There’s something about WrestleMania season that is unlike any other time of the year on the WWE calendar. From the time the Royal Rumble pay-per-view kicks off through the first week of April, the men and women who are destined to steal the spotlight on the biggest WWE show of the year step their game up and bring an energy that radiates from the screen.

Truth be told, everything seems to have clicked in a little more quickly on SmackDown than on Raw in recent weeks. That’s evident in the latest ESPN WWE Power Rankings, as seven of the WWE superstars who make up this top 10 are SmackDown superstars, although reigning No. 1 Becky Lynch appears to be Raw-bound in the long term. Seth Rollins and Ronda Rousey are among the top three for a reason, though, and their performances at the Royal Rumble and in subsequent weeks have helped balance out some otherwise inconsistent shows.

While Lynch’s work has been undeniable since last summer, and it’s little surprise that she remains firmly in the No. 1 position, there’s also no denying Daniel Bryan, who is in the midst of some of the best work of his career. From introducing a new, environmentally neutral WWE championship made of hemp and reclaimed wood, to spouting radical truths mixed with hypocrisy and holier-than-thou rhetoric, Bryan has settled into a personality that offers a wide berth of possibilities that could help carry SmackDown through the rest of 2019 and beyond.

But the most telling sign in this edition of the WWE Power Rankings is what this list looks like as you dig deeper into the top 10. Andrade and Mustafa Ali have made the most of new opportunities to step forward on SmackDown, and as they step into the biggest matches and opportunities of their careers at Elimination Chamber, their upward trajectories project as major positives on SmackDown as the coming months shake out.

There are eight weeks of Raw and SmackDown to go before WrestleMania, plus two pay-per-view events, and the future looks bright. As of this moment, there’s no sign of The Undertaker or John Cena. With the matches we already know of for WrestleMania and the potential for what could be on the horizon, the WWE feels fresh and exciting. A lot can change over the next two months, but in this moment, it feels as though a much-needed move toward the present and future stars of WWE is upon us. — Tim Fiorvanti

The ESPN WWE Power Rankings are determined by a panel of seven contributors and are based on each wrestler’s perceived value to the on-screen product of WWE.



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