Wrestling Power Rankings: Top 25 WWE, AEW, Impact Wrestlers for Week of Aug. 24 | Bleacher Report

Elwanda Tulloch

0 of 11 Photo courtesy of WWE.com Professional wrestling is the ultimate “what have you done for me lately” business. Unlike other sports, where perception, prestige and rankings are tied to a cumulative win-loss record, wrestling remains delightfully untethered from any such reality. Wrestling is the art of simulated fighting, […]

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    Photo courtesy of WWE.com

    Professional wrestling is the ultimate “what have you done for me lately” business. Unlike other sports, where perception, prestige and rankings are tied to a cumulative win-loss record, wrestling remains delightfully untethered from any such reality.

    Wrestling is the art of simulated fighting, yes. But it’s also much more, a modern parable capable of telling profound truths about love, loss, jealousy and evil. Wrestling is anything we want it to be, even things we’ve never even imagined it capable of.

    Wrestling is limitless.

    A hero one week can be forgotten the next. Even decades of truth wash away easily if you simply repeat the new story enough times on television.

    The nature of the business makes a list like this one difficult to execute. Things change, and they change quickly. Like other sports, wins matter—but unlike other sports, they aren’t the only mechanism for advancement.

    What follows is a list of wrestlers ranked based on where they stand in the business right now. It’s not a list that considers career achievement or future potential. These aren’t my favorites or even the performers I think are the best in the industry.

    It’s a snapshot in time of who is being pushed and whether that push is working. Simple, yet complicated—much like the business it attempts to capture.

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    Motor City Machine Guns

    Motor City Machine GunsPhoto courtesy of Impact Wrestling

    25. Motor City Machine Guns

    Promotion: Impact 

    Last Week: 25

    Analysis: The Impact tag team champions did what a championship team is supposed to do: they stole the show during the first week of the promotion’s Emergence event. One of the most influential teams of the modern era, it’s great to see them do their thing on the big stage again.

                    

    24. Karrion Kross

    Promotion: NXT

    Last Week: 19

    Analysis: How, you’re asking, did Kross win the NXT title and manage to drop three spots? Well, the match was long and meandering and the audience online immediately rejected his elevation. On top of that, he may have suffered an injury in the process. It was a great night in theory that didn’t quite end up delivering as WWE no doubt hoped it would.

            

    23. Big E

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: 10

    Analysis: We were promised a big push for Big E. Instead, he’s kind of drifting in the middle of the pack. Not only was he left off SummerSlam entirely, but he was also forced to get a cheap roll-up win over Sheamus. 

    If you can’t go over Sheamus strong, what chance is there you’ll ever be given a real chance to make it as a top act?

               

    22. Adam Cole

    Promotion: NXT

    Last Week: Not Rated 

    Analysis: The attention will all go to Pat McAfee. And rightfully so. But it was Adam Cole who made that match possible. He won’t get the credit for it—but those who know, know.

                  

    21. Dominik Mysterio

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: Not Rated

    Analysis: The son of the legendary Rey Mysterio was out for revenge against Seth Rollins. And while he didn’t quite get it, he did earn something else from the audience: respect. From his cool gear, complete with hoodie, to his never-quit attitude, Mysterio was a breath of fresh air. One match down and thousands to go. Good luck, kid.

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    Damian Priest kicks Johnny Gargano.

    Damian Priest kicks Johnny Gargano.Photo courtesy of WWE.com

    20. Mandy Rose

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: Not Rated

    Analysis: From her Sharon Stone-inspired look to her hard fought win, what wasn’t to like about Mandy Rose at SummerSlam on Sunday? This was the biggest night of her career, and she made it count after a very trying month outside the ring.

               

    19. Damian Priest

    Promotion: NXT

    Last Week: Not Rated 

    Analysis: Damian Priest looked like a star holding the North American title. Then he got into a hot tub in his leather pants with a bottle of bubbly.

    An homage to the great Chris Jericho?

    Either way, he’s one to watch in NXT.

               

    18. Kenny Omega/Hangman Page

    Promotion: AEW

    Last Week: 14

    Analysis: Page and Omega are the tag team champions—but they don’t quite feel like a team. Once again, this week Omega was off gallivanting with his friends the Young Bucks, taking a horrendous beating from the third-string members of Dark Order before snapping and showing his dark side.

    Page, meanwhile, was being recruited by FTR, who rightly pointed out he was the third wheel in his own team. This isn’t going to have a pretty ending.

              

    17. Io Shirai

    Promotion: NXT

    Last Week: Not Rated 

    Analysis: The NXT champion is among the best in-ring wrestlers on the entire planet. Here’s hoping her next feud allows us to see her prove that a little more often. She’s never going to be a standout in WWE-style storytelling. She doesn’t have Asuka’s personality to help her leap that language barrier. What she does, however, she does as well as anyone in the world.

                 

    16. FTR

    Promotion: AEW

    Last Week: 4

    Analysis: FTR got a key spot this week, tasked with convincing a lingering audience who had been watching playoff basketball on TNT to stick with professional wrestling for a bit.  They mixed well with Private Party—good enough, in fact, to make me salivate for an inevitable Young Bucks match.

    Their slip in the rankings is more about other acts doing great things and less about FTR doing anything wrong. They’ll be back in the spotlight soon enough.

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    Brodie Lee

    Brodie LeePhoto courtesy of AEW

    15. Chris Jericho

    Promotion: AEW

    Last Week: 11

    Analysis: Jericho continues his seemingly endless feud with Orange Cassidy. It’s been entertaining in its own madcap way—but where can it possibly go?

    If Jericho wins, it’s all just kind of forgotten as he returns to his regular career.

    If Orange wins, what do you possibly do with him as a follow-up? It’s difficult to see a culmination to this feud that benefits either man.

                 

    14.  MJF

    Promotion: AEW

    Last Week: 6

    Analysis: This week AEW champion Jon Moxley absolutely blew Friedman out of the water with an incredible promo. 

    As predicted, the “election” gimmick is already wearing out its welcome. Here’s hoping Max can figure out a way to inject life into an idea that doesn’t quite fit the characters.

                 

    13. Sonya Deville

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: 15

    Analysis: Deville has been through the wringer recently. Kudos to her to overcoming what must have been an enormously difficult situation and delivering such an incredible match in her big moment. She demonstrated real star power here. I’m not sure when we’ll see her again, but the future is bright.

                

    12. Seth Rollins

    Promotion: WWE Raw

    Last Week: Not Rated 

    Analysis: Rollins took Dominik Mysterio by the hand and helped make his first match truly memorable. It’s a testament to his greatness. From his “Rey Mysterio at Halloween Havoc 1997” gear to his menacing of the younger Mysterio’s mom, the entire night was note-perfect from the Monday Night Messiah. 

                

    11. Brodie Lee

    Promotion: AEW

    Last Week: Not Rated 

    Analysis: The match wasn’t much—a dominant squash ultimately designed to move along Cody’s story. But the aftermath was incredible.

    Right now, Lee is pulling off dual roles with aplomb, operating as both a monster heel and a comedy act at the same time. That’s the kind of rare double duty that not many people in the business can master. 

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    Pat McAfee

    Pat McAfeePhoto courtesy of WWE.com

    10. Pat McAfee

    Promotion: NXT

    Last Week: Not Rated

    Analysis: Wow.

    McAfee may never appear on this list again. But for a single week, he was one of the most talked-about professional wrestlers on the planet. 

    And kudos to him. I was a skeptic, but he went out and worked an exceptional match, showing athletic potential and the intelligence to keep it relatively simple.

    There were a couple of spots the entire match hinged on—and he nailed them. Just excellent work, and the kind of positive energy that is infectious. He was having fun and, as a result, the audience was too. 

              

    9. The Fiend

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: 17 

    Analysis: The Fiend’s entrance made WWE ThunderDome’s potential apparent. It’s always been the best part of his act, though. What followed, a meandering hardcore match, was eclipsed by the surprise return of the next wrestler on our list. 

    All in all, with no additional storytelling in what was becoming a promising angle with Alexa Bliss, The Fiend’s latest big moment was a little disappointing.

                 

    8. Roman Reigns

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: Not Rated

    Analysis: They told us to expect the unexpected right? After months on the shelf, The Big Dog returned to the yard looking fitter than ever, with his gleaming smile absent in favor of a new take-no-prisoners attitude. So far, so good.

                

    7.  Jon Moxley

    Promotion: AEW

    Last Week: 8

    Analysis: For the first time, the verbal battle with MJF felt like a Moxley program and not a sports entertainment skit. That’s a good sign for the chances of this thing heating up into something special at All Out.

              

    6. Orange Cassidy

    Promotion: AEW

    Last Week: 2

    Analysis: Cassidy’s act wasn’t built for the spotlight, and it’s starting to flicker a little like a hologram in a bad sci-fi movie. He only has one note—if he’s going to maintain a presence as something other than a sidekick, the time is now to learn another.

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    Young Bucks

    Young BucksPhoto courtesy of AEW

    Young Bucks

    Promotion: AEW

    Last Week: 24

    Analysis: The Bucks once again filled valuable time on Dynamite in an exciting match. But the FTR story appears to be drifting in the direction of Kenny Omega and “Hangman” Page, leaving the Bucks, once again, as the odd men out.

              

    Keith Lee

    Promotion: WWE NXT

    Last Week: 23 

    Analysis: Lee lost his NXT Championship in an indifferent match and just feels like a cold act. He needs to do a better job differentiating himself personality-wise if he’s going to make it at the top of a major promotion. He’ll have a chance to start fresh on Raw.

             

    Good Brothers

    Promotion: Impact 

    Last Week: 22

    Analysis: The Bullet Club founders had a disappointing match on Impact’s Emergence event. At some point, hype alone isn’t enough. You have to deliver in the ring—and this was a failure in that regard.

              

    Bianca Belair

    Promotion: WWE Raw

    Last Week: 21

    Analysis: The storyline is interesting, but Belair is a supporting player. When she gets an opportunity, she shines. But opportunities are increasingly difficult to come by in the highly competitive WWE.

               

    Eric Young

    Promotion: Impact

    Last Week: 20

    Analysis: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Young back on this list next week. But he wasn’t featured on this week’s television, and there are now multiple people in the promotion doing a variation of his gimmick. 

              

    AJ Styles

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: 18

    Analysis: Styles lost his Intercontinental Championship and was left off the SummerSlam card. This is as ice-cold as he’s been since coming to WWE from New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 2016. 

                

    Alexa Bliss

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: 13

    Analysis: After a great buildup, Alexa was missing in action for the Strowman-Wyatt title match at SummerSlam. It’s not often I root for a run-in, but WWE owed Alexa and the audience better.

                

    Braun Strowman

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: 12

    Analysis: After weeks of great storytelling, the big man dropped the match, dropped the ball, got dropped by a spear like a sack of nothing—and he’s getting dropped from the Power Rankings too.

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    Photo courtesy of AEW

    Cody (AEW): Brodie Lee smashed him and then rubbed it in with a brutal post bout whooping. Not only did Cody take a beating, but so too did everyone in his inner circle. What comes next, however, might launch him on to this list for the first time.

    Daniel Bryan (WWE): The new father has been off television for a while. I look forward to watching him upon his return.

    Naomi (WWE): Naomi had a huge win over Bayley on SmackDown. I had the sense, however, that her victory was less about her and more about continuing the story of Bayley and Sasha.

    Retribution (WWE): This is what go-away heat looks like.

    Otis (WWE): I love the big man. But right now, he’s little more than a bystander watching the incredible battle of wills between his beloved Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville.

    Thunder Rosa (AEW/NWA): While the AEW women’s tag team tournament finally got some television time, it is obvious to anyone who watched the event on YouTube that none of the participants are ready to make an immediate impact. Thunder Rosa is ready.

    Dakota Kai (NXT): Kai is a tremendous worker and has been a delight in her new role as a heel. She looked like she belonged in the ring with Io Shirai. Considering Shirai was the best female worker in the world through the 2010s in the Stardom promotion, this is hardly faint praise.

    Johnny Gargano (NXT): I love the heel Johnny. He and his wife, Candice LeRae, are the most consistent performers on the show, and there’s a real-life smugness written on his face that makes him the perfect bad guy.

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    Photo courtesy of WWE.com

    Promotion: WWE Raw

    Last Week: 1

    Analysis: No one has been better on the microphone this year than Randy Orton. Outside the ring, he’s exactly what the WWE hype machine claims he is: the best wrestler in the world.

    Then the bell rings, and everything changes.

    It’s not that his matches are bad. This one, a loss to Drew McIntyre, heated up into something pretty darn good by the end. But there is always a nagging feeling after an Orton match, a sense that it just didn’t live up to all that came before it.

    Perhaps it’s that he’s too good before the action begins to ever quite match his own standard of excellence?

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    Photo courtesy of WWE.com

    Promotion: WWE Raw

    Last Week: 7

    Analysis: What else is there to say about the incomparable Sasha Banks? No one in the business combines the look, attitude and in-ring excellence of Ms. Banks.

    As good as she was against Asuka inside the squared circle, once again her sartorial choices stood out. Banks’ ring gear is ever-changing, with each outfit better than the last.

    Enjoy this time, friends. We are watching greatness in its prime.

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    Photo courtesy of WWE.com

    Promotion: WWE Raw

    Last Week: 9

    Analysis: Not many wrestlers could pull off two very different, equally excellent matches in a single night. But Asuka is Asuka. She can do anything.

    It was wonderful to see her consistent excellence rewarded once again with the Raw Women’s Championship. Emerging from a storyline built for two other talents, in this case Sasha and Bayley, looking strong is no simple task. Asuka, however, made it look easy.

    Presumably, Bayley and Sasha will turn their attention to each other, leaving Asuka to chart her own course. I can’t wait to see where it leads.

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    Photo courtesy of WWE.com

    Promotion: WWE SmackDown

    Last Week: 3

    Analysis: What else is there to say about Bayley? She loves wrestling, and it shows—whether a babyface or a heel, no one’s passion for this business shows in their demeanor and work quite like hers does.

    Retaining her SmackDown Women’s Championship against Asuka was one of the most difficult challenges of her career, but I suspect holding on to her tenuous relationship with the now title-shorn Sasha Banks will prove an even harder task.

    As great as the rise was, the fall of the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection will be even more glorious.

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    Photo courtesy of WWE.com

    Promotion: WWE Raw

    Last Week: 5

    Analysis: McIntyre’s title reign, one of the weirdest on record, continues. The Scottish locomotive is steamrolling right on through the COVID-19 era, with its momentum immune even to global calamity.

    Here’s the thing: He didn’t just look like a champion against Orton; he looked like the champion. The man. There’s a distinction, and the fact that he seems to carry the burden of the belt so gracefully is surely not lost on anyone in the back making the decisions.

    McIntyre is now the face of the business. All hail the king. Long may he reign.

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