Welcome to 2014, everyone. These are the first rankings of the new year, and there are some big changes—but not in the top two positions, since both John Cena and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton were idle.
But for a holiday Raw this past Monday, we had some important events occur. The biggest of all was perhaps Brock Lesnar's return and the announcement that he is the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. He will face the winner of Cena vs. Orton at Royal Rumble.
We also saw Daniel Bryan join the Wyatt Family. A quick note on that: As of now, I have not combined Daniel Bryan and The Wyatt Family in the rankings. They are still separate, but that could change going forward if Bryan becomes firmly entrenched with The Wyatts.
More on all that later. First, 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.
On to this week's rankings.
With a controversial win over The Great Khali and a victory over Kofi Kingston on Main Event, Sandow is rebuilding after a tough end to 2013. If he can build on this momentum, he could get back into contention for a title.
2014 has not been kind to The Shield. On the last Raw of 2013, Seth Rollins lost to CM Punk in another great match. Rollins has been showcasing his talent, albeit in losses. Then, they had a horrible SmackDown. Rollins and Reigns took a disqualification loss to The Usos and then were driven off by CM Punk when they tried to beat them down.
Vickie Guerrero made (big shock) a six-man tag team match featuring The Shield vs. CM Punk and The Usos. The Shield lost when CM Punk pinned United States Champion Dean Ambrose. The Shield looks like they could fall apart any week now. Can they recover?
Previous Rank: 10
As of January 6, 2014, AJ Lee has tied Beth Phoenix as the second-longest WWE Divas Champion in history, reaching 204 days as champion. Should she hold her title for another 13 days, she will have reigned for 217 days and will pass Maryse Ouellet, who held the belt for 216 days in the longest-ever Divas reign.
She can't celebrate yet, but January has the potential to be a big month for Lee.
She was idle this week on WWE television. As a champion, she'll get a pass this week. She should be back up and running this week, as WWE should be done with its holiday schedule. However, she will need to start picking up wins to stay in the top 10.
Previous Rank: Unranked
Movement: Outta Nowhere!
The Usos got off to a great start in 2014. They defeated the Prime Time Players on Superstars, and then things got interesting.
They twice defeated The Shield on SmackDown. First, they defeated Rollins and Reigns by disqualification. Then, they were on the winning team in a six-man tag match with CM Punk over all three members of The Shield.
The Usos keep rising to the occasion, only to do nothing with their momentum. It remains to be seen if they can make anything of this recent win streak.
Previous Rank: 6
Movement: Down 2
This rank may baffle some people, seeing as Daniel Bryan joined the Wyatt Family. But despite Daniel Bryan's admission, the Wyatts did not enjoy much in-ring success.
On Raw, all three members lost in succession to Bryan. Then on SmackDown, Rowan and Harper lost to The Rhodes Brothers in a match for the WWE Tag Team Championship.
For these rankings, Bryan was not added to the Wyatt Family. If it appears he's firmly entrenched, he'll be combined with them next week.
Previous Rank: 7
The Rhodes Brothers made just one appearance this week on WWE TV, and they made the most of it. They were placed in a WWE Tag Team Championship title defense against Eric Rowan and Luke Harper, and they got a big-time win.
Recently, they've looked like they might be vulnerable but not this past week. A good title defense allows them to hold onto the No. 7 slot.
Previous Rank: 3
Movement: Down 3
Daniel Bryan gave up. He defeated all members of The Wyatt Family on Raw but still surrendered. He admitted Bray was right about "The Machine" keeping him down and then was beaten into The Wyatt Family after asking to join.
Word is that Bryan is being introduced as "Daniel Wyatt" at live events. If that's the case, he will be rolled into The Wyatt Family for these rankings next week.
It was tough moving him down three spots, especially after winning against The Wyatts on Raw. But CM Punk and Big E Langston, at this point, just had better weeks and are in stronger positions. Joining The Wyatt Family seems like it will just further remove Bryan from any title picture, at least in the short term.
Previous Rank: Unranked
Movement: Outta Nowhere!
Brock Lesnar returned with a vengeance. And now, he's in line for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship shot after John Cena and Randy Orton have their match at the Royal Rumble. At least, that's what Paul Heyman, who returned with him, had decreed.
Mark Henry came out to try and challenge Lesnar and was subsequently annihilated. Lesnar treated him like a ragdoll and destroyed him.
If in fact Lesnar is the No. 1 contender for the world Heavyweight championship, he's a huge threat to whoever wins later this month.
Previous Rank: 4
Big E Langston had a nice week to open 2014. On Raw, he successfully (though not surprisingly) retained his WWE Intercontinental Championship against Fandango. Then on SmackDown, he defeated Curtis Axel, whom he beat to win the title.
In many ways, this has become par for the course for him. He has been dominant lately and could use a step up in competition to test his skills.
Previous Rank: 5
Movement: Up 2
CM Punk is back in the top three. On Raw, he defeated Seth Rollins in a great match. Then on SmackDown, he saved The Usos from a beatdown. When Vickie Guerrero made a six-man tag match with The Shield facing CM Punk and The Usos for later that evening, Punk pinned Dean Ambrose for the team win.
He keeps putting himself in great position for a title opportunity, consistently defeating anyone put in front of him. 2014 should be a good year for Punk. But with only one world title in WWE now, can CM Punk overcome other big names in his path?
Previous Rank: 2
With no activity this past week, there's not much to be said for Cena. We're just awaiting his title match with Orton later this month.
He's No. 1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and if he can win, he may be scheduled for a match with Lesnar at Elimination Chamber. Can Cena build momentum heading into the Royal Rumble?
Previous Rank: 1
Like with Cena, WWE world heavyweight champion Randy Orton was idle this past week. He was also idle the week prior as well. Had Cena shown up, Orton might have dropped to No. 2.
But, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas. Cena was idle too, and as a result, Orton held onto the No. 1 spot. He takes the top spot in the first rankings of 2014. How long will he hold it?