2019 will feature one of the biggest moves in WWE history. SmackDown becoming part of the television lineup for FOX will lead to WWE having a major show on primetime network television every week. WWE will even get more time on the FOX Sports Network for other projects with rumors of a talk show. The most certain thing is that SmackDown will be more important than ever before when debuting on FOX in October of 2019. WWE typically treats SmackDown as the secondary show to Raw, but that must change with the FOX deal providing value with an incredible television rights deal worth over $1 billion to host the show.
There will likely be huge changes to the roster for the SmackDown brand. WWE has all the tools to bolster the roster even more. The annual Superstar Shakeup could easily bring top talent from Raw to SmackDown. NXT has many capable wrestlers ready to step up and make their name on the biggest stage. Mustafa Ali joining SmackDown proves that the top cruiserweight talents have the opportunity to move up. One would assume the same rings true for NXT UK. We will look at all the names that could and should become part of the roster for the blue brand as they upgrade. These are 20 wrestlers we hope to see on the new SmackDown Live when on FOX.
20 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar was reportedly supposed to finish up with WWE after WrestleMania 34 in 2017. However, he stuck around and continued to remain a major part of the product. Lesnar is once again the Universal Champion to start 2019, with WWE loving to use the part-time superstar for bigger events.
This is expected to continue, with Brock enjoying the great situation of a huge payday for few shows. Lesnar has remained part of Raw with minimal SmackDown moments since returning to WWE back in 2012. The change to SmackDown would be fitting since FOX wants to tie in the former UFC connections to the new viewers. Lesnar still fighting for UFC and working for WWE means he would be perfect to move to SmackDown in the Superstar Shakeup, especially when creating new fresh matchups.
19 Cedric Alexander
The Cruiserweight Division is one of the most underrated things in WWE right now. Many great wrestlers currently perform on 205 Live in a lower profile spot, but they have strong main roster potential. Mustafa Ali is already doing well on SmackDown and has looked great against WWE Champion Daniel Bryan.
The success of Ali proves that talented cruiserweights should join Raw or SmackDown when they’ve done more than enough on 205 Live. Cedric Alexander is the next cruiserweight that deserves to move to the next level. The great work of Alexander made him the co-MVP with Ali of 205 Live, but he has nothing left to accomplish there. SmackDown would be the perfect fit for the young and exciting wrestler.
18 Johnny Gargano
NXT is the best source to find great talents ready to join SmackDown. Johnny Gargano is among the first names that should be considered for a call-up by the time SmackDown is on FOX. The NXT work of Gargano has seen him have some of the best matches to ever take place under the WWE umbrella.
Gargano delivered classics at TakeOver specials against the likes of Tommaso Ciampa, Andrade Almas, Aleister Black, and The Revival. Johnny Wrestling's smaller size may be a flaw to Vince McMahon, but he has the special qualities that smaller performers like Daniel Bryan and Eddie Guerrero have shown. Gargano would improve SmackDown by always delivering a great match.
Former WWE stars are always on the radar to return if they can improve the product. One of the more underrated names on the free agent market right now is former Divas Champion Kaitlyn. The decision to retire during her prime ended in regret and she made a comeback tour on the independent circuit.
Kaitlyn returned to WWE as part of the Mae Young Classic and impressed. The workout routine of Kaitlyn has her looking better than ever before and the in-ring work was even more compelling than in the past. Kaitlyn wants to return and would be a valuable addition to give more depth to the SmackDown Women’s Division.
16 Velveteen Dream
The rise of Velveteen Dream has made him one of the hottest prospects in NXT. Dream certainly has a great character that allows him to stand out compared to everyone else on the roster before the match even starts. Dream has the potential to improve at every level due to his young age.
Fans want to see him get to the top of NXT after his title shot ended in defeat to Tommaso Ciampa. Dream may be better suited sticking around in NXT until the set of call-ups closest to SmackDown joining FOX in October. The freshness of a new character on the show with great entertainment value would add to the product.
15 Tessa Blanchard
Tessa Blanchard is arguably the best female wrestler in the world that doesn’t work for WWE. The success of Blanchard at just 23-years-old has seen her become a top star in all divisions for Impact Wrestling. Blanchard played a huge role in Impact getting momentum in 2018.
WWE has reportedly passed on Tessa a few times in the past due to her youth, but she has now elevated her game to the next level. Blanchard will be a must-sign for WWE when her contract with Impact ends this year. SmackDown getting Tessa could see her having an incredible storyline with Charlotte Flair as two daughters of the old-school Four Horsemen faction facing off.
14 Pete Dunne
NXT UK is still a new brand hoping to grow to the level of NXT in the United States. Many of the top UK wrestlers have signed with WWE for the NXT UK project while still working for independent wrestling companies. Pete Dunne clearly stands out as the face of the company right now.
The incredible work of Dunne has seen him thrive in the standard NXT US show. Dunne was even rumored to potentially join the main roster in 2017, but it never came. There will come a point where Dunne must move up from NXT UK at some point due to his great talent. SmackDown would benefit immensely from having Dunne as a new rising star.
Carlito is one of the former WWE stars that are often on the rumor mill when the company is looking to bring back former names. The brand split led to many interesting rumors of Carlito and others being considered to get a spot back on the roster.
There is a ready-made angle for Carlito to return to the SmackDown brand in 2019. His brother Primo and cousin Epico are each on the blue brand trying to get a path back to television. Epico and Primo have flopped in multiple roles throughout the years, but WWE wants it to work out. Carlito coming back would give them more credibility.
12 Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke
Three members of the MMA Four Horsewomen are currently on the NXT roster. Ronda Rousey is a star for Raw, but the other three are still making their names in NXT. Shayna Baszler is the NXT Women’s Champion entering 2019, with Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir starting their careers in the industry.
All three ladies have a history in UFC, and FOX is hoping to bring in some of their former UFC audience to the SmackDown viewership. Baszler, Duke, and Shafir each are being groomed to get called up to the main roster. SmackDown would be the best fit to showcase them.
11 Drew Gulak
The most underrated wrestler on 205 Live right now is Drew Gulak. There have been quite a few great matches from Gulak in the Cruiserweight Division. His character work helps him have another dynamic that certain other cruiserweights struggle with.
Gulak’s wrestling style is also a little different that would find more success on the main roster. There’s a great chance Gulak would become a compelling heel for SmackDown as they change the roster up for the FOX debut. Gulak deserves a bigger spot and the timing could work out for all involved. This is one 205 Live star worthy of a call-up.
10 Undisputed Era
The top NXT act that will likely find huge success on the main roster is Undisputed Era. Adam Cole has been a top star in the industry for a few years now. Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong, and Bobby Fish all have great careers as well. However, all four got to the next level in NXT by working together in the faction.
There is a world of momentum for Undisputed Era right now as fans love watching them perform in NXT. The timing would be ideal for them to spend at least half of 2019 in NXT before getting called up to the main roster. SmackDown would be the ideal scenario for a hot act like Undisputed Era to get a push for the new FOX era of the show.
9 Bianca Belair
The athletic ability of Bianca Belair is second to none in NXT and may be second to none on the main roster in the Women’s Division. Belair has been a part of a few great matches and is arguably the top female star in the NXT Women’s Division due to how much fans want to see her.
There will be a future for Belair on the main roster if there’s no regression. 2019 seems like a safe bet since Belair is already looking ready to perform on a big stage. SmackDown will need a deep Women’s Division for FOX and Belair is a huge asset to improve it.
8 John Morrison
John Morrison is the Impact World Champion to start 2019 and is still performing at a very high level. The talent and history of Morrison make him one of the top wrestlers outside of WWE that could make an impact (pun not intended) upon his return. WWE never viewed Morrison as a main eventer during his past run, but things could change.
More talents get a chance to work in the upper card than in the time Morrison was there. The new spots opening means Morrison could have a much better chance to move into the world title picture. Morrison’s Impact contract is expected to end by the summer. WWE bringing him back could lead to great television for SmackDown on FOX.
7 Matt Riddle
The history of FOX and UFC means the former MMA stars will have an extra perk to being on SmackDown. Matt Riddle was a successful UFC fighter before things ended ugly. Riddle's passion for wrestling led him to start this new chapter.
Riddle dominated the independent circuit within a few years and it led to him getting signed for NXT. The path to the main roster for Riddle is there between his incredible ability to connect with the audience as a wrestler and due to his background. SmackDown on FOX is the ideal home for Riddle to get called up.
6 Io Shirai and Kairi Sane
WWE's Women’s Tag Team Division is confirmed to start in 2019 after Vince McMahon announced the titles. There will be a need for more female tag teams on both Raw and SmackDown to make the titles a relevant part of the company.
Io Shirai and Kairi Sane are the best potential tag team currently in NXT. Both ladies were top female stars in Japan before landing contracts with WWE. Triple H has used them both in major ways between the Mae Young Classic and NXT. Shirai and Sane are best friends in real life that could become the top tag team on SmackDown with the new titles creating opportunities.
5 Finn Balor
Finn Balor is one of the most underrated upper-level wrestlers on the WWE main roster in need of a change. The potential of Balor is to thrive as the face of a brand, but the Raw experiment has been a disappointment as Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman have been the only true main eventers over the past few years.
Balor moving to SmackDown in time for the FOX debut could be the perfect it. The Demon character of Finn often hooks in the casual fan and presents the luster of the wrestling mystique that has existed for many years. Balor would thrive on the SmackDown brand and get quite a bit of new fans.
The in-ring work of Ricochet has made him one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world. Ricochet has done great things during his time in international companies like PWG, New Japan and Evolve. WWE came calling when Ricochet was a free agent looking to finally make the move to the bigger company.
Ricochet has found success in NXT as the second-ever NXT North American Champion along with becoming one of the faces of the brand. The main roster call-up will come soon. SmackDown is reportedly looking to deliver the most exciting in-ring product on the new network to win over new fans. Ricochet does things no one else can and would be a perfect fit for this mentality.
3 The Elite
The biggest free agents in the wrestling world are the wrestlers in The Elite. 2019 sees the contracts of the Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega and Adam Page ending. They are expected to launch the new promotion of All Elite Wrestling.
No one knows how things will turn out since there’s no television deal in place. If the AEW experiment fails to get off the ground in 2019, they could be looking to make a move later down the road. WWE would love to add all the wrestlers involved to SmackDown for FOX, given the mainstream success they’ve found all on their own.
2 Ronda Rousey
The former relationship between UFC and FOX before WWE moved to FOX has been referenced already. However, it reaches another level when it comes to Ronda Rousey. There are maybe five names in the history of MMA that reached the level of fame Rousey did during her UFC career.
WWE added Rousey to the roster in 2018 and she’s become one of the faces of the company. Rousey moving to SmackDown would serve two huge purposes. Not only would Ronda win over any lingering UFC fans giving the show a chance, but it would present SmackDown as an equal to Raw. Rousey is arguably the top name WWE has, and putting her on SmackDown shows the importance of the show.
1 Aleister Black
Aleister Black's WWE run has seen him become one of the top stars in NXT history. Black is a former NXT Champion with many great matches and moments associated with his time there. WWE has reportedly shown interest in adding Black to the main roster for a few years now, but they’ve held back due to not having an ideal situation.
There is a great chance Black will be called up after WrestleMania 35, and SmackDown is the ideal fit for him. The phrase “land of opportunity” is true as SmackDown provides a better opportunity for the younger stars. Black has potential to become one of the biggest stars in the company and SmackDown on FOX is the best fit for him to showcase it.