WWE SmackDown 4/26/2024: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," which this week doubled as Night 1 of the 2024 WWE Draft! And like all episodes of TV involving the WWE Draft, it was certainly an episode of TV! The magic box was flashing lights at us, that's for sure! We have a few takes on the actual draft proceedings in this here completely subjective opinion piece, and a few more takes on less draft-centric stuff; the one thing we know for sure is that we can't talk about everything that happened, so be sure you've caught up via our "SmackDown" results page before continuing!


Excellent, welcome back! Now, were there any draft picks that absolutely blew us away? Are we more blown away by the fact that WWE is still doing a draft at all? And most importantly, can someone please poke Cody Rhodes and AJ Styles with a stick until they actually do something? Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 4/26/24 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Loved: If you stay on top, you never have to get on top

Formula 1 has Silly Season, and WWE has the draft. In the chaotic hustle and bustle of Superstar switches and team exchanges, one thing is certain: getting drafted in the first round is not only a huge honor, but an unspoken message about one's talent. Not just anybody is a first round draft pick, so when Bianca Belair was chosen as the first overall pick during the 2024 WWE Draft, her greatness as an overall competitor — and not just a champion — was reiterated for the WWE audience.


While she and Jade Cargill staked their claim for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships Friday night, Belair has been largely taking a back seat from the singles championship scene. If it were any other female superstar, a break from the limelight of singles championship contendership may be a death sentence for one's momentum. There are some talent who just need to be in the title picture in order to stay relevant, lest they be banished to the obscurity of the backstage area. Belair is not one of those superstars, and has stayed just as relevant as a title-less competitor as she was when she was the longest reigning "Raw" Women's Champion. Belair is the textbook definition of timeless talent, and her status as the first overall — not just female, but overall — pick reinforced that idea.


On Friday, Belair joined Kelly Kelly and Becky Lynch as the only women who were the first overall picks in the WWE Draft. Belair also became the first black woman to be the first overall pick in the WWE Draft. It is empowering to see just how much trust WWE puts in Belair to consistently deliver, and it is really comforting to know that one of the most beloved women on the roster is still regarded as a high-profile competitor despite her time away from singles championship contendership. Her tag team championship feud against Kairi Sane and Asuka of Damage CTRL may just be warming up, but Belair has consistently stayed white-hot in her popularity and shows no signs of slowing down. Belair loves to say that she stays ready so she never has to get ready — it could be argued that, because she stays on top, she never has to get (back) on top.

To top it all off, she looked gorgeous in her all-white outfit. Is there anything she can't do? She truly is the EST — of everything.

Written by Angeline Phu

Hated: The draft has jumped the shark

You could argue that "shuffling the deck" once a year is a great idea and I wouldn't really have much of a retort. Things do get stale, after all. "Freshen up the matches and the rivalries," some might say, to which, I'd admit having to answer, "Sure, yeah. Sounds great!" Maybe some people, for example, rarely get to watch WWE programming on Friday nights, or not at all, and therefore, deserve to see Superstar X, Y, or Z for the first time in who-knows-how-long. Yep, totally on board with that too. But here's the thing ... we absolutely know that none of it will last. History tells us that, whether it was planned or not, save for those "Brand Extension" eras, stuff happens, and superstars mingle between Mondays and Fridays (and now, Tuesdays), seemingly at free will.


New era or not (and it sure seems like it is more today than ever!), we know the path we're about to head down. All is not lost, of course, since WWE is in as good a place as it has been in quite some time, especially creatively. It's not going to suck regardless. But the draft itself is about as useful as a neck brace on goofball Tony Khan trying to kayfabe things whilst moving his neck about freely at the NFL Draft. I get it — there's a natural lull between WrestleMania and all that comes next — and if you're gullible, this does drum up some excitement. But Friday night, champions were exempt, others opted out just like that, two true "NXT" talents got the callup (Baron Corbin doesn't count) and hardly anyone switched brands in the end. So what's the point?


What I'd like to see, instead of the draft as we've come to know it, is an annual NXT Selection Show, where each of "Raw" and "SmackDown" (we'll still pretend it matters which), gets to choose, I don't know, 2/4/6/8/whatever number of "NXT" superstars are ready to make the jump. The best part of the WWE Draft, in its current incarnation, is the live shot of the WWE Performance Center, where those who get selected are legitimately surprised. That would be a show worth watching. As it is now, it just makes for a less-than episode of "SmackDown," and come Monday, "Raw" as well.

Written by Jon Jordan

Loved: Laying the Jax-eth down

Let's make one thing very clear: In terms of the actual draft part, I'm pretty confident in saying this was the most boring draft episode in history. Of the 30 people listed in the draft pool for Friday night, 24 of them stayed on the same brand, and that is the most charitable possible interpretation. Two of the six who switched brands were Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn, who didn't even make the TV portion of the draft and have been a non-factor in WWE storylines for nearly a year. Another was Andrade, who has only wrestled on "Raw" since return but was most recently involved in the LWO/Legado del Fantasma storyline heading into WrestleMania, meaning him getting drafted to "SmackDown" doesn't really move the needle. Then there's Roman Reigns, whom Paul Heyman declared was withdrawing from draft eligibility at the start of the show. When you get right down to it, Friday's draft was basically a few "NXT" call-ups and Bron Breakker and Nia Jax switching shows.


THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, I have to specifically shout out Jax being drafted to "SmackDown," because it's a legitimately baller move. Since returning to WWE in 2023, Jax has done her thing with every woman on the red brand's roster; there was no more ground for her to cover on that show, Now, though? Assuming the majority of the "SmackDown" women's division stays intact (and why should we believe otherwise when hardly anyone is changing brands) Jax now has the opportunity for matches with the likes of Tiffany Stratton, Jade Cargill, and Bianca Belair. She could mix it up with Naomi or Mia Yim, act as the ultimate first challenge when Charlotte Flair comes back, and rekindle her old rivalry with Bayley from "NXT" — this last seems particularly likely to happen sooner rather than later. I also loved that she announced her presence by showing up to wreck a bunch of people and get a women's title No. 1 contender's match thrown out, because she's Nia Jax and that's what she does.


If you had told me a year ago that I'd be enjoying Nia Jax's second WWE run this much, I would never have believe you. Now, she's the single most exciting draft pick in 2024. Go figure.

Written by Miles Schneiderman

Hated: Cedric Alexander finally getting TV time only to get squashed

Another Bron Breakker match, another squash. Two weeks ago, he defeated Cameron Grimes in 1:21. That night I wrote about how he was being misused. Eleven days later, he was released.

On Friday's episode of "SmackDown," Breakker beat Cedric Alexander in 17 seconds. I was hesitant to write this as my hate because of what happened with Grimes (there are quite a few parallels between them, besides them both being from North Carolina). I really hate that Alexander has been reduced to someone who gets squashed by the up-and-coming star. Especially in mere seconds. We know how good Breakker is. Alexander is a veteran now. Let Breakker have at least a five minute match with him. If you think Grimes was misused, take a look at Alexander.


In 2016, Alexander became a star during the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic. Once he was eliminated, the crowd chanted "Please sign Cedric!" until Paul "Triple H" Levesque came out. Alexander was signed and was a focal point on "205 Live." He faced Mustafa Ali (the "heart" and "soul" of the purple brand) at WrestleMania 34 on the kickoff show.

He was eventually part of The Hurt Business and became one half of the "Raw" Tag Team Champions with Shelton Benjamin. Alexander even held the 24/7 title three times on an episode. Once The Hurt Business was disbanded, he hasn't been able to find his way. He had a couple great matches with Dragon Lee that reminded everyone just how good he is, but has been mostly relegated to dark matches.


Back in February, a couple vignettes aired of a new tag team with Alexander and Ashante "Thee" Adonis. They have worked a few dark matches, but disappeared from TV, save for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Alexander has wrestled two matches on "Speed". You know, the show on the app formerly known as Twitter.

Like Grimes, Alexander is extremely talented and severely underused. He is too good to be stuck with dark matches or squash spots on TV. At least give him and Adonis the opportunity to get over on TV after teasing fans with vignettes now that they've been drafted to "SmackDown." This is the "Triple H Era" after all.

Written by Samantha Schipman

Loved: Cody Rhodes and Carmelo Hayes go all out

Cody Rhodes and Carmelo Hayes is the dream match I never knew I needed until Friday night.

Putting Hayes up against Rhodes was a bit of a risky decision given how over Rhodes currently is with the fans, but it was one that ultimately paid off. Both men put on a fantastic, exciting, fast-paced match, and it managed to stand out among the rest on a show in which it felt like everything else was randomly strewn together to fill the gaps between the draft rounds.


Rhodes winning the match was the right call, but that didn't mean that Hayes came off looking bad or weak as has been the case in the past. False finishes after taking one or more finishers from an opponent are way too overdone in modern professional wrestling, and while it was definitely evident in this match, it was used effectively and served a purpose here. Hayes kicking out showed that he isn't willing to stay down, and played a major part in helping to keep him looking strong in his official introduction as a "SmackDown" and main roster star.

Written by Olivia Quinlan

Hated: Rhodes & Styles' heat not 'phenomenal' before Backlash

This is a bit of an odd thing to hate for me, because I love AJ Styles as a performer, especially as a heel (and an absolutely jacked one at that) since coming back, and, of course, there's nothing more I love in WWE currently than Cody Rhodes as Undisputed WWE Champion. But their feud going in to Backlash just isn't doing it for me, especially as Rhodes' first title defense since finishing the story at WrestleMania 40. Maybe it's because there's not a lot of time between WrestleMania and Backlash. Or, it's because Rhodes' match against Roman Reigns and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, then the night two match against Reigns under Bloodline Rules with tons of interference, that make this match look so ... weak? I'm not sure if that's the correct wording for what I'm feeling, but in plain terms, this just isn't exciting for me. I'm certain the match is going to be quite good in what I imagine will be the main event of Backlash, but there just hasn't been enough build. I wrote last week that I hated the fact Rhodes wasn't on "SmackDown" due to WWE's European tour, and I think that still comes in to play in this feud as a whole. Had Rhodes been there live last week to address Styles in the middle of the ring, and Styles get up in Rhodes' face, maybe there would be some more heat going in to this match.


As a lifelong WWE fan, when there's a contract signing on TV, I expect chaos. Friday night, during Rhodes and Styles' contract signing, nothing really happened. Styles said nice things about Dusty Rhodes, which no one heel who faces Rhodes ever does, so that started the entire segment off strange. I thought it could go either way, with Styles really playing up the heel factor, but he just... didn't. Which, to be fair, might be a good thing, because the whole "Remember Dusty Rhodes is Cody's dad?!" thing has been played out well past its effectiveness. They both said they respect each other, and Rhodes said it's not about winning the title, it's about keeping it, and the Backlash match isn't just a match to him, it's a must-win, and blah blah blah. Nothing to keep me interested, which I absolutely hate. I hate the fact that the inevitable Rhodes cool-down post WrestleMania hype has to happen eventually, and I'm hoping it doesn't happen this soon.


Rhodes and Styles shake hands in the middle of the ring and both go in peace to end the contract signing segment. At the end of the night, following Rhodes' match with Carmelo Hayes, Styles appeared in the ring, and the two men stared each other down, but once again, NOTHING happened. No beat-down. No brawl. Nothing. They actually even shook hands again. Commentary announced earlier in the night that they're going face-to-face again next week, which is great, especially if there's a brawl between the two, but that's the day before Backlash. Even if there is a fight between Rhodes and Styles next week, it's still not going to be enough heat for me for the next day's pay-per-view, and will be a little, way too late.

Written by Daisy Ruth