It's the holiday season -- a time to reflect upon the year that was, good and bad. It's also the perfect time of year to dream big and hope to score at least a couple of big-ticket items you've had your eye on.
With magic in the air, and TLC, the final WWE pay-per-view of the year, set for Sunday, it only feels right to put my biggest wishes for WWE out into the ether and see if they come true.
Let Seth Rollins embrace his inner jerk
Christmas came early, or so it seems. On Monday night, Seth Rollins stopped beating around the bush and gave in to his most evil desires on Raw by joining forces with The Authors of Pain, manufacturing a setup and a backstage attack on Kevin Owens. Set aside the absurdity of Rollins claiming his hands were clean until that night, when a conveniently willing AOP accepted Rollins' invitation for a partnership, or the half-hearted callout of the AOP earlier in the night.
Focus instead on the dynamic villain reveal of a hooded Rollins sitting in the van, or Rollins' promo that followed. The speech started with Rollins, for the umpteenth time since Survivor Series, trying to talk as the representative of the Raw locker room and slowly descended into the frustration of being completely ignored and underappreciated.
When Rollins bellowed, "In 2019, what is good enough for you people?" it was a line of demarcation between the try-hard, self-sacrificing guy with a martyr complex and a reborn arch villain -- and it was hard not to see some of Rollins' real feelings folded into that promo.
Rollins, like many others, fell victim to the sometimes haphazard style of WWE storytelling, and by the second time Rollins defeated Brock Lesnar for the Universal championship, the audience was having none of it. Monday's turn to the dark side is a welcome turn, because WWE has hesitated to steer into fan reaction when determining arcs for some of their biggest stars -- most notably when Roman Reigns was receiving John Cena-esque boos because of the stagnation of his character.
In Rollins' case, they're taking his crowd reactions head-on, and it's likely to be good news all around. Rollins' in-ring work has rarely faltered, but his best work on the mic happened after he turned his back on The Shield. A return to whining, complaining and manipulation is just what the doctor ordered. And while there will always be fans who try to contradict the reaction the WWE wants them to have, at the outset Rollins has a chance to channel any frustrations and the significantly negative reactions of the crowd into another big moment in his career.
He's not currently on the TLC card, and though it's unclear whether Monday's ambulance trip for Owens is the type that takes him out for days, weeks or months in the world of WWE, Rollins will almost certainly be in attendance on Sunday.
Follow the advice of Sting (the singer, not the wrestler): You don't have to put on the red light
"The Fiend" Bray Wyatt is undeniably the hottest act WWE has going at this moment, and if they're not careful they're going to run him into the ground in record time. The signature elements of Wyatt's presentation have been mesmerizingly effective, from the truly bizarre Firefly Funhouse, to the lights flickering out any time The Fiend is set to attack and the combination of the strobe-lighting effect and shrill sounds after the deed is done.
But once the act is taken into the ring, Wyatt's run as The Fiend has been nothing short of disaster. He's kicked out of dozens of finishing moves, weapons shots and everything Rollins and Daniel Bryan have thrown at him, in matches that were entirely too long for what they were trying to accomplish. A desire to keep Rollins and Bryan from looking like chumps by extending matches was rendered completely moot by having all of their signature offense cheapened by having little effect on the monster.
That would all be mostly forgivable, considering the incredible work that Wyatt has done as a character during his run to the Universal championship, if every single one of those far-too-long matches wasn't bathed entirely in red light. It's an extremely negative viewing experience for those in the arena and at home alike, taking fans out of the match and keeping them from seeing the full detail of the intricate, horrifying Wyatt mask as a match goes on.
Wyatt's horror movie vibes are more than effective enough to carry through a normally lighted match. Heck, even the strobing effect would take away less in the long run than slow, extended matches in virtual darkness. You would think WWE learned a lesson when the experiment of bathing every Sin Cara match in blue light (which was far subtler, for the record) in 2011 was universally panned and did nothing to add to the presentation.
While we're at it, let's get to my next wish ...
Stop recycling bad ideas
After months off TV, Liv Morgan wrestled a match against Charlotte Flair on SmackDown in mid-July that lasted less than 150 seconds. The match stemmed from some unflattering pre-match comments from Flair, and after admitting "Charlotte was right," she said she'd come back "real."
It's been five months without a single sign of Morgan on WWE TV and only an occasional allusion to some kind of turn toward darkness on social media. Then, on Monday, WWE promoted a "Liv Morgan Makeover, coming soon" with no indication of any context or timetable.
You may remember the last time the WWE promised a makeover with an ambiguous window, with Emma set to transform into Emmalina. Months of vignettes turned into a running joke, and when Emmalina finally appeared on TV, the gimmick was completely dropped on the very first night.
While there's certainly a chance that this takes a direct 90-degree turn into something we're not expecting, even alluding to a protracted lead-up to a makeover is pure comedy. The implication, same as it ever was, is that WWE fans have the memory and attention span of a goldfish.
This week's episode of the New Day: Feel the Power podcast (which is only in its second week, but excellent) featured Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E running through a long list of potential names the group was offered before its debut. There were plenty of laughs, and rightfully so, about ideas like "The A-Men" and "The Wonders" (or was it "The One-ders"?), but it also offered clear examples of WWE holding on to some ideas and recycling them years later. K.B.X., another potential name that was simply an acronym using their first names, didn't come together, but team P.C.B. (Paige, Charlotte, Becky) certainly did. And while New Day didn't become "The Almighty," Bobby Lashley eventually did.
There are plenty of examples of recycled stories and tropes, from everyone being best friends and then splitting up, to a strange fascination with divorce, pregnancy and/or cuckolding that resurfaces in different forms every few years. Let's get some new ideas in 2020.
Elevate the women of Raw and SmackDown
Since Survivor Series, here's how the women's division has featured on Raw and SmackDown:
Raw, Dec. 2: One women's match, Charlotte Flair vs. The Kabuki Warriors
Raw, Dec. 9: Becky Lynch followed Flair's footsteps in a handicap match against the Kabuki Warriors.
Sensing a pattern?
It's a microcosm of the last nine months, since Lynch put a bow on her ascendant stretch and won both women's titles at WrestleMania against Flair and Ronda Rousey. The lead-up to that match gets to part of the reason why women's wrestling has taken a half-step backward, in that the needs of the many have consistently been sacrificed for the needs of a few.
In the lead-up to that match, Asuka lost the SmackDown women's title to Flair 12 days before WrestleMania, and adding a second belt to the main event did exactly zero to boost the energy and excitement surrounding the match. It also led to a convoluted scenario in order to get one of the belts off Lynch. The important part of that equation is that a scheduled match between Asuka and Sonya Deville was scrapped.
Deville was starting to put together a nice little chunk of momentum, and an opportunity to shine on the WrestleMania stage in a single spotlight could have done wonders in establishing her within the women's division. Instead, she's struggled to regain much of that momentum. Asuka was floundering as well, until she and Kairi Sane made the most of the opportunity as a team and embraced their new roles as villains.
Survivor Series proved that Raw and SmackDown's women's divisions have some depth, but it's rarely used. Injury issues for Nia Jax, Ember Moon and Ruby Riott don't help, but former women's tag team champions The IIconics, for example, were riding high earlier in 2019, and they're virtual ghosts. And where is Naomi?
On NXT TV, the women's division feels a lot different. A women's War Games match didn't feel out of place. Candice LeRae vs. Io Shirai at NXT TakeOver: Toronto was one of the best matches of the year in WWE, full stop. The talent is there on Raw and SmackDown too -- they just need the time and opportunity.
WWE has a lot of pressure heading into 2020 with new competition in AEW and networks demanding ratings. Let's see if it'll rise to the occasion.
Let's take a look at the TLC card:
Universal champion Bray Wyatt vs. The Miz
As of Friday morning, this match does not appear as if it will be for the Universal championship. I don't think anyone expects The Miz to be victorious, and the biggest question lingering over this match is when Daniel Bryan will return. And will he be bald? Or beardless?
TLC match for the women's tag team championships: Kabuki Warriors (c) vs. Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch
As much as the story surrounding this match has dragged on, the handicap match between the Kabuki Warriors and Flair was shockingly good, and Asuka and Sane have picked things up in a big way. A big reset for both the Raw and SmackDown women's divisions is in order, but this match will be very, very good.
Prediction: Kabuki Warriors
TLC match: Baron Corbin vs. Roman Reigns
It's never a good look when you get dog food poured all over you on national television. Reigns needs something meatier to sink his teeth into, but SmackDown is in a bit of flux at the moment. Let's hope he can find something better after finally putting Corbin away on Sunday.
SmackDown tag team championships: The New Day (c) vs. The Revival
This can't be a bad match, if the past is any indication. Putting these two teams into a ladder match is reminiscent of The Usos and New Day putting on the best match of their careers inside Hell in a Cell. While the story's been a little stale, these two teams get the best out of each other.
Given WWE's recent propensity to flip the titles back and forth, I should probably give The Revival the nod as the merry-go-round continues, but I'll lean toward The New Day bringing some consistency back to the belts.
Prediction: New Day
Tables match: Rusev vs. Bobby Lashley
The less we say about this ongoing soap opera, the better, but at least there will be an actual match at TLC. Someday WWE's creative will sour on playing up breakups, divorces, pregnancies and lovers scorned, but today is not that day.
Prediction: Rusev wins by putting Lashley through a table. Lana goes through a table, too.
This match will be fantastic. It's the type of showcase that could open a lot of eyes, and I, for one, hope it does.