ROCKET STRAPS: Using Key Metrics to Rank the Top Ten Wrestlers Prioritized By WWE this week, including Punk, Cody, Nakamura, Lynch, Jax, Lashley, McIntyre, more

By Jeff Rush, PWTorch contributor


The biggest story this week comes not from the Priority Rankings or either of the Top 10 lists, but rather from those who dropped off from last week altogether. For the first time in months, Judgement Day has missed the top 10. In fact, not a single group from the recently faction-dominant company placed in priority this week.

While Damage CTRL and, to a lesser degree, the Bloodline can point towards the Tribute To The Troops format effecting their exposure, Judgement Day simply appears to be cooling off in the face of the return of C.M. Punk and the rise of Drew McIntyre.

That’s not to say they were a complete non-factor, just that there was little room left when it came to main event or top of the hour segments. The group was given the opportunity to mix it up with Punk momentarily backstage, but took a backseat the rest of the evening. It would be a shame to see them fade as we head towards the equivalent of WWE’s playoffs after carrying the load, particularly on Monday nights, for the bulk of the regular season.

Also stepping back this week was the red brand’s champion, Seth Rollins. While he was featured in the biggest segment of the show, he was nudged out of priority contention by those who had matches and/or promoted appearances. The true ignition of a program with Punk will certainly bring him back towards the top likely as soon as next week.

As always, the information taken into account to accumulate these lists include metrics such as quarter-hour ratings, what performers are featured in the open, closing, and top of the hour segments, who is given time to cut in ring and backstage promos, 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 other members of the roster.

Priority Top 10

1. C.M. Punk (NR)

There’s no doubt the bulk of WWE’s booking priorities right now lay with their prodigal son. While no additional credit was given here for Punk’s appearance on NXT Deadline, it’s certainly noteworthy that he was received ample speaking time on all three brands over the course of four days. From the more pipe bomb-esque promo he delivered on Friday to the light and fun elbow rub with Shawn Michaels on Saturday to the main course of Monday that finally saw him shift gears into mixing it up with another wrestler, it was a huge week all around.

His promos, both on Friday and Monday, came at the top of the coveted 9pm hour, something Punk was quick to point out on Smackdown. This, coupled with numerous mentions throughout both shows, was in addition to having his name and likeness all over the both official previews. Punk appears headed towards a WrestleMania headlining match against Seth Rollins, and it’s insane to think how high his priority metrics will climb once his merchandise blows up the charts next month.

2. Cody Rhodes (9)

If you had any doubt Cody had become the new John Cena in regards to carrying the company flag, that issue was settled with his special cross-brand appearance during Tribute To The Troops. There was nothing of note to come out of the Friday promo, other than for the company to show their reverence towards the US military by bringing out what they feel is the very best they have to offer.

On Monday, Cody main-evented Raw in singles competition for the first time in four months, falling victim to Nakamura’s dreaded “red poison mist” in a DQ victory. It appears this feud will take us into WrestleMania season, but whether he’s headlining the show or delivering a brief interview somewhere in the middle, Cody has a way most weeks of sticking around near the top of this list.

3. Drew McIntyre (2)

The entire opening 30-minutes of Raw was essentially a vehicle for the new heel version of Drew McIntyre. He now resorts to underhanded methods to gain his victories, but they continue to pile up, nonetheless. A month ago, he seemed destined for a lengthy feud with Seth Rollins and, likely, a run with the World Title. Things have certainly gotten murkier with the arrival of C.M. Punk.

Still, with the momentum he’s accrued, it’s easy to see McIntyre potentially finding his way into the Seth-Punk program and a triple-threat main event at WrestleMania is entirely within reason. That said, we’re a far way from April and there’s a lot of television remaining. Hopefully, McIntyre will continue to occupy a great deal of it going forward.

4. Randy Orton (4)

A main event match hyped throughout the show that ended with Orton scoring the pinfall victory kept the momentum rolling following last week’s contract signing. Orton also appeared in multiple backstage skits, including one where he revealed to Smackdown GM Nick Aldis that he’d never heard of L.A. Knight until a week ago.

Considering he mentioned to Jey Uso upon his return to Raw that he’d been watching and approving of his actions since switching brands, it came as a surprise, and not in a great way, that he was oblivious to the most prioritized singles wrestler in the company over the past six months. Still, it seems obvious that a rejuvenated Orton will continue to shine in main event level programs for the foreseeable future.

5. Jey Uso (1)

Jey was granted the “Welcome to Monday Night Raw” honor this week, opening the show by exclaiming that he got his Yeet back. It was a fun moment, but more importantly, one that will keep him towards the top of the company’s merchandise list and thusly in priority relevancy. Uso continues to drop matches, however, even if those defeats usually involve unscrupulous tactics employed by Drew McIntyre.

The yearlong story of his moral struggles as a member of the Bloodline followed by his redemption arc bought him a ton of credibility along with a large margin in which to come out unaffected by dropping decisions. We’re now getting into delicate territory, though, where Jey could use some high profile wins to maintain his upper echelon status. He doesn’t have the same teflon coat of such stars as John Cena, and if the losing doesn’t curb soon, Uso may find himself defined back down to mid-card status.

6. L.A. Knight (10)

The formerly fastest rising star in WWE rebounds slightly in this weeks rankings but continues to find himself in murky waters. His exposure was once again limited to the show’s end, but at least this week that came with a backstage promo and an actual match. It’s difficult to see where Knight factors in to the main event picture on Smackdown, though, once Roman Reigns returns and begins his inevitable program with Randy Orton.

Will he continue to feud with the suddenly far less relevant non-Reigns members of the Bloodline? Much like McIntyre is now contending with Punk for the spotlight on Mondays, Knight finds himself without a clear path on Fridays now that Orton has made his presence known. Perhaps the last thing needed was yet another top-level babyface. With both heel title holders serving in extremely limited capacities, it’s time for the blue brand

7. Santos Escobar (NR)

Though the contender tournament feels like a Kevin Owens vehicle, the former LWO stablemate seems primed to make things interesting. His show opening win over Dragon Lee, who would close out the week holding NXT gold, was a statement victory. Escobar is in that “trial run” territory right now that many freshly turned heels experience, as the booker waits for that one thing to surface that will take the wrestler to another level.

The whole thing comes so naturally to Escobar, and the signs of confidence from the writing team are beginning to show. A potential alliance with Dominik Mysterio somewhere down the road isn’t difficult to imagine and even if this tournament reaches its most likely conclusion, it’s safe to assume Escobar will eventually be wearing gold.

8. Shinsuke Nakamura (NR)

Perhaps the most oddly prioritized wrestler in the company at the moment. Nakamura will not win. He didn’t take the title from Seth Rollins and he won’t disrupt the story of Cody Rhodes. Yet, because the character sets his sights so high, there’s no option but to feature him as strongly as possible. This has included the subtitled promos, which set Shinsuke apart from the rest of the roster in terms of both style and tone. The additional touch of anime this week was chefs kiss.

The current program with Rhodes was never going to wrap up after a week and it looks like we’ll be riding it out at least to the Royal Rumble. Its a win for the fans and for Nakamura the wrestler, but I’m growing increasingly sympathetic for Nakamura the character. He sells out his values for the sake of a shortcut and continues to fall on his face. His response is to portray himself as even more sinister, but the end result is only additional failure. Perhaps after Cody, he can turn his attention to a more nefarious figure and allow the fans to root for him to finally get his win.

9. Bobby Lashley (NR)

The Tribute To The Troops format thrust one of the bigger heels on the blue brand in recent months over to the babyface side of things. As was noted on commentary as well as during the pretaped video package, Lashley is an Army veteran and, short of keeping him off the show altogether, there was no other way to use him here.

He received the expected win and advancement in the U.S. Championship #1 contender tournament with his victory over Karrion Kross, a matchup which was used as a hook in the show preview. Most matches on this week’s edition could’ve been found on any Smackdown. Lashley’s was designed to be a crowdpleaser and, in that regard, it delivered.

10. Nia Jax / Becky Lynch (NR)

Since the launch of the Man four years ago, the company has been sitting on money in the bank with this feud. Of course, injuries and releases dragged things out longer than anyone could’ve anticipated, but the time is finally right for these two to square off. Jax was excellent with her believable facial expressions throughout their promo, acting smarmy but also just a little intimidated.

For Becky, it’s great to see her being given a program to sink her teeth into for the first time in a while. The company appears confident in the ability of this feud as they invested a valuable top-of-the-hour slot towards their lengthy mic duel. Jax is currently playing the Nakamura to Becky’s Seth, but with the Royal Rumble still six weeks away, this feels like the sort of feud that will play largely play out on Raw and will, thusly, be receiving plenty of exposure in the coming weeks.

Honorable Mention: Katana Chance & Kayden Carter

Raw viewers now know why their finishing maneuver is called the Keg Stand. Having seemingly proved themselves worthy of character development, the exciting NXT call-ups received a nice video package explaining the carefree nature of Chance and Carter. It’s not necessarily the stuff main event performers are made of, but it sure beats simply being thrown on TV. The team has an exciting move set that draws fans into their matches. With just a little bit of effort on the part of the company, we now have a reason to look forward to their showdown with Green and Niven.

Drop outs: Damage CTRL, Logan Paul, Seth Rollins, Judgement Day, Creed Brothers

Smackdown Top 10 12/8

1. Randy Orton (2, NR)

2. C.M. Punk (NR)

3. L.A. Knight (4, 3, 2)

4. Santos Escobar (10, 6, 3)

5. Bobby Lashley (NR, NR, 6)

6. Damage CTRL (1, 2, 1)

7. Cody Rhodes (NR)

8. Dragon Lee (NR, 8, NR)

9. Bloodline (7, NR, 5)

10. Charlotte (8, 1*, 4)

Raw Top 10 12/11

1. Drew McIntyre (2, 9, 3)

2. C.M. Punk (NR, 3, NR)

3. Cody Rhodes (6, 4, 2)

4. Jey Uso (1, 6, 4)

5. Shinsuke Nakamura (10, NR, 8)

6. Nia Jax (9, NR)

6. Becky Lynch (NR, NR, 7)

8. Rhea Ripley (NR, NR, 6)

9. Judgement Day (4, 2, 1)

10. Seth Rollins (3, 6, 5)

*Denotes that this ranking was shared with another wrestler.

Thanks so much for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or drop a line via email at or on Twitter/X @jeffsjeffsyall.

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