While this is for sure a worthy faction of pushing, Bobby Lashley and the Street Prophets have failed to gain any momentum in the new year. Lashley is a decorated champion in WWE. His leading a prominent Tag Team should be getting proper treatment. Now that the faction has been turned face with them being so popular with the audience, they have only been used to make Karrion Kross and AOP strong. Hopefully, this rivalry starts to organically become a little more two-sided, enabling Bobby and the prophets to become more accomplished as a faction.

Grade: B

Carmelo Hayes Vs. Austin Theory

This match had decent back-and-forth action that properly showcased Carmelo Hayes. Austin Theory is the perfect heel to be working on weekly shows with him. While doing great work in the ring, Theory is now credible enough to boost Hayes’ credibility as a superstar who just came up to the main roster. While Hayes had a decent story going on in NXT, There is so much talent, including theory, that Hayes could feud with. Theory got the classic three-second roll-up, immediately followed by Waller attacking Hayes from behind.

All of a sudden, The music of Trick Williams hit and the entire crowd could be heard chanting “Whoop that trick.” Williams evens the odds but is hesitant to show any sign of friendship towards Hayes, as their story has been going on for months in NXT. This may not have been Hayes’ night in the ring, but it has main roster viewers even more glued to him.

Grade: C+

Solo Sikoa Vs. L.A Knight and Brawl breakout

Just 24 hours away from the Rumble, Knight steps into a grueling match with the enforcer of the Bloodline, Solo Sikoa. Neither opponent wasted any time being timid or cautious. Both men worked a heavy offense, regardless of what Knight was about to go through in just a day. The predominant question on commentary was whether Reigns was intimated by Knight, hence Knight having this match against Solo tonight. Solo gained control for a decent portion of this match. It kept fans excited for what was to come but also kept them in the moment. 

While the outcome of the match itself is important, Sikoa’s main orders were to “fix the problem.” That means inflicting as much pain on Knight as possible. This is to make him as weak as possible for tonight's rumble.  Ultimately, Solo didn’t even need to do anything. The match ended in DQ when Styles delivered a Phenomenal Forearm to Knight from off the barricade. Following, Jimmy Uso appears with a chair, telling Styles to hit Knight with it. Styles chooses to attack Jimmy instead. 

Moments after, Orton runs out and all hell seems to come loose. Orton drops Sikoa off the announce table and sets his eyes on Jimmy. While he tries to escape, Orton catches him with a DDT off the middle rope, followed by an RKO. Randy sets his sights on Reigns and his world title. As soon as it seemed to be all over, Knight took out Orton, having the last laugh as the show was going off the air. The momentum shifted at the drop of a hat, exactly the way it should be. 

This is exactly what we need to make this world title match even more interesting. While Reigns seems to be the normal favorite, these three men have absolutely carried the buildup. Any one of them deserves to be champion just as much, if not more than Roman Reigns.

Grade: B+