Every year, there's a new group of wrestlers to emerge within the ranks of the WWE. This is the list of 13 wrestlers to look out for to breakout to the next level in 2009.
Ted DiBiase Jr.
He may seem like a clone of fellow third generation superstar Randy Orton with his looks, the sound of his voice, and mannerisms, but make no mistake about it, the son of the "Million Dollar Man" has both the in ring ability and mic skills to break out on his own.
With an inevitable main event push and a starring role in the Marine Two, he will become a big star this year, regardless of whether he aligns with or against Orton and the Legacy when he returns.
There may be numerous second and third-generation superstars within the ranks of the WWE and their developmental territories, but he's the clear standout of them all. And his 2009 will be simply "priceless."
When Ring of Honor mainstay Matt Sydal signed with WWE, I was surprised, but skeptical. Yeah, he had an abundance of talent, but I figured someone his size would be overlooked, underused, and under-pushed. I saw at most, a cup of coffee.
Sometimes, the powers that be in the WWE can present you with a pleasant surprise. Debuting in midyear as "Evan Bourne", he was giving a solid push and got over quickly with the fans based solely on his in ring ability. His year, however, was cut short when he dislocated his right ankle at the end of October.
When Bourne returns, likely in late January or early February, expect him to pick up where he left off. His flawless shooting star press and great in ring performances will catapult him into the hearts of fans the same way a young luchador WCW had signed from ECW named Rey Mysterio did in the mid 90's.
Three years ago, the WWE took five promising superstars out of then developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling, and gave them the lame gimmick of male cheerleaders as members of the Spirit Squad.
When they broke up near the end of 2006, it seemed the one that was sure to survive through it would be Ken "Kenny" Doane, who was the lone member to remain on the active roster.
Only 20 years old at the time, he received a clean win over Ric Flair at New Year's Revolution 2007 and was destined by stardom.
Fast-forward two years later. Kenny Dykstra would wind up getting lost in the shuffle on Raw, moved to Smackdown in the 2007 Draft, got injured, lost in the shuffle again, and ultimately released, leaving just one member of the Spirit Squad left working for the WWE.
Coincidentally, that one member Nick "Nicky" Nemeth got called back up to main roster around the same time Dykstra, this time under a new name, gimmick, and hairstyle. And while "Dolph Ziggler" may be a stupid name, he should have a big a year in 2009.
The Brian Kendrick and Ezekiel Jackson
Back in 1993, a tag team had split up, one of them turned heel with a new gimmick and a bodyguard, and both he and the bodyguard would become main eventers in the WWF and legends within the business.
It was Shawn Michaels, having recently turned his back on Rockers partner Marty Jannety, became the Heartbreak Kid and introduced his new bodyguard, Kevin "Diesel" Nash. And we all know what happened there.
Michaels has been one of the top stars in the WWF/E ever since, despite missing four years due to back surgery. Having main-evented five WrestleManias and holding the world title four different times, along with numerous memorable matches and moments and forming the greatest Stable in WWF/E history in D-Generation X, he truly has become one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step in the squared circle.
Kevin Nash has had equal success. After holding the WWF championship for a year, he jumped shipped to WCW and formed the nWo, considered by many the greatest stable in the history of wrestling, going on to hold five WCW championships, and continues to be a major player in TNA as part of the Main Event Mafia.
Fifteen years later, it seems to be happening all over again, this time involving one of Shawn Michaels students, Brian Kendrick.
Kendrick returned to the WWE in 2005 and formed a tag team with Paul London. After an 11-month title reign in 2006 and '07, they would be drafted to Raw in June and got lost in the shuffle. As London fell out of favor with the powers that be within the WWE, they were split up a year later when Kendrick was drafted to Smackdown.
As London would go on to one more match on TV before getting his release, Kendrick showed up as a heel with a new look, a manager, and a "The" in front of his name. Receiving a solid push and being able to show off both his great in ring ability and mic skills a lot more often, it was clearly the beginning of something big.
While it's unlikely that The Brian Kendrick and Ezekiel Jackson will reach the level of success Michaels and Diesel went on to, look for them to become major players within the WWE over the next couple years.
Next Generation Hart Foundation (TJ Wilson and DH Smith)
It's the Hart Family, is there really anything I need to say?
Like the previous generation, they've already had their share of ups and downs. In late 2006, Harry Smith, son of "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith and Diana Hart, sister of Bret and Owen signed a developmental contract with the WWE, as well as TJ Wilson, who was adopted by the Hart Family at 10 years old.
As well as being a longtime boyfriend of Nattie Neidhart, daughter of Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart and Ellie Hart, another Hart sibling, who would also sign a developmental contract a couple month later.
In the summer of 2007, Teddy Hart, another grandchild of Stu and Helen Hart signed with the WWE, setting in motion the October/ November debut of the Next Generation Hart Foundation to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Montreal Screw job.
Shortly before the call-up, Teddy Hart starting causing problems once again, causing him to get fired and screwing up the whole plans. Harry Smith would be called up by himself, now known as DH Smith, only to get suspended after a couple weeks in the main roster for a wellness violation and getting lost in the shuffle.
Ultimately, Smith would request to be sent down to FCW to work on his abilities, showing his dedication to his craft, and if you combine that with his size and bloodline, shows that he's a star in the making.
In addition, this time it would enable them to give the Next Generation Hart Foundation another start, this time with Smith and Wilson. Wilson, standing at 6'5" with great in ring abilities and the high-flying TJ Wilson complement each other perfectly. Expect the duo, along with Natalia (formerly Nattie) Neidhart to take the WWE by storm.
If I had made a list like this every year, this would be Mr. Kennedy's fourth straight year. The only thing holding him back is his horrible luck. Every mega push thwarted by injuries (one for a wellness policy suspension).
With an upcoming in ring return and a WWE Studios straight to DVD release this month, expect this to be the year Mr. Kennedy...Kennedy finally breaks out.
Perhaps this should be considered a re-breakout, or comeback, but so be it. Debuting in the summer of 2006, Montel Vontavious Porter instantly seemed destined for stardom, feuding with the likes of Kane, Chris Benoit, Ric Flair, Rey Mysterio, and Jeff Hardy.
He held the United States championship for nearly a year, for some of that time holding the tag team titles as well.
However, over the last few months, he has rubbed the higher ups within the WWE the wrong way and has been jobbed out. All they've done to build him has been torn down, making him work back up from the start.
Ultimately, you cannot ignore his outstanding in ring ability, charisma, and mic skills. At some point, he'll be elevated back into the main event and become the main eventer he was destined to be.
For most of 2008, the star of WWE's lone developmental territory, Florida Championship wrestling, was Jake Hager. Becoming the first FCW Florida Heavyweight Champion, and then unifying it with the previous top title, the Southern Heavyweight Championship, he was far and away the main player in the promotion.
With his combination of size, in ring ability, and amateur wrestling background Hager was called up as a heel on the ECW brand in September as "The All-American American Jack Swagger" and was given a huge push from the beginning, not losing a single match his four months on the roster.
In fact, in all of 2008, between the main roster and FCW, Hager would have only four losses all year, all of which being WWE house shows and dark matches in August shortly before his debut.
In 2009, things are looking even bigger for Jack Swagger. Having wrapped up his feud with Tommy Dreamer, he's going on to bigger things, entering a feud with Matt Hardy over the ECW Championship, and barring some sudden change of plans will likely battle for the title at Royal Rumble or No Way Out.
Look for an ECW title reign followed by a jump to Smackdown or Raw as a high profile heel at some point in 2009.
The former NFL and XFL linebacker made his WWE debut in July, his only televised losses being to Jack Swagger. His charisma and "Ricky O" rally towels have gotten him over in ECW, and his 2009 will likely look like Kofi Kingston's 2008: being built up on ECW before being drafted to Raw and getting an Intercontinental title reign.
Putting a former World Champion on the list of breakout stars may seem a bit of a stretch, but this will be a breakout on his WWE career.
In late 2000, Road Dogg Jesse James' gimmick had gone stale, so he became a rapper and teamed with Ron Killings who was brought up as K-Kwik. Less than two months later however, Road Dogg would get fired for drug problems, and Killings would get fired by the end of 2001 due to the abundance of superstars following the fall of WCW and ECW.
Killings would go on to TNA, initially under K-Krush and the name Ron "The Truth" Killings. Among other teams, he reunited with Road Dogg (now B.G. James) and formed 3Live Kru along with Konnan, won the tag team titles with troubled NFL Star Adam "Pacman" Jones".
He also became the fourth African-American World Champion (along with Ron Simmons, The Rock, and Booker T) in wrestling history when he won the NWA World Championship.
Killings would return to the WWE in September of this year, this time as "R-Truth". His charisma and wildly popular entrance has gotten him over with the WWE fans, and you can expect a big year and a United States title reign out of R-Truth in 2009.
This one is a biased choice for me, but I have to put this out here. I know there's a good chance he won't make it to 2010 on the WWE roster, but I just have to say "Give him a push".
The former Colt Cabana is great in the ring and one of the most entertaining wrestlers in the business. Just go watch some of his promos from the indie circuit, or go read his blog on the WWE Universe website to see what I'm talking about.