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

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the show where 35-MINUTE BLOODLINE PROMO SEGMENTS ARE BACK, BABY! Ahhhhhh, it feels so good. Are you really even watching "SmackDown" if a bunch of Samoan dudes aren't intensely emoting at each other in the ring while everyone else on the show tries to figure out how much time their segment is losing? We submit that you are not!


Anyway, the Wrestling Inc. writing and editorial staff has a lot to say about the Roman Reigns/The Rock segment that opened this week's episode — though perhaps not as much as they have to say about the latest developments in the Bayley/Damage CTRL program. We're pretty focused time around, which obviously means we won't be able to hit everything that went down (sorry, R-KO team-up and Bron Breakker squash match). If you missed the show and need specifics, check out our live coverage/results page. If you want to know what we actually thought about the biggest events of Friday's show, you're in luck, because these are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 3/1/24 episode of "WWE SmackDown."


Loved: The Rock says ... it's time for some stipulations!

There was a lot I didn't particularly love about the opening segment with The Rock and the Bloodline, and with Fox apparently censoring a sign in the crowd I didn't catch all of it, but I saw, heard, and LOVED the most important parts of the segment. The main thing I loved about this was the Rock basically reiterating Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins' challenge of a tag team match, but solidifying it for WrestleMania and providing some stipulations for the matches if Rhodes, Rollins, and Roman Reigns are all going to be pulling double duty that weekend. And, presumably, for Reigns and Rhodes, main eventing both nights.


The Rock said that he and Reigns want to challenge the babyface team to a tag team match at WrestleMania night one. If Rhodes and Rollins win, there will be no Bloodline involvement during Rhodes' match for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship against Reigns (as much as I want to believe that's true, I don't, but it's at least a nice thought). However, if Rock and Reigns win, the title match on night two will be a "Bloodline Rules" match, which means anything goes, according to the Rock.

While it was a little bit comical because the Rock really just reiterated the challenge that Rollins had already put forth at Elimination Chamber during he and Rhodes' segment on "The Grayson Waller Effect," it's the confirmation that it's absolutely going to happen that I loved. Rock said if Rhodes doesn't accept, he'll "make sure he doesn't win the title." But, come on. Does anyone really think that Rhodes is going to say no to this challenge? While it makes me nervous to have Rhodes wrestle both nights of WrestleMania weekend, putting him at risk of injury before the title match, if this is going to be the year that he finishes his story, he might as well do it big. And what's bigger than winning the title? Probably being in a main event match with the Rock.


Going in to "SmackDown," I really didn't expect to be wowed by this segment. Heel Rock makes me feel like I'm back in the Attitude Era and sometimes (and by that, I mean a lot of the time) his promos don't really land because he's still speaking like he's stuck in the 90s or early 2000s. But after all the ragging on the folks of Arizona and the innuendos, when he really got in to what he was there to say with his challenge and stipulations, the Rock succeeded in getting me even more hyped up for WrestleMania, which is amazingly only in five more weeks. The cherry on top was Rock acknowledging Reigns as his Tribal Chief. The segment ate up a TON of the show, but in the end, I really did love it.

Written by Daisy Ruth

Hated: The women are being screwed out another WrestleMania main event

For the third consecutive year, the women are getting screwed out of a main event match at WrestleMania. Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes have to main event both nights, so the women once again don't get the respect that they deserve. Scratch that –- that they earned. Bayley earned a main event match just like Rhodes did by winning the Royal Rumble.


Bayley has been disrespected at every turn since winning the women's Rumble match. Both Bayley and IYO SKY were left off the WrestleMania kickoff show in Las Vegas last month. Rhea Ripley and Becky Lynch were there even though their match wouldn't be made official until the Elimination Chamber because Lynch had to win her match in order to get a shot at Ripley in the first place. Bayley challenged SKY a few days prior to the event — there was no excuse for them not being featured.

Earlier this week, WWE found another way to disrespect Bayley, leaving her off the "40 days to 'WrestleMania 40" graphic. Her opponent was featured, but instead of Bayley, it was "Love & WWE" star Bianca Belair. The graphic was later updated to include Bayley and several other stars, but now Bayley is taking another blow. Challenging for the WWE Women's Championship is apparently not good enough to garner a main event spot, although there's been an in-depth story being told. Damage CTRL has had an ongoing story that reached its climax when Bayley was turned on by her own stablemates. Another layer was added to their story when Dakota Kai turned on Bayley during their tag match against the Kabuki Warriors on "SmackDown".


The last time the women headlined "The Show of Shows" was when Sasha Banks (now known as Mercedes Mone) took on Belair at WrestleMania 37. There was a possibility that they wouldn't get to main event either, but fans took to social media to make it known that they wanted that match to close Night 1. Belair won the Rumble that year, by the way.

Bayley vs. SKY is worthy of a WrestleMania 40 main event for a variety of reasons. Fans have been vocal about this fact and particularly about Bayley's treatment, but WWE has decided to forgo what the fans have been asking for to correct their own screw-up regarding who would challenge Reigns. The fans made it clear they wanted Rhodes instead of The Rock, but it's the women's division having to pay for WWE's mistakes.

Happy Women's History Month, y'all.

Written by Samantha Schipman

Hated: Just where is the glow?

Happy Women's History Month to everyone except Naomi, I guess.

It's upsetting, frankly. A few weeks ago, I chalked up my anxiety about Naomi's booking to impatience, mostly. Sure, her "WWE SmackDown" re-debut was lackluster, but surely, that would have been a one-off occurrence, right? Surely, they wouldn't bring back Naomi — someone who had publicly walked out on the company due to her inconsistent and poor booking — just to have her take multiple losses in a row, right?


About that.

I know this will get me some heat, so let me get it out of the way now: This is not about Tiffany Stratton. Naomi could've lost to anyone else on the roster, and the only thing that would have changed about this collection of words was the name I put in that last sentence. This criticism is about how Naomi's booking has remained the same, even with new management, a very public walk-out, and an impressive TNA Knockouts World Championship under her belt.

Naomi is someone who needs all the momentum right now. Yes, she may be a decade-long veteran of the business, but her booking lies somewhere in between rookie and enhancement talent. If you listed the reasons as to why Naomi needs to take losses on both pay-per-view and weekly shows, that list would be shorter than the people she's lost to. There is no good reason to book Naomi the way she's being booked. To take a loss to someone in a four minute match, with no subsequent segments to follow up that loss? No blindsided attacks? The finality of that match's ending should inspire concern for anyone, and it absolutely is concerning for Naomi.


All of our fears about history repeating itself are slowly becoming confirmed, and it's terrifying. Naomi is one of the most talented women on the roster in-ring, on the microphone, with the crowd, in her presentation — she is, quite literally, the full package. Instead, she is being booked like an afterthought. She is just someone they can use to get another person over. She's filler.

It's upsetting that WWE's production and creative teams do not give Naomi the respect she deserves. Right now, nobody knows what Naomi will do. If you want to be optimistic, then this is all an elaborate set-up to bring Naomi back to her feet, like a phoenix from the ashes! If you want to be realistic, and probably right, then we are seeing the build-up to Naomi walking out of WWE second time. Those who forget their history — those who forget to book talent fairly and consciously — are doomed to repeat it.

If you are unconvinced that WWE sees Naomi as second-class, I'd like to tell you this anecdote. The above image came from a video. I clicked on the video's hyperlink to retrieve the actual link to cite the image, and it took me to Naomi's WWE profile, instead of the video. I had to scroll down her associated highlights, all the way back to January 14. This has never happened before, and does not happen with other female stars of Naomi's caliber. WWE does not care enough about Naomi to make sure links associated with her work properly. If Naomi's booking doesn't upset you, that should.


Written by Angeline Phu

Loved: When a plan comes together

Everyone knew Dakota Kai was turning on Bayley and re-joining Damage CTRL. You knew it. I knew it. We all knew it. As I was watching their match tonight, I knew the exact moment Kai was going to jump off the apron and abandon Bayley to her enemies. But you don't actually know something is happening until it goes down for real, and sometimes the obvious choice is also the right choice.


For one thing, as longtime "WWE NXT" fans know, Kai is a natural heel who breathes betrayal like the rest of us breathe air. She turned on Tegan Nox, she turned on Raquel Rodriguez, and now she's turned on Bayley (who, it should be noted, is also no stranger to either being the betrayer or being the betrayed). Having Kai back as a heel trying to keep Bayley down makes the Bayley/Damage CTRL feud, which was already the best thing the main roster has going currently, even more interesting as we head toward WrestleMania. I can only assume Bayley is winning that match, and having Dakota against her is another obstacle for her to overcome.

Even more than that, though, I just really loved the feeling Kai's betrayal evoked in me, largely conveyed by Bayley's reactions. She didn't even look hurt by Kai's action so much as she looked disappointed in herself. She knows she should have seen it coming — hell, she did see it coming — but she let her desire for friendship and acceptance overcome her caution. Watch her pound the mat in frustration, not at Kai but at herself — it's a feeling I think most of us can related to, getting burned by someone we let into our hearts because we just wanted a friend, and it plays into the sort of weary resignation and earnest despair that Bayley has used as her color palette for the entire feud.


Watch the segment again — at the very end, after Damage CTRL has attacked her and they're all holding her up while IYO SKY laughs in her face, there's a moment where normally someone (probably Kai) would hit Bayley with another strike to take her down for good, so the heels can pose over her body. But they didn't actually do it. IYO hit her with a double knee strike in the same position earlier, but Bayley was clearly lucid and far from unconscious as they picked her back up. But instead of delivering another move, they just dropped her to the floor, and she stayed there, because the betrayal itself was enough to keep her down.

Just absolutely masterful. I can't believe this match doesn't get to main event Night 1 because Roman and Cody have to wrestle twice.

Written by Miles Schneiderman

Hated: Dakota Kai and the hasty heel turn

Everything about Dakota Kai's turn on Bayley from tonight's show was perfect from the surprise factor to the reaction from the talent to the execution except for one thing: it wasn't given enough time.


Bayley challenging IYO SKY for the Women's Championship at WrestleMania is no small match, and the build thus far has continuously been my favorite part of "SmackDown" over the past several weeks, without question. It deserves to be given the time of day and should be spotlighted on a weekly basis, but that just wasn't the case tonight. The opening segment of the show with The Rock, Roman Reigns, and The Bloodline took up forty minutes of the show, and while I understand the magnitude and significance of the match between Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, it just made everything else on the show feel shortened and rushed. At least some amount of that time should've been given to the match between Bayley, Kai, and Damage CTRL, or it even pushed back to next week as there was more to be had here and more build-up to the moment that could've been done.


Written by Olivia Quinlan

Loved: A legendary return to end the street fight

If I've written about it once, I've written about it a thousand times and I'm going to say it once more: I love a good stipulation match, and I especially love a good street fight on TV. Sure, they're more tame than on a premium live event, but this street fight between Santos Escobar and Carlito was much needed on a show that had almost 40 minutes of The Rock and the Bloodline just talking (which I also loved, but still!) to get the fans both at home and in the arena back in the action. I initially found it strange that the Legado del Fantasma and LWO members weren't ringside in a match with no disqualifications, but it was all worth it in the end. When Humberto and Angel got involved and started to beat down Carlito, then took out Joaquin Wilde and Cruz del Toro when they finally decided to come out (which I did think took a little too long), the music that hit to welcome in the man to save the day was just perfection.


That man was of course a returning Rey Mysterio, who was kayfabe injured by Escobar to get him off TV so he could go have knee surgery. He sold coming out on crutches pretty well, but if you've been watching wrestling long enough – you could tell he wasn't actually still injured. He started wailing on Humberto and Angel with the crutches and got in the ring to help Carlito. He got in Escobar's face in the ring, causing the distraction, and Carlito hit a beautiful Backstabber before Escobar went through the table that was set up in the ring. Following a 619, of course.

While Carlito may have got the victory and the LWO celebrated with Mysterio returned in the middle of the ring, I think this is far from over. Escobar didn't injure Carlito, he injured Mysterio, and I believe that's the direction we're going, potentially for the undercard of WrestleMania. I think it will be a one-on-one match between the two, and it's going to absolutely rule. I love Escobar, and I've always loved Mysterio since I first started watching wrestling, so bring it on. I'd be even happier if it was in another street fight.


Written by Daisy Ruth