WWE SmackDown 2/9/2024: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," and how long do you think it's going to be before a certain someone reminds us that this entire show is named after his catchphrase? Anyway, that person isn't on the show this week, but a lot of other people are, and we're about to talk about most of them! Not all of them, of course — if you want to know about all of them, you have to go to our live coverage/results page. But, as a trade-off, we will only talk about the stuff we cared about the most (in both good and bad directions).

So, how did we feel about, say, the Elimination Chamber qualifying matches? Did we enjoy the No. 1 contender's tag team match? And most importantly, is anyone going to explain at some point how Logan Paul is so good at professional wrestling, or are we just accepting it now? Here are three things we hated and three things we loved from the 2/9/24 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Hated: Don't let them distract you

I think it's fair to say the wrestling community is ... divided ... in its response to the Cody Rhodes/Roman Reigns/The Rock angle that played out at Thursday's WrestleMania Kickoff event. Personally, I thought it was an extremely well-done course correction that made its hay by expertly walking the line between fiction and reality — in other words, by doing one of things wrestling, as a medium, is best at doing. Oh, the fanbase has decided to support Cody and treat Rock like the heel? Make Rock the heel. Easy.

Similarly, I thought Triple H did a good job continuing to walk that line Friday night. Oh, the dirtsheet reports seem to indicate there's a power struggle going on backstage between Triple H and The Rock? Build a power struggle between Triple H and The Rock into your story. Easy. Wrestling fans have a long history of enjoying stories that heavily involve authority figures (which, as an aside, makes AEW's stubborn lack of on-screen authority figures baffling to me) so I think people are going to enjoy Triple H being on TV more, and I can't deny the appeal of hearing him affirm Cody as the WrestleMania main eventer against Roman while suggesting certain people don't "know their role" and flat-out saying "It doesn't matter what you think."

Here's the only problem: I don't actually care.

I can recognize an effective segment when I see it. That doesn't make it any easier to listen to the Charlotte crowd start up a "Triple H" chat, considering his likely role in the Janel Grant scandal, something I refuse to let WWE distract me away from with all this Cody/Rock stuff. And it's important to keep in mind that distracting us from the Janel Grant scandal (not to mention everything else Vince McMahon has been accused of doing over the last 30 years, and the things he will likely be accused of doing in the future) is very much at the forefront of WWE's mind right now.

I'm not saying you can't enjoy the product. This was a very good episode of "SmackDown," and I'm going to do my best to enjoy WrestleMania season along with everyone else. But you don't get to bring Paul Levesque out to the ring right now without me being a buzzkill and reminding everyone that he (a) almost certainly knew about at least some of the horrific things contained in the Janel Grant lawsuit, and (b) could very well be in the Janel Grant lawsuit despite the fact that he isn't explicitly named. If either of those things are true, he has to be removed from his position and suffer the appropriate consequences, and the fact that he's done a decent job pivoting the Cody Rhodes storyline doesn't change that.

Written by Miles Schneiderman

Loved: Bayley Is ballin'

As good as "bad" Bayley has been, after being the lovable hugger for so long, we've all never stopped loving Bayley, right? The proof is in the pudding now, as she's turned on Damage CTRL before they could completely turn on her, and the crowd is supporting it in full force. What she's done in this run, from "Ding Dong Hello" all the way to hitting her former allies with their native tongue last week, has been nothing short of brilliant. And the commitment to the long term story has been as admirable as it is masterful.

Some of you may have been rooting for her best friend-turned-arch rival-turned-best friend to reappear in the form of Sasha Banks at some point — obviously that's not happening now thanks to ingenious pilfering by free agent pied piper Tony Khan. But that doesn't matter when it comes to Bayley and her future success. As Mer¢ede$ Moné💰from BO$$TON moves on down Jacksonville way, Bayley will forge forward toward WrestleMania, and I'd argue, a main event spot, but that's an article for another day.

If you didn't pick up on a little bit of true emotion, maybe during her Rumble win, or as she double-crossed the double-crossers-to-be thereafter, surely you did so tonight when Dakota Kai came to her aid. Sure, her guard was up (and rightfully so) but it at least SEEMED like Kai was warding off the rest of the Damage CTRL crew. We'll see how that plays out in the weeks to come — after all, Dakota's got a bit of a history with double-crosses herself — but I believe there's an underground swell in favor of "BayKai."

The only thing for me that remains to be seen is whether or not we get a quick cameo from our old "Bayley Buddy" friends on the Mania stage, dancing along to a blend of Bayley's old theme and the new one, with a subtle tinge of "The Hugger" (and a subtle tinge only) to remind us of this awesome journey we've been on with her for more than a decade now. I'm here for celebrating the whole run. And that would be a fitting tribute.

Written by Jon Jordan

Loved: Long live the Black and Gold

"SmackDown" featured a match with two of my favorite tag teams, DIY and Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate. As I wrote on Monday, DIY's win was a win for "NXT" Black and Gold fans, and it's nice to see them finally start hitting their stride and getting back to the form that made them fan favorites for years (despite their terrible theme song). Meanwhile, Dunne is finally back to himself and using his real name, Bate has been excellent since making his main roster debut, and the pair have found their groove after spending so much time apart from one another — another win for the Black and Gold, or perhaps Black and Gold UK.

This was a first time matchup between these two teams, as Dunne and Bate only rarely teamed in "NXT," but the match could've taken place during Black and Gold's prime. It was fast-paced and hard-hitting, highlighting the technical abilities of the "Big Strong Boi" and "Johnny Wrestling while also not being afraid of dives or taking things to the outside. This match was fun, and it was clear that the two teams have mutual respect for one another. More of this, please.

Written by Samantha Schipman

Loved: Seriously though, how is he so good at this

If you had told me a couple years back that Logan Paul would actually be a well-rounded wrestler both in the ring and as a character, I would've laughed in your face. But here we are.

The thing about Paul is that he knows what to say to get on people's nerves — just enough, without needing to overdo it. His delivery is on point, and he's become one of those people you just love to hate. Take his backstage segment with Nick Aldis and Adam Pearce from Friday night, for example, in which he demanded to know why he had to compete in an Elimination Chamber qualifier match. Not only did Paul deliver his lines perfectly, but he showcased just how good his character work is and got across the point that he feels he's better than everyone else. He didn't do anything over the top; it was the little things he did, like the volume of his voice and his facial expressions, that made the segment.

The Miz is also an excellent choice for his opponent, making things even better. For one, WWE doesn't need to do much building to a match between the two given their rich history as one-time tag team partners turned rivals. It also benefits both men, as it's a breath of fresh air for Miz from the Judgment Day/R-Truth stuff he's been doing on "Raw" whilst helping to continue getting him over as a face, and gives Paul someone to work with whom he's familiar in the ring.

Written by Olivia Quinlan

Hated: Half of these Chamber qualifiers have to lose

It's the proverbial good problem to have, which is to say, it's no problem at all — but it still sucks. To see half of this field, from both the men's and women's sides of things, eliminated from qualifying for their respective Elimination Chamber matches, stinks. But that's what happens, I suppose, when you have an embarrassment of riches, strongly booked across the board, with an argument for all to be involved in the match.

On "SmackDown," we saw Drew McIntyre get past AJ Styles (who will suffer in no way from said loss, but we'll miss him in the Chamber nonetheless), and Randy Orton knock off Sami Zayn (which hurts the soul for most of us, deep down, but we'll hold out hope that he makes his way into said Chamber and/or into a WrestleMania match worth having after all he's built up the past few years). From there, only four of "Big" Bronson Reed, Kevin Owens, United States Champion Logan Paul, The Miz, Bobby Lashley, Ivar, "Dirty" Dominik Mysterio, and LA Knight will earn a spot. Let's do some quick math: That means four of those names WON'T! Tough crowd!

And as for the women, we have Becky Lynch, who knocked off a killer in Shayna Baszler, and Bianca Belair, who outlasted a more-than-game Michin, already qualified for the Chamber. We know that Zoey Stark and Liv Morgan will square off on Monday, and Tiffany Stratton vs. Shotzi and Naomi vs. Zelina Vega will be featured on "SmackDown" next Friday. Let's speculate wildly and posit that Jade Cargill and someone (I don't know, Natalya?) will round out the qualifiers on the ladies' side and ... same problem! Damn, there are some hot commodities that won't have a spot in Perth. But hey, like I said, good problem to have.

Written by Jon Jordan

Hated: Orton wins LOL

I am actually a massive Randy Orton fan, but having him beat Sami Zayn in the Elimination Chamber qualifier Friday night makes zero sense (yes, I'm an even more massive Sami fan, sue me). Orton doesn't really have anything going on right now. He's not winning the Chamber match, we know that, so he didn't really need to be in there and he could afford to take the loss, especially if it came by way of interference from whoever he's feuding with next. Zayn, on the other hand, has been doing a story that revolves around winning the world title for months now, and would have been extremely well-served by a win over Orton, even if it wasn't clean. He's also been kicking out of literally every finisher he comes up against for a year now, but apparently one RKO is enough to keep him down. Whatever.

Anyway, I'm choosing to believe Sami losing this match is part of a longer underdog story that will still culminate in the World Heavyweight Championship match at Mania, because otherwise there's no point to any of the things he's been doing or talking about. And yes, I have entirely talked myself into the Seth vs. Drew vs. Sami scenario and will be disappointed if I don't get the thing I made up for myself in my own head, so kind of you to ask. Hi, I'm a wrestling fan, pleased to meet you!

Written by Miles Schneiderman