OVER & UNDERS – WWE SMACKDOWN (4/19): LA Knight’s walk, Triple H the Swiftie, Montez Ford’s good manners, Tiffy Time, Styles Wants Us To Want None, Bayley Gets Freaky, more

By Kevin Duncan, PWTorch contributor


Happy Friday wrestling fans. Remember, you canceled plans to be home tonight for Smackdown. It’s not that you’re lonely, or have nothing to do. Right? Right?! Tonight, we get a four way tag match to determine who the number one contenders are for the tag titles. It’s a battle of the weird names with Legado del Fantasma, New Catch Republic, Authors of Pain and the Street Profits. These names sound like Guillermo del Toro creatures, a cricket team, violent novelists and entrepreneurial drug dealers. Now, since we know 4 x 2 = 8 (special thanks to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Rivers), WWE is keeping with its tradition of shoehorning as many people into tag matches as possible. I’m starting to think this is a missed opportunity to enlist Costco as a sponsor for tag matches, where products and teams are brought to you in bulk! Plus I love free samples. While we’re all thinking about delicious meatballs on a toothpick, let’s dig into the most overrated and under-appreciated moments from tonight’s Friday Night Smackdown.


Bayley walking into the arena with an eccentric jacket makes her look like she raided Seth Rollins’ freaky closet. Oh but wait, there’s more. Then we have Naomi in glowing glasses (in the daytime) like she was on the way to a rave, got lost, then decided to party anyway. Am I excited for this match? Glow chance in hell. It’s impossible to take competitors seriously when they’re dressed for Mardis Gras.


Has anyone else noticed that L.A. Knight moves his hands so much, that it looks like he’s constantly swatting at bugs? Just me? Look again. Now you can’t unsee it. Is there a solution to these pests, Mr. Knight? In a word…yeah. It’s called bug spray. Mosquitoes carry diseases. Do you wanna catch one of those? Nah nah. Spray up, sir. I find this amusing and kind of want to animate flies around him like the personal hygiene-averse Pig-Pen in “Charlie Brown.”


I am absolutely loving A.J. Styles’ new music and entrance. It’s so aggressive and heelish. More heels should modify their entrances when they’re baddies.


When A.J. Styles and L.A. Knight first lock up, Knight backpedals him into the turnbuckle. But if you go back and watch it, he hilariously marches like a wind up soldier. Yet another Photoshop I want to do now is putting a wind up knob on his back, and time it for right when he marches forward. I may even throw in the theme from The Nutcracker for good measure. Yeah. It’s like his legs are half locked up, or the Knight is marching in too much invisible armor. Either way, it’s kind of a hilarious moment to see if you catch it.


A.J. Styles took his head shots to the announce table like a champ. Too often wrestlers just throw a hand up and slap that into the table, as they pantomime hitting it. But A.J. has shoulders big enough to just smack those into the table, as he pretends to sustain head trauma. Very clever for a man dressed like a cross between an art thief and a male ballet dancer. If I’m ever blessed with the luxury of fake bashing someone’s head into a table, I hope they sell it with half as much gusto as you do, Mr. Styles. You’re such a good seller, that I would honestly buy day old lottery tickets from you, and still think I had a shot at winning.


A.J. Styles and L.A. Knight need to learn to work less during commercial breaks. That running knee to the face of Knight looked brutal, but they did it during commercial so we only got a quick replay. That said, Knight sold that like a champ too. So much selling, we’re having a regular Friday Night Auction here tonight folks.


I have to give the sign of the night to the guy in the front row with the picture of A.J. Styles on a bike, with the words “A.J. Cycles.” Well-played anonymous fan. I’d like to see more of this on the next show, from whomever is in the front row. How about A.J. Files, with a picture of him filing documents? What about A.J. Guiles, with his face on the beloved Street Fighter character? Maybe we just have a stack of A.J.’s and call it A.J. Piles. So many options. I’m going to force myself to stop now, right after I point out that we could have his face on Spider-Man’s body and called it A.J. Miles. The possibilities are endless. We just have to stay grounded, and keep two feet on the floor…the kitchen floor…that A.J. Tiled. Jokes aside, Styles’ moonsault into an inverted D.D.T. was insane to see, especially for a guy at his age. He’s discovered the fountain of youth, but unfortunately it causes acne (sorry, A.J.).


L.A. Knight really needs to figure out another taunt to signal he’s going for Blunt Force Trauma. He’s literally doing the same forward clap combination that Kofi Kingston used to do to telegraph the boom drop. Unless you’re about to leap 8.2 feet into the air, and do a double leg drop onto A.J. Styles, let’s not do that taunt. Please and thank you. Yeah.


I think it was incredibly refreshing to see A.J. Styles get a clean win over L.A. Knight. This shenanigan-free finish both boosts Knight’s popularity, as well as heightens Styles’ heat by taking out someone so beloved, and so cleanly at that. That ending was cleaner than a Clorox wipe in a sink full of soap, next to a bottle of Purell.


This is completely inconsequential, but the guy behind Wade Barrett is wearing a Rode wireless mic. On top of that, if you look closely, the light in it is blue, which means it’s sync’d and recording. I don’t see anyone pointing a phone at this guy. Is he recording a podcast? What makes him think he’s going to get clean audio inside a sold out WWE show? What time is it? Amateur hour.


One should never under-estimate the power of a sharp suit (as long as it’s not from Men’s Warehouse). Solo Sikoa looks slick, authoritative, and viciously conniving. His raspy, gritty voice has a real presence to it. I do wish he’d stop using the Samoan Spike though. His thumb must look like a shriveled sausage after using it as a weapon for so long. If he didn’t do that all the time, he wouldn’t have to hide his self-inflicted deformity with tape. On a side note, I have spent the last several minutes trying to figure out what M.F.T. means, in an effort to crack the code of what Solo meant in calling Tama Tonga such. Most Ferocious Teammate? Muscle Force Terminator? I got it. Marriage and Family Therapist, and he’s there to caulk up the cracks in The Bloodline. Awww, Tama Tonga’s role is adorable.


Ohhhh, live mic guy is part of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a non Steelers fan, I’m going to have to say he’s still overrated. After all, their team is named after a criminal offense, doubly so for spelling it wrong. What’s that? Oh, Pittsburgh is known for steel? Steelers? Well now I feel about as dumb as Jimmy Uso going for a high-five. Moving on!


During Triple H’s entrance, we got another screen glitch clue. I paused it and scanned the QR code. It takes you to a very weird picture on WWE.com of what could be the back of someone’s head in a hoodie, or a bird perched on something. What is this?! I know it’s not Raven. He’s far too old. Is this Bo Dallas taking up the mantle for his late, great brother, Bray Wyatt? You better Bo-lieve it! I’m so confused but I love the feeling.


Has anyone else noticed that Triple H has enough friendship bracelets to fill a Taylor Swift concert? Could Paul secretly be a Swiftie? I now imagine him nagging Stephanie McMajon to hurry up in getting ready so they aren’t late to her show, constantly poking his head in, and asking “Are you ready?”’ See what I did there? No? I said…ARE…nah I’m not going to go there.


The new tag titles for A-Town Deon Under are gorgeous. These look much better than the sexy pumpkin titles we got on Raw. Although, now that I look at them a little closer…yep…these titles look like sexy toasters. Now you can’t unsee that, and I’m sorry. Ah WWE, where you too could win a sexy pumpkin or a sexy toaster. On a side note, the champs’ fake out handshake to Triple H, where they shake each other’s hands instead of his, was such a slap in the face to the boss. That’s some damn fine heel work there. I wonder if that was spontaneous and unplanned. Triple H looks legitimately hot.


The tag match between Street Profits, Legado del Fantasma, New Catch Republic and Authors of Pain was a bit of a mess, but that’s kind of the point. When you have that many people in a match, it’s just train wreck tv. I would have preferred this be more tornado tag style, because the concept of people tagging in and out other teams, is just too much for my adult A.D.D.-addled brain to keep up with. I will give them props for leaning more into chain reaction-style wrestling, with moves organically leading into others, as opposed to the low hanging fruit of tandem Young Buckery.


I have to give a special shoutout to Pete Dunne in this tag match. Removing Angelo Dawkins’ glove to give him that finger break move, looked brutal. Pete Dunne’s finger feud continues. I really hope Dunne gets elevated to the point where his digit-destruction can clash with Solo Sikoa’s Samoan Spike. Not to point any fingers (Eh? Eh?), but that’s a solid match waiting to happen. That move needs a killer name. Digital Destruction? Finger Bang? Finger Ringer? I could do this all day for Pete “The Handyman” Dunne, but you have better things to do, and this only feeds my pun addiction. Also, I wonder if “Edward Scissorhands” is his favorite movie because of the lead’s lack of real digits.


During the tag team title contenders match, there was a killer spot where both members of New Catch Republic did moonsaults off the top turnbuckle, paving the way for a surprise leap to the outside by Montez Ford. This was shot in such a cleverly framed way, that he seemingly came out of nowhere (copyright Randy Orton, 2013). But the best part of the entire spot was when Ford was laying on the ground next to his gravity saviors, A.O.P. He turned to one of them, and very audibly said “Thank you.” Gratitude is great, and I respect your manners, but try to hide it a little bit, guys. It was hilarious to see and hear, but it pulled me out of the match a bit. Good manners are good manners though, and when someone saves you from near death, I suppose gratitude is warranted. Fun fact though, I forgot A.O.P. was in this match multiple times. That means they’re either irrelevant, or I have short term memory loss. One day we’ll unravel the truth. What were we talking about? Oh yeah. Back to the match. I thought it was fun for what it was, but the ending felt a little abrupt and rushed. It was like watching a fireworks show, but they forgot about planning a grand finale, so we got one more pretty explosion and it was anticlimactically over. The real M.V.P. of this match has to be Montez Ford. That guy’s timing with being in the right place at the right time, is better than a personal injury lawyer in a 16-car pile up. It’s unreal sometimes how tapped into precision timing he is. I was going to write a joke about how if precisest was a real word, he’d be the tag team E.S.T. of WWE. Much to my surprise, it IS a word. Well look at that, WWE sent me down a rabbit hole where I learned something. WWE…literacy then…now…forever…together.


Did we really need to see a recap of Rhea Ripley’s title-vacating with dramatic, emotional music? That’s too heavy-handed for a heel (even if she’s on the verge of turning babyface). Rhea did a great job sounding absolutely pissed (and not emotional as others have done) and this undermined it a bit. The music did turn dark as it went on, but it started too wholesome for my taste. Just let it be badass, WWE. Don’t turn it into an Oscar drama just because you can. Keep it a gritty independent flick that defies genre classification. The fans will make it emotional. You don’t need to heavy hand us what to feel.


In this talking segment with Bayley and Byron Saxton, I am so utterly distracted by Bayley’s tye dye shirt, with a giant image of her own face on it. Hilariously, Bryon asks her where her head is at right now. That prompts me to scream “On her shirt” at the screen, and wake my kids up. I’ve heard of turning face, but this is ridiculous.


I absolutely love Solo Sikoa in this scary new authority role. He has a subtly vicious nuance to him that just adds mystery, fear and tension to every scene he’s in. Also, is there anything cooler than seeing wrestlers walk through gorilla right now? It’s amazing that no one thought to do this until recently. It’s so effective, so jaw dropping, so blonde Mohawk-enhancing. Most of that is true but I love it nonetheless. Paul Heyman’s fear around Solo is also just an exclamation point on the entire presentation. I legitimately worry about his blood pressure around Solo. That’s how scary he is. He could literally kill a man with fear.


While Solo Sikoa and Paul Heyman are talking in the ring, we are graced with Kevin Owens’ bloody presence, courtesy of Tama Tonga. I’m fairly sure that’s corn syrup on his face, as blood doesn’t have a glossy sheen, but it’s a wildly effective visual nonetheless. Seeing Tama Tonga’s vicious continuation of attacks, combined with him nearly frothing at the mouth, really sets the stage for the Samoan sociopath (take it, use it, and thank me, WWE) being a force to be feared. Technically Tonga is Polynesian and not Samoan, but regionally it’s very close, so we can probably go with it. I don’t think I’ve seen a character make me this fearfully uncomfortable since the dog in “Cujo”, and I think even he would whimper and run away from Tonga. Even the way he walked around the ring with the chair, lurking, almost slithering, like a scorpion strafing, with his tail ready to strike. It’s quite a presence this guy has. This reminds me of the time a spider crawled onto my Dairy Queen Blizzard in 2nd grade. It came out of nowhere, and just crawled around staring at me, daring me to indulge in chopped up Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I didn’t, and I haven’t eaten a Blizzard since.


In the segment where Nick Aldis shows Paul Heyman the wreckage of Kevin Owens’ car, seemingly at the hands of Tama Tonga’s, it didn’t seem like there was any visible damage. They had what appeared to be a smoke machine pumping production value into the visual, but I didn’t see any real shocking destruction there. Also, do GM’s usually keep track of whose rental car is whose? That’s just weird. It’s almost as weird as angrily using the phrase “tippy top”, as Aldis just did.


Hearing Carlito say “Do you know what cool is?” in his entrance works against him. What’s cool is his original opening line of “I spit in the face of people who don’t want to be cool.” His question answers itself, and not in a good way. I get that we just survived a global pandemic but they say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, so technically, Carlito running around spitting apples, is actually saving society. Thanks, Carlito! Your new entrance is overrated, but your heroism is under-appreciated. SummerSlam 2024, Carlito versus Covid.


I can’t sing the praises of Santos Escobar’s organic villain vibes enough. He could be a good contender to take the Money in the Bank briefcase this year. I think it’s always better to have a heel hold the briefcase, and his evil western villain aura would sing a glorious duet with that contract. I think he’s primed for a top spot down the line. Mark my words. Unless I’m wrong, then forget them faster than the Vince McMahon got blown up storyline.


Carlito has really lost a step nowadays. Case in point, his delayed fall from Santos Escobar’s Super Hurricanrana. The guy hooked his legs, flipped, and had enough time to grab a snack before Carlito sold the move. It looked like he was buffering on low-speed WiFi. Do YOU know what cool is, Carlito? Keeping pace. That’s cool. Also, and this is completely irrelevant to pro wrestling, but Carlito has extremely hairy armpits that could use a solid trimming. It’s distracting. Hairlito, personal hygiene and presentation are important…and cool.


Right before the main event, WWE touted their sellout crowd as 14,994. We couldn’t find 6 people on the street, and let them in for free? Couldn’t we just give a few vendors the night off, to sit in the crowd and round up to 15k? You’re 6 people shy of greatness, WWE. If you hadn’t emptied out the luxury box next to Damage CTRL, so Bianca Belair and Jade Cargill could crash their party, you would have been able to break 15k.


I want to make this point about Naomi’s entrance, partly in a selfish way, because I want to use the word disenchanted in a clever context. It’s sad to hear a song that has a chant of “Glow”, clearly meant to incite audience participation, that never takes. Imagine the “Yes” chant without any audience backup chanters. Imagine Seth Rollins posing for the crowd to sing his song, only to be met by crickets. Hell, envision asking an audience if they’re ready, only to have to say the magic words all by your lonesome. It’s a sad island to live on. It just falls flatter than Titus O’Neil in a rumble match. Yes, I know I’ve used that analogy before, but it’s evergreen, so just go with it. Glowing crickets aside, there is glow chance Naomi wins this match against Bayley.


Solid effort by both women in the Bayley versus Naomi title match. This was nearly main event-worthy from a match quality standpoint. Bayley is showing some real rejuvenated fire in the ring right now. I especially loved her Randy Savage-esq elbow across the ring. On the flip side, Naomi’s athleticism is always impressive, if not a little too splits-driven, but she’s still a little clunky in transitioning from move to move, which slowed the match down a bit. Less glow, more flow, Naomi. Also, totally unrelated, what’s with the inspiration for your outfit tonight? Do we just love Tetris? Are we a Rubik’s cube fanatic? I must know.


I hate a cheap finish, with regard to Tiffany Stratton spoiling the Naomi versus Bayley match, but I do love fresh blood in the main event scene. She’s a bit green in the ring, but she has enough charisma and explosiveness to compensate, especially in the WWE style of wrestling.

I’ll be back Monday for the final Raw before everything changes in the draft…at least until Raw moves to Netflix, then this is all rendered moot. See you then!

RECOMMENDED NEXT: WWE SMACKDOWN TV RESULTS (4/19) : McDonald’s “alt perspective” report on Bloodline developments, Bayley vs. Naomi Women’s Title, Knight vs. Styles for Number One Contender, Four Way Tag Team Match

OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: WWE Friday Night Smackdown results (4/19): Barnett’s review of Bayley vs. Naomi for the WWE Women’s Championship, LA Knight vs. AJ Styles for a shot at the WWE Championship at WWE Backlash

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