WrestleMania is WWE's New Year celebration and Christmas all at once. it's when the entire year pays off and the next year kicks off in earnest. It heralds imminent debuts and portends last hurrahs. Most importantly for this list, however, it's a sort of clean slate marker we can pinpoint as to where some wrestlers careers began to really show out and take off, while others turn sour and may never recover.
A bunch of superstars don't really change much as WrestleMania passes by. AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar held onto their top titles and kept their form throughout. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon lost to Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania and yet maintain their positions by being Teflon in the grand scheme of things. That's not what we're looking at here, with the majority of the roster changing up their fortunes, for better or worse, as we come upon the end of year sprint. With SummerSlam in the rearview, it's time to take stock.
We're not long until Survivor Series, and then it's the run into the Royal Rumble, and the Road to WrestleMania begins all over again, but this post-Mania period can be the most telling of someone's position and trajectory within WWE. There are tons of examples but these are the most drastic ups and downs to speak of, some clear as day and others sneakily under the radar. Either way, take note.
20 Irrelelevant: Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura was another sure thing that WWE decided just didn't have 'it', and when you say that about a performer who is made up of more 'it' than water like a regular person is, you just have to sigh and tick him off as a busted prospect. Make no mistake, Shinsuke's United States Championship reign is a consolation prize for being burned out as a foil for AJ Styles, and while we might have been OK with Nakamura never getting the WWE title if it had been consistently great matches, it sadly was not.
We have no idea what the long-term plan for The King Of Strong Style is, and quite frankly we don't think WWE does either.
19 Better: Becky Lynch
Everybody's favorite Lass Kicker is finally getting her due, and even better it looks like WWE abandoned their attempt to turn her to the dark side! In the face of rabid crowd support for the damn likeable lass, they've turned this into a 'shades of gray' scenario with Charlotte, culminating in Becky capturing the SmackDown Women's Championship at Hell In A Cell.
Becky is cutting the best promos of her career, she looks like a world beater, and maybe, just maybe, WWE sees eye to eye with the fans on this one.
Hopefully, her win over Charlotte is a sign that WWE has noticed Becky's emergence and her getting more over with the audience and will give Becky more.
18 Irrelevant: Asuka
Remember, this is the Royal Rumble winning, undefeated for around two years, marquee-championship-match-at-WrestleMania-having Asuka. To fall so far so fast, especially for someone who brings such quality to the ring, is almost laughable. Nevertheless, WWE seemed to take a bet that they could ice the momentum of both their big stars from Japan despite giving them Royal Rumble wins and here we are, still with months left in the year and both of them have lost almost their entire 'specialness'.
Asuka's loss to Charlotte could be excused if you do some mental gymnastics, but her subsequent dimwittery in the feud with Carmella bordered on sabotage. We're flummoxed by this to the point we're using words like flummoxed to describe it.
17 Better: Authors Of Pain
They got off to a shaky start right after WrestleMania when they got rid of their manager Paul Ellering their first night out, but their recent addition of Drake Maverick is such a curious, left-field choice that you have to assume there's a decent plan going forward. Not only that, they went months without consecutive weeks on Raw and now they're appearing consistently, having matches and looking like the pair of powerhouses that they are. The only blemish currently going on is their participation in the big brawls with The Shield which reduce these big men to average goons, and that should be avoided.
16 Irrelevant: Bayley & Sasha Banks
You'd think that these two were about in the same position that they were going into WrestleMania, but you'd be wrong. At WrestleMania, this pair appeared to be the final two in the Women's Battle Royal until Naomi crawled out from somewhere to steal the win.
Since then the pair resolved their beef, leaving them with nothing to do except have tag matches every other week while smiling incessantly.
Recently Bayley didn't even get an entrance and just came out while Sasha was doing her thing, later admitting that they'd not brought her 'Bayley buddy' balloon things so she was told to just go out there. Not a good sign. Sasha definitely deserves better, and Bayley, well, she's not shown the promo chops to survive, unfortunately.
15 Better: Baron Corbin
Baron was spinning his wheels at WrestleMania this year, still stuck in the Andre Memorial Battle Royal even after winning it a couple of years ago. Since then he's had a major upgrade in exposure, appearance, and character that can only spell good things for him. Getting upgraded to a central figure that can participate in any storyline up and down the Raw card is huge for someone like him, and his haircut and complete change in attire lends him a fresh go of things after his rocky SmackDown stint came to an end. He's clearly still got backers in high places, and he's getting big screen time each week to try to prove why as the sometimes-Constable, sometimes interim-GM.
14 Irrelevant: Absolution
The move to SmackDown really set this pair back, as did the career-ending injury to Paige who was the central figure in the group, leaving them without a spokesperson nor a direction. Now they rarely appear on SmackDown week to week, and when they do it's mostly in losing efforts.
They don't even get to look threatening or dominant, and the only bright spot on the horizon is the persistent rumor of a Women's Tag Team Championship coming into play.
Mandy Rose hasn't done anything significant in a while, and Sonya Deville is only slightly better off if you were really scrutinizing them, so if they get through the Evolution PPV without their profile raised somewhat, they're not in good shape.
13 Better: The B Team
We might just be past the peak for this pair, but they're far better off as optimistic face goofballs than they were as bland Miz lackeys around WrestleMania. Getting their chantable new theme along with renewed value as a mildly respectable tag team is a big step up for both men over anything they've done in a long time, and they're finding ways to keep the comedy up which is the true saving grace for their act.
Bo Dallas is the clear star of the pair, with Axel's generic exuberance not about to take him anywhere, so eyes on Dallas to see whether he finds a way to parlay this into something bigger.
12 Irrelevant: Bray Wyatt
Unlike his real-life little brother, a recent tag team title run spelled an absolute nadir for the former WWE Champion. Getting attached to Matt Hardy could've been a saving grace but between Matt's injuries finally catching up with him, WWE refusing to do right by the Broken Universe, and Bray having no other gear besides 'kneel with arms out' it's all gone wrong. The former Wyatt Family leader hasn't been seen for weeks and his spot as the middle heel auto-feud has been usurped by Elias. Unless WWE has a reboot plan up their sleeves Wyatt is dead in the water with no avenue back to relevance.
11 Better: Samoa Joe
He missed his second WrestleMania in a row through injury, but Samoa Joe grabbed everybody's attention after the big show with some top-shelf promos on Roman Reigns.
The problem came when WWE organized for Joe to stink out the building for their PPV match to make Roman look good by comparison and it backfired famously.
Worse, the match had been made pointless by Joe's drafting to SmackDown.
Now that Joe is embroiled in a white-hot feud with WWE Champion AJ Styles everything has turned to gold for the Submission Machine. The feud is personal, professional, full of intensity, and Joe has never looked better in WWE.
10 Irrelevant: No Way Jose
The doomed dancing wrestler. The last few years have been extremely unkind to anyone saddled with the 'having fun/dancing' attribute and No Way Jose has gotten perhaps the shortest shrift of them all. Where Brodus Clay got WrestleMania dancing segments and Adam Rose kept his elaborate entrance and 'Rosebuds' for a good while, NWJ lost almost all of his stuff within weeks of debuting. He got no winning streak and is now fodder for the lowest of the low if he appears on Raw at all. He's been relegated to the invisible D-Show 'Main Event' show for months, and it's as close to an actual main event as he's likely to get.
9 Better: R-Truth
Coming out of the ether to suddenly be a highlight is becoming a ritual for R-Truth. He was practically non-existent the last year or more, and then started reappearing on Smackdown delivering strong comedy segments, winning main event matches, and being strongly featured in multiple feuds.
The jabs about R-Truth never seeming to age are still holding strong, with his athletic in-ring style still making him stand out and his clueless comedy bits hitting the mark. Helped along by Tye Dillinger here and Carmella there, R-Truth remains a WWE staple and currently on a high, could do anything and we'd buy it.
8 Irrelevant: The Bludgeon Brothers
Perhaps a controversial pick since the pair ascended the SmackDown Tag Team division by claiming the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania, but that's only on the surface.
In reality, they've been abandoned on SmackDown with nothing but their entrance for months in place of doing anything interesting.
Outside of that, they've had zero development, maybe one great match, and now with Harper sustained a severe injury the team has nothing to show for it. They didn't increase Harper's singles credentials, give them a mission or story to work through, and essentially wasted five months of the tag team division accomplishing nothing either way. There's a chance we never see this team again, and they'll be an odd footnote at best.
7 Better: Dolph Ziggler
Who could've foreseen Ziggler's re-emergence coming before WrestleMania? He was a sideshow in the Andre Memorial Battle Royal, spending most of the match experimenting convoluted ways to 'skin the cat', and that was after he relinquished the United States Title at the end of last year and then floundered through between the Rumble and Mania.
Then, an alliance with Drew McIntyre changed everything and he's been all over the main Raw story, captured the Intercontinental Title, the Tag Team Titles (his first as Dolph Ziggler, somehow) and is central to Braun Strowman's Pack in the feud against The Shield. It's the best he's looked since Survivor Series 2014 when he was the Sole Survivor over The Authority. Let's enjoy it while it's happening.
6 Irrelevant: Jinder Mahal
Jinder Mahal has gone from heights he never should've been at back down to where he more naturally fits, and WrestleMania turned out to be the last gasp of his prominence.
Jinder Mahal had his novelty year as WWE Champion, he got what many consider a thoroughly undeserved Wrestlemania United States Title victory, and since then he's been handed a steady stream of humiliation and defeats.
Jeff Hardy took his U.S. Title right after WrestleMania, and he's been little more than an ineffective guru and punching bag. If he stays at this level from here out, that'll be about right.
5 Better: Randy Orton
Randy Orton had been spinning his wheels for a while, even while capturing his first United States Championship leading into WrestleMania 34. Failing to defend that championship, losing it to Jinder Mahal of all people, made an exceedingly forgettable WrestleMania for The Viper. Fast forward a few months after surgery and rehab, and Orton returned with a sadistic side that instantly propelled him into the forefront of SmackDown.
Setting his sights on Jeff Hardy and pulling at his ears in a weirdly gross tactic that caught everyone's attention, Orton could imminently challenge for the WWE Championship if this new attitude is accompanied by big wins, such as his win over Hardy at HIAC.
4 Irrelevant: SAnitY
One of the biggest flops to come out of NXT surely has to be SAnitY. Supposed to debut after WrestleMania from the Superstar Shakeup, they instead spent months being invisible except for the odd vignette. The early signs were a warning, but the reality has been even more worrying.
The group lost their first 6-man encounter, a direct reversal of successful trios like The Shield and The Wyatt Family, and has been seldom effectual against all levels of competition.
For a group that was described by Triple H as a 'personal brainchild', they have been given exactly nothing to hang their hat on on SmackDown. Almost a total failure with no reversal in sight.
3 Better: Rusev
Around WrestleMania, it was reported that Rusev asked for his release from WWE out of frustration with his lack of upward mobility. WWE must have been thrown back because since WrestleMania they've given Rusev a steady stream of high profile matches and made sure he had a simmering story with Aiden to keep him prominent. From being added to the United States Title match at WrestleMania, to earning a WWE Championship tilt at AJ Styles for Extreme Rules, to being the current (as of this writing) number one contenders for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, Rusev has had a solidly good 6-month stretch.
He's still underrated though and could be an even bigger star if WWE has the courage to elevate him. We'd be elated.
2 Irrelevant: The Usos
How you take the best tag team of the last couple of years and relegate them to nearly invisible on SmackDown is beyond our understanding. Since losing the SmackDown Tag Team Titles The Usos have had precious little mic time or significant wins. For a team that finally found their true presentation in late 2016 with the 'Uso Penitentiary', they should not be being afterthoughts in a division they used to run roughshod over.
They've often lost to teams that are even lower on the hierarchy like Gallows and Anderson and The Usos deserve much better.
Not least of which should be getting the mic back in their hands for more of their excellent two-handed promos that tore the house down before this slump.
1 Better: Chad Gable & Bobby Roode
A few weeks ago and Gable wouldn't even have appeared on this list in either category, and Bobby Roode would've been decidedly on the wrong side of it. But coming together to make an entertaining team is seemingly Chad Gable's forte and once again he's been paired with someone floundering and directionless and instantly made them more fun to watch.
We're not naive enough to imagine this team lasts long into the annals of WWE history as one of the greats, but we are decently sure that it'll provide the catalyst for Roode's sorely needed heel turn. Combine that with hopefully Gable's severely underrated talent finding a long-term nemesis and these two are looking on the ups.