Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

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Thursday, December 13, 2018
Who is more pro-immigration: Canada or the US?
Pew Research surveyed citizens in 27 countries about immigration, asking respondents whether they wanted more, fewer, or about the same number of immigrants. With the exception of Japan, which has exceptionally low levels of immigration, everywhere people wanted fewer rather than more immigrants; in Spain it was close (28% wanted wanted more, 30% wanted fewer). The United Kingdom is one of the more immigration-friendly European nations, with 16% wanting more (only Spain was higher) and 43% wanting the same number (only the Netherlands supported the status quo at a higher rate). Skepticism about immigration is not only embroiling Eastern Europe (Hungary and Poland) and the South (France, Greece and Italy) but the supposedly more tolerant north (Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany). What is most interesting in these headline numbers is how similar Canada and the United States are. Nearly one-in-four Americans (24%) want more immigrants compared to a little less than one-in-five Canadians (19%); meanwhile 29% of Americans and 27% of Canadians want fewer immigrants. In Canada, a slight majority (53%) want the same number of immigrants whereas a large plurality of Americans (44%) support the status quo. These numbers might mask more nuanced views about immigration, but superficially, at least, American and Canadian citizens are about equally supportive/opposed to immigrants, at least when it comes to numbers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
The cure for European concerns about Brussels is not another European Union
Thomas Piketty and others have a Manifesto for the Democratization of Europe outlining their vision to "save Europe from itself." Piketty explains the project in The Guardian:
This is why we, European citizens from different backgrounds and countries, are today launching this appeal for the in-depth transformation of the European institutions and policies. Our manifesto contains concrete proposals, in particular a project for a democratisation treaty and a budget project – and we have made it all publicly available. Our ideas may not be perfect, but they do have the merit of existing. The public can access them and improve them. They are based on a simple conviction: Europe must build a new model to ensure the fair and lasting social development of its citizens. The only way to persuade them is to abandon vague and theoretical promises. If Europe wants to restore solidarity with its citizens it can only do so by providing concrete evidence that it is capable of establishing cooperation and by making those who have gained from globalisation contribute to the financing of public-sector good. That will mean making large firms contribute more than small and medium businesses, and the richest taxpayers paying more than poorer taxpayers. This is not the case today.
Our proposals are based on the creation of a budget for democratisation that would be debated and voted on by a new, sovereign European assembly. This will at last enable Europe to equip itself with a public institution capable of dealing with crises in Europe immediately and of producing a set of fundamental public goods and services in the framework of a lasting and solidarity-based economy. The promise made at the treaty of Rome of “harmonisation of living and working conditions” will finally become meaningful.
This budget, if the European assembly so desires, will be financed by four major European taxes, the tangible markers of this European solidarity. These will apply to the profits of major firms, the top incomes (over €200,000 a year), the highest wealth owners (over €1m ) and carbon emissions (with a minimum price of €30 a tonne). If it is fixed at 4% of GDP, as we propose, this budget could finance research, training and the European universities, an ambitious investment programme to transform our model of economic growth, the financing of the reception and integration of migrants, and the support of those involved in carrying out this transformation. It could also give some budgetary leeway to member states to reduce the regressive taxation that weighs on salaries or consumption.
The issue here is not one of creating a transfer of payments across Europe – taking money from the “virtuous” countries to give it to those that are less so. The project limits the gap between expenditure deducted and income paid by a country to a threshold of 0.1% of its GDP – this could only be increased should there be consensus to do so. This threshold can be raised in case there is a consensus to do so, but the issue is primarily of reducing the inequality within countries, not between them, and of investing in the future of all Europeans. But those calculations would exclude spending that benefits all countries equally, such as action on climate change. Because it will finance European public goods benefiting all countries, the budget for democratisation will de facto also foster convergence between countries.
Because we must act quickly but we must also get Europe out of the present technocratic impasse, we propose the creation of a European assembly. This will enable these new European taxes to be debated and voted as also the budget for democratisation. This European assembly can be created without changing existing European treaties.
The assembly would, of course, have to communicate with the present decision-making institutions (in particular the Eurogroup in which the ministers for finance in the eurozone meet informally every month). But, in cases of disagreement, the assembly would have the final word. If not, its capacity to be a locus for a new transnational political space where parties, social movements and NGOs would finally be able to express themselves would be compromised. Equally its actual effectiveness, since the issue is one of finally extricating Europe from the eternal inertia of intergovernmental negotiations, would be at stake. We should bear in mind that the rule of fiscal unanimity in force in the European Union has for years blocked the adoption of any European tax and sustains the eternal evasion into fiscal dumping by the rich and most mobile, a practice which continues to this day despite all the speeches. This will go on if other decision-making rules are not set up.
For voters across Europe who are concerned about giving up their sovereignty to an pan-European body or voters in other countries, I doubt this would alleviate their worries.

Sunday, December 09, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: The Raw writers, specifically the story they are giving Dean Ambrose. He doesn't like what The Shield was. Then he doesn't like what The Shield has become. He doesn't like the fans. He doesn't like germs. Stick to a single explanation for his heel turn and stick with it.
Honourable mention: Fabian Aichner (NXT UK) had an impressive win against Mark Andrews in his debut on the brand and he had one of the nicest back-breakers I've ever seen; Undisputed Era (NXT) had a nice promo with Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O'Reilly taking turns talking about how EC3 and Heavy Machinery are not real challengers to their dominance; Travis Banks (NXT UK) called out Wolfgang and the Coffey brothers in one episode and (a little surprisingly) beat Wolfgang in the next; Samoa Joe (Smackdown) distracted Jeff Hardy during his match with Randy Orton when a video promo broadcast showing Joe at a bar mocking Hardy's past addiction issues; Cesaro (Smackdown) lost a threeway contest with Jey Uso and Xavier Woods but looked super strong when he put the New Day member on his shoulders and then took Uso for an airplane spin, just before taking the pin (see 1:20 of this video); Punishment Martinez (NXT) debuted in the WWE and the former Ring of Honor Television Champion looked strong despite taking the loss against Matt Riddle.
13. (tie): Jay Uso and Xavier Woods (Smackdown): Taking part in a triple threat match against Cesaro as a teaser for the three-way tag team match for the Smackdown tag championship at TLC, Jay Uso and Xavier Woods, who have been part of terrific tag matches against each other over the years, cooperated a number of times and had a neat series of counters and reversals. Both looked good and teased an angle (cooperation) that will either be short-lived or non-existent when the gold is at stake. The Smackdown tag championship is the most difficult contest at TLC to predict, with a case for all three coming out of the pay-per-view with the belts. (Last week: 11th and not rated respectively)
12. Shayna Baszler (NXT): The Queen of Spades beat Dakota Kai in a non-title match, savagely focusing on her opponent's arm. At the end of the contest, Baszler's former MMA mates, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir, joined in the assault on Kai. Io Shirai came to Kai's defense, and got a little offense in against Baszler, before the NXT Women's champion hightailed it out of the ring. Baszler's next storyline is likely a factional feud, not necessarily a focus on the title. (Last week: not rated)
10. (Tie) Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (Raw): The Lunatic came out with a squad of defenders, with both him and his entourage wearing gas masks to shield themselves from the germs carried by the fans and Seth Rollins. Dean Ambrose continued to offer various explanations for his heel turn and to needle Seth Rollins ahead of their IC title match at TLC. Rollins attacked, entering from the audience. He fought off several of Ambrose's goons, then attacked Ambrose. Ambrose got the upper-hand before Rollins was distracted by more of Ambrose's bodyguards. Ambrose tried to leave through the audience but Rollins caught up to him. They fought among the crowd. They fought ringside. Ambrose got a Dirty Deeds on Rollins on the ground and threw him into the ring and put his signature move on him again. You could make the argument that the routine is getting boring, but I thought it took the conflict to the next level and left fans ready to the TLC pay-per-view. It would have been perfect for a go-home show heading into the PPV, so I'm not sure what the WWE has planned for these two Monday night. (Last week: not rated and 1st respectively)
9. Drew McIntyre (Raw): Drew McIntyre did not have a stereotypically good week. He suffered his first pin or submission since returning to the WWE in April. He broke up with his tag partner, Dolph Ziggler. And his Drew McIntyre Appreciation Day and medal presentation was interrupted. But all this happened because McIntyre's story is the second biggest thing on Raw after the Seth Rollins-Dean Ambrose feud. McIntyre is part of Baron Corbin's faction and Corbin is the brand's general manager (acting or elect, depending on your allegiance). He broke up with Ziggler, telling him that while they rose to tremendous heights this year, it was all McIntyre -- who was both the brains and brawn of the pairing. It was a great promo. He then only lost to Ziggler because Finn Balor interfered in the match. McIntyre got his revenge of Balor later, attacking him behind the scenes after the Extraordinary Man Who Does Extraordinary Things won his contest with Jinder Mahal. It's pretty obvious that McIntyre is getting his push and his character is the most interesting on the red brand right now. (Last week: 7th)
8. Asuka (Smackdown): Asuka was teamed with one of her TLC opponents, Charlotte Flair, in a tag match against Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose. Flair accidentally kicked the Princess of Tomorrow on the ring apron and Asuka returned the favour -- most definitely not by accident -- to cost them the victory. It was a nifty bit of storytelling to make Asuka's inclusion in the Triple Threat TLC match with Flair and Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women's title a little more meaningful. (Last week: 4th)
7. Elias (Raw): Elias came out to promo and just as he started his song, Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush interrupted. Elias had enough and marched up the ramp to confront the heel duo. After a little back and forth, Elias reversed Lashley's attempt to throw him into the video screen where wrestlers come out. Lashley was on the ground and cowardly in backing away from Elias as he chased The Almighty one with his guitar. It made Lashley look uncharacteristically weak, which in turn made Elias look strong. As a bonus Finn Balor caught Lio Rush, threw him onto the ramp, where Lashley's hype-man was vulnerable to Elias's attack and wound up on the receiving end of guitar over the back. (Last week: 5th)
6. Dolph Ziggler (Raw): The Show Off needed Finn Balor's help but Dolph Ziggler scored the first pin or submission against Drew McIntyre since the Scottish Psychopath returned to the WWE in April. Ever since the two appeared together in the Spring, it's been assumed the two would sooner-rather-than-later break-up. In recent weeks, McIntyre has been working with Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley. It would not have been surprising if the WWE writers just forgot or moved on from the Ziggler-McIntyre partnership, but having McIntyre dress down his former partner during Drew McIntyre Appreciation Day and tell him that he's moved on because their partnership served its purpose was a nice way to develop this story (rather than an in-ring betrayal). Ziggler shouldn't become a babyface, but a Ziggler-McIntyre feud might be precisely what the latter needs for a push to the next level. (Last week: not rated)
5. Finn Balor (Raw): Finn Balor has been buried for most of the last year. When he headlines, it is part of being a credible star that joins a tag team or six-man tag match. He should be a superstar, or at least a borderline one, but he isn't booked like one. This week, he got closer to where he should be. The Extraordinary Man Who Does Extraordinary Things interfered in a match, involved himself in the Elias versus Bobby Lashley/Leo Rush conflict, and then headlined the second-to-last contest on the Monday show. The match made little sense and wasn't that interesting but beating Jinder Mahal still means something story-wise, which he did despite Mahal sidekicks interjecting themselves in the contest. Balor has a long way to go to reach his potential, but he is on the right trajectory for a change. It seems that his match against Drew McIntyre at TLC is a bit more meaningful that it was last week. (Last week: not rated)
2. (tie) Tommaso Ciampa, Aleister Black, and Johnny Gargano (NXT): The NXT champion came out to gloat about his Takeover: War Games victory over Velveteen Dream and complained about how he is underestimated. Aleister Black emerged to insist that Ciampa is undeserving of his championship and demanded his rematch from dropping the title to Ciampa. Johnny Wrestling interrupted the interruption, saying that there are unresolved issues between himself and Black. This might be setting up a threeway contest (as was scheduled for Takeover: Brooklyn). Ciampa slipped out to the ring apron and impishly egged stirred the pot (presumably thinking he could get out of the rematch against Black). Ciampa suggested Black and Gargano settle their conflict inside a steel cage. It was a masterful and fun performance and you can view it here. Whether it sets up a threeway match or merely allows another Gargano-Black contest, this was a brilliant and meaningful promo. (Last week: not rated)
1. Daniel Bryan (Shakedown): Great heel work during his promo on The Miz Show. His taunting of the fans as "Fickle. Fickle. Fickle" is one of the best in the business. I found it strange that this newly minted villain is taunting the WWE Universe's "sin" of not caring for the environment, but it did get heat from the fans so apparently being green can make someone a bad guy. After the main event match of The Miz against A.J. Styles, Bryan attacked the former champ. I wasn't a Bryan fan, but his heel-turn is winning me over. His character is one of the most compelling in any brand right now. (Last week: 10th)

I got a Twitchy mention
My tweet about Ted Cruz's facial hair made Twitchy's reaction coverage to Slate's article on the Texas senator's semi-hot beard. Kinda cool.

Friday, December 07, 2018
The good news is that there is good news. Lots of it.
The journalist Gregg Easterbrook likes to remind readers that the media, like politicians, prefer people believe we are perpetually in a state of crisis, and thus seldom covers good news. I think that's true to a point, but there is also the fact that most good news is, generally speaking, the continuation of long-standing positive trends that are difficult to report on regularly. But whatever good reasons there are for editors choosing not to cover positive developments, the sense that everything that is happening is bad inevitably leads us to (mistakenly) believe that we live in a particularly tumultuous, unjust, and violent world. The fact is, for most people, most of the time, things are getting better, but the progress is not easily measured, and less easily noticed, year by year.
Vox notes four positive trends that do not get enough attention: "Extreme poverty is falling," "Child mortality is falling," "We’re getting better at preventing preventable diseases," and "Clean energy is getting cheaper." The benefits of these developments have already accrued to the middle class in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand (a little backsliding among some demographics in recent years); it's happening in the rest world now and that's worth celebrating. But it's hard to celebrate if people don't know/care that it's happening.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Travel writing is bad
Tyler Cowen:
The most painful sections of a bookshop to have to read through would be the management books, self-help, and also the travel books. Yet management, self-help, and travel are all very important and indeed extremely interesting matters, so I am wondering why these books are so bad ...
My biggest complaint is that travel books seem not to discriminate between what the reader might care about or not ...
Is travel like (some) sex, namely that you can’t write about it because it is viscerally exciting in a “you had to be there” way? Why cannot that constraint be overcome by shifting the focus to matters more factual?
Too many travel books seem like an inefficient blending of memoir, novel, and travel narration, and they are throughout too light on information.
Cowen provides examples of poor travel writing by examining Jedidiah Jenkins' To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret, which does not deserve to be singled out, but nicely illustrates the problem(s). One example:
I wait. I drink some more water. It sit in the grass and chat with the others. I have a few false starts: “Ooh, I’m feeling it…just kidding, no I’m not.” “Okay, now I am! No, that’s an ant on my ankle.”
Cowen asks, "What are the microfoundations for this failure in the quality of travel books?" From the example above and from the limited amount of travel writing I've read (not including guide books, which serve a specific purpose), I'd say the problem is that these writers want to be novelists rather than reporters. But that only begs the question: why does travel writing veer to that sort of narrative storytelling rather than something akin to history writing. Cowen says, "Ideally I want someone with a background in geography, natural history, or maybe urban studies to serve up a semi-rigorous account of what they are doing and seeing."
Travel writing might be better suited to journalism (newspaper, magazines, websites) than books. Because I agree with Cowen's prescription, I find Rick McGinnis to be a great travel writer, formerly for the Toronto Star (see here and scroll down). Whether he was writing about Ireland, the Calgary Stampede, the Stratford festival, or various cities in upstate New York, McGinnis is more interested in telling you about the location than his experience about the place.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Nine-year-old freedom fighter
The Associated Press reports on a battle for liberty in Severance, Colorado:
A 9-year-old boy has convinced the leaders of a small northern Colorado town to overturn a nearly century-old ban on snowball fights, and he already knows whom his first target will be — his little brother.
Dane Best, who lives in the often snow-swept town of Severance, presented his arguments at a town board meeting Monday night, and members voted unanimously to lift the ban.
“I think it’s an outdated law,” Dane said in the lead-up to the meeting. “I want to be able to throw a snowball without getting in trouble.”
Dane’s mother, Brooke Best, told the Greeley Tribune her son had been talking about snowballs since he found out about a month and a half ago that it was illegal to throw them within town limits. The last time it snowed, Dane said, he and his friends looked around for police and joked about breaking the law.
Kyle Rietkerk, assistant to the Severance town administrator, said the rule was part of a larger ordinance that made it illegal to throw or shoot stones or missiles at people, animals, buildings, trees, any other public or private property or vehicles. Snowballs fell under the town’s definition of “missiles.”
“All of the kids always get blown away that it’s illegal to have snowball fights in Severance,” Rietkerk said before the meeting. “So, what ends up happening is (town leaders) always encourage the kids with, ‘You have the power, you can change the law.’ No one has.”
Yes, Dane Best did the right thing here, but city officials could have just ignored the law. The story does not say whether anyone has been arrested or punished for throwing a snowball, but even if it technically violated the law, it would have been ridiculous for a police officer to harass a child or his/her family for doing so. Common sense should be allowed to prevail.
Common sense seems in short supply in Severance and perhaps Dane Best should continue his heroic work on behalf of liberty. The AP reports, "Dane has a guinea pig, which is illegal in Severance, too." The law in this city defines pets as cats and dogs.

European Court of Justice advises Brussels to show utmost contempt for British voters
The (London) Times reports:
The European Union should “open a third way” for MPs to cancel Brexit without any costs or political conditions imposed, according to legal advice issued to the European Court of Justice today.
Theresa May has told MPs that a “meaningful vote” in the Commons on Tuesday next week involved the stark choice of accepting her controversial withdrawal deal or crashing out of the EU with no agreement.
In a victory for campaigners seeking to reverse Brexit, an advocate general to the EU’s highest court has recommended giving the British parliament the right to unilaterally revoke the withdrawal process.
Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona, one of the ECJ’s advocate-generals, whose advice is usually followed by the full court, made it clear that he intended to “open a third way, namely remaining in the EU in the face of an unsatisfactory Brexit”.
The EU and their eurocrat allies within each member nation have often shown contempt for voters, ignoring the democratically expressed will of the people (France and the Lisbon Treaty establishing a "European constitution) or requiring countries to revote if the desired outcome is not achieved (Denmark and the Maastricht Treaty, Netherlands and Ireland on Lisbon, Ireland on Nice).
The EU routinely ignores its own rules, the most egregious examples being that most countries simply do not abide the Stability and Growth Pact's requirement that deficits not exceed 3% of GDP.
The advice of Campos Sánchez-Bordona suggests that the EU ignore the will of voters in Britain who voted to withdraw from the European Union in June 2016 and that it ignore EU rules which state fairly clearly (as understood before the Brexit vote) that once Article 50 is invoked and notice of withdrawal is made, it cannot be rescinded. The (new) untested opinion of legal experts in Europe since Brexit, to the degree it makes sense to speak of it in the singular, is that countries can rescind their notice of intention to leave the EU. But this conventional wisdom is novel, a reaction to the tumultuous Brexit vote and negotiations. That it now has a face and name as respected among EU-types as Campos Sánchez-Bordona does not make it any less a grotesque violation of democracy and opportunistic re-writing (re-understanding?) of EU norms.
In related news, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Daily Express, "politicians ought to listen more to the wisdom of electors rather than thinking the establishment knows best."

We often hear politicians refer to their call to public service. I believe they believe they are serving the public, but in actuality, they are serving their need to control the lives of others. (In fact, I think most people want to control others and that controlling others could be part of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, but that outside of parents, teachers, and some bureaucrats and bosses, most people will never realize the sort of control the typical politician can wield.) Understanding this desire to exert something between influence and control, Donald Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek explains the motivations of those who enter politics:
But most people who successfully pursue careers in politics are people who pursue those careers precisely to interfere in the affairs of other people. These are people who are unusually greedy for attention and fame, as well as control, and who satisfy their greed by prominently ordering other people about.
This is as true for conservatives as liberals. Note: there are some issues worth interfering about, but for too many people on both the Left and the Right, there is an overly broad definition of what the state should do to ensure liberty, peace, order, and security. What we as voters should never do, however, is forget that politicians want to control us.

Monday, December 03, 2018
The internet is full of important facts
Tom Whitwell learned 52 things in 2018. My favourites:
10. In 2015, the Billboard top 200 featured twice as many acoustic guitars as electric guitars.
16. Times Newer Roman looks almost exactly like Times New Roman, but each character is 5–10 wider. That means a 15 page, 12pt document contains just over 5,800 words. The same page count in Times New Roman would require over 6,600 words.
35. Using a middle initial makes people think you’re clever.
37. The average age of viewers of Vice Media’s ‘Viceland’ TV channel is 42.
39. 54 percent of Chinese born after 1995 chose “influencer” as their most desired occupation.
47. In New York City, there are around 1,000 crosswalk buttons. In 2018, only 100 are functional, down from 750 functional buttons in 2004.
Each point has link to original story. Worth your time. #7 is weirdly interesting, while #22 and #23 could have public policy implications in health care.

Project Fear (BoE No Deal worst case scenarios edition)
Daily Telegraph columnist and former chancellor of the exchequer Norman Lamont on Mark Carney's wild speculations about the British economy if there is No Deal:
Economists behind desks are in no better position than anyone else to forecast short-term psychology and their previous efforts in this respect – all kinds of horrors after a vote to Leave in 2016 – signally failed to materialise. The economy kept on growing and unemployment falling.
Of course, this was “a worst case scenario”. There is always a “worst case scenario”, but it is not what is expected to happen. One could argue that with the present high levels of indebtedness in the UK economy and elsewhere in the world, a worst case scenario is that we will experience another crash on the scale of 2008 any time. But that is not actually what most people expect and Governor Carney would not thank one for speculating in that way.
So it was surprising that when it came to Brexit he appeared in a never ending interview on the Today programme last week to wallow in the gloom while sheltering behind the lame excuse the Commons had asked for the figures. The Governor needs to be careful if no deal by any chance does happen that he has not created a self fulfilling prophecy. That would not look clever.
An old joke about economists has it that they put a decimal point in their forecasts to show they have a sense of humour. The Treasury’s forecast differences in economic growth for all the alternative relationships with the EU were in the short term remarkably small, much less than one per cent a year.
But these small differences were then multiplied by 15 to produce a more observable measurable figure over the medium term, namely 15 years – a positive aeon in economic terms. These 15-year figures were then the ones broadcast by the BBC and others. But no one, not even economists, seriously believes that anyone can predict the economy over 15 years.
The gloomy forecasts are nonsense, and the media should not, as it did last week, focus on the highly speculative worst-case scenarios.

Sunday, December 02, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: Raw writers. It was terrible. Many of the promos made little sense. Dean Ambrose is delivering well, but his scripts have been awful and lame. Drake Maverick urinated on Bobby Roode's expensive robe. Baron Corbin tests the patience of viewers by constantly changing the terms of the matches. A pointless open forum that was obviously designed to provide an opportunity for heels to attack Sasha Banks and Bailey (why not just have a match?). A typically terrible Nia Jax promo while Tamina just intensely stared at her partner. Dave Meltzer called this week's Raw the most boring episode ever. There have been a lot of uninteresting Raws over the last few months, but this one actively pissed this viewer off.
Honourable mention: Zach Gibson and James Drake (NXT UK) are a newly formed partnership and they beat Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan to help establish themselves as a quality tag team in NXT UK, which unfortunately probably takes Gibson out of singles action but develops another tag team on the show; Alexa Bliss (Raw) was tapped by acting general manager Baron Corbin to run the red brand's women's division, which should lead to a number of interesting storylines in the short-term before the heel general manager; Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe (Smackdown), the former who had a nice tribute to mark 20 years in the WWE (and which he pointedly noted was not a retirement speech), the latter who interrupted the celebration by referencing the Charismatic Enigma's past substance abuse issues, thus setting up these two superstars' storylines.
13. Cedric Alexander (205 Live): The former Cruiserweight champ won his tag team match with Mustafa Ali against the current champ Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese. The contest was a good tag match and Alexander, who has been losing lately, looked strong by pinning Murphy following his Lumbar Check on the champ. (Last week: not rated)
11. (tied) Jey and Jimmy Uso (Smackdown): Beat the Smackdown Tag Team champs Cesaro and Sheamus to earn a title shot against The Bar. (Last week: not rated)
10. Daniel Bryan (Smackdown): The blue brand's World champ did not even appear this week, but the A.J. Styles promo getting heat on their upcoming TLC rematch made Daniel Bryan look like a nasty heel. The producers interspersed video of Bryan beating Styles two weeks ago with the former's promo last week explaining his heel-turn. Very well done reminding the WWE Universe that Daniel Bryan flipped and why -- and why it worked. This is the first time that a contender makes the list in a week that he or she was not present during the show. (Last week: 13th)
9. Randy Orton (Smackdown): The Apex Predator came out to explain why he de-masked Rey Mysterio last week. Randy Orton said he doesn't care about the Lucha tradition, that, in fact, he doesn't even know its history. Instead, Orton just wanted to humiliate Mysterio. Mysterio came out and they fought, with Orton being on the receiving end of two 619s. Yet, he got up to stop Mysterio from continuing the attack with a chair and he turned the tables to put a beating on Mysterio again. Randy Orton is being touted as a legend-killer, a ruthless heel. This put heat on the Orton-Mysterio feud, leaving the fans wanting more. Lots more. (Last week: honourable mention)
8. Rhea Ripley (NXT UK): Rhea Ripley beat Mae Young CLassic Toni Storm to become the first NXT UK Women's champion. She's a great wrestler with a nasty streak and confident persona, which is why I didn't really like her shocked look when she won the championship. But otherwise, she was strong throughout the match and will make a dominating women's champ. (Last week: 12th)
7. Drew McIntyre (Raw): The Scottish Psychopath demonstrated his dominance twice Monday night without being booked for a match. He was on stage for most of the first hour and then he played a role in the final half hour of the show. He was part of the opening promo with Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley and then got involved in the attack on Elias when Corbin declared it a no-DQ match. In the closing contest, McIntyre joined Corbin taking on Finn Balor when the acting general manager declared the match a handicap contest. McIntyre is getting a push, even when he isn't booked to take on Raw's biggest stars in his own matches. (Last week: 14th)
6. Pete Dunn (NXT UK): The Bruiserweight beat Jordan Devlin to defend the NXT UK title on one of the show's two episodes this week and in the other joined in the melee when Trent Seven and Tyler Bate were getting beaten by the Coffey Brothers and Wolfgang; this is the culmination of weeks of the embryonic development of a feud between the factions. It should be fun going forward. (Last week: not rated)
5. Elias (Raw): Elias interrupted acting general manager elect Baron Corbin's speech about how all members of Raw must choose whether they want to "be on the right side of history" or not -- ie, backing Corbin or not. Elias has a great promo, insulting Corbin (boring talker), Bobby Lashley (Bobby Trashley) and Lio Rush (being a child). Then Elias faced Lashley and would have beat him had Rush not pulled the ref out of the ring as he was finishing his three count. After the referee disqualified Lashley, Corbin announced it was a no-DQ match, and Corbin, Lashley, and Drew McIntyre put a beating on Elias for several minutes outside the ring. Lashley then pinned Elias. But the near-victory demonstrated that Elias can beat big opponents and he did so with some neat, poppy, face moves: a running drop-kick to Lashley who was standing outside the ring and a Randy "Macho Man" Savagesque elbow from the top rope. He is one of top faces on the red brand. (Last week: not rated)
4. Asuka (Smackdown): Asuka beat eight opponents in a Battle Royale, eliminating four of her competitors herself, to earn the right to face Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch for the women's title at TLC. (See #2.) After being buried since coming over to Smackdown after Wrestlemania, it was good to see Asuka get this chance. (Last week: not rated)
3. Charlotte Flair (Smackdown): See #2. (Last week: 1st)
2. Becky Lynch (Smackdown): The Raw women's champ and former champ (and erstwhile friend) shared a promo. A week after skipping Smackdown Live, Becky Lynch called out Charlotte Flair and said that while The Queen's beating of Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series was impressive, The Champ would have ensured her Raw counterpart wouldn't have gotten back up and appeared the next day to fight again. Lynch accused Flair of copying her and Flair retorted that Lynch is living in her shadow. This promo provided heat to the Flair-Lynch, Lynch-Rousey, and Flair-Rousey feuds all at once. That's quite an accomplishment. Smackdown general manager Paige said she loved the emotion and granted Flair a Women's World title rematch at TLC, in the first-ever women's tables, ladders, and chairs match. After the rest of the Smackdown women's division came out to complain, Paige said she liked their passion, too, and announced that a battle royale would determine which superstar would join Flair and Lynch in the championship match at TLC. Lynch got the biggest pop, but it was good to see the crowd wooing along with and for Flair. (Last week: not rated)
1. Seth Rollins (Raw): Seth Rollins temporarily moved on from his feud with former partner Dean Ambrose to issue an open challenge to defend his Intercontinental belt. Dolph Ziggler emerged and the two fought. Ziggler had the upper hand for much of the match as Rollins' head was clearly still on Ambrose, but Rollins was ultimately victorious after rolling up the challenger. Rollins defending the championship and gearing up to fight Ambrose at TLC later this month means he's on top of the men's division in WWE again. He's still The Man. (Last week: 8th)