WWE SmackDown 5/17/2024: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE SmackDown," the show where the best thing about Bloodline members winning matches thanks to Bloodline interference is that nobody ever sees it coming! We're actually not going to talk very much about any Bloodline stuff in this column tonight — congratulations to Tama Tonga for advancing in the King of the Ring tournament, condolences for whatever condition is causing him to make the noises he made in the pre-match backstage segment, but neither really grabbed us by the feels on Friday, which is what this column is all about. Check out our "SmackDown" results page and you too can be blindsided by the prospect of Pacific Islanders getting involved in one another's matches, along with everything else that went down!


With that out of the way, we're here to talk about our opinions. What did we think about Bianca Belair vs. Tiffany Stratton? Did we appreciate the innovative way WWE came up with to save her match with Jade Cargill for a bigger show? And most importantly, is it true that Logan Paul can't actually read? Inquiring minds want to know! Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 5/17/24 episode of "WWE SmackDown."

Loved: Bianca and Tiffany crush their QOTR match

The King and Queen of the Ring tournaments have both been excellent to this point, from the quality of the matches to the unpredictability as to how the tournaments would unfold. I had my eyes on tonight's Queen of the Ring matches since the brackets were revealed because if we did get to Bianca Belair/Tiffany Stratton and Jade Cargill/Nia Jax, I wasn't anywhere near sure how either of those were going to go. Stratton is the hottest new prospect on the block (which made the recent scandal she seems to have dodged all the more nail-biting) whereas Belair is as made a woman as it gets. Cargill is the instant superstar and Jax has found new life in her stellar second run in WWE. Jax prevailing via DQ makes a ton of sense, moving her along in a tournament that I can now actually see her winning (and you know what? She deserves it. Again, her current run has been outstanding.) And while my prediction of Stratton getting the ultimate rub of going over on Belair turned out to be wrong, I was thrilled to watch these to get after it right out the gate on tonight's "SmackDown" it what turned out to be a fantastic match that was every bit as entertaining as it was productive in terms of moving the tournament along.


With Belair now nursing a knee injury in storyline, there's your opening for a Jax route to the final if that's what creative sees as the best route. Personally, if that's what happens, I see a real chance for Lyra Valkyria to win it all, assuming she goes over IYO SKY come Monday. At this point, I would think and hope that it's either Jax or Valkyria taking the crown as neither Belair nor SKY needs the distinction and traditionally, these tournaments are used to propel up-and-comers or reclamation acts, you know, JUST LIKE JAX AND VALKYRIA!

As for Stratton, a loss to "The EST," whether that was originally in the cards or not, is no big deal, and I'm glad she seems to be moving forward sans any heat for her social media snafu. I looked at that as one of two unfortunate things: She either flippantly reposted a fan's post without the sound on, therefore not realizing there were racial undertones via the audio on the clip, or she did hear it after all and, being all of 25 years old, made a stupid mistake. After all, mistakes used to be okay and something people, especially of the younger variety, could learn from as opposed to being an irredeemable fatal flaw, as happens all too often these days.


Written by Jon Jordan

Hated: Convoluted contract signing segment with Rhodes and Paul

The contract signing on Friday's "SmackDown" was a little different than usual, because each champion was seated at their own table. Paul had an entourage (because of course he did) and one of those members was a lawyer. Why? Because the US Champion didn't want to sign the contract before him. He wanted his own contract. He ripped up the one he was supposed to sign and tried to force Nick Aldis to make his contract the binding one since he didn't agree to put his title on the line. Paul went on to say that Rhodes has done nothing to earn a shot at his title, knowing damn well that he has done nothing to earn a shot at the Undisputed WWE Championship. A whole lot of deflecting going on with Paul. That's one way to get out of a winner-takes-all match.


For some dumb reason, Rhodes signed Paul's contract. Without reading it to make sure Paul didn't sneak in some stupid loophole that lets him, I don't know, get another title shot in the future if Rhodes tells a story about his dad before the match and cries. This whole thing is just so dumb. Paul shouldn't be getting a shot to become Undisputed WWE Champion, especially with a two-week build while he holds another title. Friday's segment was convoluted and didn't make sense with Aldis leaving and Rhodes signing a contract without reading it.

As I wrote last week, at least we're getting this match out of the way. Unless there's some unforeseen nonsense in the contract Rhodes didn't read.

Written by Samantha Schipman


Hated: Well, that's a random tag team match

It is really ambitious to book an unrelated tag team match when Tama Tonga is over here snarling, Bianca Belair's knee is putting in its two weeks' notice, and Cody Rhodes is doing ... something with the Undisputed WWE Championship.


Friday's match between DIY and Legado del Fantasma felt odd and misplaced in a show with so much emphasis on the King and Queen of the Ring tournament and the upcoming Undisputed WWE Championship match. It's a shame, really — both teams feature great competitors with the potential to put on a great match with the current champions, and DIY even have their own internal tensions that could easily become a storyline that commands the attention of the WWE Universe. To book this match so late in the card in a show that is, may I say it again, decidedly not focused on anything except the King and Queen of the Ring tournaments, is an odd decision that does not produce any net profit for the tag team division as a whole. Pair this odd, lukewarm booking with tag team champions that are quite far from over on commentary, and you have the textbook definition of a bathroom break match.


It may seem odd to dedicate an entire show to a non-title tournament (save for one contract signing, but it's for the world title, so I can give it a pass), but with just over a week until the King and Queen of the Ring premium live event from Saudi Arabia, the decision to dedicate these next few shows to hyping up the premium live event as much as humanly possible is actually quite logical. What is not logical, however, is to have a random tag team match that may or may not have championship implications taking up valuable time that could be used to further garner interest in the upcoming Saudi Arabia premium live event. In a show that is only two hours, that extra time is precious — for example, Jade Cargill and Nia Jax's hotly anticipated quarterfinals match could have had a few extra minutes to showcase Cargill's strength and Jax's incredible in-ring improvement. Instead, we had a random tag team match that does not impact the landscape of the premium live event that is just days away.

This is not to rag on any of the teams in the tag team division. All of those teams are really talented at what they do, whether it is in-ring ability or the ability to garner heat by simply breathing. It is, however, not their time right now. It is simply more respectful and more logical to give people the time that they're due — if that means pushing tag team madness to post-Saudi Arabia in order to give both King and Queen of the Ring participants and the tag team division their earned time, then that is what needs to be done.


It is really ambitious to try and squeeze in a random tag team match to expose your non-defended titles. Sometimes, though, it is better to be reasonable.

Written by Angeline Phu

Loved: Bayley getting the Rhea Ripley treatment

Every wrestling fan worth their Peacock and/or IWTV subscription knows that the money is in the chase, but it can be difficult to figure out the right way to book a new champion after they've climbed the mountain and achieved their goal. It all depends on the individual circumstances, at least for me, and I have to say I'm very okay with how Bayley has been booked since winning the WWE Women's Championship at WrestleMania.


It feels weird to say that right now, because Bayley doesn't have a big storyline right now and barely appeared on this week's "SmackDown." She was there though, getting confronted by Chelsea Green and Piper Niven backstage in what's almost certainly part of the build for a title defense against Niven in her home country of Scotland at Clash at the Castle, which is a month from now (on Bayley's birthday, incidentally). In other words, Bayley is sitting out this King & Queen of the Ring PLE cycle, and I kind of love it. After all, why wouldn't she? Most of the rest of the division has been wrapped up in the Queen of the Ring tournament, and the pared-down PLE cards that have become a staple of "the Paul Levesque Era" (or whatever you want to call it) simply don't have room for everybody. Bayley has already done one big international title defense, since 'Mania, she can afford to kick back and relax for a little while.


I realize this might sound hypocritical considering how I've talked about, say, Swerve Strickland's title reign, or Rhea Ripley's. But again, it's all about individual circumstances. Strickland and Ripley both had plenty more to prove after winning their titles; Bayley honestly doesn't. We're talking about a woman who became the first-ever WWE Women's Grand Slam Champion before she turned 30, and that was five years ago. She just finished telling a story she kicked into gear back in 2022, after being out for a year with a knee injury. And even beyond that, Bayley has been a workhorse for WWE, night in and night out, for the last decade. She, of all people, deserves the Rhea Ripley treatment — occasional championship defenses, primarily against women who have never won main roster singles titles — and unlike Ripley, she can afford to take it because of the bona fides she's built up over the course of her career. She's earned a schedule with some built-in breaks, and I legitimately hope she's enjoying it.

(Also, her hair in that backstage segment was amazing, blue-and-purple Bayley forever)

Written by Miles Schneiderman

Hated: Jade Cargill blows her shot at the crown

I can honestly say I'm not sure where to even begin with this, but Jade Cargill, a fan favorite (and also my favorite) to win the Queen of the Ring tournament was eliminated in truly shocking and extremely disappointing fashion Friday night. Cargill faced off against Nia Jax, something I personally was looking forward to after their spot at the Royal Rumble where Cargill eliminated Jax. Those few moments in the Rumble match really showed off Cargill's strength and set her up to look like the star she is in WWE now, especially with gold around her waist. This match, however, really knocked some of the shine off the star that is Cargill, and I absolutely hate it.


Cargill looked really strong in last week's match against Piper Niven, so I expected her to get a heck of a lot more offense off against Jax than what she did this week, on top of everything from the Rumble. The match pretty much immediately spilled to the outside, with Jax throwing things around ringside, including Cargill herself, as well as chairs from behind the announce desk. I did like the spot with Cargill's young daughter in the crowd, with Jax telling her "Your mom sucks!" Perfect heel work there, 10 out of 10, no notes on my end. But, that's where things completely stopped being enjoyable for me in this match.

Jax went to hit Cargill with a steel chair, but Cargill grabbed it. Instead of throwing it to the side and beating Jax down, Cargill must have gotten emotional over "The Irresistible Force" getting in the face of her daughter. She hit Jax with the car across the back and the referee called for the disqualification. WWE has given me no reason to believe Cargill is an emotional person that would sacrifice such a big opportunity in such a stupid way. Of course, I understand the mother/daughter dynamic here, but it wasn't like Cargill beat the heck out of Jax with the chair, then immediately ran to the little girl's side. Once the bell rang for the DQ, a brawl ensued, and Cargill didn't even get 100% of the beat down on Jax, Jax still got some offense in.


I hated this so much not only because Cargill isn't moving on in the Queen of the Ring tournament, but because it makes her look foolish when WWE has built her up to be so strong and a "once in a generation" talent. She's also a champion now, which makes the loss sting even worse. I knew something had to be up when her tag team partner Bianca Belair won her match against Tiffany Stratton earlier in the night, but I didn't think it would come down to Cargill getting disqualified. I don't think that protects her as much as the powers that be in WWE may think it does. I'd much rather have seen Cargill lose, but not cleanly, Jax could have been sneaky with it somehow, after a really good, physical match against Jax. I thought that's what we were headed for after the spot in the Royal Rumble, but I guess long-term booking wasn't exactly the thought here.

It wouldn't even make sense for Cargill to sneakily help out Belair next week in Saudi Arabia in her semifinal match against Jax, because they're a babyface team. I'm not sure where Cargill goes from here. I truly thought she was made for the Queen of the Ring tournament, so this is incredibly disappointing for me. I've been a huge Cargill fan since she debuted in WWE, and I'm disappointed WWE didn't choose to capitalize on the hype behind her by putting crown on top of her head.


Written by Daisy Ruth

Loved: Randy Orton puts The Bloodline in their place

After Solo Sikoa assumed the role of "WWE SmackDown"'s newest Tribal Chief (this is just like the end of "Mean Girls"), he has been leading Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa on an absolute rampage every Friday night. At this point, it looks like next to nobody can stop this new Bloodline from being absolute menaces to society, and a new era of dominance seems like it is on the horizon, despite being just a month removed from the downfall of Roman Reigns. If you squint into the bright beams of sunlight (or that might be Sikoa's bleached hair, who knows), you might be able to suss out the shadow of the only man who can possibly put a stop to another era of Bloodline supremacy: Randy Orton.


Orton took a victory over a cocky Carmelo Hayes in the quarterfinals of the King of the Ring Tournament. Not a moment after, The Bloodline came out to intimidate Orton, who is now slated to take on Tonga next week in Saudi Arabia, during the semifinals of the King of the Ring tournament. While most wrestlers would stare pensively, perhaps even fearfully, at their next opponents, Orton, being the seasoned veteran he is, could not have been less intimidated.

Orton grabbed a microphone, and issued a scathing promo onto the newest mean kids on the block. He reintroduced himself to The Bloodline, and as spit dribbled from his lips, he reminded them that he was Randy freaking Orton, and that he would introduce his foot right up Tonga's a** come next Friday. The Jacksonville crowd erupted with cheers, and if you didn't follow suit, then I don't quite know what to tell you.


Orton's promo on The Bloodline was everything you could want and need from the most probable person to humble this new iteration of blue-brand mean kids, if not nip them in the bud entirely. It is unabashedly aggressive, with no inkling of fear or respect in its dripping malice. Orton has been known to be coolly unbothered as of recent months, so that air of indifferent aggression was really cool to see against The Bloodline, who are concerned with appearing dominant with their frequent intimidation tactics, questionable suits, and gratuitous outside interference.

Orton had Tonga's number just by speaking to him, so their upcoming match in the next week's go-home episode of "SmackDown" holds a lot of promise for "The Viper." While The Bloodline may run their typical interference and use their same-old, same-old intimidation tactics, they will never be able to live down the fact that in Jacksonville, Orton let them have it. As it turns out, Orton doesn't just own the three most dangerous letters in professional wrestling — with that show-closing promo, he might as well own the entire alphabet.

Written by Angeline Phu