Any fan of wrestling could imagine that there was a change brewing after the TLC pay-per-view.
Not only was John Cena left off the card while CM Punk retained his WWE Champion, but two new champions were crowned. Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder became World Heavyweight and United States Champions, respectively.
For those who did not see the writing on the wall that night, RAW's opening segment, main event and recap on SmackDown could convince just about anyone. WWE is attempting to bring back faith in the product by making fan favorites into champions.
The lineup of champions going into 2012 is very heavy with babyfaces. Only Beth Phoenix as Divas Champion and Cody Rhodes as Intercontinental Champion represent the heels of the company.
For the first time since Extreme Rules in May, there is not a heel world champion on either brand. It is shocking to see that the lack of a heel world champion has happened twice in 2011, a year when the likes of Alberto Del Rio, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Mark Henry, all of whom were heel world champions this year, had their coming-out parties as the calendar kept flipping.
At the start of this year, Daniel Bryan was a United States Champion. CM Punk was the new leader of Nexus. Zack Ryder was a low mid-carder who was still weeks away from starting his now-infamous YouTube series.
Yet with all of that, all three hold some gold in WWE right now, less than 14 weeks from WrestleMania.
All hope is not lost for the heels in the company. 2012 is a brand new year, and where there are face champions, there are heel challengers.
A better balance of heels and faces with gold will come in due time, likely before February. It may even come sooner than that after the terrible ratings during last week's RAW main event.
As much as there is a lot of press about the fan favorite champions, there have been some heel contenders that have developed very quietly.
The Miz has revitalized his career as a world title contender. With Alberto Del Rio's injury woes, The Miz could be the opponent for CM Punk at Royal Rumble. Even though R-Truth's suspension is now up, I cannot imagine who would challenge Punk at Royal Rumble in five weeks besides Miz.
Then again, there's a former United States Champion named Dolph Ziggler who could show up in that match, too.
Speaking of the United States Championship, Zack Ryder is trying hard to show his worth as a mid-card champion. The card from the upcoming RAW Holiday Tour has a battle royal to determine a No. 1 contender for Ryder's title.
The list of legitimate potential contenders seem to start and end with Dolph Ziggler. It isn't too far-fetched to believe that Ziggler's ally Jack Swagger could be in line for the next chance if Ziggler moves to the main event.
Air Boom and their tag team championships seem to be firmly in possession of the champs. Even when Evan Bourne served a suspension weeks ago, there was no pressure to defend the championships, because there were no legitimate contenders.
Weeks ago, the world was introduced to Primo and Epico, who are now facing Air Boom on a regular basis. They were pretty much considered top contenders for actually existing.
Now, Primo and Epico, along with Rosa Mendes, will have to try and find a way to take the titles off of Air Boom, the longest-reigning champions in almost two years.
Then, there is Daniel Bryan, the new World Heavyweight Champion.
While the constants of Sheamus and Randy Orton could be under consideration, the writing on the wall seems to draw people toward the idea of Big Show possibly turning on Bryan, his former friend, and joining the ranks of the heels in WWE.
Something tells me to not sleep on Wade Barrett, either. The Barrett Barrage could lead to Barrett facing his former NXT rival in a matchup that could be WWE's way of legitimizing what NXT did for the company.
So don't fret if you don't like the fan favorites as champions. The new year brings new opportunities for the heels to strengthen their careers.
The champion is only as strong as their challengers, so expect 2012 to be, at least in the beginning, The Year of the Heel.