OVER & UNDERS – WWE SMACKDOWN (3/1): Rock’s separate entrance, Reigns bashful about his belly, Solo’s happy face, Creepy Kairi, Trash Can Helmets, Orton’s Creative RKO, more


Finally…err…AGAIN, The Rock, has come back…to Smackdown. Get excited folks, because WWE announced two whole matches and an appearance for the show. That’s like inviting me to a full-menu dinner and only telling me two appetizers ahead of time. How do I know if I’m even gonna like it, if I can barely smell what you’re cooking? It’s time for the most OVERRATED and UNDER-APPRECIATED moments from this week’s Friday Night Smackdown.


Why do we assume everyone knows what P.L.E. means? They say it constantly, but I can’t remember them actually saying it stands for Premium Live Event. This feels like they just tried to sneak it in there as already-canon slang. P.L.E…which in this case, stands for Please Let’s Explain.


Tonight’s Smackdown is brought to us by Progressive, because that’s what WWE wants you to know they are. Jokes aside, where’s Flo? Why aren’t we doing something hysterical with her? This P.L.E. is brought to you by Progressive, so welcome to WWE FLO MERCY. In our main event, it’s Flo versus Jake from State Farm versus the Geico gecko in a triple threat, like Progressive, which is a triple threat of home, auto and more! I kid, but I honestly think it’s only a matter of time before we get Flo in a WWE cameo.


Not having The Rock come out under The Bloodline banner just makes Roman Reigns look weak. He’s still jamming out with his second fiddle to Rocky’s air guitar. Seriously though, you tell us he’s in The Bloodline, but he can’t walk out to their music? The Rock doesn’t need a solo (not that one). He needs to be boosting Reigns as the head of the table, heading into the main event of WrestleMania. This is like being at a diner and having someone bring you hot chocolate, and then the whipped cream several minutes later. By that time, the hot chocolate has completely cooled off, and guess where the whipped cream goes…on top. Feeling like a different kind of cool, Roman? Grab one of those Levels Above hoodies because it’s going to be a chilly ride when you’re blocked from the sun, hiding in Rock’s shadow. Wow. That was a tangent and a half, even for me. Cody Rhodes, lord help you if you ever ask what I want to talk about.


Wait, has Roman Reigns’ augmented reality graphic always spewed some kind of blue mist? Is virtual Roman vaping? For shame, WWE, for shame! I don’t care where you sit at the table, that poison air is wafting around the whole room. Virtual Reigns is levels above…when it comes to lung deterioration…irritability…and all the other side effects written in really small font.


My absolute favorite moment of Roman Reigns’ entrance, is when he’s hoisting his prize above his head, with fireworks going off, and his lackeys throwing a finger up, and he suddenly gets self conscious and pulls his shirt down because one of his abs is hanging out. Roman, since when are you self-conscious? Did you treat yourself to one of The Rock’s insane cheat meals? You’ll be okay. Be proud of who you are. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, and inside all of that muscle, bravado and tattoos is…actually, let’s stick with shallow judgment.


Has anyone else noticed that Roman Reigns’ entrance song sounds like a slowed down, movie trailer version of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River? The tribal chief acknowledges you, Justin. If you don’t acknowledge him back, it could be Bye Bye Bye for you.


Kudos to WWE for having enough confidence in The Bloodline’s heat to allow a significant amount of time for them to get drowned in boos. That could have backfired, but they gambled and it paid off. Good job acknowledging your heat, my tribal chief. Soak it in. You’ve earned it…sort of. Well, truthfully you were handed the top spot on a silver platter, but you’ve earned it post-nepotism. Believe that.


I absolutely love this concept of Roman Reigns repeating his acknowledgment schtick to get the response he wants. He had the crowd wrapped around his finger tighter than a corset in Pirates of the Caribbean. If I had one nitpick, it would be him getting angry. He should be playing it cool. He can’t let the crowd get under his skin. It pokes holes in the armor of his aura. Saying his obligations are finished and he’s leaving…on a jet…is perfect heel fodder. This is what I was saying a few weeks ago about Cody Rhodes and his luxury bus. Rich people stuff is for heels. Let Roman ride his jet, and you just enter the arena. We don’t need to see your rich-mobile.


There is literally a sign in the crowd that states Jimmy Uso is someone’s hero. Honestly, anonymous fan, that’s just trying too hard. That’s like looking up the ref’s names before a live event, so you can yell to them and get the smallest rub of acknowledgement (see what I did there?), from the lowest rung on the ladder. Sorry, Jimmy. You’re not the ones, or even the one, you’re a solid four…five with The Rock…with or without yeet.


Paul Heyman is like a gloriously evil version of Mick Foley, always figuring out ways to get cheap heat. Hyping The Rock, and then throwing to a commercial break is hilariously annoying, and such a heel move. I would love to see Paul whip this schtick out more.


During Paul Heyman’s hype for The Rock, Roman Reigns seems absolutely furious, like someone just peed in the pool at his pool party. He looks jealous, petty, and just spiteful, which he should be, but not toward The Rock, fresh off of their alliance. It’s too soon to show the cracks. I’m starting to feel like they’re telegraphing The Rock turning on Reigns, in a double cross, that he whispered in Cody Rhodes’ ear last month.


I’m always so pleasantly surprised at the creativity of WWE fans. I was completely yanked out of the aura of The Rock’s entrance when I saw a sign saying that he eats corn the long way. What?! Corn is delicious, and eating it the long way seems like a waste of savoring its sweet little boxes of flavor, and a potential choking hazard. Rock may put a boot up your ass, but he certainly doesn’t want you choking…right? Right?!


What is this shirt The Rock is wearing? It literally looks like some designer just thought of the most expensive collage of random things, and put them on a shirt and called it fashion. Rock, you look like you’re auditioning to play The Goblet of Fire in Harry Potter. Also, is this made out of a tarp? I feel like I could use this to cover my air conditioner in the winter. But what do I know? It doesn’t matter what I think.


I get that The Rock is always going to walk that fine line of being too edgy, but shouting out cocaine and meth, and then cutting to a crowd cheering is a little classless. I feel like The Rock is just flailing a little bit, not sure if he can hang onto this heel heat. Also, honorable mention to something The Rock finds overrated…buttons and using them. He took it even further by saying they finally have something worth shooting into their veins because he’s there. Again, Rock…way too far. People die every day from that. I’d say that probably knocked off a solid $12.5 million off of the box office profit for Moana 2. Side note, is anyone else’s broadcast of Smackdown cutting in and out? I feel like the Fox signal is on meth.


I loved The Rock pointing out that we can’t tell, but that’s Solo Sikoa’s happy face. This could be a fun gimmick for him, always acting grumpy but insisting he’s happy. It’s kind of like Tommy Lee Jones’ monotone and emotionless character in Men in Black. He made that work with bland charm. I could see Solo doing something similar, just without the suit, sunglasses and hit single. Remember that song? YouTube it. You’re welcome, and apologies for sticking that in your head with superglue for the next 3 years.


Props to Solo Sikoa for giving a dumbfounded, fear-stricken face when The Rock suggested he might sing the national anthem. His resting Solo face is hilarious, especially when he has someone to riff off of. The crowd then erupts into a chant for the would-be singer. And just like that, Solo got over without saying a word. That’s what a master The Rock is. God it’s good to have him back, especially when he manipulates the crowd into great reactions.


I didn’t see the reveal of stipulation stakes and a double main event for Roman Reigns coming. It makes sense. If you’re going to have Roman work 2 nights back-to-back, you might as well give him an excuse to keep his bumps to a minimum. I love the stakes of this. Getting rid of The Bloodline almost ensures a Cody Rhodes victory. This is incredibly smart booking, and it has me very excited for both WrestleMania nights and the amped up arc between them. Well done, WWE. Very smart. Kudos. I’ll give you some corn on the cob to eat however you like.


Ugh. Did The Rock have to go the angle of saying he’s on the board and essentially the new evil boss character? You’re better than that, Rock. We don’t need you singing passé oldies. We want some new jams from you and your yukalaylee. Special props to spell check for teaching me how to spell yukalaylee, which I don’t think I’ve ever typed in my life, until this moment. The Rock…providing boots to asses and literacy to the masses.


Oh my God. Roman Reigns physically stopping The Rock from doing his most famous line, is the most badass, authority-cementing, alpha-asserting move I’ve seen since this alliance started. Then he tops it off by asking The Rock to acknowledge him. That’s an “I’ll be back”, “You had me at hello”, “Take your hands off me you damn dirty ape” level of moment. I’m going to need therapy after tonight. How can I be expected to sleep after witnessing the energy in this moment, equivalent to drinking 5 Zoa Energy Drinks?! Now we know why Roman was snarling and over-selling his annoyance during The Rock’s entrance. It was annoying me to no end, but now that I see what he was holding inside, and he totally redeemed himself (he says in his best Dumb & Dumber voice).


The Rock just removed his sunglasses and I’m fairly confident he’s wearing blush makeup on his cheeks. Nothing wrong with that mind you, to each their own, it’s just jarring to see Black Adam with rosy cheeks. Maybe he’s feeling particularly festive, like this match is an early Christmas gift. Yeah. Let’s go with that. Merry Christmas, Rock.


And the Oscar goes to…drumroll…Paul Heyman for best supporting actor in a drama. His facial expressions and eyes were absolutely gold during this segment between Roman Reigns and The Rock. He’s just the human embodiment of punctuation in anything he does. In this exchange, he took the form of an exclamation point, just ending it all on a high note. Bravo, Paul. Bravo. Honorable mention to The Rock for putting over Reigns by acknowledging him. Reigns needed this. He was drowning in The Rock’s shadow. Kudos to Rock for seeing what was happening and course correcting…you know…again.


I don’t think Roman Reigns needed to act like a kid that just got an N64 on Christmas in the ‘90s, when The Rock handed him the mic. Instead of having the Rock initiate it and then pass the torch, so to speak, I think Roman, staring straight ahead, should have just stretched his hand out, and have Rock obey. Similar to what he does with Paul Heyman when he’s talking. It’s such a powerful alpha move and I would have loved to see him do that to The Rock.. That would have been the stronger play in my humble opinion.


The funeral for Austin Theory’s push continues in this segment with Grayson Waller and Randy Orton. I can’t believe how much this guy has cooled off from where he was. He’s starting to feel like the wedding cake you keep in your freezer for your one year anniversary. Only by the time you go to eat it, it’s lost all of its flavor. A-Town going down aside, I thought Randy was hilarious in this segment. This reminds me of when Kurt Angle went full Kurt Angle, and dove headfirst into being funny. I like this side of Randy. He mixes violent intent with humorous quips like they’re soulmates. You gave me 3 letters in that segment, Randy…L…O…L. See what I did there? It’s fun to play with words. Ya know what else is fun to play? WWE2K24 releasing next week. Pre-order your Brock Lesnar-free edition today!


Wait, so Randy Orton gets a main event because he got offended by people talking about him? This loose storytelling bothers me. This makes it sound like Nick Aldis didn’t plan for a main event. What if Randy hadn’t taken offense to Austin Theory and Grayson Waller? What then? This booking is looser than a belt at Weight Watchers.


Oh yay, WWE is promoting Nascar again. Nothing says sports entertainment like onesies covered in ads, cars that look like they’re covered in stickers, and a whole lot of left turns. If they’re going to do this, they might as well go full bore and get a WWE car made, and have a superstar drive it, so we at least get a little action.


I’d like to thank WWE for sparing us a lengthy Naomi dance entrance, and a pose-a-thon from Tiffany Stratton. Nothing against them. They’re hard workers, but both of their entrances could use a revamp. Naomi’s entrance in particular feels like a rerun I’ve seen a hundred times, and she just came back, which tells you her entrance is more tired than Firestone. Special mention to Wade Barrett for reminding us that Tiffy time eliminated Naomi at The Elimination Chamber. I like this dynamic of having previous conflicts dictate future matches. It’s smart and rewards us for watching.


Tiffany Stratton and Naomi having a flip off (flipping each other off?) mid-match is ridiculous. On one hand, it’s impressive athleticism that fans will eat up. On the other hand, it makes it seem like they truly don’t have any aggression toward each other. Also, Corey Graves mentioned Naomi is a former women’s champion. I don’t remember this at all. I think they need to keep both women’s world titles on their respective champs for a long time, to build back up the novelty of seeing a title change. They’ve done a great job with Rhea Ripley, but I honestly had to stop and think about who the other champ was.


I keep forgetting that Tiffany Stratton was an Olympic gymnast. Thank you, Corey Graves for reminding us. That’s real clout that helps her credibility. WWE should put together a hype package for her, much like they did with Kurt Angle when he first came in. Otherwise, it’s easy to miss if you’re not listening closely to Graves.


Hold the phones. Bailey and Dakota Kai get a tag title shot because Damage Control hurt Kai’s leg? Well if that doesn’t encourage inter-work assault, or faking injury, I don’t know what will. If this logic was sound, Tonya Harding wouldn’t have been stripped of her Olympic gold medal.


Kairi Sane has really come into her own with her mannerisms. She is straight up creepy, and has a soulless stare she does at the camera that gives me goosebumps…and I don’t mean the books. She legitimately looks at the camera with the same blank, haunting glare as the ghost girl in The Grudge. It works in spades. Thanks Kairi, now I’m not going to sleep tonight, because your twisty umbrella and ghost stare are going to give me nightmares. Excuse me while I hide under my bed…because that ALWAYS works in horror movies. Right?


Why is Iyo Sky walking around like she just lived through a traumatic event, and she’s still plagued with P.T.S.D.? Did Kairi Sane give her nightmares too? She looks like a puppy during a thunderstorm every week. I feel like if anyone makes the slightest sound, she’s going to jump 10-feet. Personally. I wish it was Kairi versus Bayley at WrestleMania. At least Kairi is along for the buildup. Here’s hoping Sky overcomes whatever has her looking like a deer in headlights. Maybe it’s just stage fright. If so, at least she picked a good business to avoid such things.


I really enjoy the piranha-esq antics of The Kabuki Warriors, swimming around the ring, taking little bites anywhere they can. Special mention to the predictable turn of Dakota Kai being done unpredictably mid-hot tag. That was jarringly fast, in a good way. Well done! If I had a sticker book of gold stars, I’d give you two, Dakota.


I love that they’re feeding more credible wrestlers to Bron Breakker. It’s so much better than no-names getting annihilated, and despite losing, it gives the NXT stars some exposure to the mainstream audience. It’s win win. Also, I don’t think I’ll need another cup of coffee for a week after that match. Bron’s matches are like an espresso shot, mixed with Red Bull, and chased with a Zoa. I still ccan’t gett overr the inexplicable use of two k’s in his namme, but so bbe itt. I’m sure as hell not going to say anything to him.


That Santos Escobar versus Carlito package has me hyped for a match I wasn’t even looking forward to. Escobar is a fantastic villain, and such a natural actor. His minions, not so much, but that’s okay. He’s enough of a mouthpiece for everyone involved. I could see him working his way up to being a top heel in the future. I also love The Emperor of Lucha Libre moniker. It’s catchy and sounds powerful.


Our ring announcer just rattled off all of the names of the L.W.O. accompanying Carlito to the ring. The only problem? They stopped at the entrance ramp. I don’t know if they got distracted by the sea of great fan signs, weren’t paying attention to the announcer, or simply got stage fright, but it’s jarring to announce a team doing something that they’re not actually doing. And now, I’ll relax in my Ferrari, on my private island, while I continue breaking down inconsequential details of Smackdown.


Call me crazy, and I know it’s not sanitary in this day and age, but I miss the nostalgic “I spit in the face of people who don’t want to be cool” entrance quote. That said, I want to give props to Corey Graves for pointing out that Carlito grew up on the island that made hardcore famous. I’ve been wondering why this is a street fight. That’s great context. Man, WWE is on fire lately with making things make sense, even little nuances like this. They’re feeding us warm donuts every week, and remembering all the sprinkles.


I get that this is a street fight between Santos Escobar and Carlito, and I love ring weapons as much as the next guy, but chair shots to the head have no place in wrestling today. No thank you. Slap on the wrist, WWE, maybe even a ruler to the knuckles. That’s right, I’m combating violence with violence because two wrongs…cancel each other out.


This is going to sound hypocritical, but I truly don’t mind the shots to the top of the trashcan by Carlito, with Santos Escobar’s evil head inside. He feels protected, and it looks like a Looney Tunes character pounding someone into the ground. That’s what’s up, doc.


Santos Escobar versus Carlito was a perfectly fine match while it lasted. Did we really need the guys who look like angry shirtless doctors, with their white pants, interfering? Santos could benefit from a clean win, but the heat does do him well too. Carlito feels like he’s lost a step in the ring. He’s still over, and has the charisma, but his fluidity between moves seems to have gotten more clogged than an artery in a potato chip factory.


Wait, that wasn’t the end of the Santos Escobar versus Carlito match? I didn’t see that coming. I also didn’t see Rey Mysterio returning. I was bummed to see him on crutches, and popped big when it was a swerve. He may be older, but you can’t teach that kind of fire that burns in Rey. He is beloved for a reason. I’m stoked for the likely showdown between Rey and Escobar at WrestleMania. I feel like I was eating a hot fudge sundae, and you just pulled out a brownie that makes it all even more delicious.


I’m not a huge fan of Rey Mysterio’s mask tonight. He looks like he’s cosplaying the love child of Magneto and an orc from The Lord of the Rings.


Go back and watch the interaction between Nick Aldis and L.A. Knight again. Keep an eye on his sunglasses. He removes them, and then struggles to fold them for most of the segment. It’s okay to use two hands, Knight.


Hearing Kevin Owens announced as a “special commentator”, and then having him happily react to the intro, was hilarious. Is there anyone better than Owens with off-the-cuff quips right now? He has a bright future as a commentator when he retires. Special mention of Owens pointing out that Austin Theory is dumb because he doesn’t bundle all of his insurance with (Smackdown sponsor) Progressive. Hilarious.


If Randy Orton continues to take this long during his entrance, I’d like to propose we change his moniker from viper to snail. Pick up the pace, Randy. We don’t have all day. Grayson Waller has Hawaiian shirts to buy, and Austin Theory is out of baby oil.


I love it when Randy Orton whips out a creative variation on the R.K.O. I still haven’t forgotten when he nailed Evan Bourne with it, mid shooting star press. When he gets creative with these, it’s just beautiful. Kevin Owens also deserves a commission on this money-maker for his over-the-top laugh after it happened.

I’ll be back Monday to completely distract you from Raw’s narrative!

(This is the debut column from Kevin Duncan, a/k/a Kevin Thats Weird. Find his videos with his 3.5 million follows on Tik Tok. You’ll be mesmerized. He plans to write “Over and Under” following Raw and Smackdown each week exclusively for PWTorch.com.)

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