10 WWE Superstars Poised for Big Pushes for Rest of 2019
If one thing is for certain, it's that 2019 has proved to be the year of the underdog in WWE, with many unheralded stars getting their time to shine since WrestleMania 35.
Seth Rollins surpassing Roman Reigns as Raw's top dog seemed to be inevitable, but Becky Lynch taking her rightful spot as the face of WWE's women's division was something no one would have seen coming a year ago. The same can be said for Kofi Kingston, who rose to superstardom ahead of WrestleMania before clinching the WWE Championship for the first time in his career on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
The undercard hasn't been forgotten about, either. Look no further than the latest episodes of Raw and SmackDown Live, which saw Cedric Alexander have a stellar showing against Drew McIntyre and Buddy Murphy take Roman Reigns to his limit.
Say what you will about WWE's on-air product failing to generate excitement among fans this year, but at least the company has shown interest in pushing a few different fresh faces recently. The return of the King of the Ring tournament should lead to even more up-and-comers breaking out and stealing the spotlight.
With four months remaining in 2019, there is plenty of time for roster members to step up and grab that proverbial brass ring. Whether they're already in the midst of a push or on the verge of one, expect these 10 talents to be prominently featured over the remainder of the year.
There's no reason to think that KofiMania will be stopping any time soon if the reactions he's been receiving have been any indication.
Sure, the Toronto crowd didn't sound too pleased with the finish to his SummerSlam match against Randy Orton, but it's hard to blame them. Overall, the feud has been excellent, and it's great that it will continue at least through Clash of Champions. But there were better ways of accomplishing that without having their encounter end in anticlimactic fashion.
Either way, if Orton didn't take the title from Kingston there, it's safe to say he probably won't win the rematch. The Viper has no business being the one to relieve Kingston of the championship this year, especially when there are so many others still waiting in the wings for a shot at the strap.
Kingston won't be WWE champion forever and is likely closer to the end of his reign than the beginning, but there can be no doubt he has cemented his status as a main event player and will be a fixture toward the top of the card on SmackDown Live for the remainder of 2019.
It will be interesting to see how he's handled once he inevitably drops the title, but the chances of him returning to midcard purgatory after the success he's had as WWE champion are slim to none. Expect him to continue competing at the highest level on Tuesday nights for as long as the fans want to see him there.
It's astounding how quickly Seth Rollins has cooled off from when he won the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35 to now. That isn't to say the fans have turned on him completely, but like his better half, Becky Lynch, the aftermath of his monumental 'Mania moment has left a lot to be desired.
Rollins' reign as universal champion coming out of the Show of Shows didn't exactly light the world on fire, largely because his feud with Baron Corbin dragged on far longer than it should have. Just as he was starting to find his footing in the role, he abruptly dropped the title to Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules via a Money in the Bank cash-in.
Between his lackluster mic work to questionable things he's said in interviews outside of it, The Beast Slayer simply isn't on the same roll he was a year ago. However, he rebounded in a big way when he beat Lesnar to reclaim the Universal Championship at SummerSlam and kick off his second stint with the strap.
WWE must rectify its wrongs with Rollins by giving him credible competition. Braun Strowman, AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, Samoa Joe and Ricochet all come to mind as potential opponents who would make for exciting matchups.
With no one else remotely near the top of the totem pole on Raw right now (aside from possibly Braun Strowman after what was seen on Monday night), it's virtually a guarantee that Rollins will remain the face of the flagship show through the rest of 2019 at the very least.
Despite having a handful of standout showings in his first year as a member of the main roster against the likes of AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan, Andrade largely flew under the radar and was hardly involved in anything of note.
Since the Superstar Shake-Up, he has come close to capturing the Intercontinental Championship and beaten Rey Mysterio on back-to-back episodes of Raw. He's riding a wave of momentum heading into the King of Ring tournament, and even if he doesn't win, he should at least make it to the semifinals.
Win or lose, it feels like WWE is starting to realize what it has in Andrade. He's a tremendous talent with a ton of upside, especially with the incomparable Zelina Vega serving as his mouthpiece.
Imagine the matches he could contest with Kofi Kingston over the WWE Championship. Not too many fans have pitched the idea of Andrade beating the Ghana native for the title, and as far-fetched as it sounds, it could be a possibility if WWE builds up Andrade enough in the coming months.
SmackDown Live is the perfect place for him to thrive and evolve into the world champion-caliber competitor he has the potential to be. Keep an eye on Andrade throughout King of the Ring and expect big things from him shortly thereafter.
Speaking of strong candidates to win this year's King of the Ring tournament, Drew McIntyre has to be toward the top of that list as well. Realistically, he should have been fighting for a world title at the onset of 2019, but better late than never.
It's rare for a talent to come up through NXT and find success on the main roster, but McIntyre did just that. He reigned as Raw tag team champion in the second half of 2018 and scored various victories over future universal champion Seth Rollins.
Unfortunately, his alliances with Baron Corbin and Shane McMahon hurt him in the long run, even though he should have broken out as a singles star months ago. His losses to Roman Reigns didn't help his cause, either, but winning King of the Ring would unquestionably be a game-changer for him.
He hasn't appeared alongside Shane in a few weeks, not to mention he was nowhere to be seen during Shane's match against Kevin Owens at SummerSlam. Fingers crossed that's a sign WWE is serious about keeping him away from the prodigal son of the McMahon family.
McIntyre is fresh off an awesome outing with Cedric Alexander on Raw, where he successfully showcased his skills to the WWE Universe and, more importantly, the powers that be backstage. With every tool necessary to go far in WWE, he is bound to be holding singles gold by the close of 2019.
Based off her impressive resume on WWE's main roster, most would automatically expect greatness from Charlotte Flair, but 2019 has been far from her best year.
Aside from a fluke victory over Becky Lynch at Money in the Bank, Flair went win-loss on pay-per-view this year until knocking off Trish Stratus in a dream match at SummerSlam. That contest served as a reminder of how special of a talent she is and propelled her back into the SmackDown Women's Championship conversation.
Flair followed up that career-defining victory with a win over Ember Moon on SmackDown Live, so it sure seems like she's on the right trajectory for a feud with champion Bayley. It can be argued that Flair was overexposed at a certain point last year and needed a break from the title scene.
Then again, she's been off WWE TV for the better part of the past three months and feels fresher than she has in a long time. She and Bayley should have an awesome series of matches with each other if their feud from 2017 on Raw is anything to go by.
The Flair family scion didn't compete for a championship at SummerSlam yet had one of the better bouts of the night. In other words, Flair clinching her 10th title at some point in 2019 is all but a lock.
Say what you will about Sasha Banks' decision to take time off from WWE following WrestleMania 35, but she came off like a bigger star than anyone else on the Raw roster when she made her highly anticipated return Monday night.
In one segment, Banks became the most talked-about talent on the show when she laid out Natalya in brutal fashion. She then carried out a similar act of violence on Raw women's champion Becky Lynch, cementing her heel turn in the process.
Heel Banks is something a lot of longtime viewers have waited for, and it couldn't have come a better time. There is a still a contingent of fans who weren't happy about her "walking about" (whether that was the case has yet to be confirmed) and were going to shower her in boos no matter what she did to endear herself to the audience.
Plus, Lynch desperately needed a rival to work with after her feuds with Lacey Evans and Natalya fell flat. She and Banks haven't wrestled each other much since their NXT days, but what we have seen from them in the ring has been excellent.
Unless Ronda Rousey returns sooner than expected, it's safe to assume that Banks will be Raw women's champion again before long. She's the top heel the division needs and should breathe new life into the women's evolution, which has been on the back-burner in recent months.
After wasting so much time earlier this year begging for someone to "knock on his door," it was about time Aleister Black made an impact.
At July's Extreme Rules pay-per-view, he defeated Cesaro in highly physical and entertaining affair. Their rematch two nights later on SmackDown Live was equally excellent and further solidified Black as a force to be reckoned with.
However, aside from a quick win over Sami Zayn on the August 6 episode (a match that was originally rumored for SummerSlam), he has yet to enter a meaningful program with anyone on the roster. It's great he's stacking up victories against established midcarders, but he will need more than that to ascend to the next level on Tuesday nights.
The way WWE has handled him is encouraging, though. He has yet to be beaten one-on-one, so clearly the promotion sees him as a top prospect and not someone it will forget about in two weeks.
It isn't imperative that he contends for the Intercontinental Championship anytime soon, but a feud with a notable name such as Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler or Daniel Bryan would do him wonders. While this wouldn't be in 2019, is it too soon to be calling Black an early dark horse to win the 2020 Royal Rumble?
AJ Styles had a career year in 2018, when he reigned as WWE champion up until November before failing to regain the gold from Daniel Bryan. His move to Raw, as well as his recent heel turn, was exactly what he needed to rejuvenate his stale persona and return him to relevance.
Better yet, he has buddies Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows by his side, and together, they are the most powerful entity on Raw. It didn't take long for The O.C. to win all the gold, with Styles capturing the United States Championship and Gallows and Anderson securing the Raw Tag Team Championships.
On Monday, Styles stepped up to universal champion Seth Rollins in an attempt to prove who the superior champion was. Their match ended in a disqualification, which obviously means they have unfinished business and will rekindle their rivalry eventually.
In the meantime, Styles is doing incredibly well for himself right where he's at. He's the king of the midcard scene and can have a ton of fun feuds with everyone from Rey Mysterio and Cedric Alexander to Braun Strowman and The Miz.
The O.C.'s reunion was the best thing that could have happened to Styles and at just the right time too. He's in his element as a heel and is one of the top reasons to tune into Raw every Monday night.
Kevin Owens went from being left off the WrestleMania 35 card to being pushed aggressively as one of the faces of SmackDown Live within a matter of months.
That has less to do with his storyline with Shane McMahon and more to do with how great of a babyface he has become. The reaction to his interaction with Shane on Tuesday's SmackDown showed that fans are ready for Owens to move on from this feud and take his rightful place in the WWE Championship picture.
Regardless of what the immediate future holds for him, at least he's back near the main event scene—where he belongs. Crowds are going wild for him and his "Stone Cold" Steve Austin-esque antics, though at some point he will have to create his own identity and not be booked the exact same way other rebellious babyfaces have been in the past.
Owens was unsuccessful in taking the title from Kofi Kingston earlier this year, but that shouldn't be the case the next time he's given a chance to compete for the championship. With his level of popularity and skills in the ring and on the mic, he is capable of carrying the show on his back going in 2020.
Again, though, he will first have to escape this rivalry with Shane and get back to working with Superstars he can have quality matches with. WWE must capitalize on the connection he has with the crowd and keep him in a prominent spot on the show.
If you don't agree that Bray Wyatt stole the show at SummerSlam before he even stepped in the ring, then you must have been watching a different event.
Fans have been buzzing about Wyatt and his new Fiend/Firefly Fun House characters for months, and his in-ring return lived up to the hype. Following his epic entrance, he squashed Finn Balor in decisive fashion.
Wyatt was nowhere to be seen on the subsequent episodes of Raw and SmackDown Live, so what WWE has in mind for him going forward and who he will target next is uncertain. Either way, the company would be foolish to not book him to look unstoppable for as long as possible.
WWE has struck gold with this character. This can be the promotion's chance to redeem themselves for how badly it booked Wyatt years ago. And if done properly, it will have a real star on its hands.
Truth be told, it wouldn't be out of the question for Wyatt to be wearing world title gold around his waist before the end of 2019. Neither Seth Rollins nor Kofi Kingston is safe from his reign of terror, but for now, Wyatt should continue to annihilate everyone who stands in his way of taking over WWE.
Similar to AJ Styles, Wyatt is among an elite few stars fans will go out of their way to check out on Raw or SmackDown just to see what he's up to. Whether he's cutting promos in the Firefly Fun House or wreaking havoc as The Fiend, Wyatt is sure to have an exciting and prosperous rest of 2019 and beyond.
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.