WWE TLC 2013 was supposed to be epic. It was supposed to be among the most important pay-per-views ever by virtue of the title unification match. At times, it was slow and plodding. But the main event did not disappoint.
There were other title matches in addition to John Cena vs. Randy Orton that were entertaining matches. But there were also matches that felt like that they just had no meaning or direction. And the fact that WWE needed to fill time with an impromptu match between Miz and Kofi Kingston and still ended the show 15 minutes early is disappointing.
Before getting into all that, though, here's how the rankings work:
Holding a championship, being No. 1 contender or having a Money in the Bank briefcase counts for much of a wrestler's ranking. Wins and losses account for much of the week-to-week movement. "Getting the better" of someone, like beating someone down as well as "getting got," counts as well, though not as much as wins and losses.
Only the top 10 wrestlers are ranked, and every other wrestler is unranked. Wrestlers on the "Watch List" were considered for top-10 status but ultimately were nixed. They, too, are unranked, and their listing is in no particular order.
Generally speaking, the rankings do not break kayfabe, though any major non-storyline information (serious injury, WWE Wellness Policy violations, legitimate hirings, firings and contract information, etc.) may be included.
Remember to check out last week's rankings here.
Now on to this week's rankings.
Sandow got himself into position to claim the Intercontinental Championship at WWE TLC 2013, but he could not capitalize. His only win this past week was against Santino on Raw, and he then got himself counted out against Mark Henry on SmackDown. Not a great week. Where he goes from here is a mystery.
With only a count-out win over Damien Sandow this week, Henry drops from the top 10. With the world titles now unified and a newly crowded Intercontinental title division, can Henry break out of the pack and challenge for a title?
Previous Rank: Unranked
Movement: Outta Nowhere!
At WWE TLC 2013, AJ Lee did what she does best: win title matches. She may lose to lesser talent on TV, but pay-per-views bring out the best in her. And TLC was no different. She retained her title against Natalya, who got her first title opportunity since 2010.
AJ Lee is the third-longest reigning Divas champion in WWE history with 184 days and counting (as of December 16). Assuming she holds her title until the Royal Rumble, she will surpass Maryse Oulette's record 216-day reign and will become the longest-reigning WWE Divas champion ever.
AJ Lee is a shining star in what is, sadly, a fairly dull division. She is about to cement herself as one of the best Divas in history with a historically long title reign. She just has to avoid making a mistake from now until the Royal Rumble.
Previous Rank: Big Show, 9; Mysterio, Watch List
It's clear now that Big Show and Rey Mysterio are a tag team. So, until further notice, they will be ranked as such. For now, I'll call them "MysteriShow," since combining names is en vogue.
And MysteriShow had a fairly good week. On Raw, they teamed with the Rhodes Brothers against the Real Americans and "RybAxel" (another wonderful name), and Mysterio pinned Curtis Axel for the team win. On SmackDown, Big Show got a win over Ryback. And then at TLC, they outlasted two other teams (the Real Americans and RybAxel), but ultimately lost to the Rhodes Brothers.
They may well be the best candidates for No. 1 contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championships. Can they build on their momentum?
Previous Rank: Watch List
Movement: Into Top 10
The Wyatts got a big win at TLC that makes the rest of the week meaningless. They beat the Usos on Raw, and Eric Rowan lost via disqualification on SmackDown to Daniel Bryan.
But again, none of that really matters. They beat Daniel Bryan at TLC. It may have been a three-on-one handicap match, but Bryan gave them everything they could handle. They could not get Bryan to join them at TLC, but we'll see what happens going forward.
Previous Rank: 4
Movement: Down 3
The members of The Shield don't look like they're on the same page anymore. After Dean Ambrose lost to CM Punk on Raw, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns defeated the Usos on SmackDown. There seemed to be some dissention in the ranks heading into WWE TLC 2013.
The trio talked a big game, but CM Punk got the best of them in a three-on-one handicap match. Reigns accidentally speared Ambrose when aiming for Punk, and Punk took advantage for a huge win. But for The Shield, this may be the loss that finally creates fractures that beatdowns on midcard talent can't repair.
Previous Rank: 5
Movement: Down 1
Daniel Bryan gave it his best try, but the numbers against him at TLC were just too much to overcome. The Wyatts did not make the mistakes of The Shield did and took care of business in a match they should have won.
Bryan put up a valiant effort this past week, getting wins over Fandango and Eric Rowan. But the big match was not easy, and Bryan could not defeat the Wyatts when it counted.
What no one can deny is that Bryan is undoubtedly the most popular WWE Superstar in the company. Or any wrestling company today. He won both the Superstar of the Year and Fan Participation Slammy awards. Cena promised him a title match should Cena win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at TLC. Since that didn't happen, Bryan's future is up in the air.
Previous Rank: 7
Movement: Up 2
The Rhodes Brothers are having a great run as WWE Tag Team champions. This week, they teamed with MysteriShow to defeat the Real Americans and "RybAxel" in an eight-man tag match on Raw. They did, however, lose to the Real Americans on SmackDown in a non-title match, which was a tough loss.
But at WWE TLC 2013, they defeated three other teams (RybAxel, the Real Americans and MysteriShow) and retained their titles in a four-team elimination match. That big win moves them up a couple of spots.
Previous Rank: 6
Movement: Up 2
Big E Langston's stock just rose for two reasons. First, he had a good week, beginning with a confrontation with Damien Sandow on Raw, followed by his big win over Sandow at TLC to retain his Intercontinental Championship.
Second was the title unification match. How does this help Big E? Well, he's now holding the second-highest title in WWE. And with only one world title in WWE, the IC title becomes that much more important and prestigious. Some would even argue that the IC title has been restored to it's rightful place as WWE's second title.
Big E will now have an even bigger target on his back since all those guys looking for a world title run will have to look to the IC belt for a title reign if they can't get a shot at the newly innaugurated WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Can Big E rise to the challenge?
Previous Rank: 2
Movement: Down 1
No, John Cena did not win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He lost what was billed one of the most important matches in WWE History. The picture accompanying the slide may not be accurate anymore, but TLC was the last time the World Heavyweight Championship would be seen; the belt is getting a final sendoff in this small tribute.
Cena's only match this week was the TLC match, which, again, he lost. Cena's brute strength was nearly enough to "overcome the odds," and he even nearly got out of the handcuffs Randy Orton used to attach him to a ring rope. But in the end, Cena was outsmarted by Orton and remains a 14-time champion.
He'll almost certainly get a rematch. But with only one world title, where will he go if he can't win said rematch? Cena will be interesting to watch going forward.
Previous Rank: 3
Movement: Up 1
CM Punk has not-so-quietly positioned himself as the No. 2 wrestler in WWE. Once John Cena gets his rematch against Randy Orton (assuming Cena gets one), CM Punk could be there to challenge the victor. Daniel Bryan fans may clamor for Bryan getting a title shot, but CM Punk has gotten the wins lately to warrant a shot.
CM Punk got wins over Dean Ambrose, the United States champion, on Raw and then did the nearly impossible at TLC in defeating The Shield in a three-on-one handicap match after Roman Reigns accidentally speared Dean Ambrose. CM Punk got a huge win and moves into the No. 2 spot.
Previous Rank: 1
Randy Orton has just cemented himself into the upper echelon of WWE history. Randy Orton used cunning to overcome John Cena and become the first-ever WWE World Heavyweight champion. The victory over Cena at WWE TLC 2013 inaugurates his 12 world title reign.
Orton was seen by many as the underdog in the match, with Cena's record of success and ability to "overcome the odds" cited as reasons Orton could not win the match. Orton seemed panicked and even afraid in the run-up to the match. But Cena could not overcome the handcuffs, even though the cuffs nearly weren't enough.
Orton earned this win. There was no interference. No shenanigans. Just two men willing to do anything to become wrestling legends. Today, Orton was the better man and now carries a unified title with the legacies of the two most prestigious titles in professional wrestling history. Orton already had a strong argument for being the best wrestler of his generation. That argument just got a lot stronger.