AJ Styles starts 2017 as unanimous No. 1 in WWE Power Rankings

AJ Styles had an undeniable 2016, and his first week of 2017 help lock in his status as the unanimous No. 1 in the ESPN WWE Power Rankings. Lexey Swall for ESPN

Plenty has changed in the WWE universe since our last set of power rankings. There's been title swaps, new feuds and a flood of intriguing setups around the Royal Rumble.

One thing hasn't changed: AJ Styles is still the man.

Styles has continued to lead SmackDown to new heights -- and his most recent encounter with John Cena proved why he's such an asset to the company. He'll continue to own the top spot until something drastic happens, but while he sits comfortably at the top, the rest of this list has changed a great deal over the last few weeks of action.

Here's ... "The List":

AJ Styles was a near-unanimous choice for ESPN's male wrestler of the year after a stellar 2016. While the efforts of Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 11 show that Styles will have plenty of competition to retain that title in 2017, nobody comes close to "the face that runs the place" in WWE. He will no doubt steal the show with John Cena at the Royal Rumble, and hopefully WWE has the sense to keep the WWE world title on Styles for a very long time. (Atkin)

The only thing that took Charlotte Flair out of my No. 1 spot was her inactivity on Monday Night Raw this week. She was the runaway ESPN female wrestler of the year in 2016, and the overall wrestler of the year "Majie" ("Superstar of the cench") on Cheap Heat race between Flair and Styles should've been much closer. I think they were neck-and-neck. (Rosenberg)

Although his comedy stylings opposite Chris Jericho proved to be one of 2016's highlights, it would be good to see Owens booked in a manner that better plays up the despicable and vicious heel that he is so comfortable playing. Owens regularly outperformed his booking in recent months, despite being a top champion. Here's to hoping he can get a few clean pinfalls now and then moving forward. (Campbell)

It's not often that you see a wrestler lose a major title and increase his value, but that certainly seems to be the case for The Miz. As much as he elevated the Intercontinental championship during his two runs with it in 2016, as the end of the year approached, it almost felt like an anchor to his tremendous potential. There's a fair bit more of a money feud with Ambrose to come, and the ever-growing conflict with Daniel Bryan, but I'll be surprised if The Miz doesn't get his second career WWE world championship reign by the end of 2017. (Fiorvanti)

Despite dropping out of the WWE world championship picture for the time being, the new Intercontinental champion's role remains prominent as his battles with The Miz have seemingly just begun. In fact, the beginning of this rivalry already feels more personal than any of his 2016 feuds, thanks to the added layer of his real-life girlfriend Renee Young. "We want Ambrose" chants could be heard loud and clear during the first segment of SmackDown Live this week, so it looks like I'm not the only one who's high on Ambrose right now. (Coyle)

Just like that, after two weeks on TV, John Cena is right back in the mix. On Tuesday night, he showed us just what makes him so great -- give the man a microphone and let him go. This time around with Styles, the stakes are even higher, so this should be tremendous. Needless to say, Cena getting a 16th title run would push him even higher in these rankings and further cement his status among the all-timers in WWE history. (Rosenberg)

Chris Jericho was the MVP of the WWE in 2016. He served as Styles' first legitimate WWE adversary and continued to elevate anyone who came in contact with him all the way through his sensational pairing with Kevin Owens. Jericho has been one of my favorite performers for over a decade, and I can easily proclaim this particular version as his finest. Anyone he works with is guaranteed to come out looking stronger than they came in. He is a vital piece to the current structure of Raw. (Coyle)

Heel turn! This could be the breakthrough Ziggler has been fighting for (both in-character and in real life) for such a long time. Nobody has ever questioned his ring work, but a change in character has long been the missing link to Ziggler returning to a truly elite level. Ziggler sold his turn back to the darkside perfectly with a swift superkick out of nowhere to Kalisto and a headbutt to Apollo Crews -- and he now looks poised to do major things in 2017. (Campbell)

He may not be a ring general, but Braun Strowman is clearly a student of the game. He keeps upping his performance, week after week, and he's put in some truly entertaining showings with Sami Zayn while fulfilling the dominant beast role on Raw. It will be interesting to see when WWE pulls the trigger on Strowman's main event push, and hopefully they have the common sense to pace things and allow him to improve slowly but surely for another year. When and if he gets a major title, WWE will have a kayfabe problem in getting it off him. (Atkin)

As someone who has followed Seth Rollins' career since long before his days in the WWE, this is one of the most disappointing entries I've ever had to write in this space. There is absolutely no reason Seth Rollins should ever be this low in the WWE Power Rankings, but no one has suffered more from the merry-go-round between Rollins, Owens, Jericho and Roman Reigns than Rollins has. While Brian Campbell likes to point to Triple H's absence as the biggest problem -- and it is a big one -- the disconnect between the Rollins-Reigns relationship and how actual human beings interact is also a serious lapse. Unless Reigns is a complete moron, there's no reason he should've forgiven Rollins for what he did to destroy The Shield without a pretty damn good explanation. If the WWE wants us to believe in Rollins as a good guy after that act and everything he did afterward, it shouldn't continue to deny that much-needed Rollins-Reigns moment, which would certainly go a long way toward humanizing Rollins as a good guy. (Fiorvanti)

Dropped from rankings: Sasha Banks, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt

Honorable mention: Roman Reigns, Neville, Bayley, Cesaro & Sheamus