The most popular characters in WWE history developed organically through unexpected crowd reactions, a fortunate moment or some other unpredictable moment. Sure, there was plenty of work and creative effort put into the process, both before and after that spark ignited, but there's a certain kind of magic that simply can't be manufactured.
That's not meant as a knock on Roman Reigns, who once again stands decisively at No. 1 in the ESPN WWE Power Rankings. It's all about Becky Lynch, who made it all the way up to No. 4 in the rankings and, given how she is currently positioned, shows no signs of slowing down.
Early indications are that Lynch has entered such a magical moment. After becoming the first-ever SmackDown women's champion in 2016, Lynch took a back seat to a long line of other performers getting their shot atop the women's division. Time and time again, Lynch was put on the precipice of success and opportunity, and time and time again, she was overlooked.
Drawn to her charisma and ability as undeniably one of the best in-ring performers in the women's division, fans of Lynch grew more and more frustrated by the month as others passed her by. It hadn't yet reached Daniel Bryan-esque levels of frustration, but things certainly seemed headed in that direction.
It finally felt as though Lynch's moment had come at SummerSlam, in a triple threat match for the SmackDown women's championship against Carmella and Charlotte Flair. When Flair swooped in and passed her friend by once again, becoming SmackDown women's champion for the second time, the reaction inside of the Barclays Center was tepid at best. Then Lynch attacked Flair and got the loudest reaction of the night -- a night that saw the return of Finn Balor's demon persona and several tremendous matches.
Whether that reaction was the spark that finally let the WWE know it had a potential powder keg on its hands or a quick title change was in the cards from the get-go, Lynch has galvanized fan support and rode a wave of momentum to a title win at Hell in a Cell. Lynch defeated Flair clean as a whistle in the middle of the ring, removing any asterisk or other concern, but her reactions in the week that followed solidified Lynch vs. Flair as one of the premier rivalries in WWE at this moment.
They'll face off again in Melbourne, Australia, on Oct. 6 at Super Show-Down, and regardless of how that match turns out, the SmackDown women's division has gotten a definitive shot in the arm that it desperately needed after a post-WrestleMania slump. With the dream of a Fatal 4-Way match between the Four Horsewomen of WWE at a WrestleMania among the biggest matches WWE could do in its women's division as currently constructed, Lynch is finally back on an upward trajectory.
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.
Some fans love him, the others hate him, but everybody has a strong opinion of him. Mine is that Reigns is an excellent, bordering on top-notch in-ring competitor who had compelling matches with Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin on back-to-back days. He's proved to be as compelling while holding the title as he was while chasing the title. -- Matt Willis
No one is surprised that AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe is leading to compelling TV and standout matches. Styles vs. Joe at SummerSlam might have ended in a questionable DQ finish, but the 20-plus minutes of action that led to that moment didn't disappoint. Styles and Joe have a chemistry that comes with years of experience working together around the world. That chemistry has also come across in promos and backstage segments. Their SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell encounters were just the beginning of a long feud that will keep fans invested every step of the way. -- Michael Wonsover
Rollins and Ambrose pulled double duty on Sunday, being part of the match of the night and interfering in the main event. Rollins then turned around and put on another solid effort vs. Dolph Ziggler on Monday Night Raw, while Ambrose came out on the losing end against Drew McIntyre. WWE has avoided making these two feel like Reigns' sidekicks, but with Reigns holding the Universal title, it's important to keep up that effort. -- Willis
Even though Lynch took a page out of the Roman Reigns book of cussing this week on SmackDown with a certain B-word, she's in the midst of a career renaissance. -- Fiorvanti
So here's the thing -- Braun is a mega-star, heel or face. On Raw, he's a heel, beating up The Shield and tagging with Dolph and Drew to create one of the company's top attractions. On Mixed Match Challenge, he's a face; the MMC was basically his platform for a face turn last time around with Alexa Bliss, despite Bliss being otherwise villainous. What I'm trying to say is that Braun fills all the gaps, and should be champion soon. -- Andrew Feldman
By winning the Raw tag team championships, Ziggler and McIntyre instantly upgraded the division. They then put forth one of the best tag team matches of the year with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose at Hell in a Cell. Ziggler and McIntyre are both fantastic singles performers, but they have also turned into one of the best tag teams in recent memory, in a hurry. -- Sean Coyle
The truth is that Rousey needs a new feud; her cat-and-mouse struggle with Alexa Bliss isn't doing Rousey justice, as we saw at Hell in a Cell. Perhaps working with Ruby Riott, as she did on Raw, would allow the champ to better showcase her pugilistic repertoire, even if it's a bit less star-studded. -- Matt Wilansky
Despite coming up short at Hell in the Cell, Samoa Joe has taken the diabolical nature of his character to a completely new level. His rivalry with AJ Styles has become deeply personal, and he is playing the role to perfection. On top of that, he's been consistently impressive inside the ring; he's one of the best workers on SmackDown. -- Coyle
While Triple H-Undertaker has dominated the build for Super Show-Down so far, the most significant long-term storyline that will come out of Melbourne is who the new No. 1 contender for the WWE championship will be. Miz will take on Bryan in another crucial match in their series to answer that very question. So why Miz over Bryan? For Bryan's rebuild to the top to have full impact, he needs to lose to Miz and see his rival ascend to the top, only to get his revenge on the way back up. -- Willis
Famed wrestling promoter Sam Muchnick used to say that there were only three wrestlers who could sell out an arena just by putting their name on the marquee. Were Muchnick alive today, he would add Lesnar's name to that list. That's why it doesn't matter how often Lesnar appears on WWE shows, he is going to move the meter no matter the circumstances when he does. -- KC Joyner