WWE SmackDown 1/26/2024: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the show that plays in the background while arguably the most important figure in modern wrestling history resigns in disgrace amidst a storm of horrific allegations — you know, again. We'll talk about that, and the fact that it overshadowed an already bland Royal Rumble go-home show, in this space, but there's plenty of stuff we won't talk about, from the promo segment involving Bobby Lashley and Karrion Kross to the Trick Williams/Carmelo Hayes "NXT" story crossing over to the main roster. If you want to know about that stuff, check out our live coverage/results page.

Here, we only deal in the segments that give us the most feelings. Like new women's tag champions being crowned! Or the build to the fatal four-way world title match. Or, most importantly, wrestlers choosing their Royal Rumble entry numbers from a big tumbler! In other words, the things that really matter. These are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 1/26/24 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Hated: Vince McMahon's resignation overshadows SmackDown

With the egregious information that came to light on Thursday regarding Vince McMahon, John Laurinaitis, and former employee Janel Grant, there was a heavy cloud hanging over "SmackDown." While the show was the least important thing happening, the show must also go on, as WWE has proven many times. But while a Bayley vignette was airing, news broke that TKO Executive Chairman Nick Khan sent an email to staff that McMahon had resigned. McMahon released his own statement confirming as much to Deadline, but denies the allegations and says he will still defend himself against the lawsuit.

It was hard to focus on anything Bayley said, or the following contest, when Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro defended their tag titles against the Kabuki Warriors. The women had a great match, with Asuka and Kairi Sane winning the titles, but dropping the McMahon news during a woman's vignette and before a women's title match is in particularly bad taste given the nature of the allegations.

The news should have come prior to "SmackDown" beginning. The moment Slim Jim announced they were pausing their sponsorship deal with WWE ahead of the Royal Rumble, McMahon's fate was sealed. Instead, the timing of the announcement took away from the rest of the show. Even on his way out, presumably for good, McMahon found a way to be the most important story in WWE.

Written by Samantha Schipman

Loved: New women's tag champs

And new ... The Kabuki Warriors!!!

Asuka and Kairi Sane dethroned Kayden Carter and Katana Chance as the Women's Tag Team Champions in a match that was both entertaining and fast paced. While Carter and Chance put up a good fight, Sane and Asuka secured the victory after Sane connected with the In-Sane Elbow on Carter. Not only was the match fun to watch, but the end was clean, something I can appreciate given how many matches in WWE end with either someone interfering in the bout or causing a disqualification these days.

While Chance and Carter are solid in-ring competitors, their reign as Women's Tag Team Champions was growing stale and getting a little tedious to watch. Defend the title against another team, cut a video promo at a rave, and repeat. Putting the title on Asuka and Sane was the right choice, as it gives even more legitimacy to the two of them as a tag team and helps progress the story of the rest of the group kicking Bayley out for not holding gold like everyone else (discounting Dakota Kai who is still out of action with an injury).

Written by Olivia Quinlan

Love: Within these walls, a Royal Rumble winner is being made

Bayley is many things: abrasive, entitled, and the leader of Damage CTRL being just a few. She is also somebody who is a favorite to win this year's Royal Rumble match.

Personally, I didn't see it. Then, this vignette dropped.

That's a bit dramatic, but there is a bit of truth to it. Bayley's path with Damage CTRL has been a bit hot and cold. Are they breaking up, are they not? Is Bayley being frozen out by her own teammates, or is she just as strong of a leader as ever? Even now, as Bayley stood on the fringes of Damage CTRL while they celebrated Asuka and Kairi Sane's victory, she looked more like an outsider — she looked less like a leader, and more like your little sibling that tags along when you hang out with friends. This is all to say that her tensions (or not tensions?) with Damage CTRL are not resolved. With that hanging over her head, her winning the Royal Rumble felt like an afterthought. It felt like background noise in her story.

The vignette did a fantastic job at pointing out Bayley outside of Damage CTRL. It presented her as an all-around all-star. With the way her career is going, you may have forgotten that she won Money in the Bank; this vignette reminded everybody of that. She's sat on the sidelines and has been beat by the likes of Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch countless times, but this video reminded everybody that she was the first women's Grand Slam champion in WWE. This video built Bayley as this veteran who is overdue on her rewards after being with the company for so long, and offering her own career to build up new stars like Dakota Kai and IYO SKY — which she is.

These types of videos aren't being made about other entrants in the women's Royal Rumble, and if they are, they are not nearly as sentimental or of good quality as tonight's. If somebody was set on Lynch or Nia Jax or any other write-in winning the Rumble, this video was not for them. This video was for the people who were undecided on who to root for in the Royal Rumble match, to remind them that Bayley is one of the most experienced and accomplished people in the women's locker room. It swayed me, and hopefully, Bayley's ambitions of winning the Royal Rumble match will finally be recognized at Tropicana Field.

Written by Angeline Phu

Loved: Old-school Royal Rumble number picks

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. I am such a fan of goofy, over-the-top Attitude Era-esque wrestling troupes, and the picking of the Royal Rumble numbers from the bingo roller (and seemingly the same one for both the men AND women, how the heck did that work?!) in the comically large capsules just made me smile in what's been one heck of a week when it comes to WWE. I loved everything about the segments sprinkled throughout the night. To start, I thought it was pretty cool to bring in Ava from "WWE NXT" after she was named the youngest general manager in WWE history on Tuesday night. While it is interesting she's getting main roster time right after her dad was named to the TKO Board of Directors, I can't hold that against her. It made sense she was called up to help for the night and keep track of who has what number, and I like seeing her get more time to work on her acting skills, especially with such strong talent on the main roster.

I loved one of the first stars to pick their numbers was R Truth from "WWE Raw," who has been doing some of the best comedic work in his career with The Judgment Day. The little silliness of him thinking Nick Aldis was "Raw" General Manager Adam Pearce was a nice dose of silly for a rather lackluster night. It was a cute little segment that makes me wonder what shenanigans Truth is going to get into tomorrow during the Rumble match. Come to think of it, I didn't even realize he was IN the match, so I'm glad that was confirmed to us tonight. It was nice to see him without him getting berated or beaten down by Judgment Day for once, too.

While Santos Escobar, Bobby Lashley, and Bianca Belair all picked their numbers as well, the other thing I liked most was Bayley getting to pick hers. The way she reacted has me thinking she pulled number one. While Bayley is my personal pick to win the Rumble, I would not be mad at WWE having the first woman to come out in the match win two years in a row (last year being Rhea Ripley, of course). I think that makes the women's division look strong, and I like that a lot.

While this show did not do a lot for me when it comes to go-home angles – and I'll talk about that later – these little segments were helpful. It's not like we need a reminder the Royal Rumble is tomorrow or anything, but it was a nice touch on the show, which ended up being needed with the breaking news of Vince McMahon's resignation.

Written by Daisy Ruth

Hated: Carlito and Santos Escobar's match was a slow start to SmackDown.

An opening match sets the tone for a show. For example, the women's Holiday Havoc match on the December 12 episode of SmackDown gave electrifying in-ring action that gave the crowd a boost of energy that they could carry on throughout the show. The opening contest has the potential to make or break a show — if it is anything but stellar, then the whole show risks being just okay at best, and a flop at worst.

Unfortunately, Carlito and Santos Escobar missed the mark. There was some cool spots, like when Carlito changed his plans from a vertical suplex to a neckbreaker. However, most of their match felt a bit slow, which was very odd for Escobar, who is so experienced in a fast-paced style like lucha libre. They stomped around the ring like heavy dinosaurs — they inflicted some damage on each other, but apart from a few match highlights, the contest was not much more than them walking around each other and on the outside. What should have been a smooth fight full of passion and heart rate-increasing stunts felt like a filler TV match that won't be remembered in a year of two. I actually had the privilege to see Carlito perform in Irvine, California in October 2022, and he was phenomenal. So, I'm hoping that tonight's match was just the result of a bad day, and not a degradation in quality. Regardless, Carlito and Escobar's in-ring chemistry left a lot to be desired. It was not cool.

Elektra Lopez's appearance is a bit confusing. On "NXT," she is locked in a feud with Lola Vice, and was recently heard giving a face-leaning promo where she recounted her hard work. Now, she's on "WWE SmackDown", and it seems like she is going to be a heel valet for Escobar's new faction — their answer to Zelina Vega, even if Vega is not doing much with the LWO in the first place. On the other hand, it is always great to have new women on "SmackDown", especially when over half of the show's women's division is embroiled in either the fickle tag team division, or the years-long Bianca Belair vs. Damage CTRL feud.

With the introduction of Elektra Lopez and a dirty win over Carlito from Escobar, this feud is most certainly going to continue. Hopefully, Carlito and Escobar can get some more time to become accustomed to each other in the ring, and deliver the heart-stopping match I know they can.

Written by Angeline Phu

Hated: Roman stays home on the go-home

If the choosing of the Royal Rumble entrance numbers was a nice touch on the show, the fact Roman Reigns can't even be bothered to show up on the go-home show to the premium live event was just terrible. I know personally that the drive from Tampa to Miami is about four hours, and if I can do it post-bachelorette party in South Beach, I think a big, bad WWE Undisputed Universal Champion who probably has a nice, cozy bus can do it, too. To begin with, this fatal four-way is just not believable, so it's curious to me why we're putting all these guys in the match – when they could be better utilized in the Royal Rumble match itself. Does anyone believe that Reigns is losing the title before WrestleMania? I certainly don't. Reigns is (hopefully!) facing Cody Rhodes, for Rhodes to finish the story (please!), or he's facing off against The Rock, whenever his cousin decides what he wants to do.

The promo to kick off the show wasn't any good in my eyes, outside of Randy Orton just being awesome. I think Orton should have been the one to face Reigns one-on-one at the Rumble. Jimmy Uso trying to get AJ Styles to help him take out LA Knight was an interesting aspect – but why would Styles help The Bloodline, who took him out a few months ago? That didn't entirely make sense once you think it through. The Solo and Knight match also didn't do it for me, up until the beatdown with the three competitors to end the show. I liked that Knight got the last move in before the broadcast went off the air, but again, there's no way he's winning. He's already lost to Reigns once, and dare I say, he may be cooling off from his hot streak.

What it really boils down to is the fact that Reigns seemingly just can't be bothered. We're well past the point of it being okay and keeping the title protected or whatever WWE thinks they're doing. It's downright shameful. And again, I do not in any corner of my mind think he's losing that title tomorrow, so we're going to have to deal with his sporadic, at best, appearances from now through April, and HOPE he loses to whoever he's up against.

Written by Daisy Ruth