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WWE: Top 5 most shocking moments of 2021

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WWE: Top 5 most shocking moments of 2021
"Raw" Women's Champion Becky Lynch (R), and her husband, Seth Rollins, arrive for the taping of the 28th annual MTV Movie & TV Awards on June 15, 2019. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 24 (UPI) -- WWE went through multiple changes in 2021, including sweeping adjustments to its roster, development brand NXT and more.

The sports entertainment company surprised viewers over the last year with the return of fan-favorite wrestlers, the Money in the Bank briefcase and sudden firings.

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These are the Top 5 most shocking moments of WWE this year that changed the professional wrestling landscape.

5. Roman Reigns fires Paul Heyman

Universal Champion Roman Reigns is ending 2021 with a shocker as he fired his special counsel Paul Heyman recently on SmackDown. The Head of the Table was tired of Heyman's suspicious association with his former client Brock Lesnar and asked for the truth. Heyman was forthright and admitted to wanting to protect Reigns from Lesnar, which led to him being fired. Reigns gave Heyman a hug and thanked him for his service to his family before he took out the wiseman with a Superman Punch. The attack led to Lesnar avenging Heyman by assaulting Reigns and his cousins, SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos.

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4. WWE releases Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, Nia Jax and many others

WWE's roster at the start of 2021 was way different than it is now, with the company releasing multiple wrestlers over the course of the year. The list of those released are a who's who of modern-day professional wrestlers, with some even dominating WWE programming over the last couple of years such as Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, Nia Jax, Lana, John Morrison and many, many more. While many mainstays still remain, change is in the air at WWE as the promotion seems poised to bring in younger talent, as seen through the new crop of superstars showing up on the new version of NXT. WWE's roster was also affected by who didn't want to stay with the company like Bryan Danielson, who now competes for rival promotion AEW.

3. 'NXT' is given a new coat of paint

NXT went through a surprising revamp in 2021 with WWE's developmental brand now sporting a new look and new stars. NXT 2.0 has ditched the show's black and gold color scheme and more serious tone for something more colorful and splashy. The in-ring wrestling is still great but the product, overall, has morphed into an extension of what fans see on Raw or SmackDown. The show's new crop of wrestlers have kept things interesting, however, with stand-out talent such as Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Cora Jade, Tony D'Angelo, Gigi Dolin, Jacy Jayne and more proving that NXT and WWE's future are in good hands.

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2. Big E becomes WWE Champion

Dreams came true for many fans when Big E finally became WWE Champion in 2021 for the first time in his career. Big E, like Nikki A.S.H., had won the Money in the Bank briefcase in July, but held onto the item throughout the remainder of the year. Fans wondered when Big E's time would finally come with the grappler teasing on multiple occasions that he would cash in on Universal Champion Roman Reigns. Big E, in a surprising and welcome move, said he would cash in on Bobby Lashley on Twitter and did just that on Raw in September. The moment kept fans on the edge of their seats as Lashley still put up a fight by landing a Spear, which Big E kicked out of before he landed the Big Ending to become WWE Champion.

1. Becky Lynch returns at 'SummerSlam'

Becky Lynch, who had one of the most shocking WWE moments last year when she announced she was pregnant and was relinquishing the Raw Women's Championship, made her epic and surprise return in August at SummerSlam. Lynch arrived onto the scene after Bianca Belair was told that her scheduled opponent Sasha Banks was unable to compete. Enter The Man who walked down to the ring as thousands of fans cheered. Lynch quickly took care of replacement opponent Carmella and challenged Belair right there on the spot. Lynch then did the unthinkable by defeating Belair in mere seconds after she tricked her opponent into shaking hands. What has followed is a villainous Lynch who is willing to do anything to remain Raw Women's Champion, a huge surprise in its own right as the once heroic champ has now turned her back on fans.

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