ESPN WWE Power Rankings: Asuka, Nakamura surge after Rumble wins; Strowman holds strong at No. 1

Asuka's Royal Rumble victory played a big part in her surge in the latest edition of the ESPN WWE Power Rankings, but her subsequent matches with Sasha Banks and Bayley on Raw have kicked off her road to WrestleMania in impressive fashion. Dave Moser for ESPN

As tends to be the case every year, the Royal Rumble made a dramatic impact on the landscape of WWE. Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka won their respective Rumble matches and locked up the first two spots on the WrestleMania 34 card, and moments in those Royal Rumble matches (and throughout the show in Philadelphia) laid the groundwork for the bulk of what we'll see in New Orleans.

Braun Strowman may have fallen short in his quest for the Universal championship against Kane and Brock Lesnar, but all it took the following night for him to resume his quest for gold was to push the commentary table and stage that held it onto Kane, his opponent, to win a last-man-standing match and secure a spot inside the Elimination Chamber.

Strowman held on to his slim margin over AJ Styles as they remained in the top two spots in this edition of the ESPN WWE Power Rankings, but the story to keep an eye on were the surges of Asuka and Nakamura post-Royal Rumble. As WrestleMania nears, we may be approaching the moment when the unstoppable force of Asuka might finally be the push that unseats the Monster Among Men.


Rankings are based upon the perceived value of a superstar to the on-screen product of WWE, which is determined by the voting of a panel of WWE on ESPN contributors. Number in parentheses ( ) indicates first-place votes.

I guess the sad truth about Braun Strowman is that as long as there are things he can pick up and flip over, he probably doesn't need a title around his waist. He's certainly earned that kind of opportunity over the past couple of years, but until the circumstances are right, Strowman will keep on destroying everything put in front of him with a smile on his face. (Andrew Feldman)

Pardon the gimmick infringement, but finally, the pro wrestling world gets to see another Nakamura vs. Styles singles match! If these two can have a battle that captures even a portion of the in-ring excellence displayed during their Wrestle Kingdom 10 showdown -- one of the best matches in the world in 2016 -- they could easily steal the show at WrestleMania 34. (KC Joyner)

Asuka is in the midst of a moment we may never see again, with an undefeated streak that stretches back 28 months and shows little sign of slowing down. After a handful of notable moments in her first few months on the Raw roster, including her being the sole survivor at Survivor Series, the heat has officially been turned up. Asuka won the first-ever women's Royal Rumble match and secured a shot at either the Raw or SmackDown women's championship at WrestleMania. She followed that up with two captivating matches on Monday Night Raw over the past two weeks against Bayley and Sasha Banks -- pay-per-view-quality contests that proved she should be the gold standard for years to come. And bigger things are still to come. (Tim Fiorvanti)

The Intercontinental championship is right back where it belongs, around the waist of quite possibly the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time (just don't tell the Honky Tonk Man). However, it's about time that Miz re-enters the conversation for a more significant title around his waist. For as magnetic a superstar as he is, The Miz deserves a run with the Universal championship at some point in the near future -- so let's keep an eye on how everything shakes out with that title at WrestleMania. (Sean Coyle)

He needed a moment, and he got it. There was little question that WWE was going to try to make Shinsuke Nakamura a main-event staple since the day he was promoted to the SmackDown roster, but it took some time before he finally established himself at an elite level. Winning the Royal Rumble, with a presumed match to come against AJ Styles at WrestleMania, changed all of that it in an instant. I have a sneaky suspicion that we'll be looking at Nakamura as the top guy in these power rankings in the not-so-distant future. (Matt Wilansky)

He's not going anywhere, folks. While he didn't win the Royal Rumble match, Reigns could find his way into the WrestleMania main event by winning the Elimination Chamber match later this month. Should that happen, it would be Reigns' fourth straight WrestleMania main event, something only Hulk Hogan accomplished. Like him or not, you don't consistently find your way into WrestleMania main events without being one of the best in the business -- and Reigns is just that. (Coyle)

As deep as the current WWE roster is, the simple fact is no one else in this organization can draw lapsed fans back to watch as well as Lesnar can. It's why he won the Royal Rumble triple-threat match, and it's why he is almost assured of the main-event spot at WrestleMania 34. With two first-place votes this week and not much else, it's clear he's one of the most polarizing figures among this panel -- but he'll draw in eyeballs even if he doesn't perform again until he gets to New Orleans. (Joyner)

Their rejuvenated friendship had a lot going for it, and they've helped carry SmackDown through some tumultuous times, but the way things have played out have made things a bit troubling. Will they repair their friendship on the way to Fastlane? Or is this reunion already on its way to an end? (Feldman)

It's becoming an inarguable point -- The Usos are the best tag team in the WWE. Their matches are dynamic regardless of opponent, and their promos have consistently improved over the course of the past year. They have won nine pay-per-view tag team matches since 2016. No team on either brand has won more. It's time for their inexplicable string of not being on the main card at WrestleMania to end. (Coyle)

I wrote a couple of weeks to go that it was intensely confusing that you would even subject Finn Balor to qualifying for the Elimination Chamber if he wasn't going to be in the match, considering how hot his run has gotten, but he has to be the prohibitive favorite in the second-chance qualifying match to come. Being in the Elimination Chamber would be the perfect way to have him cross paths with The Miz to set up a WrestleMania-worthy rivalry that could do great things for the both of them. It may take a little more time, but given the right circumstances and antagonist, Balor should overcome any remaining misgivings about his health and durability and re-enter the Universal championship picture post-WrestleMania. (Fiorvanti)

It's Rusev day every day, and we're all better for it. Few could have seen this surge in popularity coming, and hopefully the WWE can make something of it before it's too late. (Wilansky)


Dropped from rankings: Jason Jordan

Honorable mention: Alexa Bliss, Charlotte Flair, John Cena, Sasha Banks, Elias, Jordan, Ronda Rousey