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It was a bizarre week in WWE land, to say the least, as the Muppets invaded Monday Night Raw. While I totally get the purpose of bringing them on to promote the upcoming Muppets 3D movie and cater to the younger audience, the severe setback the furry guest stars provided for the development of major storylines was simply unnecessary as WWE builds to one of its biggest pay-per-view events of the year in Survivor Series. When you take the Muppets away from it, Raw ultimately felt more like a specially televised house show than it did the WWE’s flagship show, which is why Friday Night Smackdown proved to be the much more enjoyable show this week. All of the matches were entertaining—with the exception of Alicia Fox vs. Natalya, of course—and the Superstars did a great job furthering the most serious storylines on the brand. Only two more weeks of television remain before Survivor Series, so I expect the next edition of Raw to really kick things into high gear after putting on the safest of all safe shows this past week, while Smackdown should continue to remain highly entertaining by featuring great development of the young stars and high-quality wrestling matches. And speaking of wrestling matches, these ten guys were a part of some of the best ones this week. Here we go with the latest installment of the PINFALL Magazine WWE Power Rankings…

1. John Cena (Previous Rank: 1)
Who better to feature triumphantly at the end of a Monday Night Raw episode intended to pander to the kiddy demographic than John Cena? In all seriousness though, it seems the drama surrounding Cena and The Rock has now overtaken the WWE conspiracy angle as the top storyline to build on Raw, after both Kevin Nash and Triple H were absent this week. Johnny Boy had his night start off just swell after we all learned The Rock will indeed be his partner at Survivor Series against The Miz and R-Truth. Despite the thousands of advertisements for the event that have already confirmed the two megastars to be teaming up, the WWE Universe still tried hard to make us all feel utterly shocked! And as if the handling of this storyline thus far has not been bad enough, it somehow managed to get worse with Cena’s demolition of Awesome Truth to close out the night. Cena put both Miz and Truth out with an Attitude Adjustment and celebrated to end the show, making millions beg the question, “So, why exactly does John Cena need The Rock to defeat these guys when he just dominated them on his own?”. This is what was meant before by my statement that the Muppets almost totally knocked all responsibility to story development away and made the entire show feel light-hearted and inconsequential. Nonetheless, silliness aside, John Cena proved dominant yet again. He claims the top spot in the PINFALL Power Rankings for the second week in a row due to both his overwhelming triumph over The Miz and R-Truth on Monday night and his sheer significance being smack dab in the middle of what is currently the WWE’s hottest money-making storyline involving The Rock and the build to the tag team match at Survivor Series.

2. Mark Henry (Previous Rank: 3)
Perhaps the most consistent WWE Superstar to date in the history of this column has been the “World’s Strongest Man”, your World Heavyweight Champion, Mark Henry. He has not departed the Top 3 yet, coming in just behind the top spot this week simply because of the sheer magnitude possessed by the storyline between Cena and Rock. On Raw, Henry was featured in a highly anticipated matchup against CM Punk, which was initially booked as Punk’s chance at a WWE Championship match against Alberto Del Rio. Although it did not get too much time, it was good for what it was, with a clever ending that, by technical terms, saw Henry pick up a disqualification victory and proceed to squash poor Ricardo Rodriguez with a World’s Strongest Slam. However, Friday Night Smackdown was where the World Heavyweight champ truly asserted his dominance. His promo backstage provoking the eventual main event pitting himself against Daniel Bryan was brilliant, and the match itself did wonders to develop the storyline between Henry and the Big Show. The in-ring action between Henry and Bryan was outstanding and really told a story, as Bryan started out showing great signs of life, only to gradually and hopelessly succumb to the dominance of the “World’s Strongest Man”. Bryan’s hopelessness transitioned into the Big Show’s involvement perfectly, as Show had earlier promised to knock out Henry for every week that he does not receive a World Heavyweight Championship rematch. The entire sequence that followed as a result of Show’s interference really cemented Henry as the monster he has been used to portraying over the last few months, especially after striking Show with the Money In The Bank briefcase. Despite showing some reservations at the announcement of Big Show’s rematch at Survivor Series, Mark Henry finally seems truly unbeatable again, earning him the #2 spot in these rankings this week.

3. CM Punk (Previous Rank: 5)
The rise of the Straightedge Savior continues this week as CM Punk jumps up an additional two spots in the PINFALL Power Rankings. He was all over this week’s Raw doing what he does best, talking and wrestling. His aforementioned match against Mark Henry was satisfactory, but it was his emotion provoked by the result of the match that truly made Punk shine early on in the broadcast. After realizing that Alberto Del Rio had screwed him out of a title opportunity by forcing Ricardo to run in and feebly assault Mark Henry, thus disqualifying Punk, the “Best In The World” was fuming with rage, and he proceeded to toss Ricardo back in the ring to be fed to the World’s Strongest Slam. He portrayed the anger beautifully, and that segued brilliantly into the segment later in the program following Del Rio’s defeat at the hands of the Big Show. Following the shadiness of the match result between CM Punk and Mark Henry, we learned that Punk would now simply have to get Del Rio to agree to giving him a chance at the WWE Championship, and the match would be on. So, after Del Rio was left beaten in the middle of the ring by Big Show, out came CM Punk to seek revenge and let out his anger and frustrations on the WWE Champion. His work on the microphone and subsequent application of the Anaconda Vise on Del Rio in order to force an agreement to a title match out of him was done in textbook-CM Punk fashion. In other words, it was remarkable. WWE surely handled that segment perfectly, as it did wonders to put CM Punk over as a fearsome competitor and a major threat to Alberto’s WWE Championship. Punk just continues to be spot-on with everything he does week in and week out, and it should be very interesting to see how his quest for the WWE Championship unfolds building toward Survivor Series.

4. The Big Show (Previous Rank: N/A)
After dropping out of the PINFALL Power Rankings last week, the “World’s Largest Athlete” punches his way back into the list this week in a huge way, jumping right up to the #4 spot. It all started on Monday Night Raw with his clean victory over WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio. The match went on much longer than I had anticipated and, therefore, had plenty of time to deliver some greatly entertaining wrestling. Both Superstars sold well and were able to tell a story in the ring, and the clean pinfall victory for Show was outstanding for his credibility. This victory proved to be essential for the circumstances that would arise on Smackdown later in the week. A victory for the Big Show over the WWE Champion enhanced the believability of the notion that he possesses the ability to step up and defeat a major titleholder in the WWE like Mark Henry. He seemed genuinely deserving of a World Heavyweight Championship match after his victory on Raw, and his performance in the ring with Henry at the end of Smackdown simply furthered this notion. Yes, technically, there was no debate that Show deserved a rematch after the ring was demolished at Vengeance, but seeing WWE portray him in a way that makes his desire for another shot at the gold that much more warranted is refreshing. The gratification of his wishes to conclude Friday night’s program via Theodore Long’s announcement that the rematch will take place at Survivor Series sets the stage for the next couple of weeks on Smackdown to feature some intense performances by both Henry and the Big Show. However, the bottom line for right now is that Big Show was pushed through the roof this week on both shows, and his momentum seems greater than ever, as it was certainly great enough to propel him from no man’s land into the Top 5 of this week’s rankings.

5. Randy Orton (Previous Rank: 2)
The Viper drops a few spots this week simply because of his disappearance from Monday Night Raw. It was odd that one of the WWE’s megastars was not featured on the Muppets edition of Raw, even if he was to just go over any mid-carder in order to make the crowd happy and continue the victorious-babyface motif present throughout the show. Nonetheless, Randy Orton picked up momentum in a big way to avoid slipping out of the Top 5 this week with his win over Cody Rhodes in a tremendous Street Fight on Smackdown. The match was simply outstanding. Each Superstar captivated us with innovative spots, like the Orton DDT with Rhodes dangling from the barricade, and executed their maneuvers almost flawlessly. The hatred between the two characters can be felt strongly during any of their matches, but this most recent outing was definitely their best so far. The teacher-student nature of their relationship is extremely evident in the content of their matches. Both Randy and Cody possess such similar styles in the ring, as Cody was able to look up to Randy during their time in Legacy together. It is blatantly obvious that he learned a lot from Randy. Orton’s craftsmanship in the ring is always brilliant, and he just might be the best worker in the business today. His Street Fight with Cody Rhodes was just another shining example of his incredible ability. Winning the match only enhanced Orton’s status as one of the most successful stars in the WWE today, and that is always a great quality to possess if you want to round out the Top 5 in the PINFALL Power Rankings.

6. Wade Barrett (Previous Rank: N/A)
We have another weekly debut in PINFALL Magazine’s WWE Power Rankings as Wade Barrett makes his first appearance on this list, and it is about time. With the roll this guy has been on as of late, there is no doubt that Barrett deserves this #6 spot. While he is not on the level of heavy-hitters like Cena, Henry, Punk, and Orton just yet, the man has an incredibly bright future in the WWE, and that has been evident since his days leading the Nexus. On Raw, he and Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes picked up a very impressive victory in a non-title match against WWE Tag Team Champions Air Boom (See you back in a month, Evan Bourne! Seriously, did not see that one coming). Anyway, Raw not only provided Rhodes with a much-needed victory, but it also cemented this outstanding push that Barrett is receiving, as this tag team match was the only match of the night that saw the heel(s) go over legitimately. Impressive for a Muppets-oriented, little-kid-worshiping episode. On Smackdown, Wade continued to stand out, this time with a pinfall victory over “The Great White”, Sheamus. Sheamus, who the WWE has been pushing sky-high over the last couple of months, lost to Wade Barrett, begging the question of just how serious this latest push for Barrett will be. Although Christian played a role in the result of the match, ultimately costing Sheamus with a distraction, the win still means a hell of a lot for the bare-knuckle fighter. While this all seems to be leading to a big-time traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series elimination match involving Barrett, Christian, Rhodes, Sheamus, and Randy Orton among others, it is about time Wade Barrett has been noticed, and I expect huge things for him individually heading to the new year.

7. Alberto Del Rio (Previous Rank: 6)
Yes, Alberto Del Rio is still the WWE Champion, yet he still manages to hover around the middle-to-bottom portion of these Power Rankings. To be perfectly honest, the WWE Championship is about the only thing keeping Del Rio on the list this week, because he really did not have much to celebrate this past Monday on Raw. He started off the night quite cleverly, sending Ricardo to interfere in the Punk-Henry match to cost Punk a shot at his WWE Championship, but the rest of the night proved to be an incredibly embarrassing night for “The Mexican Aristocrat”. He put on a surprisingly entertaining match with the Big Show, but doing the job cleanly really hurt Del Rio’s credibility as champion, and the subsequent helplessness he experienced at the hands of CM Punk was no different. Despite previously praising these actions in order to enhance the characters of Show and Punk respectively, I do not think these exact circumstances were completely necessary because Del Rio played the role of the guinea pig. The WWE Champion looked weak and foolish this past Monday night, and that is an utter disappointment. While I know that his strong reluctance to face CM Punk is all apart of his heel persona, which he portrays brilliantly, there needs to be some sense of fight left in the guy who symbolically sits at the top of the WWE wearing that gold belt. Raw was really not a fun night for the WWE Champion, causing him to drop down a notch this week, but, if WWE knows what is good for them, Alberto Del Rio will step up in a huge way next week and the week after in order to build up his stature as the champion heading into Survivor Series.

8. Cody Rhodes (Previous Rank: N/A)
After dropping significantly last week, going from the #4 spot to completely dropping off the PINFALL Power Rankings map, the Intercontinental Champion returns to claim a solid #8 position after some impressive outings on the red and blue shows, respectively. He started off the week picking up, and I stress, a MUCH-NEEDED victory in a tag team match with Wade Barrett over Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne. Any win over a champion is always good for a Superstar’s character, and even though Rhodes did not directly pick up the pinfall in this tag match, he still obtained some momentum with this victory, and he desperately needed to feel like a victor after succumbing to numerous losses at the hands of Randy Orton and Sheamus. On Smackdown, while he suffered yet another loss to the WWE’s Apex Predator, Cody’s performance in the Street Fight was sensational. He has truly developed into an outstanding professional wrestler, as any adaptation of a guy like Randy Orton’s style will do for a performer. The remarkable job Cody does portraying his character further hits home the fact that he will be a main-eventer in the near future. The sheer believability of the fact that he has more than a few screws loose in his head is the ultimate sign of a professional wrestler who knows his craft and converts his out-of-the-ring demented persona brilliantly to his violent demeanor between the ropes. The year 2012 seems as if it will bring great things to the career of Cody Rhodes.

9. Awesome Truth (Previous Rank: 7)
I, for one, have lost a great deal of faith in the team that is The Miz and R-Truth after the events of this past Monday night on Raw. After a three-spot gain in the PINFALL Power Rankings last time, Awesome Truth decreases a couple of notches this week after being fed to the mighty John Cena to close the show on Monday. It would have been nice to see them in action again on Smackdown to pick up another tag team victory and remind the WWE Universe of their toughness and threatening nature, but no such event transpired. Instead, our last memories of Awesome Truth consist of devastating Attitude Adjustments, one involving R-Truth dressed up in a Scream costume, at the hands of the Cena-machine. I really am not a fan of The Miz and John Cena in the ring together, as I feel that Cena is a good performer in the ring but not so great that he can completely carry another Superstar, and The Miz is often in need of carrying. The Miz is often hit-or-miss in the ring depending on who he is working with. Needless to say, I was not thrilled about the main event of Monday Night Raw, and my ambivalence toward the match proved to be warranted. It was nothing special, and the domination of Awesome Truth that followed did nothing to advance their storyline with Cena and The Rock. The Miz and R-Truth sadly seem destined to be severely overshadowed by the spectacle that will be the team of John Cena and The Rock at Survivor Series, but this should be used to benefit the story. This overshadowing should be directly addressed by Miz and Truth in the weeks leading toward the big show on November 20, and they should vow to avenge it before they seriously begin to mean almost nothing caught in the middle of the Cena-Rock craze.

10. Zack Ryder (Previous Rank: 10)
“The Long Island Iced-Z” makes his return to the PINFALL Power Rankings after debuting in the inaugural edition of the column in this very position, rounding out the Top 10. After trudging along fairly quietly over the month of October, Ryder made a big splash this week by defeating United States Champion Dolph Ziggler yet again in a non-title match. Big things seem to be on the horizon for both Ryder and Ziggler, as I feel very strongly that Ryder will finally capture the United States title in front of the New York crowd at Madison Square Garden at Survivor Series, while Ziggler could be headed to semi-main event status after dropping the belt. Due to the momentum captured by Zack at the expense of Dolph this past Monday night on Raw, he was able to propel back into this Top 10 list, and he could be a consistent fixture at the bottom of these rankings over the next few weeks if WWE continues to allow him success. Zack certainly knows what he is doing when gets in the ring, but the concerns I raised about him in the very first edition of the PINFALL Power Rankings still apply. How far can Ryder go before his character needs a tweak toward the serious side? With his current character, “The Woo Woo Kid” seems destined for incredible mid-card success, but will that make his fans content? If Zack Ryder has any future aspirations of becoming a fixture in the main-event picture in WWE land, his character will need an adjustment here and a modification there in order to be taken seriously as a championship-caliber Superstar.

In The Doghouse: Jack Swagger
Let me be the first to admit that I am a fan of Jack Swagger, “The All-American American American” (I love when he says “American” three times). Nevertheless, I do feel it is time for Swagger to take his rightful place “In The Doghouse”. Jobbing to Santino Marella thanks to a magic potion delivered by Beaker? In the words of The Miz, really? Now, believe me, I completely understand that the nature of the program was to satisfy the crowd and give the young fans the opportunity to laugh at the embarrassment of the heels, but having it happen at Swagger’s expense does bug me. He is a former Money In The Bank winner and World Heavyweight Champion. Remember that? I only remember it for the moment in which he cashed in his contract and delivered a perfectly-executed Gutwrench Powerbomb to Chris Jericho, who was wearing slacks at the time. The rest of Swagger’s championship reign is all a haze. Now, to see a tremendously gifted specimen like Jack Swagger do the job as a result of a weak-looking roll-up by Santino Marella is beyond frustrating. Swagger is truly an imposing physical figure; his body is an outstanding work of professional wrestling architecture, and his abilities in the ring are evident when given the proper amount of time to shine. The rest of the year seems bleak for “The All-American American”, but, hopefully, 2012 will mark the beginning of, not to rip off Wade Barrett, a Swagger uprising.

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Well, there you have it! Another edition of the PINFALL Magazine WWE Power Rankings is in the books. In the spirit of an iconic Superstar who may have recently made his WWE return at a house show in Dublin, Ireland, have a nice day!

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