LA Knight and 8 Stars with the Brightest Future in WWE and AEW Right Now

LA Knight and 8 Stars with the Brightest Future in WWE and AEW Right Now
Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantTwitter LogoFeatured Columnist IVDecember 3, 2023

LA Knight and 8 Stars with the Brightest Future in WWE and AEW Right Now

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    LA Knight has merely scratched the surface of what he can accomplish in WWE.

    LA Knight has merely scratched the surface of what he can accomplish in WWE.Credit: WWE.com

    WWE and AEW have had their fair share of breakout stars throughout 2023, providing both products with the new blood they’ve desperately needed.

    To their credit, all of the current top talent have done an effective job of carrying their respective companies this year. MJF, Bryan Danielson and Kenny Omega have been staples of AEW’s main-event scene while Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns have remained mainstays at the top of the card in WWE.

    Looking ahead, WWE and AEW need stars they can count on to be able to build their brands around. Some, such as LA Knight, are further along in their career still with plenty to offer while others have shown tremendous upside despite lacking experience.

    Everyone who has been on the ascent must continue to build momentum and prove their worth heading into 2024. Both promotions have an outstanding core of competitors that have the potential to break through the proverbial glass ceiling and have sustained success for years to come.

    As their stocks skyrocket, these are the eight stars with the brightest futures ahead of them right now.

LA Knight

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    Although it’s taken longer than it should have for LA Knight to reach the upper echelon of WWE, he’s quickly cemented himself as one of WWE’s hottest commodities in a mere matter of months.

    To steal a Cody Rhodes catchphrase, he went from undesirable to undeniable by organically getting over with the audience at the onset of the summer. He then started to rack up wins, became the face of WWE’s Slim Jim sponsorship with his Battle Royal win at SummerSlam, and got the John Cena stamp of approval after besting The Bloodline at Fastlane.

    Of course, there was nowhere for him to go but down following his heartbreaking loss to Undisputed WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel, but his immense popularity has hardly faltered since then.

    It’s clear WWE has high hopes for him as SmackDown’s top babyface going forward, title or title not. That said, all signs point to him being the one to ultimately dethrone Logan Paul as United States champion in a high-profile match at WrestleMania 40.

    Once Reigns drops his coveted prize (or if Knight moves to Monday nights before that happens), The Megastar is guaranteed to hold world title gold before long.

Will Ospreay

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    AEW was wise to lock down Will Ospreay before he could enter free agency, which would have allowed him to negotiate with WWE or any other promotion. Needless to say, he’s a generational talent with an incredibly high ceiling.

    He already has the built-in exposure to the AEW audience, having appeared several times throughout 2022 and 2023. He’s had standout showings every single time, most notably when he bested Kenny Omega for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship at this year’s Forbidden Door event.

    Ospreay is only 30 and therefore has a ton of value to AEW for years to come. He isn’t a household name in the same way CM Punk or Bryan Danielson were when they were brought in, but he certainly can be if utilized properly in his new home.

    There’s no reason to think he won’t be based on how much of a star he came across at Full Gear when he officially announced he was “All Elite.” The Aerial Assassin simply needs to stay injury-free and he’ll rise in the ranks rather quickly once he joins the AEW roster full-time at the turn of the year.

Gunther

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    Two years ago, it would have been unfathomable to see Gunther achieve the level of success he’s currently experiencing in WWE.

    Of course, Triple H’s heavy influence over the company’s creative direction over the last year has had a lot to do with it.

    Although Gunther’s historic run as Intercontinental champion kicked off at the tail end of the Vince McMahon regime, it’s unlikely he’d still be holding the gold today. The Game was the one who ensured Gunther was elevated to the next level and the prestigious prize along with him.

    What’s remarkable about the exceptional year he’s had is that he’s only dominated the midcard and has the entire main-event scene left to conquer. Fresh feuds and matchups await with Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes, LA Knight, Jey Uso, Sami Zayn and many more.

    Even once he inevitably suffers his first defeat on the main roster, he’ll continue to feel like one of WWE’s few true attractions. There’s no doubt he’ll be a world champion in 2024 and a perennial main-event player from that point forward.

Konosuke Takeshita

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    Konosuke Takeshita was always known to be tremendously talented in the ring, but it wasn’t until he turned heel and linked up with Don Callis that fans started to see him in an all-new light.

    Even early on in his AEW stint, he was having show-stealing matches with the likes of Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley and MJF. However, he lacked a character and consistent direction, which came once he made a deal with the devil and accepted the services of the sinister Callis.

    His subsequent program with Kenny Omega led to him having an increased presence on AEW TV, including pay-per-views. Following his betrayal of Omega at Double or Nothing, he went on to compete at every AEW pay-per-view from Forbidden Door through WrestleDream.

    That included a massive singles win over Omega at All Out that AEW has yet to fully capitalize on.

    Between what he’s capable of in the ring and the heat magnet of a mouthpiece in Callis, he now has all the tools to be a top player for the promotion. He’s another young gun at only 28 years of age.

Rhea Ripley

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    Even for as much as she’s already accomplished in WWE, it’s easy for fans to forget that Rhea Ripley is only 27-years-old and has her whole career ahead of her.

    She made a memorable first impression in 2017’s Mae Young Classic tournament before becoming in the inaugural NXT UK Women’s champion the following year. She went to clinch the NXT Women’s Championship in 2019, the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 37 and the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship in 2021.

    For the longest time, it felt as Ripley was missing the edge she once had in NXT. Ironically, it was Edge recruiting her into The Judgment Day post-WrestleMania 38 that really caused her star to soar.

    She’s been an unstoppable force ever since, running through every opponent put in her path and reigning as the Women’s World champion for over eight months.

    Ripley connects with virtually all demographics, has improved her mic time immensely, and has put together a stellar résumé of matches. She’s practically the female face of WWE with the way she has taken over Raw and still has so many years left to cement herself as one of the greatest all-around women’s wrestlers in company history.

Julia Hart

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    From a forgotten cheerleader for The Varsity Blonds to House of Black’s biggest breakout star, Julia Hart’s development the past few years has been nothing short of fascinating to follow.

    She’s been at a distinct disadvantage in terms of her lack of wrestling background and experience, but that hasn’t stopped her from honing her craft and improving with every match she has and promo she cuts.

    Hart started out as a background player in House of Black but began to showcase her skills in a series of matches just recently, leading her to the AEW TBS Championship at Full Gear.

    She has shined in spite of the limited television time she and the rest of the roster have been afforded this year and is only getting better by the week. Toni Storm’s shtick has obviously been terrific, but Hart is a homegrown talent that AEW should be able to rely on if she stays put.

    Everything about the character is clicking and she deserve serious praise for her progression, but she is far from her final form.

Jey Uso

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    For the first decade of his WWE career, Jey Uso was never looked at as a future singles star and understandably so. He and his brother Jimmy are such a spectacular tag team that it was never worth deviating from something that worked so well.

    Jimmy’s yearlong injury in 2020 gave Jey the ball to run with and he turned a ton of heads with that “Main Event Jey” run. Reuniting with Jimmy was always the endgame, but fans wondered what more he could do in singles competition once his days in The Bloodline were over.

    We finally found out in the second half of 2023 and he got over with the audience more than anyone could have ever imagined.

    Granted, he fell short of unseating Roman Reigns as Undisputed WWE Universal champion at SummerSlam, but sending him to the Raw roster soon after was the smartest decision WWE could have made with him.

    His alliances with the brand’s biggest babyfaces and feuds with The Judgment Day and Finn Balor have given him plenty to work with and the fans have taken to him in a extremely well. Uso can be a pivotal part of the promotion if his last few months have been any indication.

Swerve Strickland

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    If Swerve Strickland isn’t wearing a world title by the end of 2024, then AEW will have seriously dropped the ball with him.

    Beyond MJF, he’s been among the company’s best booked talents in 2023. He’s remained busy at all times in various rivalries with Keith Lee, Darby Allin and most recently Adam Page and has proven himself to be main-event material on multiple occasions.

    Having him make history as the first Black AEW World champion would make the most sense, but his worth to AEW supersedes that. He checks all the boxes, excels as both a babyface and a heel, and has major crossover potential.

    In beating Hangman on back-to-back pay-per-views, it’s apparent that he has the machine behind him heading into 2024 and isn’t far off from entering the AEW World Championship picture.

    In fact, he’s perhaps the perfect person to dethrone MJF as champ, but even if that isn’t in the cards for the foreseeable future, Strickland is a top-tier talent through and through and must remain in the main-event mix from here on out.

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.

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