The WWE calendar is flying by at breakneck speed, with No Mercy and Hell in a Cell each making an impact on the long-term paths for Raw and SmackDown, respectively. We're just over a month out from Survivor Series and just over a week out from TLC -- another pay-per-view event that seems certain to alter the fates of many WWE superstars, including Asuka, who makes her main roster debut.
In just the past week, we've seen the reunion of The Shield, a moment three years in the making, and the reunion of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who have been at war since the former's first night in NXT. Each of those moments had a drastic effect on the latest edition of the ESPN WWE Power Rankings, so without further ado, let's dig in.
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.
Kevin Owens is doing the best work of his career right now. He has become the most valuable asset in the WWE and the company's top heel. Coming off one of the better builds to a match we've seen this year with Shane McMahon, including a moment in the spotlight with the boss, Vince McMahon, the Hell in a Cell match lived up to the hype. Most of Owens' matches do. The scary thing is that he seems to be getting better with each passing week. (Sean Coyle)
My, how things have changed over the course of the past three years. Since Seth Rollins dissolved The Shield with steel chair shots to Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in 2014, all three men have had runs with the WWE championship and rivalries with one another. Were there small intricacies that weren't 100 percent on point Monday when they came back together? Sure. But having all three of them standing, arms extended, in the same building in which they both debuted and broke up, coming back together was a rare wrestling moment that produced genuine goosebumps. (Tim Fiorvanti)
Seriously, has anyone taken a step back and realized that The Miz is the vehicle for everything these days? Over the course of just a few weeks, he was the catalyst for a Shield reunion three years in the making. It took a little while, but Miz has finally found his niche on Monday nights. (Andrew Feldman)
He's out of the Universal championship picture, but Strowman is hands down the most exciting person on the roster right now. Figuring out who or what he will beat up next is fun on a weekly basis, and his addition to the TLC main event makes it all the more interesting. (Feldman)
They are the best tag team in the WWE, and they know it. They have now taken out The New Day in spectacular fashion in each of the past two SmackDown pay-per-view events. Jimmy and Jey put their bodies on the line every week, and their matches are must-watch TV; Hell in a Cell somehow lived up to all the hype, and there was a lot of it. Here's hoping they can keep that momentum up against Shelton Benjamin, Chad Gable and the rest of SmackDown's tag-team division. (Matt Wilansky)
Styles' loss at Hell in a Cell and this past week on SmackDown Live hurt him a little bit, but it might also be a blessing in disguise. It's time for Styles to move onto bigger and better things and climb back into the WWE championship picture. After all, he is the most talented performer on SmackDown Live. (Coyle)
He's not flashy, nor is the anti-American rhetoric he has going on an original act. But Mahal is still a worthy champ who made it past Shinsuke Nakamura -- not once, but twice. It'll be interesting to see if Mahal can keep up his winning ways without the assistance, if that's what we're calling it, of The Singh Brothers. And who will be the next challenger to step into the ring with the "Modern Day Maharaja"? (Wilansky)
Just when it seemed as though Corbin's future successes were in question, he became the new U.S. champion and then successfully defended it against arguably the best performer on the roster in AJ Styles. Corbin has a knack for getting under people's skin, which is exactly what you want from a heel champion. Things are finally looking up for Corbin. (Coyle)
Say what you will about Enzo Amore, but he's brought more attention to 205 Live than anyone else has since the Cruiserweight Classic launched it last year. Despite his weirdly short cruiserweight title reign, he's must-see TV every time he's out there, and he's the perfect foil for all of the super-athletic guys on that roster. (Peter Rosenberg)
A lot of people take The New Day for granted, but its rivalry with The Usos has brought out the very best in all five men involved. Hell in a Cell was a showcase of just how far each of them is willing to go and how innovative and creative Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston can be. This is a rare tag team that should never be broken up, but it should be time, sooner rather than later, for each of them to see what they can do out on their own (with their support system in tow, of course). (Fiorvanti)
OK then, Natlya is still the champ. A seemingly sure bet to lose to Charlotte Flair at Hell in a Cell, or so we thought, Natalya continues to prove week in and week out that she has the chops to hang with the top women of SmackDown. What she needs, as does every other woman on the show, is a legit rival that can bring some organic heat to the division. How about starting with Becky Lynch? (Wilansky)
It takes quite the effort and quite the moment to have as much impact as the reunion of The Shield, but after a memorable Hell in a Cell match between Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens, Zayn stole the thunder. With his sudden and unexpected turn to the dark side in saving Owens, his bitter longtime rival (and longtime brother in arms) just seconds before McMahon jumped from the top of the Hell in a Cell and crashed through a table, Zayn, who has languished for the most part on SmackDown, finally has a story he can really sink his teeth into. (Fiorvanti)