My, how things can change in a matter of weeks. The last time we were here with the ESPN WWE Power Rankings, AJ Styles was putting some distance between himself and the rest of the pack, and we were still struggling to figure out the repercussions of the superstar shakeup.
While Raw has fought on a weekly basis to cover the gaping hole that is Universal champion Brock Lesnar's absence, and now has to deal with an injury to Braun Strowman, there have been a couple of bright spots on a weekly basis. No matter how polarizing Roman Reigns has been, he is undeniably the lynch pin in any scenario in which Lesnar's not showing up on Raw. In the women's division, Alexa Bliss has instantly assimilated and, upon defeating Bayley for the Raw women's championship in her first opportunity, has continued to raise the bar from a personality standpoint. Both have pushed Styles about as closely to the brink of losing his No. 1 spot as anyone in recent memory.
SmackDown, on the other hand, has taken some major chances with brand new contenders to the WWE championship and their tag team championships. Sunday's Backlash pay-per-view will be quite telling in how far they're willing to take things, but it's been incredible to watch as both Jinder Mahal and Breezango have become compelling, must-watch characters.
Without further ado, let's check out our new set of 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.
There is no better in-ring performer in the WWE than Styles, and his upcoming match against Kevin Owens at Backlash should be a show stealer. While no crowd reaction in the company can compare to that of Roman Reigns, Styles' average pop is certainly in the top five and overwhelmingly positive. He is everything the WWE could hope for -- the Shawn Michaels of this generation, especially from an in-ring storytelling perspective. (Sean Coyle)
This spot should probably belong to Braun Strowman, but this is the wrestling business and injuries happen. I know it's incredibly cliché at this point to say it, but love him or hate him, this guy moves the needle every time. (Peter Rosenberg)
It's been very exciting to see this run from Alexa Bliss. She really put it together on SmackDown, but it would've been easy for her to have gotten swallowed up with all of the moving parts on Raw. Bliss seemingly only gets better by the week, and it's been so much fun to watch. (Rosenberg)
New show, same story -- Kevin Owens is a rock solid asset. As the WWE experiments with Jinder Mahal at the main event level and the WWE title picture, Owens is holding it down with his over-the-top "face of America" gimmick and seems to have tremendous chemistry with his opponent for Sunday, AJ Styles. (Andrew Feldman)
It's not as if Orton has overwhelmingly wowed us in this latest title run, but he's still a fighting champ, showing up week in, week out. Only problem with Orton has been questionable booking, first from his forgettable beef with Bray Wyatt and now against jobber-turned-stud Jinder Mahal. The bottom line is that no one on either roster has really stepped up on a consistent enough basis to overshadow Orton, and he's still the WWE champion. (Matt Wilansky)
It's hard not to sit here and ponder what might have been had The Miz stayed on SmackDown. With Jinder Mahal getting his shot at the WWE title at Backlash, you can't tell me that The Miz wouldn't have been near the top of the list to be a contender for one of the WWE's main titles. Despite some fear that he'd get lost in the shuffle, Miz and Ambrose have made something out of nothing by continuing their Intercontinental title rivalry cooking in their new home. But his performance over the last couple of years merits so much more. (Tim Fiorvanti)
Whether as a tag team or individually, Matt and Jeff Hardy are dynamic and completely engage the crowd from start to finish. Their current feud with Sheamus and Cesaro is a nice juxtaposition of styles, and no matter whether the brothers have the titles or not, they will be a main attraction as long as they are in the WWE. (Wilansky)
Is there anyone else you're rooting for more to return to the top than Finn Balor? The WWE24 documentary on his return from the shoulder injuries he suffered at SummerSlam was incredible, and showed a lot of why he was quickly tabbed as one of the next big things following his main roster debut. The No. 1 contenders match at Extreme Rules is the first taste of that return. "You deserve it... again." (Feldman)
Rollins is the complete package and is certainly holding up his end of the bargain as a babyface on RAW. But it's hard not to think about how much better a natural villain Rollins can be, and I hope we get to see that transition in the near future because he plays that character so well. With that kind of switch, Rollins could easily find himself in the top spot of these rankings. (Coyle)
Well, we certainly didn't see this coming, and if you claim you did, you're a damn liar. But once again, despite losing a lot of talent in the superstar shake-up, SmackDown has taken the under-appreciated assets it has and simply let them loose. It's been incredible to see Tyler Breeze and Fandango, who are both very talented in-ring performers, given a chance to climb out from the abyss where they were previously. And the Fashion Files has been the most entertaining segment on WWE TV for weeks. (Fiorvanti)