Power Ranking Miro, Finn Balor and Top 25 WWE, AEW, Impact Stars for Sept. 14
This column requires watching a lot of wrestling. I mean, an absolutely absurd amount.
Every week I sit down and spend at least 10 hours on the couch watching men and women yell at each other and pretend to fight.
Each major show is a little different—there's the grandeur of Raw, the pure in-ring work of NXT and the weird fusion of AEW (part WWE, part independent wrestling).
But my favorite two hours of wrestling for the last several weeks has gone down on Friday nights. Watching WWE SmackDown on Fox, unlike any of the other shows, is an absolute breeze.
While Raw remains the sport's flagship program, I'll admit to having my thumb hovering over the fast forward button throughout its endless three hours. By contrast, SmackDown never feels like it overstays its welcome. It's a mix of everything WWE does well, headlined by the amazing Roman Reigns.
It's the perfect breeding ground for a list like this, an opportunity for wrestlers to show both what they can do in the ring and backstage on the stick. It's, slowly, winning people over and establishing itself as the premier show in all of wrestling.
Of course, not all the wrestlers in our power rankings come from SmackDown. There are performers across companies and brands capable of making the sport take notice—these are the 25 who have the fans talking and are delivering magnificent moments on television.
Disagree with this list? Let's hear how you'd rank them on the app.
25. A.J. Styles
Last Week: Not Rated
Analysis: Styles wrestled a clever match against one of the dueling Intercontinental champions (Jeff Hardy), countering all of the champ's signature moves before being rudely interrupted by Sami Zayn. This three-way feud should culminate in something pretty fun on pay-per-view.
Last Week: Not Rated
Analysis: The innovative tag champs defended their belts against The Rascalz on Impact, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a match with so much happening in less than 10 minutes. It's so great having these guys back in the sport—and soon enough back in the ring with The North.
23. Sami Zayn
Last Week: 23
Analysis: Zayn's return to SmackDown has injected some serious energy into the floundering feud between Jeff Hardy and A.J. Styles for the Intercontinental title. His running kick in the corner remains an incredible spot all these years later. When given the opportunity, Zayn can match anyone in the world in a pro wrestling match. A three-way match between these men could get very, very interesting.
22. Johnny Gargano/Candace La Rae
Last Week: Not Rated
Analysis: The Garganos sure do throw a weird dinner party, huh? I haven't seen a gathering this awkward since Michael and Jan had the gang from the office over. Like in the sitcom, this skit ended with a broken television and hurt feelings. These new characters are fantastic.
21. Rhea Ripley
Last Week: Not Rated
Analysis: Hey, remember Rhea Ripley? For the first time since WrestleMania, it's starting to feel like WWE does. She and Mercedes Martinez had an amazing cage match in the NXT main event, and here's hoping this means more of both women on my television. Normally the cage is just a mechanism to do even more wacky stunts than usual. This was excellent, a rare modern cage match that actually felt violent.
20. Young Bucks
Last Week: Not Rated
Analysis: In case you couldn't tell from the mean looks they were wearing last week, Matt and Nick Jackson have erased all doubt about who they are by super-kicking announcer Alex Marvez somewhere in the vicinity of his face. The Bucks are baddies now. Tremble before their might.
19. Eric Young
Last Week: 17
Analysis: A world-class man, a world-class athlete, a world-class wrestler and, most importantly, a world-class maniac. Young has tons of potential in this role, but the company has to be confident enough to really go for it. Working a competitive 10-minute main event with an aged Tommy Dreamer is definitely a step in the wrong direction.
18. Nikki Cross
Last Week: Not Rated
Analysis: It was a bittersweet Friday night for Cross. While she won a four-way match to earn a shot at Clash of the Champions, she also watched her friend Alexa Bliss slip further towards the darkside and Bray Wyatt. I'm not sure which will be harder—saving her friend or winning her first singles gold.
17. The Fiend
Last Week: 24
Analysis: Wobbly Walrus, a puppet version of Paul Heyman, was added to The Firefly Funhouse last week. It's either a sure sign that Bray Wyatt has lost his way or the missing puzzle piece that can take the Fiend back to the top. Whichever way it goes, as the puppet Vince McMahon says, it's "good s--t" pal.
16. Seth Rollins
Last Week: 9
Analysis: Seth has pulled off one of the greatest miracles of his career: Week after week he's making newcomer Dominik Mysterio look like a threat inside a wrestling ring. I have to admit, though, I'm about sick of watching this feud. And I don't think I'm alone. At some point, everyone involved will need to move on. Surely this steel cage match on Raw will be the end of it? Right?
Last Week: 13
Analysis: What can you say about the new tag team champions? They said they were the best in the world, then went out and beat the former champs relatively fair and somewhat square. Nothing settles arguments quite like results. Now we wait for the Young Bucks to enter the picture.
14. Orange Cassidy
Last Week: 7
Analysis: For months Orange Cassidy couldn't be bothered to care about anything. Chris Jericho changed all that. Now, instead of being the guy who puts his hands in his pockets, looking bored by the world, he's on television wrestling Angelico in a competitive match. Who is this new Orange Cassidy? I'm not sure yet, but I'm patient enough to find out.
13. Kenny Omega/Adam Page
Last Week: 8/22
Analysis: This may be the last time we list the former tag champs together, as their future as a unit is in serious doubt. In two separate sitdown interviews, the duo delivered very different messages to their fans—and each other.
Page, it seems, envisions an attempt to reclaim lost glory. Omega, instead, is looking at a singles future. Whatever happens next, Page and Omega delivered week after week as champions. Their reign provided consistently excellent tag team wrestling. While some teams talk a lot about it, they went out and delivered where it counts—in the ring.
12. Jey Uso
Last Week: 16
Analysis: Something usually looks off when a tag team wrestler branches out into singles competition for the first time. But that hasn't been the case for Jey Uso, who dropped his partner, picked up a microphone and looked ready to work a main event program, leaving his brother behind like a snake shedding its skin. He's more than just ready for a bigger role in the company, he was born and bred for it.
11. Chris Jericho
Last Week: 12
Analysis: In a post-Orange Cassidy world, Jericho and Jake Hager, it seems, are going to set their sights on tag team glory. If this match with Sonny Kiss and Joey Janela is indicative of what they'll offer the division, that's not a good thing for fans used to high-octane, high-energy wrestling. Still, he's Chris Jericho. Even if the wrestling might feel like it's from another era at times, his mere presence gives a match a gravitas it might otherwise lack.
Last Week: Not Rated
Analysis: I think it was fairly obvious that AEW was going to sign Miro. Former WWE midcarders are their new bread and butter. But I didn't anticipate him being introduced as part of a wacky skit like this. Rusev was a Bulgarian badass. Miro is...a guy who plays video games and hangs out with Kip Sabian?
Maybe this will work—but this is definitely another mouth to feed in a promotion that doesn't seem to have the creative energy to support the talent already on the roster.
9. Finn Balor
Last Week: 25
Analysis: The new NXT champion beat Adam Cole in an excellent title bout. Balor may be 39-years-old, but nothing about him feels dated. He's still an impressive physical specimen, perfectly designed by the wrestling gods to execute the kind of matches NXT fans crave.
Last Week: 5
Analysis: After his failed campaign against "Dictator Jon," MJF did what political losers always do—fired every single staffer in his line of sight. But don't worry about Max—he'll have plenty of campaigns to come as he writes his name in the annals of wrestling history.
7. Keith Lee
Last Week: 6
Analysis: The good news is that Keith Lee was immediately slotted into a "tog guy" position on RAW. The bad news is that Randy Orton, for all his many strengths, isn't the kind of worker who can make Lee look like the kind of monster he might become. And, now that McIntyre is back, how Lee fits into the picture is less than opaque. Even after watching dozens of new guys try and fail to launch, I'm hoping Lee will truly get a chance to rise to the very top.
6. Brodie Lee
Last Week: 19
Analysis: Cody's gimmick was defending the TNT championship nearly weekly, a brutal grind reminiscent of the old television champions of yore. Lee has handled his reign differently. He's been champion for nearly a month and only defended the strap a single time. Luckily for fans, it was in the best match in the TNT title's short existence.
Dropped from the Rankings
Last Week: 11
Analysis: After a vicious attack from her former best friend Bayley, Banks didn't show up on any WWE programming this week.
Last Week: 14
Analysis: AEW can't ever manage to find time for more than one women's wrestling segment each week. Maybe we'll see Shida next week in something more than a cameo role.
Shayna Baszler/Nia Jax
Last Week: 15
Analysis: This team was looking super strong. The perfect time, apparently, to have them both lose to lesser foes in a single night.
Last Week: 18
Analysis: Came up short against Finn Balor in a bout for the NXT title. Normally, this is when a talent would get the call to the main roster. But, in the USA Network era, the idea of NXT as a developmental league may be passe.
Last Week: 20
Analysis: Everyone was expecting a quick push to the top. But, based on the last couple of weeks, it will be a slow burn if it happens at all.
Last Week: 21
Analysis: The Virtuosa didn't do anything wrong—we're all just in a holding pattern until she really gets into it with her next feud.
5. Jon Moxley
Last Week: 2
Analysis: Great wrestling champions are forged in the fire of competition. MJF brought the heat, but Moxley emerged better, more impressive than ever.
The "Murderhawk Monster" Lance Archer is next. We've seen Moxley against big men before in his title reign, and it doesn't work to his strengths as a performer. Here's hoping he gets through this road bump and moves on to something more interesting as soon as possible.
4. Randy Orton
Last Week: 3
Analysis: After years of being kind of lost in the pack, Orton has emerged in 2020 to establish his bonafides and prove all that stuff you've heard about him is true. When motivated, he is the best wrestler in the business. Or, if that's a step too far, he's at least in the conversation.
In baseball, there are five tool players. Orton has that kind of total package in wrestling, possessing the look, the mechanics and the oratory ability to do anything you require. He may have made his name as the legend killer, but Orton, ironically, is now the very thing he one targeted so mercilessly—a legend of this industry.
Last Week: 4
Analysis: The SmackDown women's champion finally explained her turn on partner Sasha Banks, a brutal bit of business that sent her former best friend to a "local medical facility." And you know what? It made perfect sense. Bayley knew that Banks was using her and just waiting for her moment.
"Who knows you better than me?" Bayley asked. "You were waiting for the right time to strike."
Bayley has become the best heel in women's wrestling. It's been an amazing thing to witness.
2. Roman Reigns
Last Week: 1
Analysis: Show up. Win.
That's professional wrestling described in a nutshell—and mastered by the great Roman Reigns. The WWE Universal champion has been formidable for years. Now, with Paul Heyman by his side, he looks more than that. He looks, well, unconquerable.
1. Drew McIntyre
Last Week: 10
Analysis: Poor Drew was apparently hospitalized by Orton a couple of weeks ago and is so confused he...stole an ambulance and drove it to the ThunderDome to confront him? Here's hoping the hospital doesn't press charges.
It's wrestling, and I'm willing to follow the story into some weird places—but this was stretching credibility to the breaking point. The good news is, he was whupping up on Orton throughout the broadcast and came off a champion worth believing in.