ESPN WWE Power Rankings: Seth Rollins' career-defining run puts him at No. 1

From Finn Balor, to The Miz, to Kevin Owens and beyond, Seth Rollins is in the midst of a career-defining run of matches over the last couple of months. Courtesy of WWE

In the career of any WWE Hall of Famer, there are a handful of moments and periods in their career that stand as the shining example of what they were capable of when they were at their best.

For Seth Rollins, his initial year-and-a-half run with The Shield, his Money in the Bank cash-in during the main event of WrestleMania, battles with former Shield compatriots Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose and other moments in his run as WWE champion stand out. There have been peaks and valleys since his return from a devastating knee injury in late 2015, but the first few months of 2018 have seen Rollins operating at the absolute peak of his powers.

There are plenty of wrestlers who are comfortable at the microphone and quite a few who can tap into the energy of a crowd on any given night. There's also a handful of stars who are technically proficient enough in the ring to have an entertaining match against almost any opponent they're put up against. To be able to combine both skills while telling a compelling, fresh story in the ring is rare.

By simply listening to the reactions the WWE audience has had for Seth Rollins over the last few months -- the cries of "Burn it Down" in London this week bordered on deafening -- you can hear just how well everything has come together. There were signs Rollins was moving forward as far back as mid-2017, as his reunion with Dean Ambrose was far and away the most effective portion of the attempted Shield reunion. A lot of things got lost amidst the shuffle of injuries and illnesses that derailed that reunion, which was followed by an impromptu pairing and an over-extended storyline with Jason Jordan against The Bar.

But the true line of demarcation in Rollins' rise back to the very top of the WWE heap came on the Feb. 19 edition of Monday Night Raw. On that night, Rollins wrestled for more than an hour and pinned both Reigns and John Cena as part of a seven-man gauntlet match. His creativity and adaption of his moveset reminded fans of his versatility and ability, and he hasn't really slowed down since.

From the Elimination Chamber, through every single match and confrontation with Finn Balor and The Miz on the way to WrestleMania, Rollins picked up his game more and more each week. The Intercontinental championship match that opened WrestleMania 34 was widely recognized as one of the best on the card, and Rollins has only pushed things further since becoming champion.

Between live events and pay-per-views, Rollins has defended the Intercontinental title on four different continents in the last month. He's embodied the moniker of fighting champion in many other ways as well, taking on all comers while seemingly being uber-focused on having the best show of the night no matter where he is on the card. From the Fatal 4-Way ladder match at the Greatest Royal Rumble to the remarkable match against Balor the following Monday on Raw; from an incredible showing against The Miz at Backlash, through Mojo Rawley's best WWE match and an intensely entertaining war against Kevin Owens on Monday, we are in the midst of a Rollins renaissance.

Rollins, at this moment, is everything that Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns are not. He is getting genuine, enthusiastic reactions from almost every different kind of fan, telling believable, well-thought-out stories that encompass everything he does in the ring and on the microphone. Rollins is on TV every week, maximizing on every opportunity and making everyone that steps into the ring with him look better by the time the match is over than they did walking down the ramp.

If that's not the wrestler you want to steer the ship as the Universal champion moving forward, you're simply ignoring the reality standing right in front of your face. That's the reason why he's become the near-unanimous selection atop this edition of the ESPN WWE Power Rankings, and why he'll be the one to carry Raw on his back if he has to through the rest of the summer, until WWE and Lesnar deem the timing worthy enough for his return.

Rankings are based upon the perceived value of a superstar to the on-screen product of WWE, which is determined by the voting of a panel of WWE on ESPN contributors. Number in parentheses ( ) indicates first-place votes.

I just wrote 750 words about why Rollins is on an unparalleled run at the moment. If that's not enough, I apologize wholeheartedly (Tim Fiorvanti)

While the WWE's version of AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura hasn't quite lived up to the hype yet, Styles continues to prove why he's considered by many to be the best overall performer in professional wrestling. We've gotten some indications that the best of Styles and Nakamura is still to come, but even if it doesn't ultimately get to the level everyone's hoping for, there are many more classic Styles matches on the horizon with the current construction of the SmackDown roster. (Sean Coyle)

The Greatest Royal Rumble winner continues to be on a roll that shows little sign of slowing down. Coming off that, Strowman continues to be booked as an unstoppable force and he'll head into the men's Money in the Bank ladder match as one of the favorites. Whether he wins the match or not though, it's time to get Strowman involved in a program that he can really sink his teeth into. There is tons of personality to go along with his physical dominance. We need to see more of it. (Coyle)

In the matter of just a few weeks, Bryan has evolved from a feel-good story to must-see TV. He was dominant at the Greatest Royal Rumble, setting a record with how long he was in the ring and, more impressively, he earned a definitive win over Big Cass and then showed a hyper-aggressive edge in beating the stuffing out of Cass on Tuesday. (Matt Wilansky)

Miz is an entertainer extraordinaire, and at Backlash he proved his in-ring abilities can be as stellar as his antagonistic promos. He's shined on the mic since returning to SmackDown, but The Miz still needs the kind of big-time win that has eluded him for quite some time. Money in the Bank should be an interesting test. (Wilansky)

He's racked up some losses and currently finds himself in a storyline that has him on the outside looking in for the men's Money In The Bank ladder match. But does anyone actually think the WWE is going to stop pushing him as the potential face of the company? The fans may hate him, but he still retains the kind of heat that the audience will pay to see. (KC Joyner)

Nakamura's heel turn at WrestleMania shocked a lot of people and took some of the sting out of the match not quite reaching the stratospheric levels some expected. The finishes to their next two matches -- two different outcomes that led to double countouts -- have left a bad taste in a lot of mouths, but don't fret. In the first 21 minutes of their Backlash match, and even more so in their clash on SmackDown on Tuesday, Nakamura and Styles have paid off quite a bit of the misdirection and questionable storytelling along the way by folding all of those elements into the tale they're telling in the ring. Money in the Bank has a chance to be a very special moment in the careers of Nakamura and Styles. (Fiorvanti)

The backstage segments he's doing with Sami Zayn are as good, if not better, than what we're seeing in the ring -- and that's saying a lot, considering what he did against Strowman and Rollins over the last two weeks on Raw. A Money in the Bank victory is definitely a strong possibility for KO. (Andrew Feldman)

In storyline, there's no reason Ronda should get a Raw women's title shot. In real-life business necessity, push your stars and attract more eyes. Simple as that. Rousey far exceeded expectations at WrestleMania, and now we get to see what she'll have in store against Nia Jax in her second major match. (Feldman)

Putting Reigns through the cage at the Greatest Royal Rumble will go down as one of the most memorable moments in the WWE this year. It also cemented the idea that Lesnar will hold on to the WWE Universal title for much longer than previously expected. (Joyner)

Dropped from rankings: Charlotte Flair, Nia Jax

Honorable mention: Flair, Jax, Ruby Riott, Rusev, Xavier Woods, Elias, Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre & Dolph Ziggler, Ember Moon