By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,277)
Charlotte, North Carolina at Spectrum Center
Aired live February 9, 2024 on Fox
Corey Graves and Wade Barrett spoke over footage of the city of Charlotte, and then Triple H was shown walking through the backstage area. Footage was shown of the WrestleMania XL Press Event, focused heavily on the situation with Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes, and The Rock. The Match between Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns was then officially advertised for WrestleMania.
In the arena, Triple H made his ring entrance to address the controversy. He was introduced as Paul “Triple H” Levesque. Nick Aldis and Adam Pearce were also in the ring. Triple H said it feels like they are on the road to WrestleMania. He welcomed the crowd to Smackdown and said yesterday in Las Vegas it was a great event to get them started on the road to the grandest stage of them all. Triple H then said the event took a hard turn, and the road to WrestleMania is now on fire. A “Rocky Sucks” chant broke out, and Triple H paused to soak it in.
He then said there was some confusion in the air, and perhaps some people don’t know their role. Triple H said people tried to assert their authority, when they don’t really have any. He insisted on making it clear that it doesn’t matter where people sit, it doesn’t matter where people sit, the answers only come from one person and right now you’re looking at him. Triple H then said in the Main Event of WrestleMania 40 Roman Reigns will defend his Universal Championship against Cody Rhodes. A Cody change broke out. He then said there are people backstage who will be disappointed, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t like that decision.
Triple H then said welcome to the Road to WrestleMania. Nick Aldis then took the microphone and said it was time to discuss the challenger for Seth Rollins. After collective discussion, it was decided Seth Rollins’ challenger at WrestleMania would be determined in Perth, Australia in an Elimination Chamber match. He then handed things over to Adam Pearce to announce the competitors in qualifying matches for the Chamber. Randy Orton, Bronson Reed, Kevin Owens, Logan Paul, AJ Styles, The Miz, Bobby Lashley, Ivar, Drew McIntyre, Sami Zayn, Dominick Mysterio, and LA Knight will compete for opportunities to fill the Elimination Chamber match.
Pearce announced the first match would take place right now between AJ Styles and this man….Drew McIntyre. He made his entrance and had a microphone and verbally assaulted CM Punk .He ripped him for fumbling his WrestleMania opportunity, and said “DM Hunk” would promise that zero percent of the profits for his T-Shirt would go to Punk. McIntyre then said he would go through the best WWE has to offer to get his title opportunity at WrestleMania, and he would become a Champion that was best for business. AJ Styles made his ring entrance…[c]
My Take: A solid start to the show. I guess we’ll see if we get a response from The Bloodline camp on this show or a future edition of Smackdown, but Triple H has asserted his authority for now. The Elimination Chamber setup for Perth looks like it could make for a fun match. Lots of good possibilities or an outcome.
Before the referee could ring the bell, LA Knight made his entrance to join the commentary team.
1. Drew McIntyre vs. AJ Styles in an Elimination Chamber Qualifier: McIntyre dropped Styles straight away with a nasty chop. Styles made a quick recovery with some strikes, but Drew caught him coming off the second rope and gave him a vertical suplex. He followed up with another knife edge chop. Styles woke up and delivered some chops of his own. He then hit the ropes, and McIntyre caught him coming across the ring with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker.
Styles got back into things by targeting McIntyre’s knee. Drew recovered and the match spilled outside. He had a visible limp from the shot to the knee, but was able to throw Styles over the barricade into the timekeeper’s area…[c]
Both men were back in the ring and trading blows. Styles got the better of it with a clothesline and a running forearm. Drew got back to his feet and landed some heavy strikes, and then picked up Styles onto his shoulders and climbed to the second rope. Styles slipped out and pulled Drew into a sunset flip powerbomb for a near fall. McIntyre fired up and landed a future shock DDT, but the kip up aggravated his bad knee. McIntyre went for a Claymore anyway, but Styles got out of the way.
Styles capitalized and applied a calf crusher, but McIntyre quickly scrambled to reach the ropes. Styles went to the apron and set up for a Phenomenal Forearm, but McIntyre landed a headbutt that sent Styles out to the floor. McIntyre launched Styles over the announce table near LA Knight. Styles got up, and McIntyre shoved Styles into Knight. Styles rolled up McIntyre into the ring, but Knight caused the ref to miss the count with his distraction. He then knocked Knight to the floor, but turned around into a Claymore kick. McIntyre covered and got the win.
Drew McIntyre defeated AJ Styles at 11:43.
After the match, McIntyre celebrated his victory and pointed at the WrestleMania sign. Sami Zayn was then interviewed backstage, and was told he would face Randy Orton later on tonight. He replied that nothing is certain in WWE, and he’s watching his WrestleMania Main Event window close fast. Sami said if he gets through a 14 time World Champion in Randy Orton, he already has Drew McIntyre waiting for him on the other side. He said it’s not an easy path, but he’ll take it…[c]
My Take: A strong match from AJ and Drew, but you could see the writing on the wall when Knight joined on commentary. Sami seemed a little down on his chances to get into the Chamber, so maybe that means we’re getting an upset? Who knows.
A video package was shown of Ryan Blaney from Nascar getting the VIP treatment. The Rock will be at the Daytona 500 this year.
Pretty Deadly was then shown looking over the water from a gazebo for a vignette. They saw a ghostly version of Queen Elizabeth in the sky. They both lamented Pete Dunne, and Kit Wilson showed up his deformed hand from all the finger manipulation. They said they would come back to Smackdown and show everyone what they could do. Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate were shown backstage, followed by DIY. Those two teams will face off for a Title Opportunity at Elimination Chamber later tonight. Another video package then aired that focused on the breakdown of Damage Ctrl last week. Bayley was then shown walking into the building earlier in the afternoon. She will address Damage Ctrl later.
In the arena, Bianca Belair made her entrance. Michin then followed.
2. Michin vs. Bianca Belair in an Elimination Chamber Qualifier: Bianca went for a KOD right out of the gate, but Michin escaped and landed a kick for a one count. The match spilled outside and Michin landed a soccer kick on Bianca from the apron…[c]
Belair fought back into the match as the show returned, but was quickly cut down with a lariat. She then followed up with a dropkick. Michin missed a cannonball attempt in the corner, and Bianca capitalized with a backbreaker. Bianca then landed a spinebuster and covered for a two count. She then landed ten punches in the corner, but Michin slipped out and landed a superplex for a near fall or her own. Michin setup for Eat Defeat, but Bianca was able to escape. She was able to land it a moment later, but Bianca was sent out of the ring.
Michin pulled her back into the ring for a Styles Clash, but Bianca reversed out and landed a KOD and covered for the win.
Bianca Belair defeated Michin at 7:08
Bianca celebrated her Chamber berth, and her photo was added to the Chamber graphic. Bayley was then shown backstage making her way out to speak next…[c]
My Take: A solid match with the expected outcome. Michin got in quite a bit of offense but the outcome never really felt in doubt.
Bron Breakker was shown speaking with Triple H backstage. Triple H told him he was proud and wanted to see what he could do at this level. Bron asked him if he could ask him questions about his decision about signing with Raw or Smackdown. Paul Heyman approached and Triple H asked him what he wanted. Heyman begged off and said he can see now is a bad time. He told him he’d be back next week with his Tribal Chief Roman Reigns……and The Rock. Triple H said he was looking forward to it.
Bayley made her entrance in the arena. She said she had been struggling to put together the words to talk about what happened last week, and part of her wishes it never happened at all. Bayley polled the crowd and asked if they were cool right now, and they chanted her name. She said everyone knows where her heart is, and that Damage Ctrl meant everything to her. Bayley said all she did was give to Damage Ctrl, and all they did was take.
But after she won the Royal Rumble, she thought things might change for the better. Instead, they laughed behind her back and got quiet when she got in the room. Bayley then said Iyo was going to learn the hard way at WrestleMania. Dakota Kai made her entrance and asked why Bayley hadn’t been answering her texts. She made the case that everything was real in Damage Ctrl until Kairi and Asuka got in Iyo’s head. Bayley asked why she didn’t tell her, and Dakota’s explanation was that she didn’t know how to tell her because it seemed like her plan was working.
Bayley demanded to know where she stands right now, and Iyo interrupted and made her entrance with Kairi and Asuka. Dakota bailed and left Bayley by herself in the ring. Dakota grabbed a chair and got in the ring. She appeared like she was going to strike Bayley, but instead cleared the heels off the ring apron. The crowd chanted for them to hug it out, but they kept their distance.
Backstage, Randy Orton was interviewed by Kayla Braxton. He spoke about watching from the sidelines at last year’s WrestleMania, and that it was painful. Randy then said he has always known when to strike, and when he makes it into the elimination chamber, he would deploy the three most dangerous letters in WWE, the RKO.
Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne made their entrance for the number one contenders Tag Match. They will face DIY next…[c]
My Take: Dakota is the wild card. Ultimately I think she ends up heel, but it’s smart not to give away the entire game at once. The Rock and Roman confirmed for next week’s Smackdown should give a nice boost to ratings.
Bobby Lashley and The Street Profits were joined backstage by B-Fab. They said Final Testament found out what it means to get physical with them last week. Lashley said he would defeat Bronson Reed on Monday’s Raw and go on to make WrestleMania All Mighty. In the arena, DIY made their ring entrance.
3. Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate vs. DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa) for a Tag Team Championship Opportunity: Bate and Gargano began the match. They worked a series of pinfall reversals and got some polite applause. Pete Dunne made a blind tag and then caught Gargano with a big lariat. Ciampa then tagged in and he fired back with a back elbow. The action spilled to the floor, where DIY landed a series of strikes and dives that sent both Bate and Dunne into the announce table…[c]
The action was fast and furious as the show returned. Dunne was taken out by a double team, and Gargano landed a lariat on Bate. There was a wild double spin by Bate. The action got wild as Gargano landed a diving DDT on Dunne to the floor. Ciampa landed Project Ciampa on Bate for a near fall. Gargano tagged in and DIY lined up for Meet in the Middle, but Dunne broke it up by wrenching on Ciampa’s fingers. Bate then landed a Double Clothesline. Gargano responded with a superkick.
Bate dove on Ciampa on the outside. Dunne then landed a hard right hand and a The Bitter End on Gargano and got the win.
Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate defeated DIY at 8:40 to earn a Tag Team Title Match
Both teams fist bumped after the match to show respect. Dominik Mysterio said it didn’t matter who won that match, because Finn Balor and Damian Priest would defeat them at Elimination Chamber. He then said Rhea would defeat Nia Jax and he would win the Chamber match to collect some gold of his own. Kevin Owens walked up and said he was the guy Mysterio would face next week on Smackdown, and he would dedicate his victory to the greatest Luchador of all time, Rey Mysterio. Dominik left and R-Truth walked up and told Owens not to get caught by Nick. He asked if he meant Nick Mysterio, but he said he meant Nick Aldis…[c]
My Take: A fun tag match. I thought DIY might get another shot, but this match feels fresh. I don’t expect Bate and Dunne to win it all, but if Bate eats the loss it could be a path to frustration for Dunne, who is much better as a heel.
Logan Paul berated Nick Aldis for putting him in a qualifying match for Elimination Chamber instead of finding him a challenger for the US Title. He asserted that he should be getting The Rock treatment where he gets rock star treatment, smashes people in the face, and gets back on the jet. Paul demanded to know his challenger for next week, and Aldis said it was someone he knows quite well, The Miz. Shotzi will take on Tiffany Stratton, and Zelina Vega will face Naomi next week on Smackdown in Elimination Chamber qualifiers as well.
Sami Zayn made his entrance for the Main Event. He was followed by Randy Orton. They are up next…[c]
My Take: Nick Aldis and Adam Pearce suddenly getting along to show a management “United Front” is funny considering they hated each other as recently as last week.
4. Randy Orton vs. Sami Zayn in an Elimination Chamber Qualifier: They went back and forth early on. Orton escaped to the floor early on and Sami performed a backflip off the ropes to avoid crashing and burning on a dive attempt. Back in the ring, they traded mounted punches in the corner. On the outside again, Zayn landed a moonsault off the barricade, but only connected with about 20% of it. Orton stuffed another dive attempt, but Zayn turned the tables again and landed a back suplex on the announce table…[c]
Sami landed a tornado DDT and then climbed the top rope. Orton recovered and knocked him into a perched position on the top rope. Orton then landed a superplex from the top rope and immediately sold his back. He managed to land a snap powerslam, but got dumped to the floor by Zayn attempting a draping DDT. Zayn then landed a suicide dive. Orton fought back and returned the favor of a suplex on the announce table.
He followed up with a draping DDT, but got rolled up on an RKO attempt for a near fall. Sami then followed up with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a close near fall. Sami leapfrogged Orton, but turned into an RKO. Orton covered and got the win.
Randy Orton defeated Sami Zayn to qualify for Elimination Chamber at 11:01
Sami left the ring frustrated with his loss, and Orton turned around to see Drew McIntyre staring at him. They had some words off mic to close the show.
My Take: Orton is the superstar, so I assumed he would win here, but I hadn’t ruled out interference from Solo or AJ Styles to give Sami the dub. The Elimination Chamber will end up being a loaded match when all is said and done, but I still give McIntyre the edge to challenge Seth at WrestleMania. It’s not a match we haven’t seen before, but there’s plenty of history to play on and they work very well together.