WWE Friday Night Smackdown results (4/26): Barnett’s review of the WWE Draft night one, Cody Rhodes and AJ Styles contract signing for the WWE Championship match at Backlash France

By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)

WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,288)
Cincinnati, Ohio at Heritage Bank Center
Aired live April 26, 2024 on Fox

Cody Rhodes, AJ Styles, Jade Cargill, and Bianca Belair were shown walking backstage. Corey Graves introduced the draft rules, including the change of protected champions. Raw and Smackdown representatives were shown in their respective “draft rooms” backstage. Kayla Braxton interviewed Paul Heyman backstage and asked about rumors regarding Roman Reigns. He explained Roman Reigns had “withdrawn from eligibility” from the draft because he will not be returning in the immediate future, and he didn’t want to hog the first draft pick. He said the pressure is on Nick Aldis to change the WWE with his first draft pick. 

Jackie Redmond was then shown at the WWE performance center with the NXT Superstars seated in a set of makeshift bleachers. There was also a crowd there. Redmond said everyone felt the pressure and wanted to know who was going to be picked to be the next big thing. Corey Graves was then shown in the ring. There were two tables and chairs setup. He said he was selected to moderate the contract singing for the WWE Championship match at Backlash. He introduced AJ Styles first, followed by Cody Rhodes. 

The crowd lit up for Cody. AJ Styles grabbed a microphone and said before he signed the contract. He said they had two Georgia boys mixing it up for the first time with the greatest prize in the world on the line. He explained that the crowd boos him and he accepted it, but he didn’t like LA Knight and he got under his skin. That’s why he lost at WrestleMania, but he remembered he was phenomenal and he beat him last week for a shot at Cody Rhodes at Backlash. He referenced Dusty Rhodes and how much he learned from him, and how he and Cody have traveled some of the same roads to prove themselves outside of WWE.

Styles said he respected Cody and when he looks at the title it’s worth more than its weight in gold to him. He said we’ll find out if Cody can carry the title at Backlash. He then signed the contract. Cody replied that he respects Styles, but that gets put aside at Backlash. He said he didn’t appreciate Styles questioning whether he could carry the weight of the title, and that their match at Backlash wasn’t a dream match, it was a must win. They met at the podium where the title rested, and Styles told Cody that it was great to see him finish his story at WrestleMania, but a shame that his title reign had to end at Backlash. They shook hands and Styles left the ring. 

Cody then celebrated with the title on the walkway to the ring. Triple H’s music hit and he invited Cody over to the draft podium with him. Triple H spoke about General Managers having to protect the roster they have and not draft the roster they want. Cody would announce the Smackdown picks, and Triple H would read the Raw picks. 

2024 WWE Draft Round One:

Smackdown selected Bianca Belair

Raw selected Jey Uso

Smackdown selected Carmelo Hayes from NXT

Raw selected Seth Rollins

After the picks were announced, Carmelo Hayes made his entrance and walked out on the stage. He spoke about being the hottest thing out. A “whoop that trick” chant broke out, and Hayes said he already did. He continued and said that Cody recently said that when you come at the King you best not miss, and then told Cody then when he shoots he doesn’t miss. Hayes then said as a first round draft pick he can’t think of a better place to shoot his shot than right at Cody Rhodes. Cody hemmed and hawed for a moment, and then accepted the match for later tonight. 

My Take: Outside of Carmelo, a fairly conservative group of picks for round one. The promo from Cody Rhodes and Styles was ok but I’m a bit fatigued of everybody telling their Dusty Rhodes story whenever they feud with Cody. They need to find a different lever to get under Cody’s skin. Hayes seemed a little nervous in the big moment, but he’ll be ok.

Competitors for the first match were already in the ring.

1. Legado Del Fantasma (Angel and Berto) vs. The LWO (Rey Mysterio and Dragon Lee): Lee took to the air early and took down Berto with a flying head scissors. He then hit the ropes and got dumped to the floor when Angel pulled the middle and top rope apart…[c]

Dragon Lee made a hot tag to Rey Mysterio. He entered the match and took down Angel with a seated senton and a Code Red. Berto broke up the fall on the Code Red. Berto picked up Mysterio, but was taken out of the ring by a head scissors. Angel set up for the Wing Clipper, but Rey countered and tripped Angel onto the second rope. He landed a 619 and Dragon Lee tagged himself in. He landed Enter the Dragon and got the win. 

The LWO defeated Legado Del Fantasma at 5:12

After the match, Santos Escobar walked out to ringside with Elektra Lopez. Escobar said he is many things but he is not a liar. He said Elektra had been working for weeks to find the footage, and what Rey was going to see would be very interesting. The footage showed Carlito executing the attack and then acting as if he stumbled upon Dragon Lee after being injured. Carlito acted manic and shoved Dragon Lee into Mysterio before landing a backstabber on Lee. He then quickly scurried out of the arena through the stands…[c]

My Take: The babyfaces got a fairly easy victory before the betrayal was revealed to give Legado some of their heat back. We’ll see if Carlito can find his stride as a heel. 

Carlito vs. Cody Rhodes will take place in the Main Event. Bron Breakker made his entrance for the next match. Cedric Alexander was already in the ring. Bron told Cedric he would break him in half. 

2. Bron Breakker vs. Cedric Alexander: Bron hit a spear about 10 seconds in and got the win.

Bron Breakker defeated Cedric Alexander at 0:13

After the match, we got a video recap of Tiffany Stratton interfering in last week’s Main Event. Backstage, Tiffany Stratton spoke to Nick Aldis and asked where her title shot was after she dropped Naomi and Bayley last week. Aldis said his watch is not set to Tiffy Time, and that he nearly pushed her to the back of the line, but someone convinced him not to. Aldis said she would have a match with Naomi later and the winner would get a title match at Backlash. Bayley walked up and said this was all her idea, and Stratton was beside her self. She told Bayley she had a Tiffanypiphany and that she should come out to ringside later and watch her beat Naomi like she couldn’t.

Michelle McCool was shown leaving the Smackdown Draft Room. Torrie Wilson exited the Raw Draft Room. Round 2 is up next…[c]

My Take: Bron is getting a monster push and it’s great to see. I’m still guessing we’re getting a Triple Threat or Fatal Four Way for Bayley’s title at Backlash if Iyo shows up.

Michelle McCool and Torrie Wilson made their way out to the draft podium. 

2024 WWE Draft Round Two:

Smackdown selected Randy Orton

Raw selected Bron Breakker

Smackdown selected Nia Jax

Raw selected Liv Morgan

Footage of the Bloodline’s actions were shown from last week. Graves and Barrett were shocked The Bloodline wasn’t taken in the first two rounds of the draft. Solo pulled up to the arena and Paul Heyman received him. Solo demanded to know if the Bloodline had been drafted. Heyman explained that Roman had withdrawn from the draft and that with Solo adding new members, nobody knows what they are getting with the Bloodline in the draft. Tama Tonga walked up, and Solo asked Heyman to repeat himself. Before he could speak, Kevin Owens arrived at started kicking ass. Referees and officials quickly stepped in to break up the fight…[c]

My Take: Splitting up Breakker and Hayes makes sense. This is a fairly conservative WWE draft thus far. No hugely consequential roster shake ups so far.

A video recap of the brawl from the prior segment was shown. Kayla Braxton stood on the stage and brought out Bianca Belair for an interview. She looked like a billion dollars in a white dress. Kayla asked her about challenging the Kabuki Warriors with Jade Cargill at Backlash. She said she hoped Jade gets drafted to Smackdown so they can continue to dismantle Damage Ctrl together for what they had to done to her and the division. She then said once they take the titles from the Kabuki Warriors, they wouldn’t have any reason to show their faces on Smackdown again. 

The Kabuki Warriors walked out and got in the face of Bianca, and she was quickly joined by Jade Cargill. They jawed back and forth until Kevin Owens and Tama Tonga’s fight spilled out onto the stage. They brawled into the ring and eventually Solo Sikoa joined them and turned the tables. Numerous WWE officials walked out and got turned away by The Bloodline. Randy Orton then made his entrance and cleared the Bloodline out of the ring. WWE officials eventually kept everyone apart.

Bubba Ray was shown exiting the Smackdown Draft Room, and Devon exited the Raw Draft Room…[c]

My Take: Orton and Owens getting to face Tama Tonga and Solo at Backlash maybe? They need to fill out that card. It would be a good place to debut Jacob Fatu as well. I’m looking forward to the Women’s Tag Match. Hopefully it turns out well.

The Dudley Boyz made their way out to the draft podium. Bubba picked for Smackdown and Devon picked for Raw.

2024 WWE Draft Round Three:

Smackdown selected LA Knight

Raw selected Ricochet

Smackdown selected The Bloodline (Solo Sikoa, Tama Tonga, Paul Heyman)

Raw selected Sheamus

Tiffany Stratton made her entrance after the draft picks concluded. She was followed by Naomi. Bayley joined in on commentary. 

3. Naomi vs Tiffany Stratton: The match spilled to ringside very early. Naomi slammed Stratton onto the ring apron. She then went up top, but Stratton avoided her and tripped her onto the second rope. Tiffany then landed a hip attack and sent Naomi out onto the apron. She attempted a suplex back into the ring, but Naomi avoided it and slammed Stratton into the apron with a modified facebuster. She then jumped off the apron onto Tiffany with a splits version of a splash. Bayley and Naomi celebrated heading into the break…[c]

Naomi landed a bit of a clumsy driver for a two count. Both women spun out in the middle of the ring attempting to do simultaneous facebusters. Naomi landed a kick and then drove Stratton into the second buckle with a bulldog. At the commentary table, Nia Jax attacked Bayley and left her laying. Naomi tried to intervene, but Jax attacked her and the match was called off. 

The match ended in no contest at 6:13

After the match was called off, Stratton pulled both Naomi and Bayley into the ring and landed a double Prettiest Moonsault ever. Backstage, The Street Profits and B-Fab were interviewed about their tag team title shot. B-Fab said the draft didn’t matter, as they would beat A-Town Down Under at Backlash and have a first class ticket to stay on Smackdown. Waller and Theory approached and mocked Dawkins for his Bengals fandom. Lashley showed up and cleared them out. Teddy Long and JBL were seen coming out of the Smackdown and Raw Draft Rooms…[c]

My Take: I didn’t expect a finish to that match, but I didn’t think it would be Nia getting involved. The draft remains incredibly conservative thus far. 

Backstage, Karrion Kross and Scarlett dragged a cameraman to observe AOP destroying New Catch Republic. Kross said no matter what brand they are on, the violence would continue until they got what they wanted. What that is remains anyone’s guess. 

Teddy Long and JBL walked out to the Draft Podium. 

2024 WWE Draft Round Four:

Smackdown Selected AJ Styles

Raw selected Alpha Academy

Smackdown selected Andrade

Raw selected Kiana James

After the round completed, a video package aired for Kiana James. Jackie Redmond interviewed Kiana James from the performance center. She expressed gratitude and said she was proud of what she accomplished in NXT. James then said she would go and prove that she was the 1%. Carmelo Hayes vs. Cody Rhodes is up next…[c]

My Take: I’m a fan of the Kiana James pick to Raw. Andrade makes sense for Smackdown if Charlotte Flair is returning to the brand when she’s done rehabbing her knee. I’m surprised to see so many picks used to retain existing talent to the brands. Maybe the post show picks and Raw will provide some legitimate surprises.

Nick Aldis was interviewed backstage by Kayla Braxton. He said he was excited for new Smackdown stars to show out for the blue brand, and then said he had some matches to announce for Backlash. He announced Bayley would defend her title against Naomi and Tiffany Stratton. He then brought Teddy Long into frame to announce The Bloodline vs. Kevin Owens and Randy Orton. A face to face between Cody and AJ Styles was announced for next week. AOP will face New Catch Republic, and The Street Profits vs. A-Town Down Under for the WWE Tag Team Championships. Kevin Owens and Randy Orton will host the first ever RKO show as well. 

In the arena, Carmelo Hayes made his ring entrance, followed by Cody Rhodes. 

4. Cody Rhodes vs. Carmelo Hayes: Cody got the better of an early exchange, but Hayes turned things around with a springboard body block. Cody replied with a lariat and asked Hayes if he thought he was ready…[c]

Rhodes remained in control and landed a back body drop and a lariat. Hayes replied with a tilt a whirl facebuster followed by a springboard fadeaway DDT for a two count. Cody replied with a disaster kick that turned Hayes inside out for a close near fall. Both men traded punches on their way back to their feet. Cody landed a running powerslam and got a close near fall again. Cody landed a Cody Cutter and covered for a near fall. He lined up for a CrossRhodes, but Carmelo avoided it and landed the First 48. He then climbed the top rope, but Cody got out of the way. 

Both guys attempted springboard moves, but whiffed. Cody landed awkwardly on his shoulder. He quickly pulled Carmelo in for a CrossRhodes and got the win. 

Cody Rhodes defeated Carmelo Hayes at 8:58

After the match, Cody said a few words to Carmelo and then celebrated with his WWE Title. Hayes looked disappointed. Cody didn’t seem worse for wear after the match thankfully. AJ Styles appeared in the ring and had a staredown with Rhodes. He didn’t attack him, but motioned to him that he was that close. They shook hands to close the show. 

My Take: A solid match to close the show. I can’t say I was impressed by night one of the draft. A lot of pieces are remaining in place along with the Champions being ineligible. Here’s hoping there are some additional roster swaps among those who went undrafted in the post show moves.



Readers Comments (12)

  1. I wonder why AJ Styles never mentioned how he beat Dusty in the past…or how they were both in B.C. in Japan. Would have added so much more intrigue to this story. Still going to be a great match and it was a good promo, but I am surprised it was never mentioned.

  2. WWE should do this the old way with the random generator because that would makes as much sense as these picks do

    • Exactly. It doesn’t make any sense at all for Ricochet to be picked exactly one pick before the whole Bloodline. There is no logic in the world where that makes sense.

      • But you’re not just getting Ricochet — you’re also getting Samantha Irvin. #WorthIt

      • It’s ridiculous in a real world sense, but I’ll give it a shot. In the storyline world, Sikoa hasn’t won a match since he beat John Cena last year, Tama Tonga hasn’t had a WWE match yet, and Paul Heyman is a shit stirring politician who makes life miserable for the general managers. The Sikoa and Tonga characters have been out of control since Roman disappeared. Ricochet is a nice safe option compared to these lunatics.

        But even if you buy my attempt to make sense of it, they didn’t tell that story. I wouldn’t expect them to focus on Sikoa’s losing streak, but they could have played up how out of control Sikoa and Tonga have been while explaining that neither GM wants to spend a high pick on such an unstable duo. Once they were drafted, the focus should have shifted to how they slid so far that Nick Aldis felt the value of the pick was worth the risk.

  3. I’m sure the talent appreciates the increased stability but it sure makes for a much more boring draft

  4. Not sure why you’d hype Carmelo up, debut him, and then have him lose. Maybe by a DQ finish, if Styles got involved.

  5. I predicted that Nix Jax would end up on SmackDown and she did. I think this was a smart move to keep her away from the Liv-Rhea storyline. I think Nia should be the one to beat Bayley. Tiffy’s momentum is there too.

    Kiana James to Raw is interesting, but they need to change her gimmick some on the main roster. She’s a really good in-ring wrestler, maybe the best down in NXT before she left.

    I’d like to see Roxanne Perez drafted to Raw too and form a partnership with Liv Morgan in Judgment Day.

  6. Hmm…boring draft, botches, same old Bloodline stuff, some uneventful matches with little story progression, yet I don’t see the DoofusOne and his crew with their vitriol and racist/focus on stereotypes rants anywhere in this thread. I wonder why.

    • Negative Nancys April 29, 2024 @ 6:43 pm

      They some WWE jocksniffers, but when AEW books a similar show, they’re all in these comments sections trying to remind us how bad of a product AEW is supposed to be.

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