Saying that the balance of power in the WWE has shifted over the past week would be an understatement. After undergoing emergency knee surgery, WWE Champion CM Punk will not be competing at the TLC pay-per-view and it appears that he will be out of action for the next few weeks, at the very least.
Punk still cut a promo on Raw and vowed to be at TLC, but other superstars will have to pick up the slack during his in-ring absence. The biggest storyline heading into TLC is the feud between The Shield and the coalition of Ryback and Team Hell No. Also, the John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big Show vs. Sheamus feuds have been receiving plenty of attention as well.
It has been a couple months since Punk has been knocked from his perch atop the rankings due to a mixture of sterling in-ring work, polish on the mic and the longest title reign in the past 25 years, but the fact that an injury is preventing him from stepping in the ring could very well shake things up this week.
Here are the top 25 superstars in WWE for the week beginning on Dec. 9. Keep in mind that the power rankings, as always, are based on entertainment value and overall effectiveness rather than kayfabe factors that are out of the performers' control, such as wins and losses.
Last Week's Ranking: NR
It wasn't long ago that Brodus Clay was featured on both Raw and SmackDown on a regular basis in winning efforts, but that simply isn't the case anymore. It's actually rare to see The Funkasaurus in action, and when he is, he usually loses. That was true once again on SmackDown, as he and The Usos lost to 3MB.
Clay still has a great entrance, a solid gimmick and a favorable reaction from the crowd, but the writers seem to have moved on from him as a midcard contender. Perhaps he can develop into a slightly more serious character in the future and have success that way because he still has the look and the potential to thrive.
Last Week's Ranking: NR
Primo and Epico are actually one of most talented teams in the WWE currently, but it's quite clear that they're far down the tag-team totem pole at this point. If that fact wasn't obvious already, it was solidified on SmackDown, as the cousins lost to the unlikely pairing of The Great Khali and Hornswoggle. It's a far cry from when they held the Tag Team Championships several months ago.
While it's understandable that Primo and Epico have fallen off somewhat in the revamped tag division, they don't deserve such a terrible fate. Things are cyclical in the WWE, so Primo and Epico may find themselves back in the title picture at some point; however, they shouldn't have to job in the meantime.
Last Week's Ranking: 23
When the WWE finds a comedic gimmick it likes, it sticks with it no matter what. That appears to be the case with The Great Khali. He has been appearing quite regularly as of late with Hornswoggle by his side, both in matches and backstage segments. I'm not a fan of Khali's by any means, but he obviously has some appeal due to his size and Indian nationality.
Admittedly, his backstage segment with Vickie Guerrero on Raw was pretty entertaining this week. Vickie was preparing for her match with AJ, so Khali and Hornswoggle decided to help her stretch, but she looked to be in a compromising position when Mr. McMahon walked in. If Khali is kept in this role and away from the ring, I can deal with him.
Last Week's Ranking: 21
The group known as 3MB continued its reign of terror over low-card talent over the past week, as it defeated Brodus Clay and The Usos on SmackDown. The fact that 3MB continues to win matches is proof that the creative team wants to do something with them, but fans simply aren't going to care about them if they're essentially beating glorified jobbers every week.
SmackDown did mark the first time that we got to see Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre all teaming together, though, as it has traditionally been Slater and Mahal with McIntyre in their corner. There is only so much a low-card stable can accomplish, so the time will eventually come to give them something more substantial.
Last Week's Ranking: 22
Zack Ryder's precipitous fall from grace continued this week as he lost to Alberto Del Rio on Raw, but we were reminded how popular he once was. Ryder's support group was in attendance on Monday and cheered for The Long Island Iced Z, as did many of the fans, but that wasn't enough to spur him on to victory.
Losing is a part of life in the WWE, but Ryder went from one of the most over guys in the company to a jobber in a matter of weeks. His United States Championship reign was ended for absolutely no reason and he hasn't been relevant since. Ryder works hard to gain attention and is good in the ring, so I hope the WWE realizes the error of its ways at some point.
Last Week's Ranking: NR
It seemed like forever since the last time we saw The Usos compete on WWE programming, but they're suddenly back in the tag-team mix. Although Jimmy and Jey lost to 3MB along with Brodus Clay on SmackDown, they were part of a Fatal-4 Way Elimination match on Raw and performed extremely well, as they eliminated Primo and Epico and The Prime Time Players before losing to Team Rhodes Scholars.
I'm not sure if this means anything for their long-term prospects, but The Usos haven't been utilized properly in a long time, so this is promising, at the very least.
Aside from Team Hell No and Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara, there is a lack of real face teams, so perhaps The Usos can move up the pecking order in the coming weeks and months.
Last Week's Ranking: 16
One week after losing a squash match to Randy Orton, Brad Maddox appeared on Raw once again, but it wasn't in a wrestling capacity.
Vickie Guerrero and A.J. needed a referee for their match and it led to Maddox reprising his old role. He and Vickie obviously have an agreement of some kind, as he screwed over A.J. and allowed Vickie to pick up the win.
I'm intrigued by Maddox. I like the way he cuts a promo and I'm interested to see how he is used moving forward. There are a lot of possibilities, but I'd like to see him join The Shield since they likely have a common purpose in stopping injustice. Whatever the case, Maddox appears to have plenty of potential as a WWE superstar.
Last Week's Ranking: 18
Just a few weeks ago, it looked like The Prime Time Players were in line for a shot at the Tag Team Championships, but things certainly change quickly in the WWE. They took part in a Fatal 4-Way match on Raw with the winners facing Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara in a No. 1 contenders Tables match at TLC. However, they were eliminated second by The Usos.
Even so, The Prime Time Players are the No. 2 heel tag team in the company, at worst, so they'll remain in the mix for the foreseeable future. Both Titus O'Neil and Darren Young are entertaining and mesh well as a unit, meaning The Prime Time Players are likely to wear tag-team gold at some point.
Last Week's Ranking: 15
It has taken a while, but I'm finally at the point where I can't stand Randy Orton any longer.
I was never captivated by his face character, but I always tolerated him because he put on some great matches. Orton's gimmick is beyond stale at this point, though, and he has been toiling in the upper midcard for more than a year without any sign of advancement.
While it would be one thing if Orton was involved in some compelling feuds against up-and-coming heels, that isn't the case. Orton has no rivalry to speak of right now and unless the WWE decides to give us another Orton vs. Alberto Del Rio match for no reason, The Viper will be left off the TLC card.
At this point, the only way to save Orton is to turn him heel because his face persona has run its course.
Last Week's Ranking: 19
R-Truth is another guy who has done all he can as a face, but he moved up a bit in the rankings this week due to the vast amount of wrestling he's been doing lately. Not only did he defeat Wade Barrett on Raw, but he was part of a tag-team match along with Kofi Kingston against Barrett and Antonio Cesaro on Main Event, so the WWE has been getting its money's worth out of Truth.
With that said, Truth's character is beyond awful. He was one of the hottest heels in wrestling last year, but a wellness policy violation caused him to be suspended and he unfortunately returned as a happy-go-lucky face.
Truth will challenge Cesaro for the United States Championship once again at TLC, but there is little heat when it comes to their feud and it's very unlikely Truth will come out on top.
Last Week's Ranking: 17
The heel version of Randy Orton continued on his long, winding path to nowhere this week, as he lost to Sheamus on SmackDown and defeated Zack Ryder on Raw.
Alberto Del Rio suffered from a World Heavyweight Championship feud with Sheamus that lasted way too long and he hasn't recovered. He has essentially gotten to the point where he constantly loses to top stars and beats low-card guys, and that isn't a recipe for success.
Like Orton, Del Rio probably won't be competing at TLC, either, and that speaks to how far he has fallen over the past couple months. With that said, Del Rio is one of my favorite in-ring performers in the WWE since as he almost always tells a story between the ropes, but that isn't enough to make him relevant.
Last Week's Ranking: 13
Although Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara haven't teamed together for a couple weeks due to Mysterio being pulled off WWE television for unknown reasons, they will reunite at TLC to take on Team Rhodes Scholars in a Tables match to determine the No. 1 contenders for Team Hell No's Tag Team Championships.
I don't like Mysterio and Sin Cara's chances to win since they're faces like Kane and Daniel Bryan, but it should be a great match.
At this point, it's only a matter of time before Mysterio and Sin Cara win the titles, though. Mysterio has nothing left to prove as a singles competitor and Sin Cara is much better under Mysterio's tutelage, so they should remain a team for quite a while. Aside from Team Hell No, Mysterio and Sin Cara certainly represent the best pairing in WWE right now.
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston looks like a lamb being led to slaughter as TLC approaches. He has been getting the better of Wade Barrett as of late, but all signs would seem to indicate that Barrett will take his title on Sunday.
Kofi is a good, safe IC Champion since you know what you're going to get out of him, but he has obviously reached his ceiling and there isn't much more he is capable of accomplishing.
He is great in the ring and has a ton of athleticism, but his mic skills are awful. Every time he is given the opportunity to speak, usually on Main Event, it's borderline embarrassing. I can't handle hearing him call himself a wildcat, or a storm, or thunder much longer.
Kofi is more than serviceable as a midcard face; however, there is no reason for him to beat Barrett at TLC.
Last Week's Ranking: 10
There are several misused talents in the WWE currently, but Wade Barrett may be at the top of that list. I realize that he's likely to beat Kofi Kingston for the Intercontinental Championship at TLC, but he's constantly losing for no real reason. He and Antonio Cesaro lost a tag-team match to Kofi and R-Truth on Main Event, Barrett lost to Randy Orton on SmackDown and then Barrett lost another singles match to Truth on Raw.
The WWE had the right idea in making Barrett a dominant force when he returned, as the focus is supposed to be on his bare-knuckle fighting background, but it seems like the creative team has forgotten about that. Perhaps Barrett can have a good run with the IC strap before embarking on a main-event run, but I'm not confident in the writers' ability to make that happen.
Last Week's Ranking: 11
Big Show continues to execute his role fairly well as World Heavyweight Champion, but I didn't see any reason to move him up or down the rankings this week.
He and John Cena had a solid match on Raw, but it wasn't anything special. Most importantly, Big Show's feud with Sheamus is wearing thin, so, thankfully, TLC is Sunday. If nothing else, it's quite likely that their Chairs match is going to be entertaining, just like their previous two matches were.
Big Show has been the world champion, and I pegged him as a transitional titleholder, so his reign is likely to come to an end soon. In fact, I believe it will happen on Sunday.
Having Big Show beat Sheamus again wouldn't accomplish much, but perhaps Sheamus can beat Big Show, resulting in the latter beating down the new champion and allowing Dolph Ziggler to cash in. It's certainly something to think about, as it would be a role reversal from last year's TLC.
Last Week's Ranking: 12
Slowly but surely, United States Champion Antonio Cesaro is moving up the ranks in WWE. Perhaps his development hasn't been as rapid as originally hoped due to a lack of great challengers, but as a singular talent, Cesaro is among the best in the company.
He proved it once again on Raw as he and Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston had a spectacular match. It also marked the second time in a week that he pinned Kofi.
Cesaro will face R-Truth at TLC, and while the feud has been almost nonexistent prior to the past week, beating an established guy like Truth at back-to-back pay-per-views should be beneficial to Cesaro. The Swiss superstar is already among the best in-ring workers in WWE and his character is coming along nicely as well, so I'm very excited about his future.
Last Week's Ranking: 9 (as only Damien Sandow)
The demise of Team Rhodes Scholars didn't last as long as many anticipated, as Cody Rhodes returned from injury on Monday and reprised his partnership with Damien Sandow. Rhodes had been knocked out of commission by Kane a month ago after he fell awkwardly on a back body drop, but he and Sandow are now back in the thick of things in the Tag Team Championship race.
Team Rhodes Scholars won a Fatal 4-Way match on Raw and will now face Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara in a Tables match at TLC with the winners becoming the new No. 1 contenders for Team Hell No's Tag Team Championships.
Prior to Rhodes' injury, I figured he and Sandow would be the ones to beat Kane and Daniel Bryan for the titles. Now that he's back in the fold, I once again believe that Team Rhodes Scholars will be the next Tag Team Champions.
Last Week's Ranking: 7
The Miz made his face turn official last week when he challenged CM Punk to take a lie detector test and was attacked by The Shield. He continued to further it this week by interviewing Team Rhodes Scholars on an impromptu edition of Miz TV.
I didn't like Miz's demeanor when he cut a promo on Punk last week, but he did much better with Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow, as he had a number of funny zingers.
The main issue with Miz, however, is that he has nobody to feud with.
A match against Sandow at TLC seemed to be in the works after SmackDown last week, but Sandow is now back in the tag-team scene. Perhaps Miz can feud with an upper-midcard heel such as Alberto Del Rio; however, there doesn't appear to be any such plans in place. Miz has been getting himself over as a face on the mic, but he won't complete the turn until he has his first feud.
Last Week's Ranking: 6
There is no question that Sheamus is an absolute workhorse—he appears on every show and appears multiple times per week—but he's pretty much stuck in neutral.
His World Heavyweight Championship run helped boost his stock; however, his feud with Alberto Del Rio ran entirely too long and his rivalry with Big Show is sputtering as well. There is only so much that Sheamus and Big Show can talk about in a promo, so I'm ready for TLC so they can get back in the ring.
Sheamus and Big Show impressed at both Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series, but their Chairs match at TLC should be their best encounter yet. When Sheamus initially lost the title to Big Show, I figured he would win it back from him eventually. I believe that will happen at TLC, but it will be short-lived with Dolph Ziggler cashing in, which will then lead to a triple-threat feud between Ziggler and the former titleholders.
Last Week's Ranking: 5
No gimmick has adapted to its surroundings better in the WWE over the past several months than Team Hell No. Both Kane and Daniel Bryan changed in a major way in order to make the team work initially, as they went from having serious characters to being more comedically inclined. Their interactions were hilarious and the notion of a dysfunctional team winning the Tag Team Championships was entertaining as well.
Over the past few weeks, however, Kane and Bryan have come together in an effort to vanquish The Shield. There hasn't been as much comedy between them and they're once again leaning toward the serious end of the spectrum, but they're great in that capacity as well.
Kane and Bryan are among the best in-ring workers in the company and there is now a renewed emphasis on that. No matter what Team Hell No does, they impress me on a regular basis.
Last Week's Ranking: 1
After several weeks atop the WWE power rankings, WWE Champion CM Punk's reign of terror is finally over. His title reign is very much alive, but Punk had to undergo a knee scope last week in order to repair some cartilage damage. The surgery went well and all signs point to him being back in action well before Royal Rumble, where he'll face The Rock, but I simply couldn't keep Punk at No. 1 knowing he won't be wrestling for a couple weeks, at the very least.
Even so, Punk cut another solid promo on Raw and announced his intention to appear at TLC in some capacity. The fact that Punk will continue to show up despite his injury says a lot about him, as most wrestlers disappear when they're out of commission. Punk is a huge part of the product, though—whether he's wrestling or not—so he'll continue to make his presence felt.
Last Week's Ranking: 8
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns won't have an official WWE match under their respective belts until TLC has come and gone, but The Shield is the most compelling thing going in the WWE right now. Not only is the group exciting due to the fact that Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns all appear to be future stars in the company, but their path of destruction has been awesome to witness, and it's still unclear what their true intentions are.
The Shield has run through most of the WWE's top faces, as it has already attacked Ryback, Team Hell No, Randy Orton, The Miz and now John Cena. The Shield maintains that its only goal is to stop injustice within the WWE, and it has stayed true to its word thus far.
Hopefully The Shield is given the victory at TLC over Ryback and Team Hell No in order to keep the momentum it has gained. If that happens, then the sky is the limit for The Shield.
Last Week's Ranking: 4
I'm not a big fan of his character, I don't think he's good in the ring and I don't enjoy his mic work, but it's impossible for me to ignore the fan reaction that Ryback receives.
Just a couple months ago, he was squashing jobbers like Jinder Mahal and JTG, but he's suddenly the hottest face in the company and looks like a bona fide main-eventer. Because of that, he will headline his third consecutive pay-per-view, teaming with Team Hell No against The Shield at TLC.
The WWE has handled him masterfully over the past couple weeks, as he has been saved for Raw's last segment rather than beating a random opponent earlier in the night. On this week's episode of Raw in particular, a wild melee ensued between The Shield and several others, and the fans began to chant "feed me more" in anticipation of Ryback showing up. He did, and the applause was deafening.
The WWE seems to have struck pay dirt with Ryback, and it's integral to keep him moving in the right direction.
Last Week's Ranking: 3
As much as I dislike John Cena's character, he continues to be the focal point of WWE programming on a weekly basis. He and Dolph Ziggler may not technically be main-eventing TLC, but their rivalry has been built into a main-event feud.
Cena had a good match with Big Show on Monday and got involved with The Shield as well, as the group attacked him to force a disqualification. Also, Cena's relationship with AJ is on shaky ground, so there are a lot of variables heading into Sunday.
The most interesting among them is certainly the AJ situation. Everything was good between them until Monday, as AJ busted into the men's locker room and then threw a fit later in the night when Vickie Guerrero screwed her over. Cena tried to reason with her, but she was out of control, prompting Cena to make facial expressions that suggested he couldn't believe what he had gotten himself into.
Cena is going to lose on Sunday and based on the way he tried to shrug off AJ on Monday, she'll probably be the reason why he comes up short.
Last Week's Ranking: 2
I've been wanting to move Dolph Ziggler into the top spot in these power rankings for the past couple weeks, and now that WWE Champion CM Punk is on the shelf, I have a reason to do so. Ziggler has done a fantastic job over the past several weeks, as he is constantly putting on great matches and he has even shined on the mic. Ziggler actually opened Raw this week atop a ladder and he cut another good promo before Sheamus ruined it.
Sunday promises to be a huge night for Ziggler, as all signs point to him retaining his Money in the Bank contract against John Cena. Also, I firmly believe that he will cash in and become the new World Heavyweight Champion. The most likely scenario involved Sheamus beating Big Show for the belt, Big Show beating down Sheamus after the match and Ziggler cashing in. Dolph's run-in with Sheamus on Raw is almost certainly a precursor to all of that coming to fruition.