WWE Smackdown Grades and Reactions for March22, 2024

Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns stood face to face as the energy heading into WrestleMania 40 continues to ramp up.

Apr 2, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Cody Rhodes (navy blue pants) and Roman Reigns (black pants) during
Apr 2, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Cody Rhodes (navy blue pants) and Roman Reigns (black pants) during / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Rey Mysterio Vs. Santos Escobar

Smackdown kicked off with a match that was months in the making. Santos Escobar turned on Rey Mysterio back in November after the return of Carlito. Since then, Mysterio has been on the shelf, leaving Carlito to lead the L.W.O. until Mysterio returned from Injury three weeks ago. Now that Mysterio has been cleared and is back on the Roster, the two battle in a match that I personally didn’t think we’d see until Wrestlemania. 

Mysterio showed little-to-no ring rust in his first match back. Even after coming back from an injury at his age, he still moves in the ring better than most on the SmackDown roster. Why this match wasn’t booked for Mania with a match stipulation instead is still beyond me. Mysterio is most likely on the tail end of his career. He won’t have many more chances to have marquee matches at Wrestlemania after this year. While Mysterio may not need it, It would have been a great way to cement Escobar as a legit heel in the company, that is if he went over. 

Escobar had some words for Mysterio towards the end of this match. This resulted in Mysterio taking Escobar outside the ring. When it seemed that Mysterio was going to pick up the victory, Dominik Mysterio made a shocking appearance in order to distract his father and ultimately cost him the match.

It’s pretty surprising that Dominik is getting involved in his father’s business so close to Wrestlemania. While he is a part of Judgment Day, he may go in his own direction temporarily to get redemption against his father this year in Philly. Additionally, now that it seems Dominik is forming an alliance with Escobar, a tag match between Escobar and Dominik Vs. Dragon Lee and Rey is certainly plausible as well.  

Grade: B

The O.C. Vs. Austin Theory and Grayson Waller (WrestleMania tag team qualifying match)

With only two spots left, these two teams battle for one of the last opportunities to be featured at Wrestlemania. The six-pack ladder match for Priest and Balor’s tag team titles is shaping up to be a stacked contest. New Day, DIY and Awesome Truth are already joining Judgment Day in the match. The O.C. has been rather forgotten about since they distanced from AJ Styles. While Styles has a match at Wrestlemania, Anderson and Gallows only have this shot if they wish to be featured in Philly. 

Grayson Waller and Austin Theory have been prominent each week on SmackDown, but haven’t been a part of anything too meaningful without being the laughingstock of the segment. The two could use this match at Wrestlemania to finally establish themselves as a legit tag team. After Theory picked up a pinfall with the help of the ropes, the two would advance in the qualifying process and face the winner of AOP Vs. Street Prophets. While Theory and Waller should be on the Wrestlemania card, it is a shame that the Good Brothers won’t be involved at Mania this year. Regardless, This six-pack ladder match continues to stack ahead of April.

Grade: C+

Naomi Vs. Iyo Sky

Noami has been the only woman on the roster who has been sympathetic to Bayley and what Damage Control has been putting her through. This week, she shows support by taking on Iyo and has a chance to showcase herself so soon before WrestleMania. Naomi took control early on, but many people had a feeling where it was going.

Ultimately, Asuka and Sane interfered and gave Sky the advantage to win. Just like so many weeks prior, Damage Control looked strong again. Creative has certainly been striving to make Bayley look like an underdog. Ever since her departure from Damage Control, she’s been made to look weak by all members of the faction that she once led. Unfortunately, Naomi has been thrown into that after coming back to the company not too long ago at all. To many’s surprise, even Belair attempted to take the fight to Damage Control, but that was very short-lived, as she barely lasted a minute. WWE must really want Iyo to look unbeatable going into Wrestlemania at all costs.

Grade: C+

AOP Vs. Street Profits (WrestleMania tag team qualifying match)

Serving as the second qualifying match of the night, The Profits and AOP continued their feud in hopes of gaining a spot in Philly. This feud has been a losing battle for Lashley and the Prophets ever since it started. There has been no back-and-forth in any of their matches or segments. AOP has dominated the entire time. 

Given the prior weeks, it wasn’t hard to predict the outcome of this match. Surprisingly, I was pleasantly proven wrong. The Street Profits finally pulled off a win against AOP and The Final Testament to further themselves in the process of qualifying for Wrestlemania. Finally, The Prophets are starting to build momentum on SmackDown. If WWE really wants to stack this six-pac ladder match, they’ll put The Street Prophets over Theory and Waller next week and advance Dawkins and Ford to Wrestlemania.

Grade: B-

Roman Reigns meets Cody Rhodes face-to-face

Ahead of tonight, both Rhodes and Reigns agreed to meet each other in the ring alone. While many were skeptical, Reigns only showed up with the Wise Man, Paul Heyman. Reigns taunts Rhodes and reminds him that he used to run in The Shield and where that ultimately led. Reigns says that like what happened to him, Rhodes will get stabbed in the back by Rollins at Wrestlemania.

Predictably, Reigns finished speaking, left the ring, snapped his fingers and summoned the rest of the Bloodline (minus The Rock.) Cody, as many had hoped, was not alone either. Jey Uso and Seth Rollins appeared in a standoff against the Bloodline. 

While the promos were pretty good, The back-and-forth is quite predictable. There was much gained in this segment. It would have been a lot more entertaining if there was enough time for a brawl between the six men. Regardless, there is still time for that, especially with The Rock coming to RAW this Monday.

 Overall, a bit boring but it did plant seeds for the two possible swerves on night one of Wrestlemania, those being, of course, Rollins turning on Rhodes and The Rock turning on Reigns. It’s at least good to see that even though Rock and Reigns have part-time schedules, this story is still being built appropriately and has more than enough momentum going into both nights at Wrestlemania 40. 

Grade: B+