Andrade and 12 WWE Stars Poised for Big Push This Summer
With the Superstar Shake-up and Money in the Bank out of the way, it's time for WWE to focus on plans for the next few months leading up to SummerSlam 2019.
While sorting out ideas for Super ShowDown, Stomping Grounds, Extreme Rules and everything else along the way, certain Superstars will undoubtedly be focal points WWE wishes to showcase in high-profile matches for those events.
Naturally, some of the obvious names like Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins will always be at the forefront of WWE programming, but there are others in a lesser spot right now who are starting to make waves that show they may also be prioritized during the summer stretch.
Keeping in mind how plans can change any minute, here are 12 Superstars who seem to be gearing up for a significant push over the coming months.
Going into Money in the Bank, Andrade was arguably one of the best possible choices to take the briefcase home. It didn't pan out, but that won't be his one and only time to succeed in WWE.
He's already been granted an Intercontinental Championship match against Finn Balor for Super ShowDown, and there is a solid chance he can walk away with the title.
Andrade's English has improved considerably, which has allowed him to cut more promos alongside Zelina Vega, who is just as great of a manager as she's always been. The pair has great chemistry in and out of the ring, as well as backstage.
His relationship with Charlotte Flair certainly won't hurt his chances of being pushed, either, but his high-quality work is the main reason he will succeed.
WWE always wants to tap into the Hispanic market and has tried to do that in the past with Alberto Del Rio, Sin Cara, Kalisto and others, so while Rey Mysterio can take care of that on Monday Night Raw, Andrade will be the focal point on SmackDown.
Don't be surprised if Andrade is challenging for the WWE Championship by the time Survivor Series rolls around after spending the summer as intercontinental champion.
The card is always subject to change, but for quite a while now, Baron Corbin has been advertised as fighting for the Universal Championship at Extreme Rules.
Seth Rollins has his work cut out for him against folks like Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre, but those two are better saved for later down the line as the ones who could actually beat him for the title.
Corbin, on the other hand, is exactly the type of heel WWE could give a bump to, position as a contender for a lower-level event like Extreme Rules, and have come up short to help pad out The Beast Slayer's title reign time.
In order to get that bump, though, Corbin will need to build some momentum by doing something like winning the 50-Man Battle Royal at Super ShowDown or defeating other Superstars in a No. 1 contender's match.
This next month, in particular, may be one of the best for the former general manager of Monday Night Raw.
The Viking Raiders
Ivar and Erik had a rough start to their main roster run with the incredibly lame Viking Experience name, but one week later, The Viking Raiders got back on track.
As super tough heels in a division with rather weak babyface champions they've already beaten, it's only a matter of time before The Viking Raiders obtain the Raw Tag Team Championship.
Frankly, it's surprising WWE hasn't already pulled the trigger on this, but with so many other things in play, like the Wild Card Rule and 24/7 Championship, plans for the title change may have just been put on the back burner for a later date.
It's inevitable, though. Once Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins square off against Erik and Ivar with the belts on the line, they will lose them, and The Viking Raiders will start a dominant reign on top of the Raw tag team division.
For all the hype surrounding his character over the past six years, Bray Wyatt hasn't been able to fully crack the code to becoming a true main event player.
He's had his brushes with being on top after major feuds with John Cena, The Undertaker, Roman Reigns and even a short WWE Championship run and program with Randy Orton, but this past year hasn't been kind to him.
A reboot of sorts was needed, and the Firefly Fun House vignettes seem to be accomplishing that goal in spades, as this is the first time people have buzzed about Wyatt in quite a while.
It's still not clear just how much of an investment WWE has in pushing Wyatt in terms of the in-ring side of the sports entertainment equation, but he's at least getting featured air time every single week, which is more than most Superstars can say.
Likely, Wyatt will return and start a rather big feud with someone like Braun Strowman or The Miz, but he may even go straight to working with Rollins for the Universal Championship.
WWE wouldn't have spent the time and money creating this new incarnation of The Eater of Worlds just for it to be for nothing, so whether it's next week or further in the future, when Wyatt returns, he'll be a rather big deal.
Nikki Cross was completely ignored in the Superstar Shake-up, as she was left without any announcement of which brand she belonged to.
It's doubtful that was ever planned, but WWE decided to spin that into a new character for her, focusing less on her disturbed side in order to make her more sympathetic.
Now, she's been paired up with Alexa Bliss, who is arguably the best talker in the women's division who can sell this storyline, which can go in any number of directions.
If Bliss is just using Cross, fans will be invested in seeing her break the spell and teach The Goddess a lesson. On the other hand, they could legitimately become friends, and if it catches on, the Women's Tag Team Championship could be in their sights.
Cross is in the infancy of heading toward some kind of championship contention, be it singles or tag team, with it all revolving around how Bliss can push her character from a popular second-stringer on NXT to a featured player on Monday Night Raw.
There is absolutely no way Bayley will be able to hold the SmackDown Women's Championship without crossing paths with Mandy Rose, who has been on the cusp of a major push for quite some time.
In fact, it may not be too bold of a statement to say that Rose is the top contender to take the title away from Bayley, provided WWE doesn't just give it back to Charlotte Flair for her 10th reign.
The feud writes itself, as Bayley is a representation of childlike fun, believing in yourself and promoting positivity, whereas Rose is a typical self-centered villain who drags other people down for her own amusement.
At some point this summer, there will be a storyline where Rose makes fun of Bayley's looks in comparison to her own, playing up the "mean girl" stereotype and striking a chord with fans who absolutely hate seeing women like Rose come out on top because of their physical attributes.
The only way to really maximize the heat in that angle would be to give the belt to Rose, so by the time SummerSlam rolls along, expect to see her holding the SmackDown Women's Championship.
While Buddy Murphy is immensely talented, his absence on SmackDown since the Superstar Shake-up doesn't bode well for his future. However, Aleister Black is in a completely different boat.
He's been put on the sidelines just the same, but WWE has made sure fans haven't forgotten about him through the use of promos that attempt to dive deeper into his psyche and explain his character's roots.
This is setting the stage for when he makes his return to action, wherein he'll likely be put straight into a feud with a relatively big name like Kevin Owens, Andrade or even Randy Orton.
Black came up short in his quest to obtain tag team gold with Ricochet, but both men were treated fairly well in that stint of being part-timers on the main roster. Now that they are officially in the mix, it's only a matter of time before Black becomes a big deal on SmackDown.
In particular, when Finn Balor drops the Intercontinental Championship and moves up to being more of a main event star fighting for the WWE title, watch out for Black to take his place as a top contender for the midcard belt, as well as an upper-midcard challenger.
Despite the controversy surrounding him, it doesn't appear as though WWE is slowing down on pushing Lars Sullivan any time soon.
That's good news for his fans, as he'll be beating up random members of both the Raw and SmackDown rosters until WWE feels its time to put him in a real feud with someone, whom he'll inevitably defeat.
Sullivan will be protected for months to come, as he's the pet project monster in grooming to present the biggest obstacle for Reigns to fight.
That match may even be on the SummerSlam card if WWE gets too antsy and rushes things. But if WWE has more patience and wants to drag this out even longer, Sullivan will still be dead in the middle of his unstoppable run during this summer.
The Kabuki Warriors
The IIconics were never going to be credible as tag team champions, as Peyton Royce and Billie Kay simply don't have characters that win matches based on any kind of skill.
On the other hand, the new team of Asuka and Kairi Sane, aka The Kabuki Warriors, do have immense credibility behind them.
The Empress of Tomorrow was undefeated for more matches than Goldberg and has still only lost to a few Superstars, whereas The Pirate Princess is a former NXT women's champion in her own right, as well as the winner of the 2017 Mae Young Classic tournament.
The Kabuki Warriors have already earned the right to challenge for the Women's Tag Team Championship, and it seems like a done deal they will win those titles and carry them into the summer with pride.
Mustafa Ali lost his first name and a spot in the Elimination Chamber in the past few months, but it appears as though he's on an upward trajectory at the moment.
Ali was the last person holding on to the Money in the Bank briefcase before Brock Lesnar swooped in and stole it, showing there was serious potential for him to be the winner.
He recently had a WWE Chronicle special dedicated to him in order to get the WWE Universe more familiar with his backstory, which will only do him more favors as a babyface.
This past week, a point was even made to start referring to him as The Heart of SmackDown Live, similar to how he used to go by the moniker of The Heart of 205 Live. While it's just a nickname, it could be how WWE truly views him.
It would be unrealistic to think Ali will hold the WWE Championship this summer, but he is definitely one of the top picks to become intercontinental champion in 2019, and his win over Andrade on this week's SmackDown illustrates that point.
There may even be a time when he wins a No. 1 contender's match and gets a shot at Kofi Kingston's title to play off how The Dreadlocked Dynamo took his spot at Elimination Chamber.
If his momentum continues the way it's been going, Ali will build up a lot of steam and be a much bigger deal by the time SummerSlam comes along.
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.