2019 is more than half over, and as summer settles in we can safely evaluate the trajectory of many of the top wrestlers active today. Indeed, with not only WWE milestones like the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, and Money in the Bank cleared, but also All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing, and a number of other events from abroad and in smaller promotions, a lot has happened. Who has come out ahead?
This article takes a look at wrestlers who have built buzz, achieved things, and delivered noteworthy performances, as well as those who have fallen far short of expectations and look to generally be failing in 2019.
10 Aced It: Jon Moxley
As 2018 came to a close, Jon Moxley—then known as Dean Ambrose—was tough to evaluate the success of. Yes, he had finished the year getting the better of on again off again friend and rival Seth Rollins, and his heel persona had potential. However, his promos had felt a little silly in this run, and he hadn’t exactly been a heat magnet in his new heel role.
Moxley got back on track with a Shield reunion that got him featured prominently for his final weeks with WWE. From there, he released a video of him escaping from a prison that generated a lot of intrigue, before making an all time great surprise appearance at the end of Double or Nothing to debut for AEW. Moxley may now have more buzz than any other active wrestler in the world.
9 Failing: The Undertaker
Around WrestleMania season, the rumor mill got whirring about prospective scenarios for The Undertaker to work the biggest show of the year. Despite being in the New York area, The Dead Man did not appear on air at ‘Mania. From there, he was advertised for the non-WWE-sanctioned Starrcast, only for WWE to pull him out.
After these false starts and disapointments, WWE booked The Phenom to face Goldberg at the Super ShowDown event in Saudi Arabia. While the names involved made this a dream match, the result was a nightmare, as particularly the closing sequence of the match was downright embarrassing for its botched Jackhammer spot and failed Tombstone reversal.
The Undertaker doesn’t deserve all the blame for his poor first half of 2019, but it’s nonetheless a stretch that has risked hurting his legacy here at the twilight of his career.
8 Aced It: Kofi Kingston
Kofi Kingston has been a steady performer for WWE for over a decade. He was a solid mid-card and tag team act whose feats of athleticism earned him a niche spot in Royal Rumbles. But a main eventer?
The unlikely happened this spring when there was no clear challenger lined up for Daniel Bryan’s WWE Championship heading into WrestleMania season. Kingston captured the imagination of fans with an impressive run in a gauntlet match on SmackDown, then reinforced his new surge of popularity in coming close to winning the title at Elimination Chamber. From there, Kingston became the focal point of SmackDown as a groundswell of fan support carried him all the way to not only a WrestleMania title shot, but actually winning the strap at the biggest show of the year. The jury is still out as to how successful this title run will be, but it has already lasted longer than many expected.
7 Failing: Baron Corbin
In terms of kayfabe, Baron Corbin has had a reasonable start to 2019, including retiring Kurt Angle at WrestleMania and being featured toward the top of the Raw roster, including challenging Seth Rolliins for the Universal Championship.
The trouble with Corbin is that, unlike someone like Kofi Kingston who makes the most of every opportunity to rise up, he has generally come across as an over-pushed, forgettable performer. His high profile match with Angle was a disappointment, and his matches and promos have failed to inspire much confidence from the fans. All in all, Corbin feels like the kind of heel who gets booed not because he plays the villain well, but because fans genuinely don’t want to see him.
6 Aced It: Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch’s accomplishments in 2019 read like the stuff of legend. She won the Royal Rumble. She won the WrestleMania main event, including becoming the first person to pin Ronda Rousey. All that, and The Man spent a month reigning with both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships.
While Lynch hasn’t been as hot coming out of WrestleMania, largely bogged down with an underprepared Lacey Evans, and in a feud that feels tired with Charlotte Flair, it’s hard to blame her for these bookings. For her part, Lynch has delivered in the ring and kept up her social media game to remain one of WWE’s most buzzworthy stars.
5 Failing: Jinder Mahal
It’s hard to believe that less than two years ago, Jinder Mahal was enjoying a sustained run as WWE Champion. Critics questioned at the time whether he had the talent or drawing power to justify the push and, in retrospect, the reservations seem right. Mahal has receded to a lower mid-card position, used sparingly on weekly television, and typically losing when he does appear.
Most recently, Mahal has been in contention for the 24/7 Championship. On the surface, being in a title picture may seem like a good thing, but the title’s largely farcical nature has more so underscored that Mahal is nowhere near the main event, and doesn’t look to return to it in the foreseeable future.
4 Aced It: Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes is, in many ways, the face of AEW. He may not be the top pushed in ring star, but his role as one of the new company’s top leaders is well established, and he has been featured shrewdly, including an instant classic of a match with his brother Dustin at Double or Nothing that exceeded all expectations.
Moving ahead, Rhodes comes across as one of the wrestling promoters most in tune with what his fans want, not to mention that he is positioned such that he easily could enter the AEW title picture sooner than later if he so chooses.
3 Failing: Triple H
Triple H is one of the biggest legends in wrestling history and has only broadened his importance to the business in rising up the ranks of WWE executives, to the point that he’s the presumptive heir to the throne of WWE creative. As much as Helmesley is generally popular among fans his wrestling legacy and his management of the NXT product, his actual wrestling performances have left a lot to be desired of late.
After some less than inspired showings at international stadium shows in 2018, Triple H returned from injury for WrestleMania 35, only to work a slow, largely lifeless match with Batista. He’d go a step worse at Super ShowDown from Saudi Arabia with a widely panned outing opposite Randy Orton that anticlimactically ended with The Game walking into an RKO. The Cerebral Assassin may have a great mind for the business s and remain in great shape for his age. When it comes to working matches, though, his first half of 2019 was largely an embarrassment.
2 Aced It: Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins has been one of the best in ring performers for WWE for years now, and the first half of 2019 has seen WWE capitalize on that. From winning the Royal Rumble, to demonstrating no ego in playing his supporting role perfectly for The Shield, to slaying Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, Rollins has thrived, picking up kayfabe victories and often as not stealing the show.
With the Universal Championship around his waist, Rollins looks cemented as a top tier player for WWE, and his performances with a variety of dance partners have only reinforced that he’s deserving of that spot.
1 Failing: Bobby Lashley
When WWE re-signed Bobby Lashley last year, there was a fair amount of buzz around him. After all, Lashley is a powerhouse athlete with MMA and amateur wrestling credentials to get him over at the highest levels. At the very least, a collision with Brock Lesnar seemed inevitable, and Lashley’s time with Impact Wresting seemed to have seen him grow a lot as a performer.
As 2018 wore on, it became apparent that between his own limitations and, more to the point, how WWE used him, Lashley wasn’t going to be main eventing. 2019 has only seen The All Mighty’s stock slip further as he has been relegated to a supporting role, often as not second or third fiddle behind Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre. Despite his Intercontinental Championship reign, a decisive loss to Finn Balor at WrestleMania reinforced that Lashley is just another guy in the eyes of WWE’s powers that be.