Becky Lynch and the Biggest Winners and Losers on the Road to WrestleMania 2019
The road to WrestleMania 35 has had its up and downs, but every WWE Superstar has had it differently over the last few months.
There are those who have rocketed to superstardom and are ready to receive perhaps the biggest moment of their careers at WrestleMania. Others won't be as fortunate, however, and will instead either be relegated to a meaningless match on the card or will sit on the sidelines for the event altogether.
Either way, WrestleMania season is an exciting time for fans and wrestlers alike. There's no telling what the biggest pay-per-view of the year will have in store, as well as the impact it will have on the careers of certain Superstars.
From Becky Lynch and Kofi Kingston having to overcome the odds to Braun Strowman's gradual fall from grace, it has been an interesting buildup to WrestleMania, if nothing else.
Whether the fortunes of these stars will change coming out of the event remains to be seen, but for now, they are riding high (or attempting to return to relevancy).
Truth be told, there is an overabundance of incredibly skilled competitors on the WWE roster, meaning there isn't enough attention from WWE Creative to go around at times.
The latest road to WrestleMania has been a prime example of that, with more than a few notable names having to take a backseat to more popular performers.
Before they take center stage on Sunday night, let's look back at WWE's biggest winners and losers heading into WrestleMania 35.
Winner: Becky Lynch
Who knew a heel turn was all Becky Lynch needed to become the hottest star in all of WWE?
Prior to SummerSlam 2018, she was just another body on the roster with no direction in sight. Interestingly enough, it was only after severing ties with the WWE Universe that she finally won them over.
Lynch had always been looked at as the runt of the litter when it came to the Four Horsewomen, but she was determined to change that. Although she spent the first few years of her main roster run as a babyface, she showed off a whole new side to her character upon turning heel and really came into her own as a performer.
In January, Lynch kicked off the road to WrestleMania 35 with a bang by winning the women's Royal Rumble (despite never actually being named an official entrant in the match). On the next night's Raw, she engaged in a heated war of words with Ronda Rousey and declared she would be vying for the Raw Women's Championship at the Show of Shows.
Unfortunately, the followup to Lynch's monumental Rumble victory has been less than stellar. Over the past two months, WWE has made a mess of the Raw Women's title picture by having The Man arrested and suspended multiple times, in addition to having her golden opportunity at WrestleMania temporarily revoked.
As a result of bad booking, Lynch has cooled off considerably, but there can be no doubt that she has been on the roll of her career heading into the main event of WrestleMania and is primed to emerge victorious against Rousey and Charlotte Flair.
Losers: Nia Jax and Tamina
WWE picked the perfect time to introduce tag team titles for the women with WrestleMania 35 fast approaching, but surely there are more compelling teams who could be chasing the championship at the moment than Nia Jax and Tamina?
The Samoan Superstars will be among three other teams competing for the twin titles in a Fatal 4-Way at WrestleMania despite not doing anything to earn the opportunity. It should also be noted that they add nothing to the match and would be better off participating in the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal.
Coming off her clean loss to Ronda Rousey at December's TLC pay-per-view, Jax didn't enter 2019 with a ton of momentum, and her recent alliance with Tamina hasn't done her any favors.
Jax entered the men's and women's Royal Rumble matches this year (the first to ever do so in the same night) but failed to have her hand raised in both bouts.
From there, she and Tamina fell short of becoming the inaugural WWE Women's Tag Team champions at Elimination Chamber. They then unsuccessfully challenged Sasha Banks and Bayley for the gold at Fastlane, making it all the more mind-boggling that they will once again be contending for the championship at WrestleMania.
There is a ton of talented female tandems between Raw and SmackDown Live these days, but Jax and Tamina are not among them. Props to Jax for being involved in title matches at 'Mania three years in a row, but she is nowhere near as dominant as she once was.
Winner: The Miz
Believe it or not, The Miz once successfully defended the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania against John Cena. Instead of letting that be his sole claim to fame, he has been on a mission to reinvent himself and return to main event status.
Interestingly enough, of all the matches currently on tap for WrestleMania 35, his Falls Count Anywhere affair with Shane McMahon has arguably received the best buildup. Their story dates as far back as Crown Jewel in November, when Shane replaced an injured Miz in the finals of the WWE World Cup, leading to the two teaming up and winning the SmackDown Tag Team Championship a short time later.
At Fastlane, Shane shocked the world by betraying Miz in his hometown of Cleveland, effectively turning The Awesome One into a babyface in the process. It has been years since Miz last portrayed a fan favorite, so it was unknown how he would fare in the role for this feud.
Despite that, he has been getting over with the audience surprisingly well and has shown incredible fire as a face. His recent performances in the ring and on the mic on SmackDown have shown that he has plenty of upside as a good guy and is primed to reclaim the top spot on the blue brand before long.
Once he defeats Shane on Sunday, Miz can finally set his sights on becoming WWE champion again. It's what he wants, and it's starting to look like that's what the fans want to see, too.
Loser: Kevin Owens
There was a ton of buzz surrounding Kevin Owens' return to WWE TV just a few months ago, and then there was nothing.
Owens was sidelined with an injury for the final few months of 2018 and was expected to be brought back in a major way.
Although he wasn't involved in anything of note at the time he got hurt, it was rumored that he would resurface on SmackDown Live so he could feud with WWE champion Daniel Bryan heading into WrestleMania 35.
On the Feb. 25 edition of SmackDown, it was announced he would, in fact, be challenging Bryan for the title, but not at WrestleMania. The two instead clashed at the Fastlane pay-per-view in a Triple Threat match that saw Bryan beat Mustafa Ali for the victory.
Owens randomly undergoing a face turn hardly helped matters, neither did the fact he wasn't given a chance to elaborate on his sudden change of heart. WWE's lack of long-term direction for him was made apparent soon after Fastlane when he was relegated to serving as a talk show host, similar to Raw's Alexa Bliss.
At least the former Raw Women's champion will be the host of WrestleMania this year, whereas Owens doesn't have a match scheduled for 'Mania as of now.
It's possible he winds up participating in (and even winning) the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but that doesn't change how WWE royally messed up by having him return when there were no plans in place for him.
Winner: Tony Nese
At this time one year ago, Tony Nese was merely a blip on the radar of WWE's Cruiserweight division. Now, he's days away from competing in the biggest match of his career to date on the WrestleMania 35 Kickoff show.
Few fans actually expected Nese to go all the way in 205 Live's recent tournament to crown a new No. 1 contender to the WWE Cruiserweight Championship at WrestleMania 35. Despite that, he turned a ton of heads with his standout performances against Kalisto, Drew Gulak and Cedric Alexander over the course of the tourney.
Following Nese's hard-fought victory over Alexander, Buddy Murphy congratulated his good friend on earning the right to face him at WrestleMania before blindsiding him from behind. That act of betrayal officially turned Nese into a babyface for the first time in his WWE career.
Their feud didn't have much steam at the start, but Nese's excellent work in the ring and on the mic has led to the WWE Universe buying into him as a threat to the title. His recent rise to superstardom came at just the right time considering 205 Live could really use some strong faces at the moment.
Regardless of Sunday's Cruiserweight Championship clash, Nese has proved himself as a worthy contender to the title and is bound to be holding gold sooner rather than later.
Despite holding the SmackDown Women's Championship for the better part of the road to WrestleMania 35, Asuka has felt like a complete afterthought on SmackDown Live in recent months.
The Empress of Tomorrow suffered her first-ever one-on-one defeat in WWE at the hands of Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34, and it's been all downhill for her ever since.
Her TLC title victory in December gave fans hope that officials planned on putting her in another marquee match at this year's WrestleMania, only to discover that wasn't the case.
In shocking fashion, Asuka beat Becky Lynch in clean fashion at the Royal Rumble before disappearing from WWE TV altogether for almost a month. She then entered an uninspiring feud with Mandy Rose that didn't produce any memorable matches, and on March 26, she lost the title to Flair on an episode of SmackDown.
Per the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wrestling Inc's Robert Gunier), Asuka was originally slated to face Mandy Rose at WrestleMania, but in an effort to cut down on the number of matchups on the card, the company bumped them from the event and gave Asuka's belt to Flair. Asuka now finds herself competing in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal this Sunday.
It can be argued that Asuka's win-loss record remains in near-perfect condition, but that's not the point; she has lost a lot of her luster over the past year. She isn't damaged goods just yet, but she'll be entering that territory soon unless WWE can get her back on the right track.
Winner: Kofi Kingston
What's most amazing about Kofi Kingston's sudden surge in popularity on the road to WrestleMania was that it was completely coincidental and likely wouldn't have happened had Mustafa Ali not gotten injured when he did.
Prior to his performance in that Gauntlet match before the Elimination Chamber, Kingston was spinning his wheels with the rest of The New Day in the tag team ranks.
They failed to regain their SmackDown Tag Team Championship on multiple occasions in late 2018 and likely wouldn't have been involved in anything of importance at WrestleMania if WWE didn't strike gold with Kingston when they did.
Kingston has always been popular with the WWE Universe but never seemed destined to be "the guy" in WWE until just recently. He came close to beating Daniel Bryan for the title at Elimination Chamber, and after jumping through various hoops, he secured himself a shot at the strap on the grandest stage of them all.
His chase for the championship has been among the strongest stories WWE has told in some time. It's rare a feud feels as organic as Kingston vs. Bryan does, not to mention how almost everybody wants Kingston to emerge victorious at WrestleMania and win the WWE title for the first time in his career.
The payoff has the potential to be magical if executed properly and could be what cements Kingston as a main event player in WWE. "Kofi Mania" is a real phenomenon and can last more than a few months if Kingston is given the ball to run with.
In such a short span of time, EC3 went from having one of the most anticipated arrivals in recent memory on the main roster to being written off as an enhancement talent. You won't find many NXT call-ups WWE botched harder (and quicker) than this former top prospect.
He didn't have the most remarkable run in NXT, mind you, but he deserves better than being relegated to wrestling on Main Event every other week.
The early vignettes that aired hyping his debut generated some buzz among fans, but as soon as he showed up on Raw in a backstage segment admiring himself in the mirror, it was clear he was called up with no plan in place.
EC3 stayed silent for weeks on end, and it was never once explained why he chose to not speak. He eventually spoke his first words during the Fastlane Kickoff show, so the long wait never actually amounted to anything.
The Top One Percent has wrestled all of three matches on the main roster so far: two against Dean Ambrose (only one of which he won) and an 18-person tag team affair on the most recent SmackDown Live. He has largely been shown lurking in hallways and just coming across as an all-around goofy character.
He'll be a participant in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on Sunday, but had he been built up to mean more from the get-go, he might have landed a match much higher up on the card against a high-profile opponent. John Cena, anyone?
Winner: Drew McIntyre
Most NXT call-ups, such as EC3, get lost in the shuffle fairly quickly upon their arrival on the main roster.
Thankfully, that hasn't been the case with Drew McIntyre, who settled into a solid midcard role on Raw soon after debuting on the brand last April for the second time.
Once his alliance with Dolph Ziggler ran its course and they dropped the Raw Tag Team Championship, McIntyre embarked on his own path of destruction. He has only gotten more and more aggressive as the road to WrestleMania has progressed, methodically dividing and conquering The Shield member by member.
With wins over Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins under his belt, he'll be turning his attention to Roman Reigns come WrestleMania 35. They have never before gone one-on-one, and needless to say, it will be a huge opportunity for McIntyre to show that he is the top-tier talent he claims to be.
Reigns has taken part in four consecutive main event matches at WrestleMania since 2015, so McIntyre could be the next Superstar to make a name for himself at the expense of The Big Dog on the grand stage. All he needs is one major victory to catapult himself into the Universal Championship picture.
WWE has done an exceptional job of making a main event-level heel out of McIntyre lately with how well they have booked and protected him, which is more than what can be said for Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley.
Loser: Braun Strowman
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
To his credit, Braun Strowman is still fairly popular with the WWE Universe, but there's no denying that he is far from the same hot commodity he was heading into WrestleMania 34 one year ago.
At the time, he was responsible for wreaking havoc on Raw on a weekly basis and finding new ways to get himself over with the audience.
Following his failure to become Universal champion, however, he resorted to challenging for the Raw Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania. Teaming with a 10-year-old wasn't exactly an ideal situation for him to be in, but if nothing else, the "WrestleMania moment" resulted in him becoming a Raw Tag Team champion.
Not only is Strowman is an even worse position at this year's WrestleMania, he won't be in action on the main card. Rather, he'll be front and center in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the Kickoff show.
Strowman has spent the past month feuding with Colin Jost and Michael from The Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, which basically tells you everything you need to know about how highly he's viewed by the company at the moment. It's more important to WWE to have him in a nonsensical storyline with two celebrities than it is to have him wrestling in a marquee match at 'Mania.
The inconsistent booking of The Monster Among Men in recent years has been damaging to his credibility, to say the least, and it will take quite a bit for him to be taken seriously again coming out of the Show of Shows on Sunday.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.