The WWE has been in a holding pattern for the past week, with one week of build still remaining prior to Tables, Ladders & Chairs, but there was certainly a handful of superstars that shined brighter than the rest. While it necessitated some shuffling in this week's power rankings, the No. 1 spot is obviously of the most interest.
WWE champion CM Punk has occupied the top position for the past couple of months and has been No. 1 each week save for one instance in which he was usurped by John Cena. Punk is now facing stiff challenges from a number of superstars, including Cena, Ryback and even Dolph Ziggler. Was Punk able to remain atop his perch for another week?
Additionally, the lower and middle portions of the rankings were shaken up as always with the WWE sporadically utilizing guys at that level. There are several superstars who didn't make the rankings last week but were able to find their way onto the list this week due to impressive performances or, in some cases, simply wrestling in a match.
Here are the top 25 superstars in WWE for the week beginning on Dec. 2. Keep in mind that the rankings, as always, are based purely on entertainment level and overall effectiveness rather than kayfabe factors such as wins and losses.
Last Week's Ranking: NR
The WWE hasn't yet figured out the correct way to use David Otunga, but when it does, he could develop into a major star. Otunga may very well be the worst in-ring worker the WWE has ever seen. He has some stiff competition from guys like Giant Gonzalez or his opponent on the most recent edition of SmackDown, The Great Khali, but he is certainly in the running.
Otunga has an enviable physique; however, his offensive arsenal consists solely of punches, clotheslines and headlocks. With that said, he has plenty of personality and has shown it off with his lawyer character and when he was aligned with John Laurinaitis. If Otunga transitions to a backstage personality role, I can see him getting over.
Last Week's Ranking: 19
Tensai had been steadily climbing the rankings prior to this week thanks to his regular appearances as a heel jobber, but he has been absent over the past week, and his new ranking reflects that. Tensai is clearly one of the most underutilized and misused talents on the entire roster, and when you consider how much he had going for him when he debuted earlier in the year, his current state is quite unfortunate.
He isn't going to be the main-event heel that the WWE seemed to be molding him into, but he should definitely be a threat in the midcard. The WWE doesn't have many skilled big men anymore, but Tensai certainly is one as he can work and he has a menacing look. Rather than jobbing to every Tom, Dick and Harry, Tensai needs to be in midcard title contention.
Last Week's Ranking: 21
The Great Khali took part in one of the clumsiest matches of all time on SmackDown as he defeated David Otunga in two minutes. To be fair to Otunga, Khali isn't really even capable of having a passable match with a great wrestler. Nevertheless, the creative team continues to use Khali on a fairly regular basis.
Since he obviously can't take part in any type of substantial angle, he's not buddies with Hornswoggle, which is something that has the IWC in a tizzy. I don't particularly enjoy Khali at all, but he's great for the WWE in the Indian market, and as long as his exposure is kept to a couple minutes per week, I'm fine with it.
Last Week's Ranking: 20
What a difference a year makes. About a year ago, Zack Ryder defeated Dolph Ziggler for the United States Championship at TLC and was among the most popular stars in the company. Now, he is rarely featured on television, and when he is it is usually to job. That was the case last week as Ryder lost to Damien Sandow, and he followed that up without an appearance this week.
Ryder still has what it takes to get over with the crowd as he has a good gimmick and the fans want to cheer him, but the WWE won't give them anything to cheer about. Ryder has it all as he is also a strong in-ring competitor, so I'm hopeful that he'll get back into the midcard title one day. If not, he's in danger of tumbling even further.
Last Week's Ranking: 23
The WWE continues to build 3MB slowly but surely, but a time will come when the writers have to make a decision regarding them. They have beaten low-level teams like Team Co-Bro and The Usos as of late, but nobody will care about them unless they take the next step. Unfortunately for 3MB, there isn't a logical next step for them right now.
I do somewhat enjoy Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre as a comedic trio; however, they can't accomplish much more than they already have. The best-case scenario is that somebody from the group, preferably McIntyre, will eventually break away and do something as an individual. Until then, I suppose 3MB will continue to beat down jobber teams.
Last Week's Ranking: NR
Santino Marella certainly receives a ton of criticism from the so-called "smart" wrestling fans, but it's important to understand that he plays a key role for the WWE. He is nothing more than a midcarder; however, he is entertaining, has a good personality and the kids love him. Having a guy like that is invaluable to the WWE, so Santino will likely have a job for life.
I wasn't a big fan of Santino holding the United States Championship and running through the midcard since he didn't need the title, but he's perfectly fine in his current role. He's good for a couple laughs every time he shows up and he has a good enough pedigree that putting over up-and-coming heels actually means something.
Last Week's Ranking: 18
I'll be the first to admit that I can't speak objectively about R-Truth. It's hard for me to get over the fact that he was one of the most entertaining guys in the company as a psychotic heel last year, and now he is quite possibly the stalest superstar on the roster. The Little Jimmy gimmick has clearly run its course and Truth is in a state of flux.
He is technically feuding with Antonio Cesaro over the United States Championship, but they haven't cut a single promo on each other and Truth doesn't appear to be a threat whatsoever. He's usually pretty solid in the ring and is a capable midcarder, but unless Truth goes through some sort of character transformation, he'll never be relevant again.
Last Week's Ranking: 17
The Prime Time Players continue to entertain with their antics on a weekly basis, but it's difficult to tell where they're headed at the moment. They're no worse than the No. 3 tag team in the WWE's pecking order behind Team Hell No and Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara, but it's unclear if they'll be getting a shot at the Tag Team Championships at TLC.
Neither Darren Young nor Titus O'Neil are great in the ring, but I still continue to get a kick out of some of the things they do such as the millions of dollars dance and Young picking his afro in the middle of a match. It's probably only a matter of time before the Prime Time Players become Tag Team Championships, but they aren't ready quite yet. With that said, I'd like to see them in a triple-threat tag match for the straps at TLC.
Last Week's Ranking: 16
The WWE clearly can't figure out what to do with Alberto Del Rio as he has competed in random matches over the past few weeks and hasn't really gained anything from them. He faced and defeated Sin Cara yet again on Raw, but the match didn't mean much. It was interesting to see him challenge John Cena on SmackDown, but he lost that contest too. Del Rio needs a feud of some kind, and it just doesn't seem like there is one on the horizon.
Del Rio's stock took a big hit after the long, boring feud with Sheamus and his ensuing rivalry with Randy Orton didn't exactly impress anybody either. There is an obvious lack of midcard talent on the face side, so Del Rio may be left off the TLC card completely. A match with The Miz is possible, but there isn't any heat between them. The only thing worth looking forward to when it comes to Del Rio is his potential relationship with Rosa Mendes that could lead to a feud with Ricardo Rodriguez.
Last Week's Ranking: NR
Brad Maddox made his first appearance on WWE programming in several weeks on Monday as he showed up in Vickie Guerrero's office. Maddox had previously lost a match to Ryback, which would have netted him a WWE contract had he won. Maddox demanded another shot at a contract and Vickie obliged, although she put Maddox in a precarious situation as he had to face Randy Orton.
The Viper made quick work of Maddox, but The Shield attacked Orton immediately following the match. I have thought since The Shield's debut that Maddox was somehow involved, and it looks like that may be the case. The Shield said that it would fight against injustice, and the fact that Maddox had to face Orton could be viewed as unjust. Whatever the case, I really like Maddox's promo style and brash attitude, so I hope we see plenty more of him.
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Randy Orton is undoubtedly the face version of Alberto Del Rio, which is fitting since they just feuded with each other. Orton is a main-event-level talent and he has been world champion many times, but there is no obvious avenue to the main event for him at the moment. Because of that, he is toiling in the midcard and searching for something to do, but it doesn't seem as though the creative team has anything for him.
He could feud with a guy like Damien Sandow, but Orton can't get anything out of it unless he wins, and if he wins it would only damage Sandow. I would've liked an Orton vs. The Miz feud before Miz officially turned face, but that appeared to happen on Raw. Orton is beyond stale and needs something to breathe new life into his character, and a double turn after a match with Miz would have been great. It still can happen, but Orton is in desperate need of a heel turn no matter how it's executed.
Last Week's Ranking: 15
If nothing else, Kofi Kingston is good for a solid match or two on WWE programming each and every week. He delivered on Monday as he was part of a fatal four way match for the United States Championship. He took the fall as Antonio Cesaro pinned him to retain the title, but he was responsible for several exciting moments. Aside from his in-ring prowess, though, Kofi is a fairly uninspiring superstar.
I have no problem with him holding the Intercontinental Championship since he's an established midcard face, but that's all he'll ever be with his current gimmick. He just doesn't have the personality necessary to be a main-eventer. Kingston is scheduled to face Wade Barrett at TLC, and while Kingston is probably better off with the title than Barrett, he doesn't need the pay-per-view win as much as Barrett does. Kofi's days as Intercontinental champion are probably coming to a close, and it will be interesting to see what he does after that.
Last Week's Ranking: 11
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara appear to be next in line for a shot at Team Hell No's Tag Team Championships, but they haven't teamed much as of late. Mysterio beat Daniel Bryan on Raw last week and Sin Cara lost to Alberto Del Rio this week, so it's possible that their partnership could be coming to a close, or it may already be over.
Both Mysterio and Sin Cara are valuable as individuals, but they could be huge for the tag-team division. When Kane and Daniel Bryan were at odds, I figured they would eventually reach a boiling point, allowing Mysterio and Sin Cara to capture the straps. That isn't quite as certain now that Team Hell No appears to be united. Whatever the case, I hope we haven't seen the last of Mysterio and Sin Cara. They are a perfect team and should be the ones to inherit the titles once Kane and Bryan go their separate ways.
Last Week's Ranking: 13
Much like Kofi Kingston, Antonio Cesaro impresses me every week with his in-ring prowess, but other areas are holding him back. Unlike Kingston, however, Cesaro has the tools necessary to reach the next level. Cesaro's biggest issue is that he hasn't been given great material for his promos as they largely consist of insulting American holidays. Also, he has yet to engage in a real feud as his current one with R-Truth is lukewarm at best.
Cesaro was excellent in the fatal four way on Monday as he retained his U.S. title, but it's uncertain where he goes next. He hasn't yet been put in a match at TLC, and while he already beat Truth at Survivor Series and their rivalry is boring as can be, Truth figures to be his opponent once again. Cesaro desperately needs a real challenger and a real feud in which he actually interacts with someone. Until that happens, the fans won't respond the way they should to a rising star like Cesaro.
Last Week's Ranking: 9
I haven't been as bored with Big Show as World Heavyweight champion as I initially thought I would be, but after a couple months it's getting to the point where I'm ready for him to drop the title to somebody else. I figured he was nothing more than a transitional champion when he defeated Sheamus at Hell in a Cell, but if he beats Sheamus again at TLC, then he'll have a fairly long title reign on his hands.
Big Show's matches with Sheamus have been excellent; however, he doesn't possess the mic skills necessary to carry a feud. Most of the promos between Big Show and Sheamus have been them yelling at each other about chairs. It hasn't exactly been compelling television and they would probably both be better off moving on. Big Show is likely to beat Sheamus at TLC, but hopefully it leads to Show dropping the belt to someone like The Miz.
Last Week's Ranking: 8
Wade Barrett has all the potential in the world and I always enjoy his work, but the WWE has really mishandled him since his return from an elbow injury. Barrett already has main-event experience and he was on a major roll prior to his injury, so he could have easily been reintroduced as an immediate threat to former World Heavyweight champion Sheamus. Barrett was instead brought back by beating jobbers and basically doing nothing of note.
Barrett is now engaged in his first true feud since returning against Intercontinental champion Kofi Kingston. Barrett has already beaten Kofi for the IC title in the past and he's honestly above that belt currently, but there isn't much else on the horizon for him with CM Punk controlling the WWE Championship scene and Dolph Ziggler next in line for the world title. The best course of action would be to give Barrett the strap and then he can drop it when something more substantial is in place.
Last Week's Ranking: 12
Damien Sandow has been thrust back into the singles scene with Cody Rhodes out due to injury, and while it's a tough situation since there isn't a program available to him, the WWE's Intellectual Savior has made the most of it. His new gimmick involves him coming to the ring and picking someone from the crowd to become his apprentice. He asks three questions with the first two being easy and the third being difficult. When the "fan" gets the third one wrong, Sandow banishes them and calls them the "idiot of the day."
It's perfect for Sandow's character and it has certainly aided him in getting over as a hated heel. Sandow still has to improve his in-ring work as he's a bit vanilla in that regard, but he's already one of the best in the business on the mic. Sandow is basically biding his time until he is put in a big-time feud and he's doing a great job with what he has been given. Sandow has what it takes to be a top heel and his recent performances have proven that.
Last Week's Ranking: 10
The Shield has quickly become a major part of WWE programming as they struck on a few occasions this past edition of Raw. The Shield continued its battle against injustice as it took out Team Hell No, Randy Orton and The Miz before finally being stopped by Ryback. Some already find the attacks repetitive, but I'm more intrigued by The Shield than anything I have been in wrestling for a long time.
The presence of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns alone is great since they all have a ton of potential as future stars, but the motive behind their attacks is interesting as well. In one respect it seems like they are working with CM Punk since their actions continue to benefit him, but their attacks on Orton and Team Hell No didn't have much to do with Punk at all. Perhaps they really are trying to stop injustice in the WWE, but they're extremely entertaining regardless.
Last Week's Ranking: 6
If it wasn't quite official before, The Miz seemed to cement his face turn on Monday as he called out CM Punk and goaded him into taking a lie-detector test on Miz TV. The Miz is my favorite superstar and I have always enjoyed his work as a heel, but I was in favor of a face turn in order to get him back to the main event. After the way things went on Raw, however, I'm not quite as confident in Mix's transition as I once was.
My hope was that he would be a face similar to Chris Jericho or Edge. That means that he would keep his cockiness, but he wouldn't exactly pander to the fans. Miz was too much of a cliche face while cutting a promo on Punk and he was very corny in some instances. Miz is one of the best promo men in the company, so I'm hopeful that he just had an off night. He wasn't a total failure, but he was definitely hit and miss and needs to refine his character moving forward.
Last Week's Ranking: 5
I really enjoy Sheamus' in-ring work and believe that he is extremely underrated in that regard, but I haven't been a big fan of his character as of late. His chairs match with Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship at TLC is likely to be entertaining; however, the build has been anything but. My biggest issue with Sheamus is that he portrays the tough-guy face character, but then he goes around hugging John Cena.
It's obviously tough for there to be much grey area between heels and faces, but Sheamus doesn't have to be the prototypical face. I don't mind him teaming with Cena, however, I'd rather he not act like they're best friends when they had plenty of issues in the past. Sheamus has all the tools to become one of the faces of the company and he probably will reach that level, but his face character should be closer to what Randy Orton was when he was at his height as a face. He can get cheered by the fans, but mix in some heel actions every once in a while to keep thing interesting.
Last Week's Ranking: 7
The constant bickering between Team Hell No was funny, but it was starting to get a bit stale, so the WWE decided to change things up. The writers have handled Kane and Daniel Bryan perhaps better than anyone in the company over the past few months and that continues to be the case. They were attacked by The Shield last week and that seems to have brought them together as they are suddenly operating like a well-oiled machine.
The new-and-improved Team Hell No is fun to watch as well and I'm intrigued to see how long it lasts. For a while it seemed like Team Hell No would be coming to an end soon due to the dissension between them and the fact that they're both singles wrestlers at the very core, but this recent transformation may have given the team a longer shelf life. Whatever the case, Team Hell No continues to be one of the most entertaining things in WWE.
Last Week's Ranking: 4
There are plenty of guys in the WWE who aren't used to the fullest of their potential, but the creative team has already gotten every last drop of potential out of Ryback's monstrous body. Ryback is limited in the ring and on the mic, and the best part about him is his "feed me more" catchphrase, but he has been molded into the WWE's fastest-rising star. Ryback was saved for the final segment on Monday and he delivered as he got the better of both The Shield and CM Punk, and the crowd erupted for his presence.
Some fans have been worried about Ryback's recent losses killing his momentum, but that clearly isn't the case. It took extraordinary circumstances for Ryback to lose at Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series, and it doesn't seem to bother the general audience. The true test will be keeping him relevant after TLC. He's going to lose to Punk again and he'll then be outside the WWE Championship picture, so the WWE has to find something big for him to engage in, such as a feud with Brock Lesnar.
Last Week's Ranking: 3
It ultimately appears as though John Cena is going to put Dolph Ziggler over at TLC, but he has been the same old Cena over the past few weeks. Not only did he beat Ziggler in a singles match last week, but he pinned him in a tag-team match on the most recent edition of Raw as well. Rather than simply allowing Ziggler to beat him and move on, Cena has gotten more than his fair share of licks in.
With that said, his relationship with A.J. seems to be heading in the right direction as Vickie Guerrero is playing up A.J.'s history as an unstable and psychotic girlfriend. I'm still expecting that to lead to A.J. leaving Cena for Ziggler, and if that happens, it should add some layers to Cena's character. I enjoy Cena much more when he is facing adversity and he isn't necessarily a dominant force, so I can't wait to see how things play out for him.
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Dolph Ziggler may not be World Heavyweight champion yet, but he has been turning in champion-worthy performances each and every night for the past several weeks. He has unfortunately been forced to put John Cena over on a couple occasions, but it will be worth it if he beats Cena at TLC. Ziggler is set to face Cena in a ladder match with his Money in the Bank contract on the line. While the ominous possibility of Cena winning remains, I'm fairly confident that Ziggler will retain the briefcase and get a major rub by beating Cena.
There are a couple possible variables such as A.J. screwing over Cena in favor of Ziggler or perhaps The Shield attacking Cena due to the injustice of Ziggler having to defend his briefcase. Regardless of how it happens, Ziggler just needs to win. His in-ring work has been terrific and he has been very good on the mic now that he's being given a chance as well, so everything is trending in the right direction for The Show Off.
Last Week's Ranking: 1
WWE champion CM Punk didn't wrestle over the past week, but he was once again the focal point of Raw and retains his top spot in the rankings thanks to his sterling work on the mic. Punk had to fend off some tough competition, but Dolph Ziggler wasn't featured as heavily this week, Cena's promos were lame and Ryback still isn't the complete package, so Punk remains atop his perch.
While there are always going to be detractors who call Punk's title reign boring, I'm not sure how such an assertion can even be defended. The only obvious thing about Punk's reign is that it will likely be extended at TLC due to the fact that Ryback won't face The Rock at Royal Rumble. Aside from that, though, Punk's possible relationship with The Shield is worth watching, it's uncertain how he'll manage to get past Ryback at TLC and nobody knows whether or not he'll beat The Rock. There is a ton of uncertainty and intrigue surrounding Punk at the moment, and thanks to the constants of his promo ability and in-ring skills, it's impossible to drop him down the list.