In the two months since WrestleMania 35, the WWE has struggled to establish consistent storylines and fresh rivalries that fans can buy into. They installed a wild-card rule to allow for a certain number of stars from Raw and SmackDown to appear on the opposite show every week, and though it has helped to stabilize the ratings in the short term, it has led to a lot of repetition on Monday and Tuesday nights.
The list of wrestlers who have stood out during this time as they rose above the chaos is short, and includes a few of the usual suspects. As you'll see reflected in the latest ESPN WWE Power Rankings, the top three remains the same, albeit with Seth Rollins shuffled above Becky Lynch. Kofi Kingston retains the No. 1 spot once again, as the back-to-full-strength New Day has been a buoy among the choppy seas.
Beyond that top three, however, is the remainder of a top 10 that's indicative of just how much has changed over the past six weeks and the creative struggles WWE is still dealing with. Unsurprisingly, much of that list is comprised of superstars who are willing to take personal creative risks and have some leeway to put their own spin on their characters and storylines.
Bray Wyatt, who hasn't wrestled on WWE TV since August, sits fourth because of the shining beacon of hope and weirdness that is the Firefly Fun House. Bayley's singles career did a 180 at Money in the Bank, and her continued efforts have her back in the top 10 as well. R-Truth has turned the potentially disastrous 24/7 title into a revitalizing moment in his career; the backstage segments and moments like Cesaro pulling a table out from under the ring and stumble upon Truth's hiding spot have helped break up monotonous, nonsensical and downright aggravating episodes of Raw and SmackDown. The online segments -- most notably Truth and Jinder Mahal trading the 24/7 belt on the tarmac and in the air -- help to make the ecosystems of Raw and SmackDown feel more vibrant and deeply developed.
Brock Lesnar has somehow become the beacon of creativity and evolution as Mr. Money in the Bank, with guys like Dolph Ziggler, Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn each making their mark and maximizing upon each opportunity. Ricochet and Cesaro, who didn't quite crack the top 10 this time around, but have turned out tremendous matches on nights where Lars Sullivan takes on the Lucha House party for the fourth week in a row ... or there are only four true matches over the course of a three-hour program.
There have been glimmers of hope in recent weeks that a turnaround might be possible, but for now, it's going to take standout performances by these 11 superstars and many others for Raw and SmackDown to dig themselves out of the creative hole they're currently in. In the meantime, NXT continues to produce some of the best wrestling and simple, well-constructed storylines you're going to see in wrestling in 2019. In light of their continued standout work, we're also including a quick look at our NXT top-three in this edition of the rankings.
If WWE wants to course correct in a hurry, it might simply be a matter of watching what else is going on in house -- but we digress. Let's look at the top 10 (with ties) WWE superstars who stand out amidst the darkness. -- Tim Fiorvanti
The ESPN WWE Power Rankings are determined by a panel based on the perceived valuation each wrestler has to the on-screen WWE product. Numbers in parentheses ( ) indicate first-place votes.
There was some concern on my part that after the joy of Kofi Kingston's win at WrestleMania, he wouldn't be booked as a strong champion -- eating pinfalls to prospective opponents before his title reign fizzled out at a non-major pay-per-view. That might still happen, and Brock Lesnar (and the briefcase/boombox) loom large in the distance, but for now, let's enjoy the fact that Kofi's picking up victories over Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. In each of those three matchups, he's in there with opponents against whom he can show his full potential in the ring. -- Matt Willis
Seth Rollins is the steady Universal champion WWE has been searching for since the title was introduced at Summerslam 2016. His versatility was never more apparent than when he was seamlessly able to transition from a feud with an equally dynamic in-ring performer, such as AJ Styles, to an imposing physical presence in Brock Lesnar, and then on to a loathed heel in Baron Corbin. Rollins elevates everyone he's in the ring with and he can make any match feel important. He'll have to prove that again at Stomping Grounds in a rematch with Corbin that is a bit of a headscratcher given the talent on WWE's roster -- but watch Rollins find a way to make it the match of the night. -- Michael Wonsover
It's impossible to deny that Becky Lynch has lost some of her luster in the months since WrestleMania. It has nothing to do with dropping one of her two belts; her storyline with Charlotte Flair simply lingered for far too long. Her current rivalry with Lacey Evans isn't horrible, but that seems like too low a bar for Lynch to clear after the high she was on. Provided she walks out of Stomping Grounds with her belt intact, a feud with Alexa Bliss or even Nikki Cross would reinvigorate the Raw champ heading deeper into the summer. -- Matt Wilansky
Bray Wyatt still hasn't appeared physically inside a ring on WWE TV since August, yet he's arguably the best thing going in the WWE right now. If three hours of Raw is too much to sit through (and for most, it is right now), set aside three minutes every week to watch the Firefly Fun House. The show has evolved from creepy, confusing vignettes to one of the most unique and well-executed segments WWE has produced in years. Wyatt has revitalized his career and found a way to unleash his personality while maintaining his dark persona. I'll take Wyatt teaching the "Muscle Man Dance" in zubaz and a fanny pack or taking a mallet to a puppet rabbit over anything else on WWE TV right now. How Wyatt transitions this momentum into an in-ring persona remains to be seen, but he has proven he doesn't need to step inside the ring to make an impact. -- Wonsover
After going from afterthought to champion in one night at Money in the Bank, Bayley now is at the forefront of a loaded SmackDown women's division that features Charlotte, Asuka, Ember Moon and many more (especially with the "wild card" rule in place. She'll have no shortage of opponents to showcase herself against and yet, for now, she's up against Alexa Bliss, which will give her more of a chance to build her character than to shine in-ring. -- Willis
How many 24/7 title reigns has R-Truth had in the month that championship has existed? Fifty? OK, it's five, but it's hard to keep up with at this point. Truth proved himself a brilliant entertainer and comedian, taking what was looked at as an outright disaster of a title and idea and turning it into a welcomed respite every week on Raw and SmackDown. "I lost by championship on a tarmac, but I won it back, mid-flight, at a cruising altitude of 49,000 feet -- Celsius." Truth is one of a kind. Give him 100 24/7 titles. He's worthy. -- Wilansky
After a nearly six-month hiatus, Dolph Ziggler returned to the WWE in a big way, as a villain in a WWE championship program with Kofi Kingston. Since returning, Ziggler's promos have been delivered with a rediscovered passion, and he hasn't missed a step in the ring, which comes as little surprise as Ziggler has long been among the top workers in the company. -- Sean Coyle
The Beast Incarnate still moves the TV ratings meter like no other WWE superstar. Add that to his awesome new boom box moves with the Money In The Bank briefcase and one can almost forgive his not cashing in the briefcase on the four occasions when a cash in was promised. He's doing some of his best work in recent memory right now. -- KC Joyner
Shane McMahon has taken center stage at a point in his career when few could've imagined him playing such an active role as a wrestler -- and really, as a heel, it has been enjoyable. Sure, the dynamics with Elias and Drew McIntyre have been weird at times, but the work being done on the mic and in the ring have showcased Shane in a good way at this unique moment in time in WWE. -- Andrew Feldman
Is there a more intimidating superstar on the WWE roster than Samoa Joe? Despite retaining the United States championship in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it match against Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 35, and then losing it to Mysterio in equally quick and controversial fashion at Money in the Bank, Joe reclaimed that title when Mysterio vacated it due to injury. That didn't stop Joe from inflicting more punishment on Mysterio in a memorable segment on SmackDown Live a couple weeks back, further establishing his intensity. -- Coyle
Sami Zayn has been doing tremendous work since his most recent return, and one of the few silver linings of the disastrous wild-card rule has been Zayn's reunion with Kevin Owens. Zayn's value stems from his undying commitment to everything from the most serious world title match to a guest referee role that some might throw away entirely. The image of Zayn dancing to the ring in full head-to-toe referee's garb and then putting his serious face on as he checked each wrestler for foreign objects sums up that commitment perfectly. During an otherwise chaotic, ever-shifting WWE landscape, Sami Zayn knows exactly who he is and what he is capable of. -- Fiorvanti