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SmackDown recap & reactions (Feb. 9, 2024): It doesn’t matter what you think

WWE wasted no time getting Triple H out in front of the live audience on Friday Night SmackDown this week, eager to capitalize on the scorching hot angle they ran in Las Vegas at the WrestleMania 40 Kickoff press event. Cody Rhodes revealed he will indeed challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal championship for the second year in a row, and then he went and pissed off The Rock and got slapped in the face for it.

The Bloodline — meaning Reigns and The Rock, I guess — outright told Triple H to “handle it or we will.” Intrigue!

Naturally, that led to a ton of excitement around what the CCO would have to say on the blue brand this week. He got right to it — he felt like there was some confusion and “some people don’t know their role” and people tried to assert their authority when they really don’t have any.

Whether anybody likes it or not, the answers come from one place and one place only, and that would be Triple H. And then he said it outright — Reigns will defend the championship in the main event of WrestleMania 40 against Cody Rhodes. That’s just what it is, and that’s just what it’s going to be.

The fans, by the way, absolutely ate this up, with jeering chants for The Rock and cheerful chants for Rhodes.

The artist formerly known as The Game really drove it home by ending off saying that while some in the back may not like this decision IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THEY DON’T LIKE THIS DECISION. They really played up to the rumors of the behind-the-scenes power struggle without coming right out and mentioning it. It’s clear they’re going to come back to this in some way.

It will be most interesting to see the way they do. Either way, Triple H and Cody Rhodes are positioned as the babyfaces in a big way and that means The Rock is a full blown heel again.

What a glorious day.

There’s plenty of time until Philadelphia, and considering all the twists we’ve already seen in all this — whether they were originally planned or not — I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Later, when Triple H was meeting with Bron Breakker, Paul Heyman interrupted just to say he would be back next week with his Tribal Chief … and The Rock.

“Looking forward to it,” responded Triple H.

Aren’t we all.

With Rhodes officially challenging Reigns for his WWE Universal championship, that leaves Seth Rollins without a dance partner at the biggest show of the year. They wasted zero time getting right to announcing how they would find his next challenger.

Elimination Chamber.

A field of 12 was revealed for qualifying matches, beginning on this show, leading to Perth, Australia later this month for the Chamber match. Up first was Drew McIntyre and AJ Styles, but before all that they smartly allowed the former some time on the microphone and he continued his run of genius:

God, I love this guy. So much at this point that I think they maybe should give him what he’s been after for all this time.

Thankfully, he defeated Styles thanks to an unintended assist from LA Knight, who was out on commentary spitting game and found himself bumped into and getting involved. It would appear they’re going to keep the Knight-Styles feud alive.

Later, Sami Zayn and Randy Orton got together to determine the next qualifier and had themselves a pretty damn good TV main event match that saw the latter go over with the RKO.

After, McIntyre hopped the ring to start jawing at Orton to give us a stupid early preview of the match, and I loved that too. Again, Drew Mac deserves the world right now and I hope WWE gives it to him.

The women’s title picture took focus on this show, with Bayley getting the chance to cut a promo by herself in the ring. WWE promoted it by saying it would be her chance to speak on leaving Damage CTRL.

She’s not an idiot, you know. She saw how the others were being and she was trying to do the right thing for them anyway. The fans loved her and showered her with chants and cheers. This wasn’t the hugger Bayley but she damn sure appreciated it.

Still, they added some depth to the story by having Dakota Kai rush out to say that she was worried about Bayley ghosting her and wondering what’s going on and why this is going down this way. Bayley pushed back against Kai playing dumb, and Dakota blamed The Kabuki Warriors for causing a rift in the original trio.

So Bayley put her to a choice — whose side are you on?

Enter Iyo Sky, Kairi Sane, and Asuka. Kai bailed out of the ring and grabbed a chair as the trio surrounded Bayley. She made like she was going to attack Bayley with it but instead fought off the others before dropping the chair and making like she’s siding with the original leader.

Still, the alliance seemed uneasy.

I’m not sure they need anymore intrigue like this for this story but they did well to address Kai’s status. It only makes sense that there would be questions surrounding where her loyalties lie, considering it was Bayley who brought her back into the fold and up to the main roster.

All the rest

  • Pretty Deadly got a couple minute pre-tape where they went to the water, saw the Queen in the clouds, and called Pete Dunne “Pete Do-Nay” while lamenting Kit Wilson’s poor mangled fingers. It was such a brief video if you blinked you missed it but I’ll be damned if these two aren’t hugely entertaining every opportunity they get to be on TV. Maximize those minutes, yes boys!
  • Bianca Belair defeated Michin to qualify for the women’s Elimination Chamber match later this month in Perth. They didn’t get a ton of time and it was the usual match involving Michin, where she’s game and presented every bit like a legitimate threat but she did the job like she always does.
  • Bron Breakker was once again back on the main stage this week, this time meeting up with Triple H backstage to ask him for advice on what he should do in regards to choosing which brand to sign with. It never went anywhere, considering they were interrupted, but they’re setting up for a big Breakker push sooner rather than later.
  • British Strong Style defeated DIY to advance to Elimination Chamber and a title shot against The Judgment Day. The match was fun and I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Don’t love their chances at the event but at least we won’t have to watch DIY there.
  • Logan Paul was supposed to find a new United States title challenger. Instead, he was put in the qualifying matches for the Elimination Chamber and he was hot mad about this, yelling at Nick Aldis about not getting “The Rock treatment.” He agreed to do the match anyway, and pledged to become a double champion at WrestleMania. He gets The Miz next week.

Really enjoyed this show. Am loving all the angles they’re taking for the big shows coming up.

Grade: A-

Your turn.

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