WWE SmackDown 3/15/2024: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the show where everything is terrible and the gods have abandoned their creations. Okay fine, that might be a little over-dramatic — there were things to like about this episode, as we'll get into momentarily. But boy, the WINC crew was generally pretty down on this one, and with WrestleMania 40 only three weeks away, that's not great! We're not quite going to be able to touch on everything here, but our "SmackDown" results page will, so check that out if you're interested in the comprehensive breakdown.


Here though, it's all about our opinions on the show. Were we enthralled by The Rock's musical skills? Are we excited at the prospect of new WrestleMania matches like LA Knight vs. AJ Styles and Logan Paul vs. Kevin Owens vs. Randy Orton? And most importantly, can anyone explain these tag team title match qualifiers to us, because we are very confused. Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 3/15/24 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Hated: Rock's concert sucked eggs

This Rock stuff just isn't working for me. It's cool that he's back in the fold and all (I guess, though we'll see once that first match happens) but I can't help but feel like it's a big time square peg in a round hole that was doing just fine without him before he came back to the WWE. Sure, he's had his moments. The sitting at "the head of the table" bit, the patronizing authority figure proclaiming, "I've got a surprise for you and I think you're gonna love it," the shift back toward "Hollywood Rock," and even tonight's return to that era's theme song are all positives. But he wasn't needed in any of this and I think it's convoluted the whole road to WrestleMania, honestly. The eyes he brings to the product? Great. But they were already doing just fine. The time his marathon mic sessions take away from other deserving talents? Not so great. And tonight, his little singalong was just putrid.


One, it was clearly not well-rehearsed. Back in the day, The Rock would come out and strum a few basic chords, serenade us all with his better-than-average voice, and make us laugh with well-crafted one-liners and other memorable quips. This one came off like a jumbled mess. The two local musicians he brought in weren't on the same page and it was just less-than. WWE shouldn't ever be less-than. Boo. Two, none of it was funny. Not to me anyway. We're, what? A week removed from "Diarrhea Dwayne?" I thought potty humor was out with The-Chairman-Who-Shan't-Be-Named. And now we're calling out "drunk and horny" fans and calling Cody's followers "crybaby b****es." I think we can handle a little more sophistication, wrestling fans though we all may be.


And three, this did nothing to further any part of the main event storyline. That's what the road to WrestleMania is supposed to do, from Royal Rumble onward. I still have faith because a Triple H-led creative department has earned enough. WrestleMania itself will be just fun and I'm sure we'll all have a blast, but instead of a smooth ride down said road, here we are just hobbling along under the thumb of ol' "Diarrhea Dwayne." Damn it, I went there. Ugh.

Written by Jon Jordan

Loved: United States Championship match set for Mania

With just three weeks until WrestleMania 40, things are starting to come together to complete the two nights worth of wrestling on "The Grandest Stage of the Them All." But to be fair, I have to start out by acknowledging the fact that I wrote about hating the thought of Randy Orton versus United States Champion Logan Paul following Paul taking him out with brass knuckles at Elimination Chamber, when Paul had already been eliminated from the match. I thought it was a terrible finish for the fact it made the Chamber winner, Drew McIntyre, look slightly less legitimate. As the weeks have gone on, I resigned myself to the fact that it would be Orton versus Paul for the title at WrestleMania – and I honestly didn't think it was a great thing for Orton in his first WrestleMania back after a potentially career-ending injury and subsequent surgery.


Tonight, I was pleasantly surprised with the integration of Kevin Owens into this title match, making it a triple threat. In part, I like this very much because in terms of numbers, it gives Paul less of a chance of retaining the title, and while the kid is good in the ring, I'm extremely sick of him. It's time for Paul to go away for a few months between WrestleMania, and probably Money in the Bank. Give us all a break from him, bring him back before that premium live event to get his heat back on TV, and put him in the ladder match, fine with me.

And adding Owens to the Mania match makes sense, in the fact his feud with Paul didn't really have a solid ending. Owens beat the heck out of him in the Elimination Chamber, basically having a mini-match within that match for quite a while, but they didn't have a big blowoff match following the Chamber. Or if they did, it certainly wasn't memorable. While I love RK-KO or R-KO, or whatever you want to call them, as a tag team, they're two incredible wrestlers who deserve a shot at the title, both having their own personal beef with Paul. I think the three of them are going to mix it up well in the ring and it's going to be an excellent WrestleMania match, whichever night it ends up on. This a match where I'm looking forward to seeing the interactions between the three competitors in the next three weeks because things will likely break down between Owens and Orton, especially if you don't have Paul on all three "SmackDown" shows leading up to the big event.


Written by Daisy Ruth

Hated: What is this qualifying bracket nonsense?

Legado del Fantasma and the LWO put on an incredible opening contest on tonight's edition of "WWE SmackDown", and New Catch Republic snatched a satisfying victory over Pretty Deadly in the second act of the show. All men involved performed to the best of their ability with some innovative offense, and honestly, their performances were some of the very few bright spots in a mostly lackluster episode.


So, you may wonder why I'm writing about them with "hate" in big letters right above. In a perfect world, I would have been able to love both of their performances. However, we need to talk about just how convoluted this qualifying tournament is.

I've spent the entire night trying to wrap my head around what is going on, and even now, as I'm writing this piece, I am still uncertain in how much I understand regarding this messy system of qualifying matches and finalists and everything. To my knowledge, there are multiple, distinct, tournament-style brackets — whatever happened tonight will not impact next week's bracket The Street Profits contest with the Authors of Pain, or The OC's match against Austin Theory and Grayson Waller. They are two separate things, I think. Then, the finalists of those brackets — two separate systems that do not impact each other — will fight at WrestleMania 40. That's just on "SmackDown" alone.


Good grief!

I wish I could enjoy this tag team tournament more, but this whole qualifying, two separate brackets business is far too confusing. It takes up far too much space in my brain — space that could be used for getting excited about WrestleMania or appreciating the incredible talent "SmackDown" has in its tag team division. These matches are genuinely entertaining, but the entire time, I'm trying to use every single brain cell I have to decide how this will impact the landscape of the Six-Pack Challenge Ladder Match. The road to WrestleMania is not a clean-cut one — it never is, and it never should be — but this is not just a path with some obstacles around the way. This qualifying tournament nonsense feels like a labyrinth, and we are thrown in there without a thread to retrace our steps. What should have been a straightforward path to WrestleMania with a few bumps along the way has become a Chutes and Ladders-style route.

I should not have to waste time trying to figure out how these teams are going to get to WrestleMania. I should be spending that time enjoying the path to WrestleMania. I should be using my brainpower to get excited about the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship match! Instead, I am squinting at the screen, trying to decipher Wade Barrett's complicated explanation of an even more complex tournament system, and even then, I am unsure if I'm understanding it correctly.


I'm sure that once I actually watch the Six-Pack Challenge Ladder Match at WrestleMania, then I'll be able to forgive the craziness of this whole qualifying tournament fiasco. Still, let's not forget what a mess this is, and never do it again, please.

Written by Angeline Phu

Loved: AJ and LA can set the stage at Mania

Who knows how this WrestleMania card will actually shape up in terms of match order but for any major pay-per-view or premium live event in professional wrestling, the opening match is vitally important to the show, setting the stage and getting the crowd riled up for, in the case of Mania, a marathon couple of nights. That two-night factor is important here too because I think now, WWE has a tremendous opportunity for two insane openers in Jey Uso vs. Jimmy Uso and now LA Knight vs. AJ Styles.


I'd love to say that the first of those is a lock to kick off one of this year's WrestleMania nights but it would be a better bet to say that nothing at all is a lock at this point in time, especially since The Rock's inclusion has thrown a wrench into just about everything. Say what you will about the hype behind Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns running it back — I see all sides of this but personally would say that this is the right (main) main event, no matter what — but the tag team match added to the mix obviously can't happen on the same night and therefore must happen on the other, which would mean conventional wisdom saying that it either headlines that other night too or opens the show. So there goes one of these.


For me, Knight and Styles would be a phenomenal opener (pun intended), as Styles is a bona fide proven WrestleMania performer, now pegged for his eighth Mania match overall, while Knight seems to still have quite a bit to prove. He was as hot as hot can be for a good while there over the last year but has cooled off significantly of late and the man behind the gimmick seems to carry a chip on his shoulder so one would reason that he'd love to show out. No better way to do as much (other than a main event) than to kick off one of two Mania nights afoot. Whether he (and Styles) gets that shot still remains very much up in the air.

Written by Jon Jordan

Hated: 3 more weeks of Rock, Reigns, & Rhodes

It's absolutely no secret that I am a huge Cody Rhodes fan and I am just dying for this man to finish his story and have him as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, letting Roman Reigns go do whatever it is he does on his part-time schedule. Rhodes is out here working his butt off in dark matches, appearing on TV on "SmackDown," and even agreeing to wrestle both nights of WrestleMania 40. We'll forget about the weirdness of him initially giving up his main event spot to the Rock, and then taking it back. It's something I'm trying to block out of my memory moving forward. But, with three weeks, meaning three more episodes of "WWE Raw" and "SmackDown" before Rhodes, the Rock, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins get to Philadelphia, I'm slowly losing steam on all of this. I was also in the camp of hating the Rock's segment tonight, especially with him making fun of Rhodes for crying, but that's an entirely different story.


What my overarching issue with all of this is, is the fact we've seen everything there is to do with so many weeks left until WrestleMania. We went through all the insanity with the match change-ups and Rhodes doubling back, taking his match back. We've seen Rhodes team up with Rollins to attempt to take down the Bloodline. The match stipulations for both nights of Mania were set up by the Rock, then agreed to by Rhodes and Rollins. There's been physicality at the WrestleMania Kickoff press conference in Las Vegas, and again last week when Rhodes slapped the taste out of the Rock's mouth. We've seen the Rock turning heel and going right back to the Attitude Era in the mix of all of this. Heck, speaking of that, we've even seen a "Rock Concert," something I didn't have on my 2024 bingo card. I just have no idea what's going to happen that's actually going to be interesting moving forward in the next few weeks. Reigns and Rhodes are set to face off again on "SmackDown" next week, and I'm sure it's going to be a lame, lazy main event segment, with super long entrances, and they're just going to reiterate what they've already said a million times before. There's just nothing new that can be done in the next 21 days. I'm bored. I love Rhodes. So I HATE the fact that it's beginning to bore me.


I know I'm going to love both the matches when WrestleMania actually rolls around. I'm certain that the Rock and Reigns are going to win on night one, setting up the insanity that will be the Bloodline Rules match for Reigns and Rhodes for the title on night two. There's no way they brought that up without knowing they were going to do something like that. But, for now, I guess I'll grit my teeth, listen to these Rock promos that have me feeling like I'm back in 1998, and remind myself that it's going to be worth it once we turn the calendars to April and get to the City of Brotherly Love.

Written by Daisy Ruth

Loved: The women main event SmackDown

WWE has really been struggling to give a damn about Bayley for the last few months, let alone her WrestleMania 40 match against IYO SKY. On "SmackDown", her story with Damage CTRL got the main event slot.


(It was also the only women's match on the show. In fact, it was the only female representation on the show (other than Elektra Lopez and Zelina Vega accompanying their respective factions to the ring). This is also the same night that fans chanted "Whoop That Trick!" at Mama Rhodes when The Rock pulled out a strap. They chanted it again during the main event.)

Bayley finally had a shot at revenge against Dakota Kai after she turned on her two weeks ago. Bayley and Kai got their hands on each other, even if the match was on the shorter side (clocked in at just over seven minutes). There was interference from the other members of Damage CTRL, as expected. Beating Bayley down just weeks before her 'Mania match gives her something else to overcome besides WWE's disrespect.


Naomi came in to have Bayley's back. She hinted last week that she supported her while Bianca Belair told her that she doesn't know how Bayley was when she was gone. It's nice to see this women's storyline spread out to include other women. It will hopefully lead to other women joining Bayley and Naomi in trying to take down Damage CTRL.

Overall, it was a baby step in the right direction. Damage CTRL has been a central focus of the women's division for a while and they deserve main event spots to tell their story.

Written by Samantha Schipman