WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- This past year was one of change for the WWE as new Superstars, shows, and championships were introduced to the sports-entertainment brand alongside a slew of returning faces that were met with much fanfare.
Here are the top five moments that shocked audiences, helped push the company to new creative heights and laid the groundwork for the future.
5. Shane McMahon returns to WWE
After a six year absence, the prodigal son and former heir to the throne Shane McMahon made a surprise return on Raw in February just as his father, chairman and CEO Vince, was about to honor his sister Stephanie with the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award.
As Shane's signature money-themed music hit, the crowd in Detroit lost their minds, happy to see the former WWE staple back in action. Shane proceeded to call out the established Authority of Stephanie and her COO husband Triple H, claiming that they had run the company into the ground.
The segment featured Shane demanding control of Raw which Vince would allow if he could somehow defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania. While he lost the match, Shane was soon named the commissioner of Smackdown Live and has remained on WWE programming ever since.
4. Daniel Bryan announces his retirement
In one of the most somber and heartbreaking moments of 2016, four-time World Champion Daniel Bryan announced his retirement from in-ring competition in February on Raw.
One of the most popular WWE Superstars from the past couple of years, Bryan addressed the WWE Universe alone in the ring as he reflected on his life, career and the hard truth that he was no longer able to physically compete in the ring.
Always one to stay positive, Bryan ended his retirement speech asking the audience to join him for one more Yes-chant that rocked the arena. He was soon joined by his wife Brie Bella and the entire WWE locker room who applauded the Superstar's storied career.
Bryan would not stay away from WWE for long, however, joining Shane McMahon as the general manager of Smackdown Live in July.
WWE completely revamped their weekly block of programming in July, choosing to once again split-up their shows Raw and Smackdown into separate entities that would host their own unique roster of Superstars and championships.
As Shane and Stephanie attempted to co-exist, Vince decided that each sibling would command their own show with Stephanie taking over Raw with Hall of Famer Mick Foley and Shane would oversee Smackdown with Daniel Bryan.
The brand-split has introduced more pay-per-views events and a collection of new titles as both Raw and Smackdown host their own Tag-Team and Women's championship belts. After Dean Ambrose took the WWE Championship with him when he was drafted to Smackdown, Raw created the Universal Championship that now rests on the shoulders of Kevin Owens.
Notable Raw draft picks include Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Chris Jericho while Smackdown drafted the likes of John Cena, AJ Styles, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton.
Promoted as fantasy warfare meets reality, a returning Goldberg completely decimated Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series in November in the most surprising outcome and match of 2016.
The dream rematch between the two titans was hyped for weeks with many believing the dominant Lesnar would win in convincing fashion.
The Beast was handily tamed, however, as Goldberg started the match with a flurry of his signature moves including two Spears and the powerful Jackhammer for the three count.
Not surprisingly, Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman are looking for revenge and hope to meet Goldberg again during the upcoming Royal Rumble match in January.
1. AJ Styles makes his WWE debut
One of the most decorated and popular professional wrestlers in the world, AJ Styles, had never competed inside a WWE ring until 2016.
Making his grand and surprise entrance in the Royal Rumble match in January, Styles was quickly thrust into a confrontation with one of WWE's top dogs, Roman Reigns.
Although Styles was unsuccessful in the Rumble match, the crowd was behind him and a new premiere WWE Superstar was born.
Following the Rumble, Styles had the most dominant year of any WWE Superstar as he notably defeated company face John Cena at SummerSlam in August before he dispatched of Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship at Backlash in September.
The Phenomenal One has held onto the title ever since, delivering some of the best matches of the year. The scary part is that Styles only seems to be getting started as he heads into 2017.