Ricochet and 12 More NXT Stars Ready for WWE Main Roster in 2019 Shake-Up
In the interest of getting fans excited about Raw and SmackDown again, it was announced that one of the changes being made is to fall back on what has been a proven success in 2018: the NXT roster.
The arrival of Lars Sullivan has been teased for weeks, and it has been announced that EC3, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans and Heavy Machinery will also be graduating sometime soon, but WWE shouldn't stop there.
The minor leagues outperformed the main roster on nearly every single show this year, proving there is an abundance of talent in NXT's current crop who are more reliable than their so-called superiors on Raw and SmackDown.
With Royal Rumble, WrestleMania and the Superstar Shake-up heading our way, there are plenty of opportunities for more than just those a few names to make their debuts in the coming months.
It never hurts to have more talent to work with, and with plenty of it in NXT, there are over a dozen men and women who should also be considered ready, willing and able to make the jump in 2019.
Let's take a look at some of the prime candidates who should be on everyone's watch list.
The Undisputed Era: Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly
Having made their debuts in the summer of 2017, Bobby Fish, Kyle O'Reilly and Adam Cole immediately formed The Undisputed Era, and the stable quickly shot up the roster.
Eventually, they added Roderick Strong to their ranks and, in the span of the past year-and-a-half, have managed to hold three titles between them and this year's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament trophy.
At this point, they've feuded with everybody outside of the newer recruits, and beyond winning the NXT Championship, there isn't anything left for them to do other than take their domination to the next level by going up to the main roster.
Being four guys who could have easily been labeled bland and generic, they have managed to showcase their arrogant personalities in a way that fans love, making them some of the most popular acts not just in NXT but also the entire WWE, as evidenced by the reactions they regularly get.
They are something of the modern-day NWO or Kliq in that they're jerks, but the fans can't help but cheer for them even if they're the bad guys in the feuds.
That reaction is something that can't be ignored, and once they drop the NXT Tag Team Championship—likely to War Raiders—a post-WrestleMania call-up would send the WWE Universe ballistic, with cheers of "Adam Cole baybay" echoing throughout arenas.
Then, as Cole said recently on NXT, their decade of dominance will carry on, and they'll help save the main roster's tag team division and more.
Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa
These three names need to be lumped together because they are the top stars in NXT and have been feuding with each other for months, so what happens to one affects the others.
Since last year, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have been embroiled in a blood feud that has seen the two do battle in numerous hardcore matches that even the stole the show from Aleister Black's NXT Championship run.
Eventually, Black found himself inserted into their feud—losing the title to Ciampa and getting taken out by a heel-turned Gargano—blurring the lines between the good and evil in each and making it a three-way rivalry filled with shades of gray.
They are the triumvirate responsible for the majority of the best matches in WWE this year. It is amazing how easy they were to trust to put on a five-star match nearly every single time they competed.
Black, Gargano and Ciampa have proved themselves as capable of holding main event spots for long stretches of time, delivering fantastic promos and even better fights. They have also built a fanbase that wants to see them in dream matches with main roster stars.
By the time TakeOver: Phoenix and TakeOver: New York are complete, Black, Gargano and Ciampa will need a change of scenery and should be brought up in increments, starting with Black at Royal Rumble and then Ciampa and Gargano after WrestleMania 35.
NXT is the place to grow, and all three have outgrown their current surroundings.
The only thing separating Ricochet from a spot on the main roster right now is the fact he's the North American champion, but once he drops that title to someone such as Dominik Dijakovic, he will have three rosters to pick from for his next venture.
That is not only because he would fit in well in the midcard of Raw or SmackDown, but also because he's billed at 196 pounds, putting him in contention for being the top star on 205 Live, which may even bring more eyes to that show once people see what he can do.
Ricochet is a phenomenal athlete who had all the hype in the world leading up to his signing and debut in January 2018 and proved time and again how he was worth every bit of praise.
The sky's the limit for some people, but that doesn't even apply to Ricochet, as he'd clearly find a way to jump beyond that point.
Whenever WWE decides to bring him up, he will be a benefit to whichever show he's placed on, as the "one and only" high-flyer who can do no wrong once he steps between the ropes.
Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir
Ronda Rousey's star power thrust her directly onto the main roster, where she's had to learn the ropes quickly after being thrown into the deep end. Her first official match was at WrestleMania 34, and she now holds the Raw Women's Championship.
Her three sisters in The Four Horsewomen stable in MMA have had it easier, though, by being able to learn to walk before running.
Shayna Baszler came in as part of the 2017 Mae Young Classic, narrowly losing in the final to Kairi Sane before building up a dominant reign as the only two-time NXT women's champion to date.
Along the way, she's grown significantly more confident and become a true natural, even surpassing Rousey in many skills such as pure ringwork and comfort in promos.
Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir got off to a later start, but as the bottom two in this quartet right now, they'll benefit from being able to piggyback off each other in tag team matches and rely on Baszler as the head of their trio in NXT for the time being.
Once the time comes for them to make their jump to the main roster, though, The Four Horsewomen will be a force to be reckoned with, and their destined clash against Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Bayley and Sasha Banks will be something fans can look forward to in the near future.
It's not a question of if, but rather when, and it all has to start by bringing Baszler, Duke and Shafir to the main roster in 2019 to build up steam for what will likely be one of the main events of WrestleMania 36.
If WWE is looking for something fresh and new, one person who cannot be overlooked is Velveteen Dream. In many ways, he's a perfect summation of the elements needed for change.
He's one of the youngest people on WWE's roster, yet he's already managed to become one of the most gifted performers.
Over the past few TakeOver events and NXT television episodes, the 23-year-old has proved his athleticism by putting on fantastic matches against Ricochet, EC3, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa and others.
But he isn't limited to just his athleticism, as his character stands out even more as something unique that is missing on both Raw and SmackDown.
It's clear he has been a dedicated fan of professional wrestling his entire life and in many ways represents what the WWE Universe wants, which is a youth movement and a shift toward creative people who understand the business from the eyes of a fan.
Velveteen Dream has learned from the greats and applied that knowledge to his own career, going from being a Tough Enough loser to someone the NXT fanbase is obsessed with. With that type of work ethic and talent, he would be a major asset to the main roster.
Practically Everybody Else
The great thing with NXT is that the vast majority of the wrestlers could make the jump to the main roster within just a few months and the average viewer wouldn't think they were new to the game.
Even with such an impressive list as those already discussed, there are still many more men and women in NXT who could go to Raw, SmackDown or 205 Live if the circumstances are right and WWE has room for them.
Mia Yim has already had a long-enough career beforehand and proved herself ready from the start after her Mae Young Classic performances. By now, she's comfortable with the WWE style and could be ready to go at a moment's notice.
Bianca Belair is on her way to being a star with an X-factor that is undeniable. She may stay behind to be the head of the women's division, but if holding the title isn't in her future, she can skip it as Alexa Bliss did.
Kairi Sane has held the NXT Women's Championship and won the Mae Young Classic. There isn't much else left for her to do, so The Pirate Princess could make Raw or SmackDown her new home.
Kassius Ohno may stick around in NXT as the veteran to help younger talent, but wouldn't it be fun to see him team up with Cesaro and Sheamus to be the third man on The Bar and form a variation of The Kings of Wrestling?
Keith Lee and Matt Riddle haven't been around long at all, but they are already making waves and could be late-2019 additions.
Not everybody makes it to Raw or SmackDown, but this current crop of wrestlers on the NXT roster is among the best, and many could do wonders on the main roster.
WWE should start getting those roster sheets sorted out soon.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.