With the latest stops on the road to WrestleMania complete, and the card for the "Grandaddy of Them All" finally figuring itself out, several top WWE Superstars had tremendous weeks.
The rivalry between The Undertaker and CM Punk took center stage on Raw, fueled by the real-life passing of the legendary Paul Bearer. Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger continued their animosity heading into MetLife Stadium on April 7 and The Shield officially challenged Randy Orton, Sheamus and a partner of their choosing to a bout at the biggest show of the year.
John Cena and The Rock were nowhere to be found on either show, unless you count a high-quality video package, while Brock Lesnar made a statement in accepting Triple H's challenge for a rematch at WrestleMania.
It was a week that featured a lot of good, a fair amount of bad and a segment so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed. These are the Superstars who made the week of March 11 what it was and these are their rankings.
Rankings are based on win-loss record as well as upward and downward momentum. If a Superstar is not on any of the WWE's top three programs (Raw, Main Event, SmackDown), making an appearance in a match or promo, that Superstar will be left out of the rankings.
LAST WEEK: 16
The United States champion lost to the World Heavyweight champion, Alberto Del Rio, on Raw. Usually, that would not be such a bad thing. But Cesaro was coming off of a WWE Main Event appearance where he lost to, of all people, Sin Cara.
It was a head-scratching loss in retrospect because the company did nothing to further any kind of rivalry between Cesaro and Sin Cara, instead having them lose less than a week later to the two men involved in this year's World Heavyweight Championship match.
Cesaro has absolutely no momentum on his side as WrestleMania approaches, and it appears as though his best shot at making the card will be in the pre-show match. It is a real shame for a Superstar that has worked to improve since debuting and has performed well in matches against top-tier competition.
LAST WEEK: —
Last week, Sin Cara scored an upset win over Antonio Cesaro on WWE Main Event. The win sparked rumors that perhaps the Mexican Superstar had earned a shot at Cesaro's United States Championship. For the first time in 2013, Sin Cara had done something meaningful that may have led to something bigger.
This week, he followed up that win with a decisive loss to the No. 1 contender to the World Heavyweight Championship, Jack Swagger. The loss erases any momentum—no matter how small it may have been—Sin Cara enjoyed coming off of his upset win last week.
Once considered the next Rey Mysterio and the face of World Wrestling Entertainment in Mexico, one has to wonder if it is finally time to call the Sin Cara experiment a failure.
LAST WEEK: Rhodes, 17; Sandow, —
Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes had an eventful week in that they were originally scheduled to face the New Age Outlaws on Raw, but mere minutes into the bout, Brock Lesnar made his way to the ring and demolished the former D-Generation X duo. Not having competed in a real match, managing supervisor Vickie Guerrero booked them in a match against Randy Orton and Sheamus.
As one could imagine, things did not go well for Rhodes Scholars. Even worse is the fact that their beating at the hands of the newly dubbed "Celtic Vipers" ruined their date with the returning Bella Twins. With such an atrocity occurring, Rhodes and Sandow set out to garner a measure of revenge on SmackDown.
Again, it did not go well for the one-time tag team title hopefuls.
Team Rhodes Scholars is in a difficult position heading into WrestleMania because they have remained relevant enough to warrant a match on the show, but it is difficult to imagine where they would fit on the card. A rumor earlier this week indicated they may team with the Bella Twins to meet Brodus Clay, Tensai and the Funkadactyls, but until there is any further story development on Raw or SmackDown, take that rumor with a grain of salt.
LAST WEEK: —
The Usos are very talented young men who, for whatever reason, have not been able to catch management's eye and receive any sort of sustained push. With the tag team division falling back into a state of limbo, it does not appear that push will be coming any time soon.
Wednesday night on Main Event, the brothers did manage to pick up an impressive win over one of the more visible acts in World Wrestling Entertainment, 3MB.
There is little chance that the win will mean anything more than a notch on their win-loss record, especially since Jimmy Uso was arrested and charged with his second DUI since 2011. At the very best, it was a televised win for a talented team who should probably be in a better spot on the card.
LAST WEEK: Team Hell No, 6
Daniel Bryan once again stole Monday Night Raw out from underneath the bigger stars on the show, this time doing so with a match against Dolph Ziggler.
Two of the best in-ring performers in the industry today, Bryan set aside the comedy bits in favor of a hellishly competitive match with Mr. Money in the Bank. The former World Heavyweight champion and master of the Yes Lock would fall in defeat following the Zigzag, but in doing so, he reminded the fans that he is a hell of a talent underneath the goat beard and single-word catchphrases.
LAST WEEK: 14
The Miz's week could best be described as a "mixed bag."
On Raw, he was a guest on the Highlight Reel, a segment of WWE television that may go down as one of the worst in the history of Monday Night Raw. As bad as it was, it did lead to a very good match between Miz and Chris Jericho, in which the star of The Marine: Homefront proved he could hang with one of the greatest in-ring performers of any generation. The match would end in a draw, however, and no No. 1 contender to Wade Barrett's Intercontinental Championship would be determined.
Four days later, Miz would compete in a WWE Active exclusive match, defeating one-half of the Prime Time Players, Darren Young.
This Monday night on Raw, The Miz will look to move up the WWE Power Rankings when he meets Chris Jericho and Wade Barrett in a Triple Threat match for the Intercontinental Championship. The protege of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair has flirted with both secondary titles since his babyface turn late in 2012, and now he has the opportunity to finally get over the proverbial hump and win one.
Doing so against the double-tough Barrett and an all-time great in Jericho would be the boost he needs.
LAST WEEK: 19
Wade Barrett continued to promote his (minor) role in WWE Studios' latest release, Dead Man Down, on Monday's Raw, interrupting the Highlight Reel featuring Chris Jericho and The Miz to do so.
The segment was awful, but it resulted in a very good Jericho-Miz match to determine which Superstar would meet Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship on this coming Monday's Raw. Barrett would be a factor in the conclusion of the match, causing a draw between his top two contenders and setting in motion a Triple Threat match for the title.
On Main Event, Barrett took out his frustrations with the championship match announcement on former Nexus and Corre mate Justin Gabriel. Barrett was impressive in his victory while The Miz performed commentary from ringside.
The last few weeks have been unimpressive for Barrett, as he has lost the majority of his matches despite holding onto the Intercontinental Championship. Monday night, when he squares off against Jericho and Miz with his title on the line, he has the opportunity to make an impression and maybe, just maybe, earn a spot on the loaded WrestleMania 29 card. A loss could mean he will be watching the sport's biggest show on television for the second year in a row.
LAST WEEK: 1
What a difference a week can make.
For two weeks in a row, CM Punk has been the featured star of Monday Night Raw. The difference this week is that he was defeated in the main event against Kane and the first step in his rivalry with The Undertaker took place with him using the real-life death of Paul Bearer as a way of creating a personal feud.
Some will say it was a tasteless and classless story element while others will say it was a brilliant use of a real-life tragedy to continue to portray Punk as the biggest heel in the sport. What side of the fence one falls on is irrelevant.
The fact of the matter is that Punk continues to look anything but strong heading into one of the biggest matches of his career. There is great pressure that comes with working The Undertaker at WrestleMania and with the way he was has been booked as of late, even the most hardened of Punk fans do not believe he has a chance to beat The Dead Man.
Stealing the Bearer's urn at the end of Raw and mocking Undertaker's pose did nothing to mask the fact that he lost another main event match.
LAST WEEK: —
The destructive Brock Lesnar made his presence felt on Monday night, interrupting the match between the New Age Outlaws and Team Rhodes Scholars and laying waste to Triple H's former D-Generation X friends.
With Paul Heyman speaking for him, Lesnar accepted "The Game's" challenge to a match at WrestleMania. Heyman then revealed that Brock will pick the stipulations for the match and will only reveal them after Triple H has signed on the dotted line.
The announcement was exactly what fans wanted to hear in regard to the Lesnar-Triple H rematch. Their bout last August at SummerSlam was good, but it was so different from anything else on WWE television that the fan reception to it was mixed.
Adding a stipulation, such as No Disqualification or even Hell in a Cell, will better fit each man's style and will, in all likelihood, make for a better match.
Lesnar continues to look like a beast, coming back from Triple H's bloodying attack three weeks ago to manhandle one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history with little effort.
LAST WEEK: 5
Mark Henry had another productive week, easily dispatching of Kofi Kingston on Raw. Then, following Ryback's win over Heath Slater, the two dominant and monstrous stars came face to face. They took turns destroying Drew McIntyre with their finishing maneuvers before exchanging words.
Friday night would be their first scheduled match. Many expected them to square off against one another at WrestleMania 29, but instead, they would compete on SmackDown. Their match would be cut short by The Shield, which attacked Ryback and caused a disqualification finish.
Henry saw the opportunity to assert his dominance over Ryback and did so, delivering two World's Strongest Slams.
Despite the fact that Ryback was announced as Randy Orton and Sheamus' partner for their match against The Shield at WrestleMania, it still appears as though the company will go with the expected Henry-Ryback match at the event. Expect to see Henry be the target of Ryback's rage as soon as this Monday and a match to be announced between the two for WrestleMania as soon as Friday night's SmackDown.
LAST WEEK: —
Chris Jericho returned to WWE television after a short hiatus to tour with Fozzy and things could not have gone worse—at first—for the first undisputed champion.
The Highlight Reel segment on Raw was one of the worst productions in the history of the show, due largely in part to malfunctioning electronics and Brad Maddox's inability to improvise. Y2J would make up for the laughably bad segment by delivering a solid match against The Miz. While there would be no decision to the bout due to Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett's interference, it was announced shortly thereafter that both Jericho and Miz would receive a title shot at Barrett this Monday in a Triple Threat match.
Jericho would follow up his performance on Monday with an even better match against the No. 1 contender to the World Heavyweight Championship, Jack Swagger. "The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla" continued to prove why he is one of the most talented performers to ever set foot in the ring by doing more to make Swagger look like a Superstar than anything that has been done for him to this point.
With an Intercontinental Championship match on the horizon, Jericho's path to WrestleMania remains unclear, but one can only hope the latest rumor surrounding his opposition at the biggest show of the year is just that, a rumor.
LAST WEEK: —
This week's Monday Night Raw featured a heart-felt tribute to William "Paul Bearer" Moody, featuring a video presentation as well as The Undertaker bowing to his former manager's urn.
That tribute would be cut short by his WrestleMania opponent, CM Punk, who attempted to play mind games with the Dead Man by evoking the memory of Bearer. Undertaker had no words for Punk and would disappear from the show until the end of the evening.
Following his brother Kane's victory over Punk in the main event, Undertaker reappeared and engaged in another Paul Bearer tribute with the Big Red Monster. Again, it was interrupted by the Second City Saint, who struck Kane with the urn and took off with it, mocking Undertaker's trademark pose to close out the evening.
The feud with CM Punk has been the most heavily featured one on Raw the last two weeks and, as such, it has created a high-pressure situation heading into WrestleMania. Much will be expected of The Undertaker and Punk to live up to the recent matches in the undefeated streak of the Dead Man and, with both men banged up, one has to wonder if they will be capable of such a feat.
LAST WEEK: 2
Alberto Del Rio continues his roll heading into WrestleMania, but his week was both up and down.
He got off to a hot start Monday night, as he defeated Antonio Cesaro in a match billed as "champion versus champion." It was a solid win for the World Heavyweight champion, but at this point, who has not beaten Cesaro?
Two days later on Main Event, Del Rio met a familiar foe in one-on-one action. He and The Big Show rekindled a rivalry that dominated the first two months of the year. Dumped to the outside late in the match, however, Del Rio had his leg attacked by top contender Jack Swagger, preventing him from getting back into the ring before the referee reached the 10-count. As a result, Alberto Del Rio lost to Big Show via count-out.
Friday night on SmackDown, Del Rio responded with another video mocking those posted by Swagger and manager Zeb Colter.
The rivalry between Del Rio and Swagger has cooled quite a bit over the last week among reports that Vince McMahon was unhappy with the feud. But the World champion and his current rival continued to put in solid performances and appear poised to deliver a quality match on the sport's grandest stage.
If they are given more than 18 seconds to do so.
LAST WEEK: 8
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns continue to be among the most entertaining acts on WWE television, despite suffering their first loss this week on Raw.
Monday's show featured Seth Rollins meeting the Big Show in one-on-one competition. Rollins was tossed around before his teammates attacked the giant, drawing a disqualification. The Shield assaulted Show before delivering an impressive triple powerbomb on the big man, leaving him lying and unconscious.
Later in the evening, as Sheamus and Randy Orton celebrated a victory over Team Rhodes Scholars, The Shield once again made its presence felt, attacking the two and leaving them lying in a heap just as it did to Big Show.
On SmackDown, the trio would issue a challenge to Orton and Sheamus for a match at WrestleMania, giving them the opportunity to choose their partner. The babyfaces accepted and the match was made official. It would be announced later in the program that their partner would be a man very familiar with The Shield: Ryback.
"Big Hungry" would once again fall prey to an attack from The Shield, which interrupted a match between Ryback and Mark Henry. The group beat Ryback senseless, which allowed Henry to assault him afterward.
The Shield caused much chaos this week en route to the announcement of its WrestleMania match. While it appeared on SmackDown that Ryback would be the third man on Orton and Sheamus' team, expect Big Show to fill that spot, giving The Shield a bigger and angrier opponent to deal with come April 7.
LAST WEEK: Team Hell No, 6
On Monday's Raw, Kane was enraged by CM Punk's disrespectful interruption of Undertaker's tribute to the late Paul Bearer as well as the former WWE champion's comments about the legendary manager (and Kane's on-screen father), so he set out to make the Straight Edge Superstar pay for it.
He did just that in the Raw main event.
In a physical match, Kane capitalized on a distraction by the Undertaker and caught Punk with a choke slam for the upset win. He would be assaulted after the match by his opponent, who used the urn to beat him down, but that post-match attack could not overshadow the Big Red Monster's win.
On SmackDown, Team Hell No's evolving issues with Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston continued when Kane locked up with Ziggler. For the second time this week, a member of Team Hell No fell to the self-described Show Off.
Expect a Tag Team Championship match between Team Hell No and Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston at WrestleMania 29.
LAST WEEK: 12
The World's Largest Superstar had a very good week in terms of win-loss record. On Raw, he became the first competitor to pick up a win over The Shield, albeit in a disqualification win over Seth Rollins. The win was overshadowed just seconds later when the trio lifted Big Show into the air and delivered the triple powerbomb.
Forty-eight hours later, The Big Show rolled into Main Event and picked up a win over recent rival Alberto Del Rio, thanks in part to interference from Jack Swagger. It was a count-out win, but after so many consecutive losses to the current World Heavyweight champion, it was a victory Show would take either way.
On SmackDown, Show petitioned Randy Orton and Sheamus to make him their partner. Unfortunately, they opted to select Ryback instead, a decision that may very well come back to bite them.
Despite the announcement that Ryback will join the babyface team to meet The Shield at WrestleMania, expect Big Show to end up taking his spot anyway, possibly as soon as Monday night. There has been too much time invested in telling a story in which Big Show joins two of his top rivals from SmackDown to battle The Shield, and it would be a waste for the creative team not to see it through.
LAST WEEK: 7
"Big Hungry" continued on a path toward a monumental showdown with Mark Henry at WrestleMania, even if WWE's crack creative team attempted to make you think that was not the direction they would be going on.
On Raw, he soundly dispatched of Heath Slater, only to come face to face with Henry. Determined to prove their dominance to one another, Ryback and Henry took turns delivering their finishing maneuvers on Drew McIntyre before talking trash to one another.
A match would be announced between them for SmackDown, in a move that many considered questionable.
Ryback's SmackDown started a bit earlier than anticipated, however, when he was named the partner of Sheamus and Randy Orton for their match with The Shield. That would play a major role in the advertised match between Ryback and Mark Henry later in the night.
In fact, 35 seconds into the match, The Shield attacked Ryback and left him prone for an attack by Henry.
While he has been announced for the Six-Man Tag match at WrestleMania, expect Ryback to find his way out of that bout in order to gain revenge on Mark Henry, who left him lying in a heap following two thunderous World's Strongest Slams on SmackDown. Anything less than that match, after weeks of teasing it, would be considered a major disappointment.
LAST WEEK: Sheamus, 13; Orton, 11
Randy Orton and Sheamus proved to make a convincing tag team this week when they defeated Team Rhodes Scholars in consecutive broadcasts, doing so on both Raw and SmackDown.
The bigger story for them this week, however, was their continued involvement with The Shield. On Monday night, they were viciously and savagely attacked by the trio of former developmental talents following their win over Rhodes and Sandow.
Four days later, the duo, now known as the Celtic Vipers on Twitter, would be the recipients of a challenge for a Six-Man Tag Team match at WrestleMania. Eager to officially get their hands on The Shield, they accepted the challenge and named Ryback as their partner.
The proposed match on April 7 gives all involved something meaningful to do on a card dominated by part-time performers. Sheamus has been the most under-appreciated in-ring worker of the last year and Orton has long deserved better than the spot he has found himself in as of late. Add to that the fact that The Shield has impressed every time it has competed on WWE broadcasts, and you have the potential for a show-stealing contest.
It remains to be seen if Sheamus and Orton will continue teaming on the road to WrestleMania or if they will revert back to singles competition. Whatever the case may be, the two mega-stars proved to be a suitable tag team over the course of this past week and that may have shown just enough chemistry to make the company revisit the pairing in the future.
LAST WEEK: 20
Woah...wait just a gosh darn minute!
Dolph Ziggler actually WON matches this week?
Yes, he did, and he did so in a fashion that would indicate that Mr. Money in the Bank finally has a WrestleMania match in mind.
Monday night, he defeated Daniel Bryan in a match that was the result of a backstage back-and-forth fight between Bryan and AJ Lee. It was a tremendous match that saw Dolph execute the Zigzag for the win. Four days later, he would continue his winning ways, defeating Kane in singles action on SmackDown.
The wins go a long way in earning Ziggler and his associates a little momentum heading into WrestleMania. He has lost so many matches in recent weeks that it appeared as though his only role on the road to WrestleMania was that of a punching boy. Now, he appears to be on a collision course with Team Hell No, with Big E. Langston serving as his tag team partner.
Even if one looks at that as a step back for the current holder of a guaranteed title shot, it is far better than doing nothing at all on the big show.
LAST WEEK: 10
The No. 1 contender to the World Heavyweight Championship sent a very loud message to champion Alberto Del Rio via his impressive victories this week.
On Raw, Swagger easily could have underestimated Sin Cara, who was coming off of a huge win over Antonio Cesaro last week, but he did not and forced the Mexican Superstar to tap out to the Patriot Lock.
Wednesday night on Main Event, Swagger interfered in the match between Del Rio and Big Show, clipping the leg of his WrestleMania opponent and costing him the match via count-out. He weakened his rival prior to their title match in three weeks and will likely look to continue doing so in all the way up to April 7.
SmackDown featured Jack Swagger's best match since returning earlier this year. Squaring off against Chris Jericho, Swagger proved that he could not only hang with the very best the industry has to offer, he also proved his determination to make the most of his latest main event push and to make up for the mistake that was his DUI and marijuana possession arrest.
Jack Swagger has been more than impressive in the ring in recent weeks and his pairing with Zeb Colter has done wonders for his character development. There is still quite a ways to go in order to get the audience to completely buy into the story being told between Swagger and Alberto Del Rio, but with three weeks to go until WrestleMania, they have plenty of time to get to that point.
Until then, Swagger needs to continue his streak of quality performances. If he can do that, with the quality mouthpiece he has in Colter, there is no reason to believe the latest push up the card will not make the first a distant and unpleasant memory.