Kofi Kingston and the Biggest Winners of WWE in 2019December 25, 2019
Kofi Kingston and the Biggest Winners of WWE in 2019
When previously recapping the WWE Superstars who had a rough time in 2019, all the focus was on the bad. Thankfully, there were plenty of Superstars who had amazing accomplishments this year.
For every Epico Colon, who didn't win a single match, there were people like Shayna Baszler and The Viking Raiders who won nearly every match they participated in.
There have been triumphs that need to be celebrated and victors who should be commended for what they achieved.
In no particular order, here are some of the biggest winners in WWE for 2019.
Roman Reigns deserves mention here, as his recovery from leukemia and return to the ring was one of the biggest highlights of 2019, even while his win-loss record wasn't as great compared to previous years.
Rey Mysterio had some struggles, but he managed to win multiple titles, wrestle Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship and usher in the start of his son Dominick's wrestling career.
Lio Rush went from a manager teetering on the edge of being released to making a comeback to win the Cruiserweight Championship.
In relation to that, Angel Garza made his debut for WWE and quickly ascended the ladder to win that cruiserweight title and get engaged to his girlfriend on the very same night.
Erick Rowan's credibility was massively boosted this year, going from years of mediocrity stuck in the tag team division to taking out The Big Dog himself and revitalizing his career.
The women's tag team division finally received a goal to strive for with the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship. WWE hasn't quite utilized that division as well as everyone had hoped, but it was still a big step forward for Superstars like The IIconics to get the opportunity to have a title reign.
Last but certainly not least are Natalya and Lacey Evans. Neither was able to beat Becky Lynch for the Raw Women's Championship, but they did compete in the first-ever women's match in Saudi Arabia. That is an enormous historical accomplishment that deserves a mention on this list no matter what else they did this year.
At the start of 2019, Rhea Ripley was reigning supreme as the NXT UK women's champion. However, it was clear she was holding that title for Toni Storm, who won it at NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool.
The following months weren't as great for Ripley as she mostly feuded with Piper Niven, who had her number more than once.
Then, she went to NXT and was riding a rocket straight to the top.
The 23-year-old was booked strong against Shayna Baszler, who couldn't seem to beat her like she had done so many others like Bianca Belair, Io Shirai and Candice LeRae.
Ripley gained even more momentum during the builds to TakeOver: WarGames and Survivor Series as she was positioned as the team captain for squads in the women's WarGames match and NXT's women's team in the traditional Survivor Series tag team match. She and Keith Lee were arguably the standouts of that pay-per-view season, and she led her teams to victories on both shows.
Everything culminated on the December 18 edition of NXT when Ripley sealed the deal in beating Baszler to become the new NXT women's champion.
If 2019 was the rise of Ripley, 2020 will be the year she dominates the landscape.
On February 17, The Boss 'n' Hug Connection won the women's Elimination Chamber match to be crowned the first-ever WWE women's tag team champions.
Their reign only lasted 49 days, and there wasn't much creative direction during that time, but the record books will forever show that Bayley was an inaugural champion alongside her best friend, Sasha Banks.
After the duo dropped the titles at WrestleMania, it wasn't long before Bayley bounced back, though. The next month, she won the Money in the Bank briefcase and cashed it in later that night to win the SmackDown Women's Championship.
Even after losing it back to Charlotte Flair, Bayley overcame the odds to win it again and remains the top of the division for the blue brand.
To cap it all off, Bayley turned heel n a move that has revitalized her stale character.
Winning an Elimination Chamber match, three titles and a Money in the Bank briefcase along with beating Flair twice is more than most could accomplish in their whole careers, let alone in one year.
Every time R-Truth fades into obscurity, he finds a way to step back into the spotlight.
He's done it in the past with Little Jimmy, Awesome Truth, partnering with Carmella, winning the Mixed Match Challenge and more. This year, the tool he used as a platform to entertain was the 24/7 Championship.
When the title was introduced, it was a mess. The belt was ridiculed for its appearance, the concept was questionable and the way it debuted was confusing, with Mick Foley placing it in the ring for someone to simply grab.
Quickly, though, it became the R-Truth title. He is on his 24th reign with the belt. The next closest is Drake Maverick with six wins. Samir Singh's 16-day stretch has been surpassed for the longest reign, and R-Truth also has the most combined days as champion with well over 100 to his name.
2019 could have seen R-Truth do nothing at all, but he managed to be so entertaining that an entire championship division has revolved around him, and he likely saved this title from being a complete failure.
Success isn't a foreign concept to Brock Lesnar. He's is one of the most dominant Superstars in WWE history, rarely loses and is almost perpetually the top priority in the company.
The Beast Incarnate started this year as universal champion. While he lost the title at WrestleMania, he won the Money in the Bank briefcase one month later. At Extreme Rules on July 14, Lesnar won the title back.
Surprisingly, Lesnar lost the belt again 28 days later at SummerSlam, but he then destroyed Kofi Kingston with one move to win the WWE Championship on SmackDown's Fox debut shortly after.
He then settled a score with Cain Velasquez, beating him at Crown Jewel to offset his loss in the UFC, retained the title over Rey Mysterio at Survivor Series and then took off for a vacation.
Lo and behold, 2020 will start exactly the same way 2019 did, with Lesnar as the top champion of Monday Night Raw, completely undermining every challenge that was put in his way earlier this year.
Of course, to give credit to Lesnar means credit is due to Seth Rollins, too.
After all, he's The Beast Slayer who took down Lesnar both at WrestleMania and SummerSlam, arguably the two biggest shows of the year.
Along the way during his 178 days as champion, Rollins also managed to become a tag team champion again alongside Braun Strowman and get engaged to Becky Lynch.
He suffered a rough patch when feuding with Bray Wyatt and losing the universal title, but it wasn't long before he flipped the script and turned heel, which has saved him from having nowhere to go.
Now, he's the top villain while Lesnar is gone, and if this buzz continues, he may even be in a great position to wrestle CM Punk at WrestleMania 36.
2018 was terrible for Bray Wyatt, as was a good portion of 2019. While he was blessed with his son, Knash, his career was in the doldrums.
Upon his return, though, everything changed. With a new mask and a creepy Mr. Rogers gimmick, Wyatt went from unseen in months to must-watch.
Firefly Fun House quickly became a highlight of Raw, and his popularity soared to heights it hadn't reached in years, which resulted in his victory at Crown Jewel.
Now, as universal champion and the top heel on SmackDown, The Fiend looks unstoppable for the first time since 2013.
"We are NXT" is a slogan that is part marketing campaign and part truth, as it embodies the mentality most on that brand seem to have.
By and large, the Superstars who go through NXT have a reverence for the black-and-gold brand, their fellow roster members and the experience as a whole.
As a unit, NXT has to be commended for having a fantastic 2019, since the brand took some major steps forward over these 12 months.
Every TakeOver featured multiple Match of the Year candidates, and NXT UK even had its first two pay-per-views.
The TV show gained a second hour and was bumped up to USA, which gets many more potential eyes on the product than when it was a WWE Network exclusive. That is a big boost to NXT's value.
While the ratings war with AEW has favored Dynamite rather consistently, NXT gained ground very fast, tying, beating or coming close many times in recent weeks.
NXT also stole the show during the build to Survivor Series and walked away the winning brand, despite being the underdog in the fight.
This was undoubtedly the best year NXT has ever had.
The Undisputed Era
If anyone is looking for a linchpin of NXT's success, the best candidates are probably The Undisputed Era.
Ever since coming into WWE, these four have been among the most reliable performers in the entire company. They rarely disappoint, as nearly every match any of them compete in is gold.
At the start of 2019, they predicted the stable would hold all the gold in NXT during the year, and they managed to do just that.
Adam Cole had a series of Match of the Year bouts against Johnny Gargano and captured the NXT Championship in the process. Eventually, Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish won the tag titles for a record third time. Then, Roderick Strong fulfilled the prophecy when he secured the North American Championship.
These four deserve all the praise they get. Even among such greats as Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Velveteen Dream and more, they are core leaders in driving NXT forward.
The New Day
The New Day often spoke of a theoretical scenario that if one of them were to win a singles title, they would all look at it as the group becoming champion. In 2019, that became a reality.
When Kofi Kingston replaced Mustafa Ali on the Road to WrestleMania, it led to a rare storm of momentum that built to a fever pitch. Fans were rabid for KofiMania.
Then, the impossible happened. Kingston actually won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania in one of the best moments in the event's history.
The power of positivity prevailed for many months as Kingston went from someone who had no shot at a title reign to a legitimate champion who proved himself time and time again.
In July, The New Day also captured the SmackDown tag team titles, so every member held gold at the same time.
Although Kingston lost the WWE Championship in October, he and Big E won the tag titles yet again November 8 and continue to defend them, even while Xavier Woods deals with an unfortunate Achilles injury.
To round out their 2019, the trio got their very own podcast in The New Day: Feel the Power, which is another platform for them to entertain and boost their value going forward.
If this list were ranked, the only person who could possibly be seen as higher than Kingston would have to be Becky Lynch.
As she built up steam in 2018, her popularity soared to undeniable heights, but an injury prior to Survivor Series almost messed everything up. Instead, through an odd stroke of luck, it was the best thing for her.
Despite losing her title at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2018 and coming up short against Asuka at Royal Rumble 2019, The Man entered the 30-woman battle royal and walked—or, rather, limped—out with a victory.
Winning the Royal Rumble is already a massive feat, but she was just getting started.
This culminated in Lynch winning the first-ever women's main event of WrestleMania, in which she also became the first Superstar to ever hold both the Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships at the same time.
"Becky Two Belts" didn't last long, as she dropped the SmackDown title at Money in the Bank, but The Man has remained champion of Raw ever since.
Over these months, she has been the focal point in WWE and became the first woman to grace the cover of a WWE 2K game.
She main-evented several more cards and has even avoided becoming someone the fans turn on, which happens to far too many people once they reach the top, and she got engaged.
There's no doubt who The Man was in 2019.
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.