It appears as though a new star is on the rise in WWE, as Ryback was chosen on Monday to oppose WWE Champion CM Punk at Hell in a Cell. John Cena stepped aside and decided to give Ryback a crack at the longest-reigning titleholder in several years.
Ryback's installation as Punk's challenger at Hell in a Cell came as a surprise to many fans, since Cena seemed to be penciled in. However, it is likely that his elbow simply isn't healthy enough to compete. Whatever the case, the WWE will now shift the focus even further in the ravenous monster's direction.
Punk has been at the top of the power rankings for their entire existence, but will Ryback's sudden surge to the top knock the WWE Champion from his perch? Also, how will Cena's continued absence from in-ring action affect his standing? All of that and more will be answered in this week's edition of the top 25 WWE superstar power-rankings.
Keep in mind that all rankings are based on pure entertainment value through matches and promos, and they do not take into account kayfabe factors such as wins and losses.
Last Week's Ranking: NR
Justin Gabriel may not be used as anything more than enhancement talent at this point, but he continues to prove that he is one of the WWE's best in-ring workers.
His match against United States Champion Antonio Cesaro on Monday was very exciting, and while he ultimately came out on the losing end, Gabriel was actually made to look fairly strong throughout.
Gabriel's biggest issue is the fact that he lacks any semblance on charisma, so it will be tough for him to get any further than the mid-card.
With that said, mid-card champions don't necessarily have to be mavens on the mic, so I could see him winning the U.S. or Intercontinental Championship at some point.
Last Week's Ranking: 24
Santino Marella seems to be lost in the mid-card shuffle at the moment, but the fact that he is over with the fans keeps him on this list for now.
Santino has been teaming with Zack Ryder a lot lately. and that was the case once again on RAW as they came up short against The Prime Time Players.
Both Santino and Ryder have also been having issues with The Three Man Band, as Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal have attacked both of them over the past couple of weeks.
I suppose Santino is going to feud with them, and while that won't make him any more interesting to me, at least the fans enjoy him.
Last Week's Ranking: 23
Over the past couple months, Brodus Clay has gone from one of the hottest things in the WWE to a glorified jobber, as he lost yet again on RAW.
Clay tapped out to Alberto Del Rio's cross armbreaker just one week after losing cleanly to United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. At this point, Clay is basically just putting over upper mid-card heels.
It's a shame that Brodus has come to this, because I believe he has plenty of potential. The Funkasaurus gimmick will prevent him from ever becoming a main-eventer, but it's highly entertaining and the fans love it.
I would like to see him legitimately challenging Cesaro for the United States Championship, but it looks like Brodus is on the back burner for now.
Last Week's Ranking: 22
The Prime Time Players have slipped in the tag-team pecking order a bit, as they lost in the semifinals of the No. 1 Contender tournament to Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara, but they are still an important part of the division.
Darren Young and Titus O'Neil beat Santino Marella and Zack Ryder on Monday, and will remain in the mix with the top teams in the company.
A likely scenario is that they they begin a feud with Mysterio and Sin Cara, after Rhodes Scholars beat them in the tournament finals, and I believe that is precisely what will happen.
The Prime Time Players aren't my favorites, but they have the vibe of a legitimate tag team and some personality, so I can get behind them.
Last Week's Ranking: 21
Tensai is nowhere near the dominant force he was when he debuted after WrestleMania, but he still has the ability to be an important piece to the puzzle.
Tensai has essentially been putting over World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus on a weekly basis of late, but his matches with The Great White have been hard-hitting and entertaining.
As limited as Tensai is in terms of personality, he has a great look and impressive in-ring skills for a man his size.
Tensai is the perfect monster heel for the upper mid-card, and perhaps even the main-event scene for a short period of time. Hopefully, the WWE realizes that.
Last Week's Ranking: 19
There are a lot of talented wrestlers in WWE who aren't used to their full potential, but Zack Ryder may top that list.
A year ago, Ryder was one of the hottest things going in WWE, and it eventually led to a United States Championship win. His reign was short, however, and his involvement in the Kane vs. John Cena storyline cut him off at the knees.
Ryder hasn't been able to get back to that level since, and that continued when he teamed with Santino in a losing effort against The Prime Time Players on Monday.
In less than a year, Ryder went from celebrating with the likes of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan to feuding with a stable that makes the J.O.B. Squad look like the nWo.
Last Week's Ranking: 20
Heath Slater may be the leader of the worst stable ever created, but at least he's the leader.
Over the past few weeks, Slater has organized attacks against Santino Marella and Zack Ryder as the head honcho for The Three Man Band, along with Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal.
I don't see any direction for this group, but it has gotten Slater increased exposure.
I do like Slater, as he has solid in-ring ability and a bit or personality, but I don't believe his ceiling is particularly high.
Perhaps he can get into mid-card title contention at some point, but it won't happen while he's tied to McIntyre and Mahal.
Last Week's Ranking: 18
Sin Cara has been flying solo for the past week with Rey Mysterio under the weather, and he has acquitted himself quite well.
Sin Cara surprisingly defeated Damien Sandow in a singles match on SmackDown, and helped give his team the advantage heading into their tag-team tournament finals match against Sandow and Cody Rhodes.
That match was supposed to take place on Monday, but with Mysterio ill, it was postponed until next week.
I consider Mysterio to be the star of the team, but Sin Cara has settled in nicely since teaming up with him.
There is only so much Sin Cara can do without speaking as a singles competitor, but the sky is the limit as long as he's with Rey.
Last Week's Ranking: 15
Although Rey Mysterio hasn't competed over the past week, I still rank him slightly ahead of his partner Sin Cara, due to the fact that he is more of an overall package.
Mysterio has done a lot of good for Sin Cara, and he starred in their victory over The Prime Time Players in the semifinals of the tag-team tournament last week. Not only does Mysterio still go in the ring, but he serves as the team's mouthpiece, as well.
Even which his advanced age and chronic knee issues, Mysterio can work circles around the vast majority of the roster, so you really have to hand it to him.
There isn't much left for him to accomplish as a singles wrestler and I feel like his current role is perfect, as it keeps him relevant and helps Sin Cara out as well.
Last Week's Ranking: 17
Alberto Del Rio competes twice a week and is always present on WWE programming, but I still can't bring myself to rank him much higher than this.
That should tell you what I think about Del Rio's character. Del Rio used to be one of my favorites, particularly during the huge push following his debut, but he is about as stale as an expired bag of pretzels now, and equally exciting.
Del Rio's feud with Sheamus lasted way too long, and his constant failure to win the World Heavyweight Championship hurt him.
Now Del Rio is engaged in a feud with another boring superstar with Randy Orton. There isn't anything to make me care about this particular storyline, and it's only going to damage Del Rio further as he is almost certain to come out on the losing end.
Last Week's Ranking: 16
Team Hell No may be the most popular tag team in the WWE right now, but Team Rhodes Scholars has really made a push as a legitimate pairing over the past few weeks.
I feel like the team has been especially beneficial to Cody Rhodes, as he was lost in the shuffle as a singles wrestler and has now found the purpose that would have otherwise been difficult to find.
I wouldn't say that Rhodes has done anything different with his character than he did as a singles guy, but he is comfortable in a tag-team setting, as he has formed successful tandems with Ted DiBiase, Hardcore Holly and Drew McIntyre over the years.
Damien Sandow may be his best partner yet, though, and that could help elevate Cody to the next level.
Last Week's Ranking: 13
Randy Orton may be one of the biggest stars in the company, but at some point he needs to stop living off that reputation and start delivering quality entertainment.
There is only so much Orton can do against someone like Alberto Del Rio, but he has become quite stagnant. Orton has never been particularly good on the mic, and his current gimmick makes that even more apparent.
Orton usually puts on a good match with whomever he faces, but that can only take a wrestler so far nowadays.
There is nothing particularly compelling about Orton and that is probably part of the reason why he hasn't been in the world-title hunt in a year.
I don't usually like to demand heel or face turns, but I can't help but think that Orton would be much more interesting as a cold-hearted heel.
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Seeing as he has been exclusively a tag-team wrestler over the past year, with Evan Bourne and R-Truth, there hasn't been much to say about Kofi Kingston.
The exciting high-flyer has suddenly been injected back into the faltering mid-card, however, as he is set to face The Miz for his Intercontinental Championship on this week's edition of Main Event.
Kofi defeated Miz in a non-title match on Monday, and looks like a real threat to take the strap.
The obvious thing that is holding Kingston back, though, is his total lack of mic skills. Miz schooled him on the stick on Monday, and I don't see Kofi ever overcoming his deficiencies in that area.
Kingston could very well wear that IC title again, but that may be his ceiling, as Miz suggested on RAW.
Last Week's Ranking: 11
It could be argued that Damien Sandow is the quintessential heel for the PG era, and he continues to make the case for that each and every week.
Sandow hasn't been able to showcase his biggest strength over the past month, which is his ability to shine on the mic, but his partnership with Cody Rhodes has been good nonetheless, and has allowed him to remain in a relevant spot on the card.
Sandow continues to impress in singles matches with the likes of Sheamus and Sin Cara, and I'm more confident now that he can be a main-event guy in the future.
I didn't know if Sandow's in-ring ability could catch up with his mic skills, and while they probably won't ever be equal, Sandow has shown enough as a wrestler for me to declare him a future world champion.
Last Week's Ranking: 12
I'm still waiting for United States Champion Antonio Cesaro to have a feud of some kind over his title, and although that hasn't happened yet, he has been very impressive lately.
Having Cesaro drop Aksana was a smart move by the writers, as she didn't really do anything for him. Also, the elimination of the five-languages gimmick has strengthened Cesaro as well.
He has proceeded to have great matches with the likes of Brodus Clay, Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel over the past few weeks.
The biggest issue for Cesaro is that there isn't a mid-card face on the roster who can really help elevate him. Christian could have been that guy, but he has been nursing an injury, and I'm not sure when he'll be back.
Cesaro is really versatile in the ring and has shown better promo work of late, so hopefully the creative team finds something for him sooner rather than later.
Last Week's Ranking: 9
Big Show is a guy who I'm fairly tired of seeing in the main-event scene, but he is always better as a heel, so at least he has that going for him.
Big Show feels like little more than a transitional feud for World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus at this point, but I suppose I can live with that. Big Show's promos continue to be fairly lame, so I wish he wouldn't talk, but his matches have been palatable.
Big Show defeated Daniel Bryan on RAW this week and will take on Kane next week, before facing off against Sheamus at Hell in a Cell.
As long as Big Show is made to look like an unstoppable monster, then he will be viewed as a credible threat to Sheamus. Anything less than that, and Big Show is nothing more than a bump in the road.
Last Week's Ranking: 7
Say what you will about Sheamus in terms of his entertainment value as World Heavyweight Champion, but at least he manages to have great matches with pretty much everyone he faces.
Sheamus engaged in a strong encounter with Wade Barrett for the second straight week on Monday, and the result was the same, as he won by disqualification when Big Show interfered.
I like Sheamus, but I'm ready for a change of scenery when it comes to SmackDown's main-event scene.
I don't care whether that means Dolph Ziggler cashing in his Money in the Bank contract or a fresh challenger for The Great White, but something needs to be different.
Sheamus is an extremely talented guy with a lot of potential, but his world-title run simply hasn't been all that it could be, and should be, to this point.
Last Week's Ranking: 10
I'm still waiting for something of note to be done with Wade Barrett, but his talent is undeniable.
Barrett has taken a break from squashing jobbers, as he and Sheamus have had great matches in back-to-back weeks, but I'm not sure that Barrett has been elevated at all.
Barrett looked like Sheamus' equal in both contests, but rather than giving him a win through a distraction or something like that, Barrett has twice taken the loss via disqualification.
It doesn't seem like the WWE knows what to do with Barrett, but he has all the potential in the world. He is dynamite on the mic and great in the ring for a man of his size.
My hope is that these matches with Sheamus are a precursor to a feud in the near future.
If Sheamus vanquishes Big Show at Hell in a Cell, I would love to see the Irishman and the Englishman do battle and have a true feud for a couple of months.
Last Week's Ranking: 5
I feel like I say it every week, but I'm not entirely sure what I see in Dolph Ziggler that the WWE doesn't.
Obviously, the WWE brass has confidence in Ziggler, as he won Money in the Bank, but he has been booked horribly ever since.
Not only does he have losses against Chris Jericho and Randy Orton on pay-per-view, but he actually lost a match to Alex Riley and basically loses a tag-team match every week.
Ziggler took the loss in a handicap match this week against Ryback, as he and David Otunga were the unlucky victims. Ziggler walked out on Otunga, so while Dolph didn't technically get pinned, it's another strike against him.
With no opponent in sight for Ziggler at Hell in a Cell it seems like he may cash in, but he has been made to look so weak that at this point, I don't know how effective it would be.
Last Week's Ranking: 6
John Cena was out of action yet again this week due to his elbow injury, but that isn't why he failed to move up the rankings.
Cena's promo was lackluster for the second consecutive week and the logic behind his decision was flawed, to say the least.
WWE Champion CM Punk was scheduled to face either Cena or Ryback at Hell in a Cell, but Cena willingly gave his spot to Ryback, for a reason that made absolutely no sense.
Earlier in the show, Cena declined to say how ready he was to compete, but he basically said that he wanted to face Punk at Hell in a Cell.
He told McMahon to go with Ryback instead, though, and that simply isn't something that Cena would ever do.
I have to believe that the choosing of Ryback has to do with Cena not healing as quickly as anticipated, but it could have been executed much better.
Last Week's Ranking: 8
The Miz may not be booked well as Intercontinental Champion, but much like Dolph Ziggler, he continues to show every week why he should be a main-event star.
Miz had a fun interaction with Larry King last week, but his Miz TV segment with Kofi Kingston on Monday was as good as it gets. Miz showed some of his trademark humor, but he was serious as well, and everything he said was so true that the promo seemed legitimate.
Miz told Kofi that he had reached his ceiling, that he had no signature moments and that the fans would only remember him as a guy who said "boom, boom, boom."
Kofi proceeded to attack him, and defeat him later in the show, and they will go at it on Main Event this week.
In one respect, I want Miz to retain because I believe he can do great things with the IC title, but at the same time, I feel like he could be much higher on the card without it.
Last Week's Ranking: 4
Team Hell No hasn't taken up the bulk of television time lately, not like they did when the team first formed, but Kane and Daniel Bryan continue to play their roles to perfection.
The partnership between the tag-team champions reached another level on Monday, as Kane showed some compassion for Bryan. Kane laughed when D-Bry lost to Big Show, but he rushed to his aid when Big Show threatened to hit Bryan with a KO Punch after the match.
It seemed very much like a big brother protecting a little brother. The big brother can push the little brother around and make fun of him all he wants, but it isn't okay for someone else to do it.
I have really enjoyed the evolution of Kane's character, because even though I like him as an unstoppable monster, his current character has a lot more depth.
Last Week's Ranking: 3
The WWE has cut down a bit on the comedy act that is Team Hell No, but Daniel Bryan can't help but be hilarious.
His mannerisms are great, and the reaction he had when he found out that he would face Big Show on RAW was classic.
Bryan managed to carry Big Show through a pretty good match as he does with everyone, but his personality has almost equaled his in-ring ability at this point.
Teaming with Kane has truly been an excellent career move for Bryan. I realize that he was World Heavyweight Champion before, but he was somewhat one-dimensional.
Since becoming Kane's partner, he has proven that he can do it all, though, and I have no doubt that he will one day be WWE Champion as well.
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Ryback has reached his high point, as he will be WWE Champion CM Punk's challenger at Hell in a Cell, but not even that is enough to knock the champ from his pedestal.
Ryback has a lot of crowd support right now, and I can understand why the WWE is striking while the iron is hot, but he has some shortcomings.
The most notable is his lack of mic skills, as he wasn't even handed a mic during the contract signing on Monday.
People can say that he was good on the mic as Skip Sheffield, but he isn't a country boy anymore, so that's a moot point. Even so, Ryback is a monster that the fans want to see, and that puts him at No. 2 in the rankings.
Putting him in the main event probably has everything to do with John Cena's health or lack thereof, but you know that he's doing something right if the WWE trusts him that much.
Last Week's Ranking: 1
WWE Champion CM Punk has his detractors, but it's tough to deny the fact that he is the most entertaining person on RAW week-in and week-out.
Punk cut another entertaining promo on RAW and furthered his heel status even more, as he continues to do so with each passing week. Punk was made to look inferior to Ryback at the close of the show, but that is to be expected, since Ryback is supposed to look like the overwhelming favorite.
I personally wanted to see Punk vs. Cena at Hell in a Cell, but unless a pre-match attack on Ryback is planned, we probably won't see that.
With that said, handing Ryback his first loss could be big for Punk, as he hasn't really won a big match in a long time, aside from the victory over Sheamus on Main Event.
I would be shocked if Ryback came away with the title, so I'm interested to see how Punk is given the win.