WWE Power Rankings: Week of April 22, 2013
After a post-WrestleMania hiatus, the WWE Power Rankings return to Bleacher Report.
This past week, World Wrestling Entertainment traveled to the United Kingdom for Raw and SmackDown. John Cena and Ryback continued their build toward the WWE Championship match at Extreme Rules. The Shield crossed The Undertaker not once, but twice, and was still left standing tall at week's end.
Triple H shut up Paul Heyman, Fandango continued to roll with wins on both premier WWE programs, and Randy Orton, Sheamus, Big Show and Mark Henry continued to be intertwined in a rivalry with no real direction heading into WWE's most extreme event of the year.
Which Superstar had the best week? Which ones can only hope to put the past seven days in the rear-view window?
Find out inside.
Rankings are compiled based on a number of factors such as a Superstar's win-loss record, appearances during in-ring promo segments and quality of wins or losses. For example: Daniel Bryan losing to CM Punk is a higher-quality loss (and more important one) than Mark Henry beating Zack Ryder. Also, a Triple H promo building to a main event match is more important and worthy of a higher ranking than Justin Gabriel beating Antonio Cesaro on Superstars.
20. Damien Sandow
"The Intellectual Savior of the Unwashed Masses" has not had a tremendous 2013 by any stretch of the imagination. His tag team with Cody Rhodes has floundered greatly, he has lost far more than he has won and his top rivals are a Funkasaurus and a "Sweet T."
The silver lining for Damien Sandow, at least this week, is that he escaped London with a victory over Brodus Clay. With Extreme Rules on the horizon, and a potential tag match between the two duos on the card, hopefully Sandow can forget the ugly start to the year and focus on attaining WWE gold either in tag team or singles competition.
The return to WWE has not been a smooth one for Tensai, who many believed would enjoy a main event push against the likes of John Cena. Instead, he has been relegated to comedy act alongside Brodus Clay. While it may not be his ideal role, it gives him something to do every week on TV. Add to that the fact that he and Clay have enjoyed a rather one-sided rivalry with Team Rhodes Scholars (in terms of wins), the former A-Train has reason to hold his head high.
Whether he will be given a second shot at excelling as a dominant big man or if he will spend the rest of his career as smiling, dancing fan favorite remains to be seen.
A win over former Intercontinental and Tag Team champion Cody Rhodes was enough to land him in this week's rankings.
The former United States champion has enjoyed success in the post-WrestleMania WWE. In consecutive weeks, he has defeated Antonio Cesaro (himself a former U.S. champion) and current Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett. He has been a visible part of WWE television since returning from injury and appears to be a top contender to one of the company's two midcard titles.
Truth has seen his career flounder over the last year, suffering through a 2012 that could only be considered a disappointment following what was a 2011 that saw him involved in the main event picture. It is unlikely he will reach that level of competition again, but Truth remains a popular babyface and should be a valuable asset for the company in the years to come.
17. Big E. Langston
In only his third televised match, Langston continued his winning ways by making short work out of former United States champion Zack Ryder on Monday's Raw. More importantly, the former NXT champion has been involved in the World Heavyweight title picture, thanks to his association with champion Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee.
The cherry on top was an early indicator that Langston will, eventually, break away from Ziggler and AJ, and star on his own. During a backstage segment between the champion and his main squeeze, Big E. was unceremoniously told to hit the bricks so they could enjoy their time together.
The massive rookie did not look pleased with the dismissal. While a split at this point would be premature, the dynamic between Langston and his teammates bears watching.
16. Wade Barrett
The Intercontinental champion rebounded from a "champion vs. champion" loss to U.S. champion Kofi Kingston on last week's SmackDown by defeating fellow Englishman, and future Hall of Famer, William Regal on this week's show.
Barrett finds himself in a sort of limbo. He defeated The Miz in a pay-per-view-quality match the night after WrestleMania but, since then, has found himself floating around Raw and SmackDown with no real feud or direction.
He lost a non-title match to R-Truth, and many thought that may be the next midcard program, but since then, there has been no interaction between them.
Barrett is a solid hand for the company who probably has not progressed at the rate management hoped he would have when they pushed him hard as the leader of Nexus three years ago, but he is one of the more talented young stars on the roster.
Give him something to do or risk wasting his potential.
15. Triple H
"The Game" sent a message to both Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman this past Monday night when he delivered a thunderous Pedigree to Heyman to kick off Raw.
Extreme Rules looks to be headlined by the third encounter between Triple H and Lesnar, this time taking place inside a steel cage. Their first two matches have been a bit underwhelming, failing to live up to the expectation of fans and the hype of the company.
"The Cerebral Assassin" has clearly lost a step between the ropes but if his matches with The Undertaker the last two years have proven anything, he excels in crazy, chaotic, gimmick-heavy matches.
Hopefully, he and Lesnar can utilize the confines of the cage to deliver that brutal, violent classic fans have been waiting for between them.
The Internet sensation had a successful week in terms of his win-loss record, picking up decisive wins over William Regal and Justin Gabriel. On Raw, however, he was one-upped and embarrassed by Chris Jericho, who attacked him, threw him off of the stage and proceeded to two-step with his dancer.
Fandango continues to be the most improbable breakout star of 2013, and his rivalry with Chris Jericho has been far better than anyone could have imagined. With a likely rematch slated for Extreme Rules, it will be interesting to see if he can improve upon his WrestleMania performance.
With a major push behind him, constant improvement is key to the long-term success of the character.
13. Randy Orton
A disqualification loss to Mark Henry, in a match that existed only to further the Sheamus-Henry story, did nothing to improve Orton's steady (if not disappointing) 2013.
Fans have been waiting, with great anticipation, for Randy's heel turn. While that anticipation may now be approaching impatience, there is reason to be optimistic. In the past, the company has elected to take its time to establish a relationship between two competitors and then instigate the heel turn from there.
Over the last two months, the company has established Orton and Sheamus as tag team partners. When it's prepared to pull the proverbial trigger and execute the heel turn, it will create the opportunity for matches between the two that could carry the SmackDown brand (even outside of the title picture) for months.
Until that can happen, Orton will remain a Superstar just floating around the upper midcard waiting for his opportunity to return to the role he is best suited for.
12. Chris Jericho
In one of the night's two barn-burners, Jericho met Dolph Ziggler in a non-title match with the opportunity to earn a World Heavyweight Championship match at Extreme Rules. Y2J brought his typical intensity and tremendous storytelling to the match and appeared poised to defeat Ziggler when Fandango's entrance music hit, distracting him and costing him the match.
The loss was a disappointing one for the decorated veteran, but he was able to make up for it, in the slightest, by getting the last laugh on his ballroom-dancing rival.
Many of Jericho's fans believed that his feud with Fandango was a joke and that it was disrespectful for someone of his stature to be programmed against a gimmick-heavy character with little or no upside. Thanks to the work of both Jericho and Fandango, the story between the two has excelled when it had no right to.
It remains to be seen if Jericho sticks around after Extreme Rules, but one thing is for certain: Fans should appreciate how much he has done to help a young, talented individual succeed despite an iffy gimmick that could easily have been an immediate failure.
11. Alberto Del Rio
The former World Heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio suffered a setback on SmackDown via a No Disqualification-match loss to Jack Swagger, but that should do little to slow him down as he prepares for a triple-threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules.
Del Rio remains one of the top stars of 2013 thus far, and a loss to the "Real American" Swagger, whom he has defeated on a number of previous occasions, hurts only his win-loss record. As a babyface, Del Rio has finally reached the level of main event performer, thanks largely to an intensity and fire that was noticeably missing from his heel character.
It is unlikely he beats Ziggler for the title so soon after the champion cashed in Money in the Bank to win it, but a program between the two could produce several high-quality title bouts.
And that is always a good thing.
"The Celtic Warrior" renewed (or continued) his rivalry with The Big Show this week, squaring off with him in one of SmackDown's marquee matches. It was a match on the longer side, with the two big men reminding fans of their epic series of bouts over the World Heavyweight Championship in late 2012.
Late in the match, it appeared as though Sheamus would pick up a major victory, but Mark Henry got involved and, seconds later, the Irishman found himself staring at the lights while Show celebrated a win.
Sheamus' rivalry with Mark Henry appears to be a place-holder for what many believe will be a feud between him and a freshly turned-heel Randy Orton. One of the more talented big men to ever enter WWE, Sheamus should be able to produce quality matches with Henry before the Orton program kicks into full gear.
9. Team Hell No
The tag team champions may not be as hot now as they were last fall, but they sure do deliver when they square off against The Shield.
Monday night, in a huge six-man tag team match, Team Hell No partnered with the legendary Undertaker to battle The Shield. The climax of the match saw Dean Ambrose lying motionless in the center of the ring. Bryan climbed the ropes, leaped off with a diving headbutt attempt...and crashed hard on the mat below. Ambrose pinned the former World champion and picked up the win for the heels.
Considering their recent interaction with The Shield, it appears as though Kane and Daniel Bryan may be on a crash course with the talented trio. If that is the case, and Team Hell No does defend its titles against The Shield at Extreme Rules, expect the eight-month reign as champions to come to an end.
8. Jack Swagger
The "Real American" regained a little momentum on the road to Extreme Rules, defeating Alberto Del Rio in a No Disqualification match this past Friday on SmackDown.
A mediocre performance at WrestleMania, coupled with his arrest for DUI and marijuana possession, appeared to end any chance Swagger had of remaining a main event talent. Then he defeated Dolph Ziggler just a week after The Show Off won the World Championship. A triple-threat match was announced for Extreme Rules, pitting Swagger against Ziggler and Del Rio for the title.
There is little chance that Swagger leaves the May 19 pay-per-view as World Heavyweight champion. He has too much baggage and is not nearly over enough to warrant that type of push. The bigger question will be what happens after he is taken out of the title picture.
Does he remain a top star on the SmackDown brand, or does he return to the midcard hell he found himself in prior to his hiatus?
7. Mark Henry
"The World's Strongest Man" had a very busy second half of the week.
After tearing through WWE's resident job squad during a gauntlet match on Main Event, Henry ducked out of the ring rather than risk injury against fellow behemoth The Great Khali. He would lose that portion of the gauntlet match by count-out but, in the end, it ultimately meant nothing. The only purpose it served was to demonstrate the former World champion's domination.
Two nights later, he would be faced with the challenge of Randy Orton. The two men had a history with one another, and they revisited that history on SmackDown. The match would end when Sheamus, looking for revenge from earlier in the evening, assaulted Henry. The referee called for the bell and awarded the match to Henry via disqualification.
With a match against Sheamus looming, Henry looks to remain one of the top stars in the company as the summer months of 2013 approach.
6. The Big Show
A win over a former World champion such as Sheamus is usually enough to land someone in the top five of the WWE Power Rankings. The fact that Big Show needed outside interference from Mark Henry to do so means he will have to settle for the No. 6 spot, which still is not too shabby.
The big man has been one of the more intriguing and valuable stars of 2013 thus far. He was a major part of helping Alberto Del Rio succeed as a babyface early in the turn. From there, he was involved in the best and more logical stories leading into WrestleMania.
He was the heel teaming with two babyfaces who no one was sure should be trusted. As it turned out, tension between Show and Orton midway through the event's opening match against The Shield proved to be the downfall, and he responded by leaving his two partners lying in the center of the ring.
Big Show, for all of the criticisms directed his way over the last 10 years, has been one of the harder-working main event talents for the company in the last year and has proven to be an important part of the product.
Ryback took a step back this week.
Two weeks ago, the former Nexus member cut a tremendous pre-taped promo that explained his heel turn in a way that made sense and allowed fans to decide whether they wanted to support him or Cena. This week, in front of a live audience in London, he more resembled a classic heel as he told Mick Foley to "shut up" and ran down Cena.
From there, he and Cena stood side by side to fight off The Shield. But Ryback was not going to escape without payback from Cena, whom "Big Hungry" had left to fight The Shield by himself the week prior. Ryback fell victim to the Attitude Adjustment.
This Monday on Raw, Ryback will team with Cena to face The Shield in a two-on-three handicap match. (Author's note: this match was announced prior to WWE.com's report of an injury suffered by Cena.)
With a WWE Championship match on the horizon for Ryback, it should be interesting to see if he and Cena can work together long enough to deal The Shield their first loss, or if Ryback will send a physical, punishing and painful message to the champion.
4. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler's World Heavyweight Championship reign has had its bumps early, including a loss to Jack Swagger a week into it, but he rebounded with a win over Chris Jericho on Raw. The match was not without interference, as Fandango's music interrupted an offensive by Jericho and allowed Ziggler to steal the win.
On May 19, Ziggler will be faced with the task of defeating Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger in a triple-threat match if he wants to retain the title he waited so long to win. With AJ Lee and Big E. Langston at ringside, his odds would usually be better than usual for a champion fending off two challengers. But with Ricardo Rodriguez seconding Del Rio and Zeb Colter by Swagger's side, expect as much action outside the ring as there is inside.
For Dolph, it will be his first big test as champion. The quality of the match, as well as his individual performance, may dictate how long he is allowed to hold onto the big gold belt.
3. John Cena
The WWE Champion demonstrated on Raw why he is pro wrestling's ultimate good guy.
Just as it looked like Ryback may attack Mick Foley, Cena came to the aid of the newly inducted WWE Hall of Famer. Then, with The Shield surrounding the ring, he could not stand by and allow Ryback to suffer the same beatdown he fell victim to a week earlier. He hit the ring, forcing The Shield to retreat.
Then he delivered the Attitude Adjustment to Ryback, gaining a measure of revenge for a week earlier when his top contender left him to be assaulted.
Cena has not seen much televised ring time since defeating The Rock at WrestleMania 29, but that will change come May 19, when he faces a man he has never locked up with in Ryback. The former Nexus member has crossed Cena's path before but never with the confidence he has now. Cena typically finds himself in the ring with men who have captured titles and enjoyed the success that comes with them.
Now, he will be faced with the challenge of a man who is hungrier and more determined to win his first heavyweight title than anyone on the current roster. Whether John can overcome the threat that is Ryback remains to be seen.
(Author's note: Early Sunday morning, WWE.com reported an injury to John Cena's Achilles tendon suffered during the company's tour of Europe. The severity of said injury is unknown at this time.)
2. The Undertaker
"The Dead Man" made his in-ring return to WWE television this week in two matches designed to continue cementing The Shield's dominance.
Monday night, he was part of a six-man tag match that saw him paired with Team Hell No in a loss to The Shield. Four days later, "The Phenom" would look to make up for that loss by meeting Dean Ambrose in the main event of SmackDown. The match was a short one but demonstrated some unique chemistry between the veteran and the young standout.
The Undertaker forced Ambrose to tap out but ultimately fell victim to the triple powerbomb through the announce table.
It is unlikely fans will see The Undertaker on WWE programming anytime soon. With his body no longer being able to support a full-time (or part-time, even) schedule, the imagery of Undertaker lying unconscious after the powerbomb through the table with The Shield standing tall over him is likely the last fans will see until the build to next year's WrestleMania.
Until then, fans should appreciate the fact that the greatest phenomenon in WWE history is responsible for two of the three best matches in the company so far in 2013.
1. The Shield
Easily the best part of WWE programming in late 2012 and all of 2013 thus far, The Shield made the biggest impact of any act in the company this past week.
On Monday's Raw, Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns defeated the trio of WWE Tag Team champions Team Hell No and the legendary Undertaker in a six-man tag team match that was a legitimate "Match of the Year" candidate. The match fused traditional six-man tag elements with a chaotic conclusion that saw Ambrose pin Daniel Bryan following a missed diving headbutt.
Four days later, Ambrose fell victim to Hell's Gate in a match with The Undertaker and was forced to tap out. The loss would be quickly forgotten, however, as the three young stars lifted "The Dead Man" high in the air and sent him crashing through an announce table with a high-impact triple powerbomb.
With The Undertaker out of the way, the trio looks to set its sights on the tag titles. It has also targeted Cena and Ryback in recent weeks.
Whatever The Shield does next, it appears as though 2013 will be its year.