Another semester is in the books. All papers and finals are completed. You know what that means? The time has FINALLY arrived for a full-length edition of the PINFALL Magazine WWE Power Rankings, and you could call it a “swan-song” edition of sorts, but more on that later. Well, the WWE’s post-Wrestlemania transition of 2012 had actually been of the best in a long time over the course of April and first half of May. They have registered two extremely solid efforts on pay-per-view with Extreme Rules and Over The Limit, but in the last couple weeks, it has begun to slide down that oh-so-familiar slippery slope to under-utilization and staleness. Hopefully, the powers that be can facilitate a quick crawl out of this abyss and get this Big Show-John Cena thing over as quickly and painlessly as possible, but that remains to be seen. Now, Chris Jericho’s suspension and the pointlessly impending return of Sin Cara will be thrown into the mix to detract from some more compelling television segments, but the WWE overall is still doing just fine. And ten guys in particular have had a very nice week…

1. Sheamus (Previous Rank: 1)
Seriously, this is getting out of control. The “Great White” has basically become synonymous with the #1 spot of the PINFALL Power Rankings over the last few months! Then again, it should come as no surprise. Sheamus has been the absolute most consistent Superstar in the WWE since his build to the World Heavyweight Championship, which he captured at Wrestlemania XXVIII. Since then, he’s managed to keep dominating Smackdown, and this week, he was booked for a ton of success. He successfully retained the World title in an utterly stellar Fatal Four Way match at Over The Limit with Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, and Chris Jericho. He went on to main event Raw the next night, teaming with John Cena to take on Tensai, Dolph Ziggler, and Jack Swagger in a satisfactory bout. Finally, on Smackdown, he defeated Jack Swagger in an entertaining match-up and stood tall to close the show by physically giving Alberto Del Rio a nice preview of what is to come for him in their World Heavyweight Championship at No Way Out later this month. Sheamus has been on point in 2012, perhaps having the best year of any WWE Superstar thus far, and he continues to perform well both in the ring and on the microphone. How can anybody argue against this success?

2. The Big Show (Previous Rank: 9)
I honestly thought I would never had to write about the “World’s Largest Athlete” this early in the rankings, but one cannot deny the major push he has found himself on the receiving end of as of this week. The shock waves sent throughout the WWE Universe when he turned heel at Over The Limit were reminiscent of Hulk Hogan at Bash of the Beach 1996 (*SARCASM*). Quite contrarily, we all saw it coming, and we may all be dreading the continuation of his feud with John Cena culminating at No Way Out, but the Big Show has been great all week long back in the driver’s seat of heelism. We haven’t seen him in a match since aligning himself with John Laurinaitis, but his work on the mic has drastically improved since he chose to embrace his evil side on Sunday. I do look forward to seeing if this build toward No Way Out can generate some unique intrigue, and if Show’s mic work this week is any indication, it’s a definite possibility.

3. Alberto Del Rio (Previous Rank: 6)
ALBERTOOOOOOOOOOOO DELLLLLLLLLLLLL RRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIOOOOOOO rises three spots since we last saw him in the mini-edition of the PINFALL Power Rankings on Twitter a few weeks ago, and deservedly so, after becoming the sole #1 contender for Sheamus’s World Heavyweight Championship at No Way Out. This week, he was a part of the aforementioned Fatal Four Way match at Over The Limit which was truly spectacular and, personally, my second-favorite match of the evening. On Raw, he battled Randy Orton in, not surprisingly, a very good bout and followed that up with a victory in a Triple Threat match on Smackdown against Orton and Kane, which cemented for him the next opportunity at the World title. It was no surprise with the three guys in the ring that we would get a highly entertaining Smackdown main event, and Del Rio coming out on top truly established that he is fully re-integrated into the main event scene of the WWE. I look for more big things from him leading up to his World Heavyweight Championship match on June 17.

4. CM Punk (Previous Rank: 2)
The WWE Champion further established why he is indeed the “Best in the World” this past Sunday at Over The Limit with a M.O.T.Y. candidate versus Daniel Bryan for all the gold, thus placing him in a respectable position in the rankings this week. Punk and Bryan fired from all cylinders in their WWE Championship match at OTL, and the controversial finish was both perfectly executed and exactly what the match needed in order to carry the feud over to the next pay-per-view. Punk followed up his brilliant performance on Monday Night Raw with some of that good ol’ CM Punk commentary that we have sorely missed despite watching the “Straightedge Savior” do what he does best for the last year and a half, and that is wrestle. He was gold on the mic once again and capped off his great comments by applying the Anaconda Vise to Daniel Bryan in the center of the ring throw his victory in the face of the former World Heavyweight Champion. CM Punk simply continues to be the most complete Superstar in the biz right now.

5. Daniel Bryan (Previous Rank: 3)
Will this man go down one day as one of the all-time greats in the WWE? …Wait for it… YES! YES! YES! I believe that this past week has truly been Daniel Bryan’s coming-out party in the WWE, and that is why he rounds out the Top 5 of the PINFALL Power Rankings. The aforementioned 5-star bout with CM Punk at Over The Limit really worked to prove to absolutely everybody associated with WWE, whether you’re a fan or in the front office, that “Mah boy D-Bry!” can thrive in the main-event picture. The performance he put on with Punk on Sunday was most certainly worthy of being the final match on the card, so I hope WWE does the right thing and puts these two on last to close out No Way Out. From an individual standpoint, Daniel Bryan proved this week that he can be money. He showed off his entire repertoire this week: incredible in-ring ability, verbal effectiveness, and brilliant portrayal of emotions. His mini-feud that unfolded with Kane on both Raw and Smackdown this week were excellent ways to exploit his abilities to work from multiple facets, and being able to be involved with two separate feuds and have both of them be entertaining is a testament to the talent of Daniel Bryan.

6. John Cena (Previous Rank: 5)
Times are tough for the WWE’s poster boy as of late, and you PINFALLers may be wondering how he could have made this list after being victimized by the 7-foot, 400-pound monster this week. The fact remains: John Cena is JOHN CENA. He will always be a relevant part of WWE programming because he is one of their biggest Superstars of all-time, like it or not. While his match with Mr. Laurinaitis should have in no way been the final match of the night on Sunday, Cena was able to carry it in a pleasantly entertaining fashion and sold the W.M.D. that would summon his demise like a champ. He also sold that W.M.D. in the closing segment of Raw like a champ. And on that same Monday night, he conveyed some very realistic anger in the show’s opening segment and proceeded to absolutely dominated David Otunga in a singles match, in case we had forgotten that he is still JOHN CENA. He then went on to main-event the show in the aforementioned 3-on-2 Handicap Lumberjack match and was putting on a great show until chaos ensued and he stormed to the back hoping for a confrontation with Big Show, and he got one all right. Expect John to bounce back this Monday night in alarming fashion as he and Show build to the most anticipated match of the year in Sarcasmville.

7. Randy Orton (Previous Rank: 8 )
“The Viper” continues to linger around the bottom half of the PINFALL Power Rankings this week after really not doing too much besides being Randy Orton, which is not necessarily a negative. Once again, the Fatal Four Way match he competed in with Sheamus, Del Rio, and Jericho on Sunday was fantastic, as was the Triple Threat #1 Contender match with Del Rio and Kane on Smackdown. Heck, even his insignificant-feeling one-on-one match with Del Rio on Raw was entertaining, because Randy Orton is still one of the best workers the company has to offer. So why the lack of excitement with his character as of late? It’s not that he is boring; it’s that nothing really seems fresh right now, and the one hint of freshness coming to his character in the form of a feud with Chris Jericho must now be stricken from the scripts due to Jericho’s 30-day suspension for “disrespecting” Brazil. I’m sorry, but Sgt. Slaughter was never suspended in 1991, so it is outrageous that Jericho has to be suspended for being an effective pro wrestling heel, but back to Orton. His feud and subsequent matches with Jericho would have been great, and they can easily be re-visited once Jericho returns. Until then, it’s gonna be interesting to see where Orton’s talents are utilized next.

8. Christian (Previous Rank: N/A)
“Captain Charisma” capped off a remarkable return this week by capturing the Intercontinental Championship from Cody Rhodes at Over The Limit, earning him a solid #8 position in the PINFALL Power Rankings. From the moment Christian won the opening Battle Royal of the show, I was hoping he would choose to face Rhodes later in the night, as I knew these two would put on a stellar performance. I was bummed when Cole suggested he had chosen Santino Marella, but something told me that might change, and boy was I glad it did! The two did indeed have a great match for the Intercontinental title, and, while I thought Cody was due at least another month or two of holding onto the strap, it was a great move to give Christian the title in order to boost his relevancy immediately after making his return. He picked up solid wins on both Raw and Smackdown, defeating Jinder Mahal and Hunico, respectively, and subsequently giving those two their best matches of their brief WWE careers to date. That says it all about Christian’s work rate in the squared-circle; now we just need some verbal back-and-forth between he and Rhodes to build to another great match at No Way Out.

9. Kane (Previous Rank: N/A)
The “Devil’s Favorite Demon” sneaks his way back into the PINFALL Power Rankings this week after some truly versatile performances. He began the week by soundly defeating Zack Ryder in the pre-show match for Over The Limit broadcast on WWE’s YouTube channel and proceeded to embark on some interesting endeavors on Raw and Smackdown. Kane’s vicious chair-shot assault on Daniel Bryan that brought about the end of their match on Raw was a great way of both portraying his physical dominance and giving Bryan a fluke victory as the true heel of the match. The mini-feud with D-Bry carried over to Smackdown as it was Kane who found himself on the receiving end of a chair-shot attack thanks to Bryan, and Kane proceeded to sell those injuries beautifully throughout the main event Triple Threat match featuring himself, Randy Orton, and Alberto Del Rio. His in-ring work during this contest was on point and expectedly executed due to his veteran status in the company. Kane is simply one of the best big men to ever step into a WWE ring, and a week in which that talent can be successfully utilized is sure-fire sign that he’ll be a part of the PINFALL Top 10.

10. Ryback (Previous Rank: N/A)
Time to give this animal his time in the Sun, as Skip Sheff—I mean, Ryback—rounds out the Top 10 of the PINFALL Power Rankings after his most impressive performance to date Friday night on Smackdown. It is worth mentioning that he also went 2-0 on pay-per-view by defeating Camacho at Over The Limit, and he furthered his television undefeated streak on Smackdown by squashing two jobbers in a Handicap match which saw both of the unfortunate souls in the ring at the same time as Ryback—no tagging out. Did this make a difference? Of course not! Ryback, now made up to look as though his eye had been through hell and back with a giant red patch near his pupil and blackened beyond belief just below the eye itself, demolished these two gentlemen and impressively performed his finisher on both of them at the very same time to end the match. It was his most animalistic portrayal yet, and the more Smackdown I watch, the more I am convinced that this guy’s future is full of incredibly big things. I can see him in the main-picture on Smackdown by year’s end.

In The Doghouse: Tensai
In the most recent mini-edition of the PINFALL Power Rankings on Twitter, then “Lord” Tensai cracked the count at #10. Since then, what in the world has happened, WWE? Did you lose faith in him already? Weeks ago, we all witnessed that he was slated to be in the position currently held by the Big Show as Johnny Ace’s go-to big fella after the 3-on-1 assault perpetrated by the Big Johnny, himself, and his manager, Sakamoto. However, somewhere along the way, WWE decided they weren’t feeling Lord Tensai, so they have now shortened his name and drastically lowered the gas on his overly dramatic and cartoonish entrance and character, but he still got no reaction this past Monday. Frankly, I won’t be surprised if he is an afterthought by the end of 2012, but I’m pulling for him. As of right now, he’s got no direction and no reaction, and that is never a successful formula in the world of professional wrestling.

Well, PINFALLers, that’s your Top 10 and cellar-dweller for this week! It’ll be a long while before I can fully re-integrate myself into the PWO, as I’ll be taking a hiatus from the PINFALL Power Rankings due to the summer internship I’ll be starting next week with a certain Connecticut-based rasslin’ company. In the words of Damien Sandow, “You’re welcome”. No, but seriously, thank you guys for enjoying the rankings. But rest assured, PINFALLers, I…will not rest…in peeeeeeeeace.

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