And why not? 2019 is a clean slate, and theoretically, WWE could right the creative ship in the forthcoming new year. Maybe we'll finally get a product that matches the satisfactory feeling we get watching NXT, and perhaps WWE will figure out a way to make Monday Night Raw just as heartily-consumable as its SmackDown counterpart? Maybe WWE can cast some sort of magic spell over the product, figuring out how to end the murky cloud of negativity that wafts through WWE's social media circles?
Okay, that last thing will probably never happen (social media and negativity are the peanut butter and jelly of the modern age), but we still can look forward to WWE's 2019 output. Though we're certain there will be things worth mockery and ridicule, there will also be good tidings for us to get excited about.
This article was penned before Vince McMahon's "shake things up-athon" on the December 17 Raw.
10. WrestleMania Weekend In General
Even the most jaded wrestling fan finds their idealism swelling up as the days of March and early-April whittle down to WrestleMania weekend. While it'd be a convenient cheat to note all of the outside promotions that run mind-blowing events that same weekend in 'Mania's region, we can stick to solely WWE-related matters here, because WrestleMania time usually gets the heart going unto itself.
NXT TakeOver, the Hall of Fame ceremony, WrestleMania itself, and the post-Mania Raw and SmackDown that feature NXT call-ups - it's a five-day orgy of decadence that brings out the best in many fans, even if WrestleMania itself doesn't live up to expectations. The point is, the entire weekend always gets the pulse going, and even the "they'll screw it up somehow" armchair critics (I include myself here) will indulge their inner child for a little while.
9. More TakeOvers
Here's an easy one: the show that seemingly cannot be screwed up in any way. Quick, what's the worst TakeOver ever? The one from San Antonio in 2017, where Bobby Roode won the belt? And that's what, like a B- show at worst? How about picking the worst TakeOver from the five in 2018? Almost impossible to do, isn't it?
We're bestowed five events in a calendar year that are seemingly custom made to our highest tastes and expectations, and WWE delivered five certified gems over the past year. And with NXT UK getting their own spate of TakeOvers beginning with the Blackpool event in January, it stands to reason that the output of high-quality wrestling will only grow in volume. Again, this is an easy point, but it's there for the taking.
8. The Superstar Shake-Up
Another slam dunk of a point, just because we value freshness in our product. At this point, Raw's creative has the consistency of stagnant pond water, and while SmackDown is subjectively better, it's not like the show is at its creative zenith. The Shake-Up that is now a staple of the spring (in lieu of a draft) will freshen things up a tad, as it always does.
There will be crossovers that make people mad, like when a cherished SmackDown star goes to Raw, and everyone cries "no, they're gonna screw them up!" But getting away from that sort of melodrama, the Shake-Up allows for wrestlers to get new leases on life, new presentation, and at least makes the shows feel different - until everything becomes stagnant again. But for that little while...
7. WALTER In NXT UK
NXT UK is still finding its feet at the moment, but certainly has the potential to be a dynamic product once it takes shape. And one man who can help it develop its form is one of greatest old-school wrestlers walking the planet today - the unyielding Austrian iceman known as WALTER.
Whether he's chopping a foe down like an oak tree, or instilling the fear of God in opponents through his frightening aura, WALTER exudes genuine star quality, as he blends relentless brutality with a cultured theatricality that makes him one of the most exciting performers in the business to watch. One wonders what sort of magic the PROGRESS World Champion will create as part of WWE's European expansion, particularly with so many skilled grapplers that would complement his copious talents.
6. Return Of The Bludgeon Brothers
One assumes that in 2019, we'll see the re-emergence of one of the better powerhouse duos to pass through WWE in some time. We may have scoffed at the oversized hammers and unusual ring attire, but Luke Harper and Erick Rowan make for a damn good tag team, and had found their groove as looming monster champions over on the SmackDown side.
Their four-plus month reign as Tag Team champions ended after SummerSlam when Rowan had to undergo surgery for a torn bicep. Harper would wind up on the mend not long after due to a wrist injury, and both will likely be ready to go at some point during the new year. Perhaps with the Superstar Shake-Up coming, maybe they cross over to Raw to pose a challenge to the mighty AOP?
5. Return Of Kevin Owens And Sami Zayn
One could argue that these two are arguments *against* the Superstar Shake-Up, since their dual migration to Raw (albeit not actually in said Shake-Up, but rather as free agents) is that momentum can be lost on different shows. Zayn got stuck in a horrid feud with Bobby Lashley, while Owens became Braun Strowman's tackling dummy on a weekly basis.
But at their best, they're two performers that boast a high blend of in-ring talent and charisma, and they're both also sidelined at the moment. Owens had surgery on both knees back in October, while Zayn needed both rotator cuffs repaired at the start of summer. Both men were sidelined by Bobby Lashley, so perhaps dual revenge could be coming, and that maybe Lio Rush himself will taste a hearty Helluva Kick.
4. A Healthy Braun Strowman
Full disclosure: I wanted to include a healthy Roman Reigns in this list, and I certainly wish the absolute best for him and his family, but his recovery timetable is a little more ambiguous, so I didn't want to presume that 2019 would for certain be the year he gets the all-clear (though I certainly hope that it is, and I'm sure you do as well).
Strowman's injury was relatively minor (bone spurs in his elbow), but for WWE's sake, they could usually a fully-healthy "Monster Among Men" in 2019. There aren't too many babyfaces that have connected with the audience to the extent that Strowman has, and a man of Strowman's presence and aura should be the face of the company. WWE, especially Raw, lacks a hero at this point, and with few other real options (Seth Rollins? Finn Balor?), the company needs Braun to be at his best over the coming year and beyond.
3. SmackDown On FOX
The promotional blitz began in earnest during a Thursday Night NFL game on FOX, when Tennessee Titans fan Jeff Jarrett appeared during a pre-game ritual, prompting announcer Joe Buck to hype up SmackDown's 4 October 2019 debut on the network. With a new home comes new possibilities for SmackDown, especially with some of the rumoured changes that could be coming.
It's been noted that FOX wants a more sports-oriented show out of WWE, which could put the kibosh on some of the more hackneyed comedy bits that have been a staple of WWE's for some time. UFC Heavyweight Champion (and noted wrestling fan) Daniel Cormier was reportedly in the running for a commentary spot, which would increase the sporting prestige. Whatever happens, SmackDown could be a radically different show come the fall of 2019. Will it be for the better? We'll just have to wait and see.
2. The Direction Of Daniel Bryan's Character
Maybe it's impossible to recapture the magic of the "YES Movement" that had overwhelmed WWE in 2013-14, but I admit that I was still taken aback when Bryan kicked AJ Styles in the plums during their WWE Championship bout in November. Bryan as a heel? With as much love and respect he's garnered? Would that even fly?
So far, Bryan's taken to the role with a renewed vigour, calling the fans "sheep" and "fickle", invoking environmentalist rhetoric in his sneering promos. It's hard to tell where exactly this will all go in 2019, but one has to assume WWE will want to mine as much out of the new character as possible, letting Bryan's well-spokenness and profound anger carry the role. It's a change from humble hero Bryan, but so far, it's been a fun one.
1. What Else? More Becky Lynch
Has there been a character in recent WWE memory (aside from YES Movement-era Bryan) that has been as fun to cheer for as The Man herself? From her fiery promos to her unbeatable Twitter game, Becky Lynch has struck a chord with fans the world over, creating a movement all her own, and there seems to be no end in sight for her mojo.
It remains to be seen what she'll do in 2019. A match with Ronda Rousey is rumoured for the WrestleMania main event, which would be a use of "historic" that few would argue with. Beyond that, there's nothing but possibilities for the person that most would agree is WWE's biggest star at the moment. With her popularity soaring, Becky Lynch has what it takes to remain WWE's MVP throughout the new year as well.