It's easy to argue that WWE's roster is more stacked with talent now than ever before. With so many incredibly talented wrestlers, it can hard for competitors to stand out in the crowd. Each year there are a few who separate themselves from the pack with their work, tenacity, and heart. 2018's breakout stars will likely be the ones to watch in 2019 as they continue to rise. More than a few have had false starts already, getting dropped to the bottom or released from WWE altogether. So let's hope WWE management is paying attention and straps a rocket to the names on this list.
10. Sonya Deville
Back in 2015, Sonya Deville–under her real name Daria Berenato—completed in (and later eliminated from) WWE's Tough Enough. The former mixed martial artist seemed to have a solid chance, but it wasn't meant to be. The actual winner of the women's side, Sara Lee, was released last year, but fellow competitors Deville and Mandy Rose have secured themselves spots as part of Paige's Absolution.
Even with Paige having to retire, the two have done alright without her, especially Deville. With her MMA background and tough as nails character, Deville has found herself in a strong position on SmackDown Live. No longer just a henchman, Deville is always just below the top tier of competition. It's a huge step in her career and many are impressed with her work. Given a bit more time, she'll be looking at a title run.
9. Velveteen Dream
Deville wasn't the only shocking elimination in Tough Enough, Patrick Clark's was just as surprising. It was clear he had such a love for the industry and a natural charisma that couldn't be contained. Luckily, WWE offered him a contract afterward, and the Velveteen Dream was born. The moment he debuted the character, a Prince-esque pretty boy with a penchant for mind games, it was clear he was a star. Just watch any of his entrances, complete with ridiculous costuming, and see how he oozes charisma.
Dream isn't quite ready for the big leagues, but for a 23-year-old, challenging for the NXT Championship is a very big deal. We expect to see him holding the belt this coming year.
8. Rhea Ripley
The Mae Young Classic was one of the best events WWE put on this year. It was hard-hitting and full of talent who gave it their all. One of the biggest stars to come out of it wasn't even meant to have her spot. Rhea Ripley was, in all likelihood, booked to lose against Tegan Nox in the quarter-finals.
In the match, Nox suffered a serious leg injury that forced a ref stoppage and propelled Ripley into the semis. She then had the match of her life against Io Shirai. If that wasn't enough, she was then crowned the inaugural NXT UK Women's Champion.
Her rise in the division is likely due to her brand new attitude and her serious improvements from last year's MYC. Time will tell how long she holds onto that championship and what comes next.
7. Buddy Murphy
NXT loyalist will remember Buddy Murphy for his brief stint as a Tag Team Champion with Wesley Blake. The team rose to prominence due to the involvement of Alexa Bliss as their manager. Though in hindsight, it seems WWE knew instantly she was the star of the group. Once Bliss was called up, the group had little success and eventually broke up. It was a shock when Murphy debuted on 205 Live as a cruiserweight — he had to drop a substantial amount of weight to do it. He's proven to be one of the most effective heels on the show, using his size and power advantage to run over his opponents. Murphy didn't even need Bliss' help to become the Cruiserweight Champion in his hometown of Melbourne.
6. Mia Yim
Like Ripley, Mia Yim had a strong showing in the MYC that lead to WWE picking up her contract. The former Knockouts Champion is one of the best in-ring performers. Yim put on one of our favorite matches of the year against Kaitlyn in the second round of the MYC. It felt intensely personal even though the two had never competed against each other before. Yim fell to Toni Storm in a great showing during the next round but was quickly signed. She has a huge fan base and even has the endorsement of Gail Kim behind her. Recently she debuted on NXT and made quick work of Vanessa Borne, so it's safe to say her future is bright in the WWE.
5. Drew McIntyre
Many years ago, Drew McIntyre was the chosen one. Then, he was a member of 3MB. His rise and fall were swift, causing McIntyre to leave WWE for greener pastures elsewhere. His work outside of WWE was enough for them to give him a second look, and upon resigning, shot him to the top of NXT.
These days, McIntyre keeps the company of Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, and Braun Strowman. With Brock Lesnar on a part-time schedule, he makes a good case for the top heel on Raw with his bruiting antics. He could easily challenge for the Universal Title at any time and seems poised to do so in 2019.
It's pretty amazing that Elias is currently a popular babyface. Back in NXT, the drifter gimmick seemed dumb. On the traveling main roster, however, it took off because he could get heat for making fun of each city they visit. He was the heel everyone loved to hate until WWE decided it was time to turn his face. Somehow, it worked, and Elias is more over than ever. He hasn't had many opportunities to jump up into a title scene, but WWE clearly knows that they can count on him to keep the show moving and entertain the fans. We'd love to see Elias' hard work be rewarded soon.
3. Renee Young
What a year it has been for Renee Young. She has been the cornerstone of the backstage interviewing team for a long time, but in 2018 she began a whole new role in WWE. Young was called on to join the commentary booth for the Mae Young Classic with Beth Phoenix. Impressed by her work, they then asked her to fill in for Jonathan Coachman on Monday Night Raw, which made her the first woman in history to call that show. Before long, it was a permanent gig, and Young is killing it. It's unsurprising, given that Young has always carved out new spaces for herself, Unfiltered, Talking Smack, and the like. She may not be an in-ring competitor, but she is one of the most accomplished performers in WWE this year.
2. Andrade "Cien" Almas And Zelina Vega
According to all reports, Vince McMahon is over the moon about Andrade "Cien" Almas. He's doing so well in his current role with manager Zelina Vega, that it seems like so long ago he was floundering in NXT. Vega is one of the best managers we've seen, crafty and smart, always one step ahead of Almas' opponents. She is certainly a key ingredient to Almas' recent success, but more than anything it's about the combination of their two personalities. There's an electricity that's really powerful, and it makes both of them bigger than they are on their own. As Vega moves into more in-ring competition, it'll be interesting to see if WWE pulls the trigger on these two as a power couple with matching WWE titles.
1. Becky Lynch
There is no bigger star in the company today than Becky Lynch. It almost feels strange to say, given that this time last year she most certainly would've gone in the underrated talent category. Lynch has always been an incredibly hard worker, and a popular one at that. Despite that, it's always felt like she was a runner-up. She was the only 4 Horsewoman to not win the NXT Women's Championship, and never won the Women's Championship until after the brand's split got her out of Charlotte Flair's and Sasha Banks' shadows. Even as the first SmackDown Women's Champion, it wasn't until this year that WWE seemed to actually care. Turning on Flair took her from second best to the hottest act in WWE. The Man's star is on the rise and she'll only get bigger in 2019.