2016 was a momentous year for WWE: Over the last 365 days WWE has overhauled its roster, reignited the Raw vs. SmackDown rivalry and completely revitalized multiple divisions.
Here are the 40 moments that defined the year in WWE, presented in (roughly) chronological order.
AJ Styles makes his debut at the Royal Rumble
AJ Styles has been the best WWE in-ring performer of the year, and it's not even close. He delivered two classic pay-per-view main events with Roman Reigns that no one expected to be as good as they were, an epic feud with John Cena that culminated in what was arguably the match of the year at SummerSlam, and has since carried SmackDown in Cena's absence.
Styles' arrival in WWE was also a landmark moment. For years, WWE was a closed universe that made no mention to the rival promotions around the world. But less than a year after making his debut, the guy who was the face of TNA has taken down the WWE's biggest star — and now holds the most prestigious title in the game. Since Styles' arrival, WWE has welcomed dozens of stars from around the world and completely overhauled its roster. While he wasn't the first to jump to WWE, Styles' meteoric rise to the top has proven that this is truly a new era for the company — which is great for WWE fans.
Triple H wins the Royal Rumble, main events WrestleMania 32
Then-champion Roman Reigns was forced to defend his WWE World title in the Royal Rumble match, which was won by Triple H. Reigns then defeated Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins in a triple threat match at Payback to set up a WrestleMania main event that wasn't exactly popular with a large portion of the fanbase.
Daniel Bryan announces his retirement
It's hard to believe this happened just 10 months ago, but Daniel Bryan made the heartbreaking announcement that his wrestling career was over in February.
Shane McMahon returns
Shane McMahon received one of the loudest ovations of the year in February when he made his surprise return. As the man who personified the New Era at a time when many fans had grown tired of shows run by The Authority, McMahon was exactly the type of character WWE needed for the brand split, and he also gave fans some jaw-dropping moments at WrestleMania and Survivor Series ... all at the ripe age of 46.
Asuka defeats Bayley to win the NXT Women's Championship
It's been a transitional year for the NXT women's division following the depature of the Four Horsewomen, but Asuka captured the title at TakeOver: Dallas in a classic match against Bayley and hasn't lost a match since. It remains to be seen when she finally makes the jump to the main roster — as she'd be a phenomenal addition to either show — but Asuka's been a rock for NXT while a new crop of stars like Ember Moon mature around her.
Shinsuke Nakamura makes his debut
The fans at NXT TakeOver: Dallas were chanting "holy [expletive]" before Nakamura's match against Sami Zayn even started.
Zack Ryder wins the Intercontinental Championship
Zack Ryder finally having his WrestleMania moment is even more special now that he's going to be out for months with a serious knee injury. While Ryder lost the title the next night to The Miz — setting off The Miz's sensational Intercontinental title run — this was a career-defining moment for Ryder, and a true shock when it happened.
Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels reunite
The new Women's Championship is unveiled
Female wrestlers in WWE had already proven they could deliver matches of the same caliber by this point, but WWE officially dropping the "Divas" division, referring to its women as "superstars," and introducing a championship belt that it every bit as impressive (and arguably better-looking) than the men's world title will go down as one of the most important moments of the decade.
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch in a triple threat match at WrestleMania 32
Fans who watched NXT already knew what these women were capable of, but this was a match that announced to the biggest audience of the year that the women's revolution wasn't just a PR catchphrase. This was arguably the best match of the night on the biggest pay-per-view in WWE history.
Shane McMahon jumps off the cell
Shane McMahon is insane.
Enzo and Cass debut
There's not a single WWE fan who can't recite their entrance bit word-for-word at this point.
Charlotte disowns Ric Flair
This was brutal.
"You know what you can do? You can just watch me on TV like I did the last 30 years for you."
Sami Zayn wins his war with Kevin Owens
It's still hard to believe that Zayn's career stalled after he beat Kevin Owens at Battleground to end their long-running feud, but Owens and Zayn stole the show on a number of pay-per-views over the first half of the year.
Dean Ambrose becomes WWE World Champion
Ambrose cashed in his Money in the Bank contract an hour after winning it to capture the the WWE World Title for the first time in his career in his hometown.
Daniel Bryan returns
The WWE Draft
The brand split and the decision to make SmackDown a live show completely revitalized WWE's weekly programs and instantly transformed SmackDown from something that was entirely skippable into the must-watch show of the week.
Heath Slater goes undrafted
The Social Outcasts couldn't have been much less popular prior to the Draft, but Slater's storyline after Draft night was one of the most fun of the year. He popped up on Raw and SmackDown for weeks begging for a job, faced off against Brock Lesnar, teamed up with Rhyno and became a champion in the span of a few months.
Jerry Lawler is removed from commentary
WWE's decision to take Lawler off commentary was the end of an era. The Attitude Era wouldn't have been the same without Lawler, but it was the right move and gave shows a different feel for the New Era.
Finn Balor wins the Universal Championship
Balor, in his pay-per-view debut, became the inaugural Universal Champion (in a match marred by "this belt sucks" chants). It was a result no one saw coming, and the launch of a megastar ...
Finn Balor relinquishes his title one day later
... Unfortunately, though, Balor severely injured his shoulder early in the match (and popped it back into place in order to continue). His reign lasted just one day before he handed the title back on Raw, and he has yet to return. It was a heartbreaking incident for Balor, who WWE clearly wanted to be a face of Raw, but he'll hopefully pick up right where he left off.
Triple H hands Kevin Owens the Universal title
We still don't know exactly why Triple H interfered in the the Fatal Four Way that crowned a new Universal Champion after Balor's departure, but he picked the right guy.
Roman Reigns gets suspended
Reigns was the WWE World Champion heading into Money in the Bank, then lost the title, was suspended for a month two days later, and upon his return he was shuffled out of the World Championship picture entirely.
He's regained his status since, but it's interesting to think about what Raw would look like had Reigns not missed a month of action for violating the Wellness Policy.
The Cruiserweight Classic revives a division
If you didn't watch the Cruiserweight Classic over the summer, you missed out on some of the best wrestling of the year.
Honorable mention: "Stupid Idiot."
Bobby Roode joins NXT with a theme song for the ages
It took an eternity of waiting, but Bayley finally appeared at a main roster show as Sasha Banks' mystery partner at Battleground, receiving one of the biggest pops of the year from the D.C. crowd. A few months later, she's now entering a feud with Women's Champion Charlotte. 2017 could be the year of Bayley.
The Miz and Daniel Bryan star in the promo of the year
Nakamura's the main attraction in NXT currently, but if he does get a call up in 2017, he could have an AJ Styles-like impact immediately.
AJ Styles beats up John Cena at SummerSlam
Match of the year? Match of the year.
James Ellsworth vs. Braun Strowman
Little did we know at the time that Ellsworth would be a regular part of SmackDown main events by the end of the year.
The List of Jericho
There were multiple episodes of Raw where The List of Jericho received the biggest cheers from the crowd.
Sasha Banks and Charlotte main event Hell in a Cell
Sasha and Charlotte main eventing Raw in early October felt a bit more organic, but WWE placing women inside the cell and allowing them to prove they can excel in any kind of match type was a breakthough moment.
The Undertaker returns
Perhaps more importantly, The Undertaker announced that WrestleMania will "no longer define" him. He's been missing ever since, but it feels like he'll be involved in the Royal Rumble.
Goldberg destroys Brock Lesnar
The biggest shock of 2016, by far. Goldberg annihilated the most dangerous man in WWE in under two minutes, andlater announced that he's gunning for one last title run.
*That* hotel segment
WWE has been gradually shifting away from strictly PG material on weekly shows, but Lana seducing Enzo Amore in a hotel (as a trap) was a segment straight out of the Attitude Era that could have been a one-off — that also could be a signal that WWE wants to cater a greater portion of its content to older audiences. Time will tell.
AJ Styles' springboard 450 through a table
Shane McMahon leaps of faith excluded, this was arguably the craziest move of 2016.
Cesaro and Sheamus end The New Day's reign
The New Day deservedly broke Demolition's record for the longest tag team championship reign, and WWE couldn't have picked more deserving successors. Cesaro has long been "the star WWE has ignored" in the eyes of fans, but now he finally gets another chance as a champion.
Charlotte beats Sasha Banks in an Iron Man match
Big E joked on Raw that Charlotte will have surpassed her father's record as a 16-time World Champion in a month, but Charlotte emerging victorious from her long feud with Sasha Banks (and keeping her pay-per-view streak intact) is as clear a signal as any that she could likely be the face of women's wrestling for years to come. Get used to The Queen, because she's not going anywhere.