It took one of the most creative and well executed segments in the history of Monday Night Raw to push him over the edge, but after 21 weeks of AJ Styles at No. 1, Kevin Owens has retaken the top spot in this edition of the ESPN WWE Power Rankings.
Owens has slowly been crawling his way back toward No. 1 over the past month, and the dissolution of Jeri-KO -- a pairing that has served as the backbone of creativity on Raw in good times and bad -- helped reinforce all of the things Owens does best. Unsurprisingly, Chris Jericho also got a major bump this time around for the role he played in the over-the-top end to their friendship.
Two of the three champions who were crowned this week managed to crack the top 10, so without further ado, let's get to the Power Rankings.
Rankings are based upon the perceived value to the on-screen product of the WWE, and determined by the voting of a panel of WWE on ESPN contributors. Number in parentheses ( ) indicates first-place votes.
It has been a long time coming, and it's only fitting that the incredibly well executed "Festival of Friendship" is the moment that put him over the top -- and back into the No. 1 spot. It was silly in all of the right places, subtle when it had to be, and the timing of it all is a testament to just how good both Owens and Jericho can be. It's also the perfect way to execute all of the major tasks it set out to achieve; it re-established Owens' physical dominance, it reconnected him in earnest with Triple H, and set him up for a massive fall in a few weeks against Goldberg. Watching Owens claw his way back to the top on the road to WrestleMania should be thrilling, and anyone who has watched the bulk of Owens' career knows that his best work has been done as an anti-authority figure. (Tim Fiorvanti)
He didn't take home the gold at the Elimination Chamber, but Styles is still the most valuable asset on either roster. Regardless of his direction heading into WrestleMania, he will continue to be the premier attraction in my eyes and, I'm sure, the eyes of many others. There's simply no one Styles can't work a great match with, and that's why he reigned supreme on this list for as long as he did. (Sean Coyle)
Why do you watch Raw each week? More than likely, it's because of everything Jericho does on a regular basis. The "Festival of Friendship" was the ultimate conclusion to the team that was "Jeri-KO" -- from "Friendship" as the last entry on the "List of Jericho" to the "Creation of Kevin" painting that was far, far too realistic. It ranks up there among the most memorable moments of his career, and with the way he has been going in the ring, the WrestleMania blow-off with Owens should be an absolute treat. (Andrew Feldman)
Titles still mean something. After losing so many times when he looked as though he was about to turn the corner, Wyatt pinned Styles and John Cena in succession to win the WWE championship, and then beat them both in a triple threat match two days later on SmackDown. With Orton refusing to face him at WrestleMania (at least for the time being), The Wyatt Family conflict continues to be the most interesting story going on SmackDown right now. (Peter Rosenberg)
Orton is one of the biggest names in the business, and he hasn't been given enough credit as of late. His storyline with the Wyatt Family has been captivating, and his upcoming WrestleMania clash with Wyatt is very intriguing; it's going to happen, one way or another, regardless of the seeds of doubt planted on SmackDown Live this week. The 2017 Royal Rumble winner has not been a fixture on this list, but as he heads into a main event match at the biggest show of the year, that's changing in a hurry. (Coyle)
No title? No problem. Flair will still be the face of the women's division across both brands, and it's clear that no matter how things shake out by early April, she'll be the one to watch yet again at WrestleMania 33. The biggest question along the way will be how things play out in a few weeks at the Fastlane pay-per-view. (Feldman)
Cena is perhaps one of only three or four active wrestlers who don't need a title to be the top dog. Although his 16th title reign predictably ended after just two weeks, Cena continues to show that his skill set is every bit as impressive as his aura. Over those two weeks, in the Elimination Chamber match and in main events featuring Orton, Wyatt and Styles, Cena once again showed that his in-ring ability is somehow peaking at age 39. (Matt Wilansky)
There's finally a slight sense of uncertainly for Strowman as Fastlane approaches. Despite his monster heel push, and all that he has accomplished over the past couple months -- and it's a lot -- Strowman has beaten Roman Reigns down to such an extent that it feels as though he might finally succumb and lose a match on the biggest stage he has been given to this point. The buildup to WrestleMania will be crucial in seeing if the success Strowman has enjoyed is the real deal. (Wilansky)
Say what you want about how it happened. Sure, there was interference. Of course, there have probably been too many women's title changes on Raw in the past six months. But between the moment when Bayley lifted the title above her head and the video documenting her reaction after Raw, the feeling was truly special. Bayley earned the accolade she has been after since childhood in a match that was thrilling until its final moments. In doing so, she guaranteed herself a prominent role at WrestleMania and made NXT's "Four Horsewomen" 4-for-4 in winning a main roster title. The chant has been beaten to death, but in this writer's humble opinion, she deserves it. (Fiorvanti)
Here's hoping the WWE has big plans for The Miz come WrestleMania time. He deserves something of significance to ensure his recent dropping of the Intercontinental title makes more sense. His renaissance in 2016 has only continued through January, as The Miz continues to do the best work of his career. (Brian Campbell)