WWE and AEW Stars Who Have Made the Biggest Jump in 2019
Regardless of which product you've enjoyed more this year, there can be little doubt WWE and All Elite Wrestling have scored some major names for their respective rosters in 2019.
AEW burst onto the scene by announcing a loaded lineup of wrestlers from the get-go including Cody, The Young Bucks and Adam Page, but it was their signing of Chris Jericho that helped put them on the map. Likewise, WWE recruited a handful of notable names to NXT and made major moves with some of the Superstars on the main roster.
It was imperative for 2019 to be a year of significant changes, and it's safe to say both WWE and AEW succeeded in that sense.
Raw received a cosmetic makeover a few months ago, SmackDown premiered on Fox, and NXT made the move to USA Network. AEW has also been critically acclaimed opposite the black-and-gold brand on Wednesday nights by producing compelling content week after week.
A newsworthy jump doesn't necessarily have to entail a star from one promotion leaving for another. In fact, it could be as simple as a star from Raw, SmackDown or NXT finding a new home on a different brand and making the most of their new surroundings.
It will be exciting to see what both promotions have in store for fans as 2020 quickly approaches, but in the meantime, let's look at the moves that highlighted 2019.
Chris Jericho (WWE to AEW)
If Chris Jericho leads your list of 2019's most valuable players in not only AEW but all of wrestling, you aren't wrong.
It's hard to believe that at this stage of his career—almost 30 years in—Jericho remains one of wrestling's hottest commodities. Despite that, he continues to carve out an incredible legacy for himself both inside and outside the ring, with 2019 being perhaps one of his best all-around years yet.
Days removed from his loss of the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 13, Jericho was announced as the first major signing for AEW. Although he appeared at All In a few months prior, his move to the new promotion came as a bit of a surprise to those who expected him to return to WWE, where he has been for the better part of the past two decades.
The 49-year-old brought instant legitimacy to AEW and was promoted as one of its top talents from the get-go by beating Kenny Omega in the main event of Double or Nothing. From there, he became the inaugural AEW world champion in another excellent clash with Adam Page at All In.
AEW Dynamite has basically been the "Chris Jericho Show" in recent months. He has consistently been the best part about the program and has been putting in exceptional performances in the ring to boot, proving that leaving WWE gave him new life and the fresh start he desperately needed.
AJ Styles (SmackDown to Raw)
AJ Styles was a great get for SmackDown Live when the Brand Extension was brought back in the summer of 2016. It was there where he found his footing as a main event player and became a two-time WWE champion (with his second reign lasting over a year).
By April 2019, he had virtually accomplished everything he could on the blue brand and thus it was time for him to make the move over to Monday nights. Thanks to the 2019 Superstar Shake-Up, he officially became a member of the Raw roster for the first time in his career and wasted no time in making an impact.
Styles set his sights on the Universal Championship and had an outstanding match with Seth Rollins at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Although he was unsuccessful in taking the title, he did capture the United States belt soon after and turned heel alongside Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.
The O.C. reuniting was the best thing that could have happened to all three men as well as Raw. Whenever Rollins dropped the ball in whatever angle he was a part of, Styles gave fans something worth tuning in for, regardless of whether it was an above-average match or promo.
The Phenomenal One recently dropped the star-spangled prize to Rey Mysterio, but he appears to be more concerned with exacting revenge on Randy Orton at the moment. Once that rivalry runs its course, he should find himself back in the world title mix before long.
Kenny Omega (NJPW to AEW)
Like Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega was also in action at Wrestle Kingdom 13 at the onset of 2019, though it was a much more emotional evening for him considering the incredible run he had there dating back almost a decade.
Omega walked into the event as the IWGP heavyweight champion, but everyone was aware he was on his way out. Sure enough, he dropped the title that night to Hiroshi Tanahashi and took one final bow for the audience in attendance at the Tokyo Dome.
Although he reportedly came close to inking a deal with WWE, The Cleaner ultimately ended up in AEW with the rest of his pals in The Elite. It had been years since American fans had the pleasure of seeing him compete regularly in the States, which was huge for his career in itself.
He will be forever remembered for participating in the first main event in AEW pay-per-view history against Jericho. Even in defeat, he proved his worth as one of the company's most talented performers.
Unfortunately, AEW has yet to fully capitalize on his popularity by having him endure losses at the hands of Pac and Jon Moxley. He'll be back in that top spot eventually, and there is something to be said for the company taking its time in building him up to be the featured face of the promotion.
Roman Reigns (Raw to SmackDown)
AJ Styles wasn't the only notable name to switch shows in the 2019 Superstar Shake-Up, as Roman Reigns also found a new home on SmackDown in April.
The Big Dog ruled the roost on Raw for years and beat everyone put in front of him. He was also ready for a change of scenery and SmackDown has provided that for him as well as a fresh batch of opponents to work with.
While he didn't light the blue brand on fire at first in his feud with Elias, he did slowly regain momentum by beating Shane McMahon at Extreme Rules before setting his sights on Erick Rowan. It took time for him to overcome that obstacle, but even the former Wyatt Family member fell to Reigns eventually.
These days, The Big Dog finds himself embroiled in a heated rivalry with King Corbin that sadly isn't very exciting. It's likely only a means to an end, though, with Reigns stacking up more victories en route to recapturing the Universal Championship he never lost last year.
Reigns hasn't been positioned as the face of Friday Night SmackDown quite yet, but he will get there in time. Either way, he's far more likable and compelling as a character on SmackDown than he ever was during his run on Raw.
Jon Moxley (WWE to AEW)
The former Dean Ambrose had a stranger start to 2019 than anyone else when WWE announced his contract with the company was coming to an end and he had no intentions of sticking around.
That put him in an awkward position for the remainder of his run, with everyone well-aware the company had no plans to do anything of note with him before he left.
Rather, WWE allowed his contract to expire and came to the conclusion he wasn't re-signing. One month removed from his last televised match in WWE, Jon Moxley surfaced at AEW's first pay-per-view, Double or Nothing, and shook the wrestling world to its core.
It was evident from the way he walked to the ring that night in Las Vegas that he felt free and was a new man entirely. He managed to maintain that buzz by winning his debut match for the promotion against Joey Janela at Fyter Fest and brawling with Kenny Omega at the end of AEW Dynamite's debut episode.
Their bad blood led to them waging war in a vicious non-sanctioned match in the main event of Full Gear last month. Although the bout was beloved by some and despised by others, it ended in a decisive victory for Moxley that has put him at the front of the line for a shot at the AEW World Championship.
Fans didn't really know how handcuffed Moxley was creatively until he was allowed to let loose in AEW. Now we've seen this side of him, it's difficult to envision him ever being anything less again.
Finn Balor (SmackDown to NXT)
Before 2019, it was rare to see a Raw or SmackDown Superstar move to NXT on a full-time basis. A handful of wrestlers have done it over the years, but never anyone on the elite level of Finn Balor.
The longest-reigning NXT champion in history made a shocking return to the black-and-gold brand on the October 2 episode of the show following a successful title defense from NXT champion Adam Cole over Matt Riddle. This came after Balor was drafted from Raw to SmackDown in April but accomplished next to nothing before taking time off from WWE TV.
Balor being back in NXT wasn't something fans knew they wanted until it happened. He went weeks without explaining his motives for returning until betraying Johnny Gargano out of nowhere to cement his status as a heel for the first time in WWE.
Gone are the days of The Demon, as The Prince is back in full force and has shown no signs of slowing down any time soon. His terrific match with Matt Riddle at NXT TakeOver: WarGames III ended in a win and led him to beating Tommaso Ciampa days later on NXT TV.
It's clear he is willing to go to great lengths to get the NXT Championship around his waist again and that no one is safe from his path of destruction. With his recent run in NXT, Balor has merely confirmed what many fans already knew: NXT is the place to be.
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.