Welcome to the second edition (May 2012) of TJR Power Rankings.  The list is already evolving!  Instead of just consisting of WWE Superstars, the list will now be made of TNA Wrestlers as well.  As you can imagine, there are more WWE stars on the list due to their higher quality performances (which owe in part to the better booking), but there are a couple TNA stars worth mentioning.  As a fan, I think it would be nice to see even more TNA guys eventually make the list.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Alright, because the Power Rankings now include TNA wrestlers, this list is based on recent performances from Extreme Rules, Raw, Smackdown, Lockdown, and Impact!  

Honorable Mentions

Dolph Ziggler: Great in everything he does, needs a good program.

Bully Ray: Maybe THE BEST pure heel in all of wrestling, and certainly doing the best work of his career.  Needs to be in something other than a support role.

Off the Rankings

Brodus Clay: His Gimmick is already old, hasn’t shown depth.

Kane: Lost to Randy Orton, needs a successful high-profile program.

Big Show: Lost to Cody Rhodes, needs a heel-turn.

10. Cody Rhodes

Cody makes the top 10 this month for his win over Big Show at Extreme Rules.  Sure, the win was made to look like a fluke, but the man who brought legitimacy back to the Intercontinental Title won it back, and that’s a very good thing.  Plus, Cody is just crazy entertaining.  He’s doing everything right.  His character is unique, he’s a good in-ring worker, and he has admirable mic skills.  To move up in the list, though, Rhodes needs a little help from WWE brass.  He needs a push.  We’ve talked about his potential plenty at TJR over the last couple of years, and it’s a wonder why WWE hasn’t moved Rhodes into the World Heavyweight Championship scene yet.  Perhaps he’ll be elevated once Money in the Bank rolls around.  We can only hope.

9. Austin Aries

Being TNA’s X-Division Champion hasn’t meant much in recent years.  What once made TNA unique has turned into lower mid-card prize.  But that changed on September 11th, 2011.  Austin Aries won the title at No Surrender, and has held the title ever since.  That’s just about 240 days, making him the longest reigning X-Division Champion in TNA history.  

That statistic might not mean as much with the title on anyone else but Austin Aries.  The title hasn’t changed, the booking hasn’t changed, but the performer has.  Aries is one of the best performers in wrestling today, and TNA is being forced to recognize his skill.  His talent is currently being rewarded with a program with Bully Ray, perhaps the best heel in all of wrestling.  It’s a notable feud because TNA doesn’t normally put X-Division wrestlers (smaller, more athletic performers) in the ring with heavyweights.  But Austin Aries is too good to keep out of the limelight.  With a decent push, he should be able to climb the Power Rankings even further.

8. Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho is awesome.  By simply being employed by a professional wrestling promotion, he deserves to make the Top 10 in TJR Power Rankings.  But he’s slipping.  That’s not because of in ring work.  His last two big matches, at Wrestlemania and Extreme Rules, both against CM Punk, have been utterly fantastic.  But he’s lost both, and it looks like he won’t be involved in the main event of Over The Limit.  Sure, it’s a minor Pay Per View, but obviously the WWE is looking to slow down their push of Jericho.

This is most likely because Jericho’s current run with the WWE may be coming to an end.  It’s been confirmed that Jericho’s band Fozzy will be involved in a summer Metal festival, and the band is rumored to be recording a new album in the coming months.  If true, Jericho will likely shift his focus to music rather than wrestling.  

7. Randy Orton

Randy Orton remains in Smackdown limbo.  He’s clearly the best babyface on the brand, but with Sheamus holding the World Heavyweight Title, there’s no telling when Orton will return to the title scene.  Who will Orton face at Over The Limit?  Kane again?  I don’t think a third major match between the two will excite anyone.  And with both Alberto Del Rio and Daniel Bryan currently occupied, Smackdown isn’t exactly overflowing with quality heels for Orton to take on.  

Still, Orton would make a superb opponent for Brock Lesnar.  Unfortunately, that’s a money-making program, and better suited for a Pay Per View like Money in the Bank or SummerSlam.  In other words, it may be some time before Randy Orton rises on this list.  

6. Bobby Roode

Bobby Roode, the TNA Heavyweight Champion, is having a great run.  He’s held the belt for nearly 200 days now, and shows no signs of slowing down.  Roode basically has it all - he’s got the look, he’s skilled in the ring, and he’s more than adequate on the mic, especially in the role of a heel.  His recent matches with James Storm, Jeff Hardy, and AJ Styles have all been top notch, despite the usual wacky TNA overbooking.

In a fun way, Bobby Roode is somewhat of a throw-back.  He’s the kind of heel the people pay to see lose.  At least that’s what TNA wants out of him.  For as much as fans of TNA complain about James Storm not yet winning the title, Roode is the better all around performer at the moment.  Like Austin Aries, he’s the right guy to invest in moving forward.

5. Daniel Bryan

How can someone who lost the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania, as well as a rematch at Extreme Rules, come in at number five on this list?  Simple, by being VERY over with fans.  Daniel Bryan is exactly that, and every day he’s exceeding expectations.

Bryan was finally given a large amount of time on a Pay Per View to show the world what he could do in the ring.  At Extreme Rules, Bryan and Sheamus went for nearly 25 minutes.  Had it been any other PPV of the year, outside of maybe Wrestlemania, it would have easily match of the night.  Unfortunately the match had to compete with Punk vs. Jericho and Lesnar vs Cena, which is really a testament to the overall quality of Extreme Rules more than anything else.  

Bryan vs Sheamus at Extreme Rules was maybe the best match either man has had in the WWE.  Bryan, the ring general, told a fantastic story in the ring and had fans captivated the entire time.  His reward for his hard work?  A main event spot at Over The Limit, taking on WWE Champion CM Punk.  Knowing their chemistry and their in-ring excellence, expect Bryan to be high on this list again next month.

4. Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar falls a bit this month for two reasons.

1 - He lost his return match with John Cena.  It was a great match, or rather a great fight, but even though the story told in ring was satisfying, some of the wind has been taken from Lesnar’s sails.  He’s no longer the impossible to defeat monster that fans perceived him to be when he returned.  He can still be much more than “another guy” though, and fans should expect him to dominate again.

2 - We’re unsure as to when Lesnar’s next match will be.  Because of his part time contract, Lesnar may be gearing up for a mini-break.  If he’s contracted for 30 dates, and he’s already made four appearances, it makes sense for the WWE to hit the brakes a bit and keep Lesnar off of television for a month or two.  More matches towards the end of the year, and the months leading up to Wrestlemania 29 seem likely at this point.  So if Lesnar remains absent from WWE programming, expect to see him off the list until his return.

It should be mentioned, though, how awesome he was at Extreme Rules.  Licking Cena’s blood off of his MMA style gloves?  That’s as much of a middle finger to the PG-era as anything we’ve seen in a long time.

3. Sheamus

The mere fact that you could argue that Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus was the best match at Extreme Rules says so much about the abilities of Sheamus.  He’s someone who has been to the top, then back to the bottom, yet he persevered and climbed back up again.  Sure, it helps when you’re buddies with one of the guys in charge, but Sheamus’ accomplishments shouldn’t be underestimated.  He’s a good worker, and with the right opponent, he can have excellent matches, which is what we saw with Daniel Bryan.

Sheamus has all the makings of a good World Heavyweight Champion.  He’ll continue his current run with the title with a fresh program with Alberto Del Rio.  As long as Del Rio can stay healthy, this should be fun.  Both men are a bit one-dimensional in their characters, yet that’s the beauty of professional wrestling - sometimes good vs evil is all you need.  It’ll be interesting to see who takes over in-ring and calls spots.  Sheamus was aided a lot by working with Daniel Bryan, and as good as Del Rio can be, he’s not even close to Bryan’s level.

2. CM Punk

CM Punk once again proved why he’s the best in the world at Extreme Rules.  He and Chris Jericho had an excellent match, one that played out nothing like their bout at Wrestlemania.  In the less than a year since his star-making Raw promo, Punk has had several 4+ star matches.  He’s simply on a roll, and with a matchup already set for Over The Limit with Daniel Bryan, Punk shows no sign of slowing down.

Even more impressive?  By the time CM Punk defends his title at Over The Limit, he’ll have held the title for more than 180 days, the longest reign since 2008.  If he retains the title, which he most likely will, he has the opportunity to hold the belt for longest amount of time since John Cena’s 2006 run.  Not bad for an undersized skill-based guy with indie roots, right?

Punk has been a dominant champion, and that’s really what the WWE has needed over the last few years.  Every day that he holds the belt longer, it not only strengthens him, but the title as well.  His match with Daniel Bryan should be tremendous fun.  Both are excellent in the ring, and they have a chemistry that’s unmatched in the WWE thanks to their work in Ring of Honor.  

1. John Cena

For all the hate John Cena has to deal with, his last year has been excellent.  Beginning with Money in the Bank 2011, Cena has had three 4+ star classic matches.  His matches with Punk, Rock at Wrestlemania, and Lesnar at Extreme Rules have all been of the highest quality.  Better yet, they were all vastly different in style.  Anyway you slice it, Cena is the man right now, and he deserves to be at the top of this list.  He may have had his shortcomings before, but he’s learned how to limit those and accentuate his strengths.  He’s doing the best work of his career.

Cena’s match with Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules was completely different from what fans have come to expect.  Within the first minute Cena had blood gushing from his skull, and he looked truly vulnerable.  Yet he pulled off a win in the end by outsmarting the beast that is Brock Lesnar.  It was a great story, one that was much more than “Super Cena wins again”.  The only thing Cena has going against him at the moment?  He’s set to face John Laurinaitis at Over The Limit.  No matter how good Cena currently is, that match is sure to be an overbooked mess.  Let’s hope that after Over The Limit, Cena is given another quality opponent to work his magic with.


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