WWE SmackDown Superstar Tier List 1.0
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE analyst
Shake off that New Year's Eve hangover with our newest franchise – tracking where each Superstar stands among their peers.
I’m an avid reader of wrestling content on Reddit, and years back, a series of images called the "Kayfabe Tier List" were my favorite posts to keep up with on the site.
Here's an example of one from 2016:
The Kayfabe Tier List served as a great reference point and triggered intense debate, since, as we all know, wrestling fans never agree on anything.
The purpose of the list was to group WWE Superstars in separate categories and track whether they moved up or down the card as storylines progressed.
Unfortunately, the list stopped being regularly updated a long time ago, and for years, I’ve been hoping someone would take up the mantle in the creator’s absence.
Therefore, with the original poster’s blessing, I’m resurrecting the concept (with my own spin on it) for a new series of articles that will run after the biggest pay-per-view events.
As Damien Sandow would say … you’re welcome.
The Superstar categories are as follows:
A+: Biggest stars in the company
A: Main eventers
B+: Could be booked in main events
B: Midcard title holder/contenders
C+: Regularly appearing on TV
C: Appearing sporadically on shows
D: Falling out of interest
F: 24/7 Title Chaser
Seeing as how Raw and SmackDown are both so loaded with talent, I'll do each show separately – and since the first SmackDown of 2021 takes place tonight on FOX, I’ll start with Team Blue! The Raw Tier List will go up on Monday.
Before we break down each category separately, here’s where everyone stands as a whole.
Oh, and one last thing.
If you want notifications sent directly to your phone about your favorite Superstars, check out their profiles on the FOX Sports app and FOXSports.com and star the ones you like most!
Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone when you favorite Lana.
Okay, with that all out of the way, let’s get to the fun.
In my opinion, there was no one more captivating in wrestling in 2020 than "The Head of the Table" Roman Reigns. This is the character we’ve all wanted to see from him for years.
Plus, his storylines all make logical sense now, his matches have a big-fight feel, his challengers get a boost from being in the ring with him – and all of this makes the show better as a whole.
You may think I’m slightly biased since I work for FOX Sports, but I believe Roman Reigns has helped SmackDown become the most popular WWE show among wrestling fans.
Of course, Sasha Banks helped with this, too.
Banks’ current run as SmackDown Women’s champion has made her character look the strongest it’s ever been in WWE.
Overcoming the obstacles that have previously gotten in her way while conveying a newfound confidence on-screen allowed the character to truly feel like "The Boss" she always claimed to be.
Let’s also not forget about the fact that the 28-year-old is breaking into the mainstream. Sasha’s standout performance this season in "The Mandalorian" has most likely gotten the attention of Hollywood, and it feels like only a matter of time before she’s offered more significant roles.
The acting from Reigns on SmackDown over the past few months could land him a role or two as well.
Right now, it’s more evident than ever that these two are stars, and the people in WWE clearly understand this based on how they’re being presented each week.
Outside of Roman and Sasha, these three are SmackDown’s go-to main event performers.
2020 may have been a really crappy year for everyone personally, but professionally, it was the best 365 days of Bayley’s career. Here are some of her accomplishments:
- Became longest reigning SmackDown Women’s Champion
- Held Women’s Tag Team titles
- Had an epic program with Sasha Banks
- Competed in a standout Hell in a Cell match
As the new year begins, I hope Bayley is able to stay at the top of the card going into WrestleMania season. She’s earned the right to perform there in a marquee match.
Meanwhile, the creative team has done a fantastic job of slowly building to Daniel Bryan's inevitable program with Roman Reigns.
To me, these two have the most potential for a Universal title match this year at WrestleMania. WWE is wisely putting Daniel in the perfect spot by playing up his underdog status in the upcoming Royal Rumble while also reinforcing his tenacity.
Bryan is one of WWE’s most beloved performers, no matter what he does, but too often he’s used to get others over instead of the focus being on him. This is frequently due to his own unselfish behavior as a performer, but sometimes it’s on the booking team as well.
Lately, however, the way he’s being used on TV allows him to do both, which has helped him feel like a worthy competitor to "The Tribal Chief" when they're ready to pull the trigger on it.
Seth Rollins may have been entangled in a dramatic storyline over the past year, as opposed to main-event feuds, but it hasn’t diminished his status whatsoever.
When Seth returns, it should be interesting to see how they follow up or explain his self-imposed Survivor Series exit.
Hopefully, he’s able to start something fresh as opposed to diving back into the Mysterio family drama.
Putting Kevin Owens here instead of the A tier might not be a popular decision – and this is coming from someone who is a huge fan of his – but I believe it’s the most accurate placement.
KO even said himself in his recent episode of Chronicle (filmed before TLC) that he was pumped to show people where he belongs again, because it had been years since he had that opportunity.
His recent work opposite Roman Reigns has been proof that he deserves to be considered one of WWE’s top stars, but Owens still has a bit more work to do in order to make that happen.
All three performers are super over with the fans and can be relied upon to put on a good match whenever it’s needed.
This has put them in multiple big matches over the past year, as well as prominent storylines, making them fixtures of WWE programming.
Big E is on the cusp of B+ after winning the IC title, but whether he moves up a tier all depends on the level of importance with which his singles run is handled.
Without letting his title reign play out a few weeks first, though, it’s tough to predict.
Bianca Belair is another Superstar on the rise. "The EST of WWE" has potential to breakout as a huge star for the company if they play their cards right.
If WWE can avoid the mindset of Bianca needing to "pay her dues" first by losing to veteran talent early in her SmackDown run, they'll likely have a major player on their hands for years to come.
Zayn could go in a number of directions after losing the Intercontinental Championship.
Unlike the others in this category, Otis had been rapidly losing steam over the past few months.
His recent pairing with Chad Gable halted that, however, and things are now looking a lot less bleak for both performers.
Ziggler has become the veteran talent who can be trusted to perform well in any scenario.
Corbin is an effective heel who has actual heat with the fans. His "King" gimmick was starting to feel stale, though, so the addition of two disciples by his side was a good way to switch things up a little.
Hopefully it can help him move up a tier after WrestleMania season.
Carmella’s return and subsequent feud with Sasha Banks increased her status from where it had been. She also stood out at WWE TLC in their match, which earned her some newfound respect from both die-hard and casual fans alike.
Following the conclusion of Murphy’s storyline involving Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio, he hasn’t really been used much. This doesn’t bode well for his position going forward.
Unless things with Rollins pick back up again, it’s possible he’ll fall down a tier in the near future.
These performers are all used semi-regularly on TV, and each one is super talented, but it’s not wrong to say they’re all currently on the lower rung compared to their peers.
Gable’s pairing with Otis has been exactly what both performers needed, as I previously stated, and Billie’s comedic strengths being maximized on SmackDown has been a joy to watch.
Hopefully they both move up a level by the time I write my next tier list article after WrestleMania.
Apollo Crews has barely been used since moving to SmackDown.
End of story.
Mojo Rawley hasn’t wrestled a match since June.
Mickie James suffered a broken nose in September, but should be cleared by now. Beyond that, it’s unclear why she’s been absent from TV.
Kalisto has had trouble finding his footing since splitting from Lucha House Party and the powers-that-be don’t seem to have any plans for him that would change that.
I know you have some hot takes, so don’t be shy with them.
Don’t forget to check out the WWE Superstar profiles on the FOX Sports app and FOXSports.com and star your favorites to stay up to date on their latest happenings!