10 Things to Get Most Excited About on WWE Programming in 2019
There were plenty of rough patches to get through in WWE in 2018 and a lot to be frustrated about. But now it's 2019, and every new year comes with promises of change and improvement.
In fact, with the current attitude of the McMahon family addressing that very issue, there are already plenty of interesting things cooking for 2019 that should be getting fans excited about what's to come.
Some are staples of every year, some are drastically different and fresh, while others are complete unknowns and the anticipation revolves around not having a clue what potential can be tapped into.
Whatever the case may be, here are 10 examples of what the WWE Universe should be hyped about for 2019.
NXT Talents on the Main Roster
The most immediate reason to get excited about 2019 is the addition of several NXT stars being brought up to the main roster.
WWE has been advertising EC3, Heavy Machinery, Lacey Evans, Lars Sullivan and Nikki Cross to be incorporated in some fashion on Raw and SmackDown, and they could be arriving as soon as next week.
Although we don't know how they'll be factored into plans, what feuds they'll start out with and how much of an investment WWE has in each individual star, the influx of new blood is always a shot of adrenaline to the roster.
Heavy Machinery isn't the most prolific tag team, but it's fun and can help boost the tag team division, which sorely needs more teams to pick from.
EC3 is a megastar in the waiting who could have been on the main roster years ago. Now that he has that chance, there's no telling how far he can go, and if all things work out, he could even be a world champion by the year's end.
Sullivan is a monster and will undoubtedly receive a big push right out of the gate for his size. It's always interesting to see someone tear through the roster like he will.
Evans is one of the most overlooked and underrated performers in NXT, as she has all the tools to carry her far in WWE. Expect the rocket to be strapped to her, as she's going places and will be stealing the show in no time.
Finally, Cross is about as good a definition of a breath of fresh air for the women's division as you can get. Her character is unlike any other woman on Raw or SmackDown, and she's proved she can be interesting as both a heel and a babyface.
There is always so much potential for NXT Superstars, and this crop of talent is in a great spot to make a big splash very soon.
One of the earliest gifts in the year for WWE fans is the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Not only is it the start of The Road to WrestleMania and a chance to see titles change hands in preparation for the big show, but it also features the titular Royal Rumble matches, which are many fans' favorite gimmicks of the year.
Last year, WWE finally implemented a Women's Royal Rumble, meaning we now get two major battles to settle who are the top contenders in the men's and women's divisions.
Double the fun is always a good thing, and even if the winners of those matches aren't what fans are hoping for, most people tend to agree the process of going through that hour is among the wildest rides of the year.
Whether you're into it for the surprise entrants, the shocking eliminations, the gauntlet of action or the major implications that come out of it, the Royal Rumble is a mainstay for a reason, as it just works.
Even if the rest of the year turns out poor, Royal Rumble always kicks things off with a bang.
The Road to WrestleMania and WrestleMania Week
After Royal Rumble, WWE shifts into another gear entirely with The Road to WrestleMania—arguably the best time of the year for wrestling fans.
This is when the company spends the most amount of money and attention on the product and really puts in the most effort.
Elimination Chamber matches are brutal. Both that card and Fastlane present the possibility for major changes to the WrestleMania build, so they can't be missed.
Then, the time comes and we're hit with WrestleMania Week, featuring all sorts of activities and events with a few standouts.
The Hall of Fame ceremony is a heartwarming look back on the stars of the past and a trip down memory lane that scratches our itch for nostalgia.
The Superstars of NXT always steal the show at TakeOver, and they set the tone for the main roster to try to top them at the biggest event of the year, WrestleMania.
But while that should be the end of things, it doesn't stop when that pay-per-view concludes, as the Raw and SmackDown to follow are usually two of the most important episodes of the year, too.
This is where returns happen, new talent makes their debut and the crowds are fired up with passionate intensity.
It's the time of year all wrestling fans seem to let go of the hate and embrace enjoying themselves above all else.
Brock Lesnar Should Eventually Lose the Universal Championship
For nearly the entirety of 2017 and 2018, the Universal Championship was held hostage by Brock Lesnar, who only rarely ever showed up and, when he did, put on the same two-move five-minute match time after time.
Heading into 2019, he's once again the champion, but at some point in the year, that should change.
It may happen as soon as Royal Rumble, but even if Braun Strowman is not able to get the job done, there's WrestleMania on April 7 to fall back on as another chance to see him drop the title.
Who he loses it to almost doesn't matter, as pretty much anybody would be a step up to Raw not having a top champion to build around most of the year.
In particular, if it's someone like Seth Rollins, who had a great year of in-ring action for most of the past 12 months, it will be a massive upgrade, as he'll make sure the top Superstars on Raw are having great matches.
Roman Reigns may possibly return to dethrone Lesnar and finally get the pop he deserves from the crowd. Finn Balor could get back the title with which he never had a chance to have a run. Someone new like Elias could be crowned champion.
No matter who WWE chooses to be the next in line, it's unlikely it'll take all the way until 2020 for someone to beat Lesnar, as he's going to be focused on UFC at some point, which will divert his attention from WWE.
Whatever the case may be, The Beast Incarnate is going to lose sometime in 2019, and we'll all be free from his reign of terror.
The Return of Several Injured Stars
Over the course of 2019, we should see a bunch of Superstars who are currently on the inactive list make their returns to in-ring action.
Already, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are being advertised, suggesting they may be popping up soon and could even come back as early as the Royal Rumble, so if you're fond of them, watch out for their possible surprise entrances.
If Roman Reigns is able to recover from his leukemia treatments quickly enough to step back into the ring in 2019, he could finally have the love and support from the WWE Universe that has been sought after for so many years. Plus, that would be a great comeback just for a morality boost.
There's always a chance we could see the return of Matt Hardy or Jason Jordan, who would also be welcome surprises and something to smile about, but it doesn't stop at those names.
The Bludgeon Brothers have been out for many months with Harper's wrist injury and Rowan's torn biceps. Once they're ready to go, the tag team division will get a big boost.
If Triple H's torn pectoral heals up in time, his implied match against Batista at WrestleMania could still be on the schedule.
Fandango, Goldust, Sin Cara, Tye Dillinger and more should likely be coming back at some point in 2019, and their fans are all going to rejoice in that.
Fans should also cross their fingers for Tegan Nox to return healthy this year, as she was the unfortunate victim of bad luck in 2018 when she suffered her second leg injury far too soon after returning from her first setback.
She is a prime example of someone who hasn't begun to show the WWE Universe what she's capable of and could be a big player in NXT and NXT UK's women's divisions once she's able to gain momentum. Here's hoping 2019 is the year she gets that opportunity.
If the current lineup of wrestlers has worn you out and you're tired of seeing the same pairings each and every week on Raw and SmackDown, we're not too far away from the Superstar Shake-up, wherein the rosters are shuffled around and people are swapped between the brands.
This is a monumental part of the year and something even the most dedicated fans can sometimes be guilty of forgetting about factoring into their hopes of 2019 because as bleak as things can be right now, they can flip on a dime come the Superstar Shake-up.
Leading up to it is fun for the speculation with everyone drafting their dream scenarios of who they'd like to see switched around. Then, once WWE makes the adjustments, a wide variety of new and exciting matches become possible to play out over the course of the year.
This also gives wrestlers an opportunity to make improvements to their positions on the roster. Many people tend to turn heel or face around this time, some are given pushes they've never received and others are finally a bigger fish in a smaller pond or on a brand that is better suited to their strengths.
There are inevitably people who get lost in the shuffle and some mistakes here and there, but the Superstar Shake-up is overall one of the best healing methods of the year and something fans should be eagerly anticipating.
Pretty Much Everything NXT and 205 Live Have to Offer
Raw and SmackDown are the flagship shows that hold WWE together, but there are so many cooks in the kitchen and often strange directives in place that get in the way of making them the best shows possible.
With 205 Live and NXT, though, everything comes off more streamlined and efficient as tools to showcase the talents of their rosters the best ways possible.
They're not as popular with casual viewers, but dedicated fans who tune in to those programs know that every week, they're getting some quality entertainment and virtually every segment will deliver.
It's arguable the 205 Live roster is the most athletically gifted bunch in WWE—something that is starting to get noticed now that Mustafa Ali is on SmackDown Live. There's rarely a bad match in the cruiserweight division with people like Buddy Murphy, TJP and Cedric Alexander at the helm.
Likewise, the go-to source for the most bang for your buck is NXT, especially when counting the TakeOver events, which frequently outshine the main roster shows with no contest.
There wasn't a bad TakeOver event last year, and the matches featuring Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Velveteen Dream, Aleister Black, The Undisputed Era and many others were just astounding, if not the very best action WWE had to offer.
Even if the main roster is as much of a dud as it was at times in 2018, fans can take comfort in knowing 205 Live and NXT—the two subordinate brands—will be consistently reliable for great entertainment for all of 2019.
Women's Tag Team Championship
Dressed as Santa Claus, Vince McMahon confirmed that at some point in 2019, a new set of tag team titles would be implemented for the women's division.
This has been buzzed about for quite some time, but this was the first actual confirmation of these plans being set in motion.
Right now, we don't have many details on how this is going to work, which in itself is already something interesting to track and get excited about.
Will there be belts for both Raw and SmackDown, or will one brand get ownership, or will there be traveling champions between the shows?
What will the process be to crown the new champions? Which women will be selected to take part in that?
Will new teams be formed, such as Lana and Naomi doing the Ravishing Glow idea they've spoken about?
There are so many intriguing elements to this story, and we haven't even seen the design of the belts!
SmackDown Live on Fox
With the big move to Fox in October, WWE will focus on boosting the credibility of SmackDown Live.
Even if it's just temporary, the blue brand must be given better treatment than it was this past year, especially given the circumstances of the blowout at Survivor Series.
WWE will want to make it a big deal for the initial launch to convince people the B-show isn't so much an afterthought anymore, as it will look bad on them to start off this new partnership with a stigma of being less than Monday Night Raw.
With all that extra attention and care comes a better roster after the Superstar Shake-up, more of an investment in promotion for SmackDown's feuds on pay-per-views to get people wanting to tune in to the television episodes and even potentially a third hour tacked on to drive home the point that it's equal to Raw.
It all may fizzle out in another year or so, as WWE has a tendency to get complacent and lazy once new concepts are accepted and the focus can shift to whatever the next fancy new project is, but at least 2019 should see a big upgrade to SmackDown.
Possibly More Power for Triple H
As the year goes on, the return of XFL with the 2020 season will draw closer, meaning Vince McMahon will have to dedicate more of his time to get that organization situated.
With his focus on that project, there is a chance he delegates more responsibility and Triple H, in particular, will end up taking on more of a role in charge of WWE's regular creative direction.
We've already seen signs of this with Triple H controlling NXT and 205 Live without too much of McMahon's influence, as well as an increase in The Game's presence both in a television authority figure capacity and in the media, while McMahon steps aside.
In the past few years, Triple H has gone from someone being groomed to take the reins to being the public face of the company even more so than McMahon, in many ways.
It's Triple H who sends out the congratulatory championship belts to winning sports teams. He and Stephanie are the ones discussing talent signings and the future of the company.
There's no doubt McMahon will always have creative control and will be the top of the food chain in WWE until he's no longer able to, but he's slowing down and allowing others to step in and fill the void.
The reason this is great news and something to look forward to is that the massive success of NXT and 205 Live under Triple H's management has proved that he's able to do the job well and tap into a mindset of viewers McMahon may not want to appeal to.
Fans of Triple H's creative style can anticipate more of that in the product as 2019 goes on, and we might finally see those big changes and improvements WWE is promising us for this year.
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.