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Pro wrestling's big questions and predictions for 2019

Bryan Alvarez and Mike Sempervive did their annual prediction show on Wrestling Observer Live this week where listeners got to call or email in with their thoughts on what things will happen in the pro wrestling and MMA world this year. So, we wanted to throw it out to our writers and podcasters about big questions and predictions for the year ahead. If you want to look back to last year and how bad we did, here you go.

Let's get to it:

Josh Nason, Website editor and contributor; Josh Nason's Punch-Out podcast host --

I am most curious about whether this is the year the combat sports content tidal wave finally crashes. There is already so much stuff to watch, not enough time to do it, and now more groups are getting into the game like AEW. It's happened a bit already, but fans are going to have to make choices and someone is going to get left behind. Similarly, I am also curious as to how many of these various streaming services and networks will survive. People only have so much money to spend and every time a new $10/mo service launches, that's another opportunity for someone to drop a service they barely watch.

I know we keep talking about the sports media bubble not popping, but I think the next 18-24 months are going to show us how much room there is for everyone.

Karl Stern, Dragon King Karl & Dragon King After Dark podcast host -- 

2019 is a year where there could be a huge revolt in UFC. Tensions are simmering following the Jon Jones testing debacle and the slaps on the wrist to Conor McGregor following his multiple incidents. Fighters have been suspended for far worse than what Jones or McGregor have done repeatedly, so might a fighter who has been previously suspended fight back by filing a lawsuit? Could a group of fighters join together and boycott a show? I’m not sure of what form it will take but I do feel like UFC is one more incident away from something major going down that will significantly impact their business.

Antonio Garza, Impact Wrestling weekly recapper -- 

What does Impact Wrestling mean to 2019’s wrestling industry? For many years, for better or worse, TNA was that link between the independent scene and WWE, offering TV deals at decent pay. Impact has managed to turn a lot of things around from their shaky past, but they now find themselves on an incredibly hard to find network, risking it all on that Friday night schedule. With WWE, AEW, and ROH getting into a bidding war for indie talent, and MLW slowly making a name for themselves, what will become of Impact Wrestling? Will they manage to keep top talent like Johnny Impact, Moose, LAX, or Tessa Blanchard under contract? Can they make it out of Pursuit, do they sink into ratings obscurit, or will their Twitch experiment pave the way for promotions all over the world?

Jeremy Peeples, WWE 205 Live weekly recapper -- 

All Elite Wrestling went into 2019 with as much buzz as possible for something that didn’t technically exist. Now, with the company’s formation being official, many questions remain. We know that Double or Nothing will be their first show in May. I see that show effectively taking the place of what would be a normal first TV episode for a wrestling show and crowning the company’s first champions. I also see an NWA alliance forming so that if they want, they can use their champions as a secondary set akin to what New Japan did with the NWA World Title years ago. When it comes to TV, WGN America makes the most sense to start with, and the roster will take shape over the next six months. For the first time since the death of WCW, a company has a very real chance to create something great and large-scale right away and that’s going to make 2019 an incredibly exciting year to follow.

Mike DellaCamera, NXT TakeOver preview writer -- 

2018 saw WWE take the first steps towards expanding their reach with the establishment of NXT UK. That, along with the company cultivating relationships with other big name independent promotions like EVOLVE and PROGRESS, portends for a massive shift in the landscape of pro wrestling. As wrestling expands, it also shrinks. There has never been more good wrestling, and it has never been easier to consume that wrestling. With wrestlers having legitimate, serious options besides WWE for the first time in a long time, watching how the company reacts to this will be fascinating.

In my mind, it is the story of 2019. How will the currently existing relationships change? What will the contracts for newly signed performers look like? Will there be more or less restrictions for outside bookings? Will the company continue to ‘loan’ out performers to other promotions? If history has shown us anything, it’s that WWE is never better when it is forced to try, and they surely need to try this year. Never one for subtlety, look for them to continue to lock up as many performers as possible while trying to develop relationships with more promotions, both domestic and abroad. It’s been a long time since they’ve had face even the possibility of competition and I expect them to react very, very loudly.

Other 2019 predictions:

  • The Undisputed Era debutS as a group on the post-Mania Raw
  • Matt Riddle has a main roster title by SummerSlam
  • A second Cruiserweight Classic is announced
  • NXT creates a weekly women's program
  • Smackdown outdraws Raw and becomes the A show
  • Big E gets a long overdue singles run when The New Day moves back to Raw
  • Kenny Omega stays in New Japan...LOL whoops! Who knows...maybe he goes back?
  • Jay White wins the IWGP heavyweight title

Josh Molina, Special Projects --

  • Jon Jones will test positive for performance enhancement drugs
  • Drew McIntyre will win the men’s Royal Rumble and defeat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania
  • Becky Lynch will win the women’s Royal Rumble and win the title at WrestleMania
  • All Elite Wrestling will debut to big ratings on cable and then will gradually decline in popularity as the WWE product gets hot again
  • Roman Reigns will do a run-in at WrestleMania to help Seth Rollins defeat Dean Ambrose
  • Elias will win the WWE Championship at SummerSlam
  • Georges St-Pierre will return and submit Conor McGregor in the first round
  • Renee Young will get booted from Raw and replaced by Nigel McGuinness
  • Kenny Omega will sign with WWE and feud with Finn Balor
  • SmackDown will debut on Fox to 4.1 million viewers then gradually hover at about 3.5 million viewers the rest of the year
  • Shinsuke Nakamura will sign with All Elite Wrestling
  • Robbie Lawler will knock out Ben Askren in the first round
  • WWE will re-sign Enzo Amore and Big Cass
  • The Honky Tonk Man will get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame
  • Frances Ngannou will knock out Cain Velasquez

Paul Fontaine, MMA event recapper and ratings evaluator -- 

I think that Daniel Cormier will fight Brock Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight title first and then, on the very first episode of Smackdown on Fox, they will rematch for Lesnar’s Universal title….and Cormier will win. I think they’ll do a very good number on their first week between that match and other bells and whistles like Rock and Steve Austin returning. By the end of the year, they’ll be down around 2.5 million viewers on average and speculation will be rampant that Fox will bump them down to FS1.

By the end of 2019, Viacom will be looking to either sell or shut down Bellator as I can’t see the declining ratings slowing down any time soon and the company will be bleeding too much money to keep them viable.

I think that Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov will each fight in the fight half of 2019 on separate PPVs with those shows being the two biggest of the year to that point in terms of PPV buys. They will then rematch on the year-end show and break the all-time PPV buys record they set in 2018.

Iain Oliver, MLW weekly recapper --

  • Chris Jericho will snub AEW for a return to WWE (Note: This was submitted before Tuesday's press conference.)
  • Undisputed Era will debut on the main roster on the post Mania Raw
  • On his return, Jericho will join/become the leader of Undisputed Era.
  • WrestleMania will be headlined by Becky vs. Ronda
  • Marina Shafir, Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler will be involved during the Ronda vs. Becky match which will lead to an "MMA vs WWE" Horsewomen feud throughout the year
  • Braun Strowman will defend the Universal title against Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania
  • Mustafa Ali, Elias, McIntyre & Velveteen Dream will all win WWE singles titles in 2019
  • Tom Lawlor will win the MLW World Heavyweight title in 2019
  • Hulk Hogan and The Rock will return as General Managers of Raw and SmackDown! for the Fox debuts
  • UK promotions ICW and PROGRESS will be shown on the WWE Network

Antonio Thomas, I Left My Wallet in Greg Polanco podcast host --

With All Elite Wrestling now officially a go, and me being the sports show on the site, I want to know if the NFL Network is a viable home for AEW. We all now know the affiliation between the Khan family and AEW and with the first official press conference being held outside the Jaguars' stadium, why not have the NFL Network be a possible suitor for the brand? The fanbase between football and wrestling is very similar and you'd be tapping into every male demographic on the Network: kids, teens, 18+, and the all important 35-59 demo thats often used for wrestling.

Plus, there's the very real possibility of bringing back the lapsed fan to a fresh, different product, and of course, garnering new fans. There seems to be countless hours that singular sports network need to fill, especially during the offseason, and I feel with all the synergy between football and wrestling in the past, the NFL Network be a realistic home for AEW each week.

Other predictions:

  • Zack Sabre Jr. makes it to the G1 finals
  • A Kid is signed by NXT UK
  • CM Punk returns to wrestling, albeit not necessarily in the ring
  • Alexander Gustafsson moves to heavyweight
  • Kevin Owens wins the Universal Championship upon his return

Josiah MacDonald, Lucha Underground weekly recapper --

  • AEW will sign a deal with TBS, bringing wrestling back to Turner Networks
  • CM Punk will wrestle with AEW
  • Somehow, AEW will manage to have a working relationship with NJPW (and possibly ROH)
  • KUSHIDA will sign with AEW instead of WWE
  • Cody Rhodes will compete in the G1
  • Daniel Bryan will wrestle Brock Lesnar again to unify the WWE and Universal Championships
  • Roman Reigns will return and I sincerely hope this happens as he is a great talent and a good man
  • ROH and NJPW will sellout another 10,000 seat show
  • Matt Taven will win the ROH World Championship...as will Marty Scurll
  • And a fun one: Bryan Alvarez will wrestle David Arquette

Big questions:

Despite my predictions (some of which are serious, some of which are more fun), the real question that I have going into 2019 is what the relationship will be with AEW, NJPW, and ROH. While it appears that this relationship isn’t going to happen at the moment, I do not rule out the possibility of it happening. Regardless, AEW’s news about equal pay for women and medical benefits for employees is already one of the biggest stories of the year. I’m not sure where this ends, but it’s very exciting, nonetheless.