It has been a chaotic few weeks in the WWE, but after the spectacle of WrestleMania 33 and the chaos of the "Superstar Shakeup," the WWE on ESPN staff has finally had a moment to take a breath, consider recent performances and take stock of the construction of the Raw and SmackDown rosters.
Things have changed quite a bit since WrestleMania; in two weeks of Raw and SmackDown, Triple H and John Cena have disappeared from WWE TV, and therefore fell off the list (ours, not Jericho's). A rash of title changes has seen both Bray Wyatt and Alexa Bliss tumble out of the top 10, although each still has their supporters.
Whatha s remained the same, however, is AJ Styles. After sticking around to remain the anchor of SmackDown Live, Styles picked up a couple of additional first-place votes this time around as he tightened his grip on the top spot. He has occupied the No. 1 position in all but one edition of the ESPN WWE Power Rankings, and with all of the spectacular new match-ups on the table after the shakeup, it's a fair bet that he'll stay at or near the top for the forseeable future.
There are still a few people closing in, though, including new SmackDown roster-mate Kevin Owens and Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns; the latter two men had an encounter on Raw that saw Strowman put a beatdown for the ages on Reigns, including a toss through a table, a push off of a loading dock while Reigns was strapped to a stretcher and the toppling of a full-sized ambulance with Reigns inside.
Enough of the conjecture, let's dig into the latest edition of our WWE Power Rankings.
Rankings are based upon the perceived value to the on-screen product of the WWE, and determined by the voting of a panel of WWE on ESPN contributors. Number in parentheses ( ) indicates first-place votes.
With the likes of Wyatt and The Miz shifting over to Raw, Styles becomes the unquestioned leader of SmackDown (despite the presumptive arrival of Owens), and for good reason. He is the best performer in the company, and proved it once again at WrestleMania 33 when he and Shane McMahon opened the show with a fantastic effort. If we were redrafting both rosters today from scratch, Styles would be my definitive first overall draft pick. (Sean Coyle)
A high-end win in a great WrestleMania match against longtime friend and adversary Chris Jericho looks like the start of another entertaining run for KO. As long as Jericho doesn't shock the world by winning his title back in short order at Payback, Owens should thrive as United States champion on SmackDown. Although Owens fell to Dean Ambrose this past Monday on Raw, he immediately erased any negative feeling when he opened the SmackDown broadcast Tuesday night. With Styles waiting in the wings as the next contender to his title and several other big potential match-ups, it should be a chance for Owens to show more of his in-ring prowess on a weekly basis. (Matt Wilansky)
Reigns has so infuriated the WWE audience that he received a 10-minute ovation of boos from the post-WrestleMania 33 Raw crowd. Reigns was also involved in one of the most memorable physical storyline angles in a long time when Strowman overturned an ambulance this past Monday. Just imagine how mad fans will get if/when Reigns starts reminding them that he is the man who retired The Undertaker. (KC Joyner)
You watch SmackDown for AJ Styles, but especially of late, you watch Raw to see what Braun Strowman will do. In a moment that could have easily descended into slapstick silliness, Strowman instead lent a gravitas and seriousness to a lengthy dissection of Reigns that belied his relative newcomer status to the wrestling world. Whether his tipping over an ambulance was real or assisted, there's no denying that his brute strength and monstrous appearance make Strowman a must-see every Monday. End of story. (Andrew Feldman)
It's pretty funny that the last time we did our Power Rankings, the Hardys weren't even part of the WWE universe. Their shocking and successful return at WrestleMania was one of the brightest moments of the show, and while the gimmick isn't quite there yet (while they be broken again?), man, it's good to see them back. They've likely already single-handedly saved the Raw tag team division. (Feldman)
It's tough to say where Lesnar will land on this list in future weeks, as he still looks to be working a part-time schedule and may disappear for lengthy stretches. Even having noted that, winning the WWE Universal title in a match against Goldberg that brought to mind the classic brutal boxing matchup of Hagler-Hearns -- absolutely maximizing on the potential of such a contest -- Lesnar lands an undeniable spot on this list this time around. (Joyner)
The Miz and Maryse thrived on SmackDown, and they're going to miss a lot of the things that made their run over the past year so great. Not having the platform of "Talking Smack" is a big loss, as is losing Miz's best foils in Cena and Daniel Bryan. They said a heartfelt goodbye to their stunningly entertaining Cena and Nikki Bella impressions to open Raw, and while the combination of The Miz and Maryse should be strong enough to find a solid spot for themselves, I unfortunately feel like I have to walk back my predictions of a world title reign in 2017, and that's too bad -- he certainly earned it with his work in 2016. (Tim Fiorvanti)
Out of sight, out of mind. After months and months of hot crowd reactions for a wide variety of reasons, Jericho didn't appear until the final moments of Raw to land a codebreaker on an already stunned and defeated Owens. It's a welcome treat to have Jericho hanging around until Payback, and with the shaken up status of Raw and SmackDown for the next few weeks, here's to hoping we see both Owens and Jericho as many times as we possibly can on Mondays and Tuesdays before Jericho takes a lengthy hiatus to enjoy his musical career. (Fiorvanti)
What a performance Rollins put forth at WrestleMania 33 against Triple H. The story he told while selling his injured knee was masterful. It was the best individual performance this year at WrestleMania, and quite possibly the best overall performance of Rollins' career. It appears that the next chapter of Rollins' beef with authority will come by way of Samoa Joe, which opens the door for a lot of exciting possibilities as we wait for Stephanie McMahon or Triple H to return (Coyle)
Her title win on Raw in mid-February was underwhelming, but Bayley made up for it with a statement-making match at WrestleMania against a top-notch performance for all four women involved. Here's hoping that Bayley will maintain her winning ways and continue building up that cachet, rather than conceding the title to the newly acquired Bliss or anyone else. (Wilansky)