<
>

Kofi Kingston remains No. 1 in post-WrestleMania ESPN WWE Power Rankings

The changing landscape on SmackDown post-WrestleMania and Superstar Shakeup has opened the door for Kevin Owens to quickly become one of the most relevant and valuable players in WWE as a foil for Kofi Kingston. WWE

WWE looks significantly different today than it did just one month ago. The longest-reigning champion on either Raw or SmackDown is Samoa Joe, who has been United States champion for just over 50 days, with every other main-roster title changing hands during WrestleMania weekend.

Since WrestleMania 35, three of the four major champions walking into that show -- Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan and Ronda Rousey -- have barely been mentioned, let alone appeared on Raw or SmackDown. Throw in the Superstar Shakeup, which has somehow been causing talent shifts for the better part of two weeks now, and the entire landscape of WWE is drastically different heading into May.

Although Raw and SmackDown this week represented a dramatic step forward in terms of storytelling, WWE's inclination of late has been to push toward dream matchups and short-term rivalries in place of solid, long-term storytelling. While almost no one is going to complain about matches like Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles or Kevin Owens vs. Kofi Kingston, fans were given virtually no time to digest these major shifts in hierarchy on Raw and SmackDown before the matches were locked into place.

With sagging television ratings and stale storytelling, the shuffling of rosters couldn't have happened at a better time -- but that's only one piece of the puzzle. With Kingston, Rollins and Becky Lynch as a solid core of champions heading into the summer, it's time to keep WWE fans invested in their stories and that of their challengers. A little bit of attention to detail goes a long way, and with top stars moving in both directions in the Superstar Shakeup, there has never been a better time to capitalize on the goodwill produced by some promising outcomes at WrestleMania.

There has already been some big steps forward and a Bray Wyatt return that caught everyone's attention, so as Kingston heads into Money in the Bank at No. 1 (with Lynch not too far behind), a world of potential sits within WWE's reach -- they just have to capitalize upon it. -- Tim Fiorvanti

Not only is Kofi en fuego, but he has been booked brilliantly over the past couple of months. You can't help but root for a talent who has deserved a moment to shine getting the chance to become WWE champion at WrestleMania in one of the most memorable moments in recent WWE history. His impending rivalry with Kevin Owens is something serious for Kingston to sink his teeth into, and it seems that Kingston's allegiance with WWE fans is going to get only stronger. I'm hoping this momentum lasts for a while and Kofi shows the rest of the WWE universe that good guys do occasionally finish first. -- Matt Wilansky

If you're a little bit nervous about how Becky Lynch has been handled in the aftermath of her massive WrestleMania main event win, you're not alone. Having her doing double duty on Raw and SmackDown, as well as a pair of matches at Money in the Bank, seems likely to risk overexposure in the short term. Lynch having her eighth pay-per-view match against Charlotte Flair in the last year, as well as a second title defense against an unproven in-ring performer in Lacey Evans, doesn't help either. It's impossible to deny that fans and the WWE alike have bought into the Lynch hype, and for good reason -- but Lynch can only do so much with her rabble-rousing on Twitter against any number of dream opponents. Once Money in the Bank is in the books, let's hope that there's a fresh start against one of the many other talented women on the Raw or SmackDown rosters. -- Fiorvanti

The value of having the Universal Championship back on Monday Night Raw on a regular basis is that fans can finally get invested in the title and a story that isn't centered entirely on when the champion will even return to TV. We're already getting a Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles match at Money in the Bank, and that's just the beginning. When Rollins held the Intercontinental title, we got great matches out of whomever answered his open challenges, from every level of the roster (remember his matchup with Mojo Rawley?) WWE couldn't do much better in terms of a workhorse champion and a cornerstone moving forward, and his match at Money in the Bank against Styles will be another opportunity to show why Rollins was given the ball. -- Matt Willis

It was a smart move to put Styles on Raw, where he can embark on a journey with new narratives after accomplishing everything he could've hoped for and more on SmackDown. He's immediately in the thick of things after winning his way into a Universal championship against Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank. Is it a mistake to thrust Styles to the top story on Raw from day one? Could he potentially take the Universal title at Money in the Bank? Regardless of how things play out in a few weeks, Styles clearly has big things ahead of him and a deep well of new potential opponents, including the likes of Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley. -- Wilansky

Kevin Owens' heel turn Tuesday might have been predictable, but it didn't make it any less soul-crushing to see the last of "Big O." Whether it was wearing a crop-top shirt, devouring pancakes, or belting out New Day's opening tagline, Owens showed off his incredible versatility by fully committing to filling in for the injured Big E and thriving as the New Day's honorary third member. It's unfortunate that Owens didn't find a spot at WrestleMania, but he's home as a heel and that's exactly what WWE needs him to be right now. He's the perfect first opponent for Kofi Kingston in his first reign as WWE champion, and both men seem likely to shine at Money in the Bank. -- Michael Wonsover

The Shield is gone and for the first time in a long time, Roman Reigns stands on his own on SmackDown Live. The move for Reigns -- and WWE -- was a smart one. As the show ventures from USA to Fox in just a few months, Reigns will carry the brand into a new era for the company, which is exactly what WWE needs to succeed with a larger mainstream audience. The blue brand provides Reigns with a number of new challenges, and challengers. Once Elias and Shane are pushed aside, sign me up for an Owens, Aleister Black or even Kofi Kingston rivalry. -- Andrew Feldman

Many WWE fans seem to genuinely hate how highly the WWE creative team regards Flair, but ironically, that level of reaction is exactly why Flair gets the push that she does. It shows Flair is very much her father's daughter, as there were many times that Ric Flair was pushed as a heel in his heyday and fans desperately wanted to see him destroyed by the babyface of the day. Charlotte's ability to get over in this manner indicates that she has inherited her father's skill at getting a reaction in any situation she's put into. Add that valuable trait to her superb squared circle skills and it equals more main events for Ms. WrestleMania. -- KC Joyner

You either loved or hated the Firefly Fun House, a three-minute taped segment in which Bray Wyatt made his first appearance on WWE TV in nine months, but nobody can deny that it made people pay attention. It already has two million views and counting on YouTube, with the Pee-Wee Herman meets Blue's Clues-esque segment representing a new direction for Wyatt. When creepy vignettes aired in recent weeks, many speculated Wyatt's return would come with a new character, but no one could've expected to see a jubilant Wyatt enter a children's playroom wearing a shirt eerily reminiscent of Mr. Rogers' red sweater and collared shirt. Despite the happy outer appearance, the dark side of Wyatt still lingers as he took out a chainsaw and ceremoniously destroyed a cardboard cutout of his old self. It's tough to say if this will catch on in the long term, but it's a good, fresh start for a performer in Wyatt who still has a lot to give in WWE. -- Wonsover

After successfully reclaiming the Intercontinental championship from Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania as "The Demon," Balor has already delivered stellar in-ring performances against the likes of Sami Zayn, Ali and Andrade. One of the most consistent in-ring performers in the WWE has begun a new chapter in his career as part of the SmackDown roster, with plenty of enticing new matchups on the horizon. -- Sean Coyle

Joe might've taken the pinfall in his triple-threat match on Raw, but his performance alongside Rey Mysterio and AJ Styles shows just how valuable a piece he can be at his new home on Raw. Samoa Joe always comes out of these spots looking strong, regardless of his win-loss record. As long as he holds the U.S. title, he's a factor, and a looming showdown with Braun Strowman is out there as well. -- Willis


Dropped from rankings: Daniel Bryan, Ronda Rousey, Batista, Drew McIntyre, Aleister Black & Ricochet
Others receiving votes: McIntyre, Lacey Evans, Asuka & Kairi Sane, The Miz, Elias, Bayley, Robert Roode