ROCKET STRAPS: Using Key Metrics to Rank the Top Ten Wrestlers Prioritized By WWE this week, including Orton, Punk, Shotzi, LA Knight, Damage CTRL, Creeds, Owens, more

By Jeff Rush, PWTorch contributor


For the past three months, members of the Bloodline and John Cena sat as respective fixtures on the Priority Top 10. Though Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso figure to reappear sometime soon, Cena has returned to Hollywood. To a lesser degree, the LWO has appeared more often than not as well. Now, they seem to be either finished or on a sabbatical.

While many of the other major players will continue rotating through, last weekend’s Survivor Series truly served as a changing of the Priority guard. New certain-to-be mainstays, Randy Orton and C.M. Punk, have rocketed into the top 5, along with a group of women who dominated the metrics last Friday on Smackdown. Finally, it took Raw kicking off with a commercial-free first hour (well, 56 minutes) to necessitate a lengthy tag team gauntlet match. The beneficiaries were the recently arrived Creed Brothers, who make their debut in this week’s Top 10.

Though the Thanksgiving holiday presented issues with publishing a list last week, the numbers were tallied and are factored into the three-week history noted in the individual show Top 10 lists. It’s too bad, too. After knocking on the door for months, Drew McIntyre finally stormed his way up to the number 4 spot on the week. It seems fitting, actually, that he continues to find ways to be denied the recognition he deserves.

As always, the information taken into account to accumulate these lists include metrics such as quarter-hour ratings, who is featured in the open, closing, and top of the hour segments, names promoted in each shows preview, championships, and wins. I also factor in estimated monthly merchandise sales leaders, whose appearances begin with a higher floor than the others.

Priority Top 10

1. Judgement Day (1)

Appearances on both Smackdown and Raw provided enough exposure to keep the most consistently prioritized faction in WWE at the top of this week’s list. Though the good times were spoiled by a somewhat rudimentary loss at the PLE, the group made up for it with a successful tag title defense on Smackdown, show opening and closing performances on Raw along with an evenings worth of backstage appearances throughout.

Further helping their cause was the leader of the Judgement Day, Rhea Ripley, who’s major solo appearance consisted of her speaking on behalf of the group, as opposed to addressing her individual feuds in the women’s division. Thusly racking up even more points for the faction.

Their days in this current iteration continue to feel numbered, but for now, there’s no denying Judgement Day is being prioritized more than any other performer or group in the company.

2. Team Belair (NR)

Month’s back, I spoke favorably of the pairing of Charlotte and Shotzi. While I never expected them to rise this far up the list, keeping company with Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch and coming off an incredibly successful week was all it took to have these women outpacing the two major returning stars of the men’s division.

The general sentiment of the fans on message boards and call-in shows this week leans towards this being an aberration for Shotzi, and where Belair goes from here remains to be seen. Becky and Charlotte, on the other hand, appear to have successfully reignited the magic from a feud that felt completely burned out a year ago. Though they’re presently allies, as Lynch alluded to during her brief appearance on Raw, you never know when that situation will change. When it inevitably does, the energy these two created before and during the PLE feels strong enough to land them in future main events, perhaps even at WrestleMania.

3. Randy Orton (NR)

Those putting together this past week’s Raw evidently enjoyed having Randy back about as much as he appeared being there. He kicked things off in jaunty fashion, with mannerisms similar to the lighter character he played alongside Matt Riddle prior to his injury. In addition to eating up parts of the two highest rated quarter hours on the show, he also delivered cryptic threats, rubbed elbows throughout, and main-evented with a decisive win over Dirty Dom. If this week was any indication, he’ll be picking up with routine appearances on the Priority Top 10 where fellow OVW alum, John Cena left off.

4. C.M. Punk (NR)

The biggest gripe from a number of callers on the PWTorch Raw Post-Show this past Monday came from having to sit through nearly three hours of programming only to receive less than ten inoffensive minutes of Punk. So how does that lead to top 5 placement on the Priority list? Punk’s name was not only advertised in the Raw preview email’s subject line, but also appeared on graphics and videos throughout all three hours of Raw. In addition, he was the last face seen as the Survivor Series screen faded to black.

More weeks than not, his positioning would’ve been enough to put him at the top of the list, where he clearly belongs. It took crossover appearances and title defenses by Judgement Day, a two-hour Friday night infomercial for the women’s War Games match, and the return of a more trusted commodity in Randy Orton to prevent him from sitting there. If he can contain the backstage fireworks, he’ll be topping this list for months to come.

5. Cody Rhodes (2)

Again, on most other weeks, the American Nightmare would never have fallen this low. It’s not like the company took a more measured approach with Cody this week, either. Throwing their usual caution to the wind, Rhodes not only occupied a prime top of the hour segment, but also served as QVC-style pitchman for the company’s Cyber Monday deals.

It felt in the moment like a careless lapse on the writer’s part, who have protected Rhodes image and appearances far better in recent months. He confirmed what fans have long-suspected, going all the way back to last years WrestleMania – that he’s entering the Rumble and heading back to the main event of Night 2. In order to deliver him in a fresh manner, he’d be best served slipping back to appearing in careful doses.

6. Damage CTRL (3)

The foil of the group who placed in second this week were naturally going to make this list as well. Where that collection of women appears headed in separate directions going forward, Damage CTRL looks to maintain a heavy presence on Smackdown. The fact that Judgement Day was more restrained in taking issue with one member costing them their War Games match doesn’t bode well for Bayley.

That storyline is bound to play out somewhere this week, and it could mean the end of her time as leader of the group. If that’s the case, I expect we’re still looking at many weeks to come with Iyo, Kairi, and Asuka dominating Friday night programming.

7. The Creed Brothers (NR)

The future of the tag division on Raw has arrived. Less than a month after formally joining the roster, Brutus and Julius Creed have earned a shot at the Judgement Day’s tag titles. This goes one of two ways from here. 1. The company is confident enough in what they have with the former Diamond Mine members that they strap on the belts and begin a Gunther-style run through the division. 2. More likely, the Creed’s are screwed out of the titles in their first opportunity, but in the process, officially arrive as top players in the tag scene.

The company seems perplexed on how to go about pushing them at the moment. They’re featured in comedic segments with Alpha Academy but are also suitably showcased in the ring. Whatever the path, it’s resulting in more air time for the duo, including this past week, where they occupied the better part of the first hour of Raw, battling their way through a gauntlet match.

8. Jey Uso (6) and Seth Rollins (7)

One receives a bump from being champion of the brand, the other gets his from moving merchandise. Give them roughly the same amount of air time and this is the result. After a couple months as the goofy, joyous “Yeet-master” (thanks, Cody), Jey Uso returned to his broodish, hangdog persona, fearing retribution from a returning victim in the form of Randy Orton.

Even in his more happy-go-lucky iteration, we all know the Viper is not to be taken at his word. He implied in his show-opening promo that everyone to have ever been a part of the Bloodline would be feeling his wrath. Then a couple hours later, Randy tells Jey since he’s no longer a member, that they’re cool. Something feels off there.

It seems for as long as Seth has his hands full with Drew McIntyre, Jey may be preoccupied with a vengeful Orton. The result should include top-billing on Monday nights for all involved. Suddenly, a three hour show doesn’t feel long enough. Kidding.

10. L.A. Knight (5) and Kevin Owens (NR)

Perhaps the biggest victim of the latest influx of talent has been L.A. Knight, who finds himself lower on this list than he’s been in months. With top merchandise sellers getting an additional bump, he could slip out altogether if either Orton or Punk surpass him this holiday season.

Owens continues to feel like a high priority on Smackdown, serving on commentary for an entire night a couple weeks ago and now occupying prime top-of-the-hour real estate. The program with with A-Town Down Under is already feeling stale, though. Perhaps the answer to both he and Knight’s current predicament would be a feud with each other.

Drop Outs: Drew McIntyre, Santos Escobar, Rhea Ripley

Smackdown Top 10

1. Team Bianca (4, NR)

2. Damage Control (1, 2, 3)

3. L.A. Knight (2, 1, 2)

3. Kevin Owens (NR, 4, 9)

5. A-Town Down Under (7, 5, NR)

6. Santos Escobar (3, NR, NR)

7. Judgement Day (NR)

8. Dragon Lee (NR, 10)

9. Pretty Deadly (10, NR)

10. Carlito (9*, 3*, NR)

Raw Top 10

1. Randy Orton (NR)

2. Judgement Day (1, 1, 1)

3. C.M. Punk (NR)

4. Cody Rhodes (2, 2, 10)

5. The Creed Brothers (NR)

6. Jey Uso (4, 3, 7)

6. Seth Rollins (5, 4, 2)

8. DIY (NR)

9. Drew McIntyre (3, 7, NR)

10. Nia Jax (NR)

RECOMMENDED NEXT: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES (11/27): CM Punk’s return promo, Randy Orton’s return, Bronson vs. Ivar, Gunther-Miz exchange, Nia Jax vs. Zoey Stark, Cody-Nakamura angle

OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: Roman Reigns returning for three upcoming Smackdown events

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