Braun Strowman ends 2017 atop ESPN WWE Power Rankings

Braun Strowman has been a breakout performer in 2017. Anthony Geathers for ESPN

How did we get here? Somehow, 49 weeks on the WWE calendar flew by, and now we're all staring 2018 directly in the face. OK, so there were certainly some down moments this year in WWE, but as we enter the last few weeks of 2017, both Raw and SmackDown seem to have hooked into some strong storylines as the Royal Rumble looms off in the distance.

So as the year wraps up, who sits atop the imaginary throne of the ESPN WWE Power Rankings? Well, we'll give you a hint -- he's a monster, had three unimaginably good matches against Big Show, destroyed about a dozen ambulances with Roman Reigns and, in his first full year flying solo, made a huge leap toward stardom. That's right, Braun Strowman has returned to the No. 1 spot in this edition of our power rankings, and as far as admiring his work, well, Braun, we're not finished with you by a long shot.

As for the rest of the top 10? Well, you'll just have to read on to find out.

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.

Regardless of the feud he's found himself in throughout 2017, whenever Braun stepped through that curtain, everyone paid attention. It doesn't seem as though he'll be involved in any sort of title consideration anytime soon, as his title match against Brock Lesnar was a rare dip in a great year, but it really doesn't matter. Braun is the star of the show on Monday nights. (Andrew Feldman)

Not that there are many people left in wrestling fandom arguing against how good AJ Styles is, but all you'd have to do to prove any non-believer is point to Styles' pay-per-view record in 2017 and say "scoreboard," and it'd be over. In 2017, Styles had John Cena's, Shane McMahon's, Finn Balor's and Brock Lesnar's best matches of the year, and the same can probably be said for a half-dozen other superstars on weekly TV. In a single moment during Money in the Bank, he got people more excited about Shinsuke Nakamura and the potential of a one-on-one match than anyone or anything else, entrance pop included. Barring something shocking at Clash of Champions, Styles ends 2017 the same way he began it -- as the WWE champion, and the anchor who helps hold everything together on SmackDown when things want to go off the rails. The house that AJ Styles built, indeed. (Tim Fiorvanti)

Kevin Owens has a knack for throwing himself so deeply into a story and a partnership so wholeheartedly that it's easy to forget just how much of a detriment he's ended up being to all of his previous partners. It's finally come full circle with Sami Zayn, his original partner in crime from long before he walked through the doors of WWE, and their genuine friendship in the face of everyone being against them has been the engine driving the biggest stories on SmackDown since Hell in a Cell. Things will inevitably come to a head at Clash of Champions, with their jobs on the line and Shane McMahon stacking the deck against them as the special guest referee. But the singular reason to tune into an otherwise mediocre-looking show in just over a week is to see how they'll weasel their way out this time -- or how they'll react once the axe falls. Owens and Zayn are just starting to get warmed up. (Fiorvanti)

He's the latest Grand Slam champ, and Reigns, as he said this past Monday, deserves it because he's a workhorse. Any notion that he was handed the keys to the kingdom misguidedly is becoming more false by the day. With Samoa Joe now entering the equation, things are going to get even more interesting in short order. Oh, and we've finally figured a possible solution to the most vocal fans booing Reigns: Just put him in the ring with Jason Jordan, and you'll get the best of all worlds. (Matt Wilansky)

Is there any doubt he is still the man whom all of the WWE's biggest booking decisions revolve around? Add that to the fact that his match with AJ Styles proves Lesnar can have five-star battles against someone other than oversized powerhouses (as he did spectacularly at Summerslam). He is the standard everyone must measure themselves against, and that makes him No. 1 in this company. (KC Joyner)

It used to be that Charlotte Flair got over in large part due to her being Ric's daughter, but those days are long gone despite the tremendous reaction in North Carolina they collectively got when Charlotte won the SmackDown women's title a few weeks ago. Charlotte has now progressed to the point where she has to be taken seriously as someone who could get a top-of-the-card push at WrestleMania. (Joyner)

Simply put, The Usos are the best tag team in WWE. Their in-ring work is matched only by their unique promo style, and until another team surpasses them, they deserve to hold steady in any power ranking. The New Day helped them bring the very best out of Jimmy and Jey, and The Usos are now in the midst of a run that will eventually land them in the WWE Hall of Fame. (Peter Rosenberg)

The soon-to-be father has stepped away for a short stint to film a movie, and that really means someone else will have to step up. There's nobody who has been able to be a constant impetus for storylines over the past few years than the Miz. When he comes back it'll be interesting to see whom he pairs up with as Raw heads toward the Royal Rumble, and then WrestleMania. (Feldman)

Asuka has still yet to be pinned or submitted, dating back to her very first match in NXT. Asuka has been billed as an unstoppable force and is playing the part perfectly. Picking up where she left off during her historic title reign, Asuka's undefeated streak has become her calling card, and that, along with her undeniable charisma, should take her to the top of the mountain before too long. She hasn't had much time in the ring with the upper echelon of the Raw women's division yet, but when she did, she put on her most impressive main-roster performance to date as the sole survivor during the 5-on-5 match at Survivor Series. No matter what's in store against Paige, something big seems to be brewing. (Sean Coyle)

Alexa Bliss does not have a story worthy of her talent, and in fact, she has not had a marquee storyline in quite a while. Yet she continues to be the most memorable woman on the roster. She could have easily gone cold while having out-of-the-blue feuds with Mickie James and Charlotte Flair consecutively, but somehow, she is actually better now than she was prior to those stories. Paige and her new compatriots seem to be knocking on the door, and Bliss is more than ready to have something to sink her teeth into. All hail the goddess. (Rosenberg)

Dropped from rankings: The Shield, Jinder Mahal, Baron Corbin, Enzo Amore, New Day

Honorable mention: Corbin, Matt Hardy, New Day, Elias, Sheamus & Cesaro, The Shield, Amore, Drew Gulak, Samoa Joe, Jason Jordan