Cena, Bryan and WWE's Most Valuable Wrestlers for the 1st Half of 2013
The first half of the year has come to a close, as has fiscal year 2012. WWE's landscape has suddenly changed with a new supporting cast for John Cena, who perennially carries the company.
Some new WWE Superstars and some old have elevated their game throughout 2013, even threatening to surpass John Cena as the WWE's most valuable Superstar.
WWE's business is on the precipice of heating up with its "fifth major" Money in the Bank pay-per-view leading into SummerSlam season. Chances are, superstars on this list will figure to be booked at the top of these respective cards.
Candidates will be full-time wrestlers (sorry, Rock). Match quality, booking and promos will be the chief selection criteria. Momentum in the past six months will help some stars more than others.
Honorable Mention: The Shield
How The Shield has been able to stay this relevant for this long goes against conventional wisdom in the WWE's modern era. By this time during the Nexus' run, Wade Barrett was on SmackDown, helplessly leading a Thrift Store version of the group with t-shirts to match.
The Shield is still going strong, with each member carrying a championship and possibly more to come. Dean Ambrose is currently a mild favorite in a wide-open Money in the Bank pool, so there is a chance that the WWE still hasn't seen The Shield's best days.
5. AJ Lee
AJ has gone from a scene-stealing non-wrestler to a show-stealing Diva. Stephanie McMahon recently stood in the same ring as AJ to confront the current Divas champion while addressing the Divas division.
This was a significant step forward for a once-floundering division that the WWE seemed it could do without. AJ's feud with Kaitlyn has been fulfilling both in and out of the ring, with ample TV time being used to tell an entertaining story of bullying and mind games.
Without the likes of AJ, the Divas division would be rendered invisible.
4. CM Punk
CM Punk takes a bit of a hit due to his extended absence, but his historic reign as WWE champion was apparent early in the year.
Punk wrestled an overachieving two-match series with The Rock at Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, then went on to work the match of the year to date against John Cena on Raw.
Punk picked up right where he left off with an instant classic against Jericho at Payback, and he will be embroiled in a blockbuster feud opposite Brock Lesnar.
3. Mark Henry
Mark Henry's performance on Raw last week could have been enough to earn him the top spot if he wasn't injured in the weeks leading up to it.
Henry surprisingly went over at WrestleMania and pulled two tractor trailers on SmackDown, causing his stock to heat up tenfold.
Henry seems to be closing in on his first WWE Championship run, an accomplishment that would go down in WWE's sketchy annals of black history.
2. John Cena
Do not adjust this slideshow, John Cena is currently the second-best WWE performer over the past 12 months. Cena finds himself in a familiar position as WWE champion, but an uninspired, predictable feud against Ryback has brought him down a notch.
Cena is always at his best with optimal competition, and that has come in the form of Mark Henry, who is doing the best work of his career.
An inevitable showdown with the No. 1 Superstar on this list will help lay the groundwork for the WWE in the second half of 2013.
1. Daniel Bryan
Ask anybody on the Internet who the best wrestler in the WWE is right now, and a lot of them will say Daniel Bryan. Sure, that's what they'll say on any given day, but in this rare exception, they're right.
Bryan has had the most consistent string of strong matches in the WWE while embracing a compelling storyline of refusing to be called the weakest link. He has organically broken away from a successful tag team opposite Kane, and he now looks to be in prime position to win the WWE Championship Money in the Bank and/or the WWE Championship.
Twitter may be on the verge of breaking at some time during the summer when all is said and done.