Moments of 2016 is a series of articles that detail the year in review for WWE, whether it be specific moments, matches or superstars who've stood out on the WWE main roster and NXT, one way or another. You'll see this series of pieces go through to the end of December.
Was this the most shocking moment in the 23-year history of Monday Night Raw, as Michael Cole referenced to after this Fatal 4 Way held in the aftermath of SummerSlam to determine a new WWE Universal Champion following Finn Balor's relinquishing due to a serious shoulder injury? Absolutely not. For my money, that moment goes to The Shield break-up two years earlier.
Was it even shocking in its own right? Probably not, in hindsight.
Was it one of the biggest mark out moments of the year? Christ almighty as my witness, yes it was.
I said last week the July 25 episode of Monday Night Raw, the first one in the post brand-split era, was the best episode of Raw ever for the amount of so many brilliant moments and the fact it showed us that indeed it genuinely felt like a new era at the time. Of course, afterwards, we'd mostly revert back to the same old, same old. But the August 29 episode, in my hasty reaction, I said replaced it as the best episode ever. Hindsight being 20/20, it's durr obvious it's not.
But in the new era, it's the second best episode of the period to date in that, one, we got Bayley/The New Day tagging together in which we found out that such levels of happiness and joy can manage to co-exist without opening up a black hole in some sort of paradox. And in Bayley's second week on the main roster too. It also provided this amazing moment.
However, the big focus of that night was the Universal Championship match. And in all honesty, WWE did everything right here, from beginning to finish. Before the match, at the top of the episode, all four contenders - Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and a surprise inclusion in Big Cass - had time in the ring to talk their talk. And for the most part, it was effective.
They actually played off Reigns very well in being a silent badass on this night - he was going to have his in-ring work do his talking than actually talk. Owens and Big Cass played off one another very well too, Rollins being an arrogant ass as he still was at the time and Big Cass even managed to slip in an excellent line on Rollins on what may or may not have referenced a certain controversy a while back.
As the match unfolded, it was clear the final three would be Reigns, Rollins and Owens, but credit where credit was due to Big Cass. I felt this was his reward for holding his own in the ring and on the mic earlier in the year with his partner Enzo Amore being sidelined due to that nasty concussion at Payback. And for me, he came out of this a lot better than he did going into it. And that already was some decent stock.
The time isn't right to strap him with a rocket and push him to the moon yet - you don't want to Roman the guy and not to mention, Enzo and Cass still need to hold tag gold before we even dare contemplate a breakup - but as far as star-making performances go, that was a great one.
As the match entered its finishing straight, it was still a tense affair on who would win it, but there was still a jaded feeling either Rollins or Reigns would win it. Amazing as The Shield have been in the WWE and as awesome as it was for them to finally be able to say all three of them have now held the top title in WWE with Dean Ambrose's WWE World Championship win at Money in the Bank, in the case of Rollins and Reigns particularly considering their lengthy stay at the top of the title scene with the belt for 2016, even with Rollins having just returned from injury, there was a feeling that it was time for someone fresh to hold the belt, and have fresh blood in the main event scene me included.
Not to mention, Kevin Owens/Steen had worked his ass off for the best part of sixteen years across multiple promotions to be in the position he was in to finally achieve the big one. Magnitudes of titles and bar-raising feuds, El Generico/Sami Zayn being the most memorable of them all. Not to mention, the doubters who had him pegged to not amounting to much - hi, Jim!
So whilst Triple H's arrival on the scene to take out Reigns and then turn on Rollins was lambasted by some and even going as far to say it made Owens's subsequent ascension to the throne as a 'paper champion', for me, in setting up a Rollins feud for Wrestlemania, even if eight months down the line, made perfect sense in a 'Anyone but you, Roman' payback from their own feud leading up to this year's Wrestlemania in Dallas, but followed by 'at the same time, you've fucked every opportunity I've given you since you came back, Seth, so you're surplus to requirements'.
Will this play into the remainder of Kevin Owens's reign and especially his relationship with Triple H? Who knows. Who even knows if he'll still be Universal Champion by the end of play on Sunday at Roadblock against Roman Reigns. But putting aside the kayfabe politics of it, the moment Kevin Owens reached the summit was an amazing moment. And it fulfilled a warning made a long time time ago. Well, not so much a warning as it was a prophecy.
Champ, Owens, Champ indeed.
Day One: The Phenomenal Year (AJ Styles)
Day Two: Grateful (Daniel Bryan)
Day Three: Here Comes the Money (Shane McMahon)
Day Four: The Rising Sun (Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn)
Day Five: The Queen - Making history (Charlotte - 1/4)
Day Six: Fight Forever (Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens)
Day Seven: The Boss - A new era (Sasha Banks - 2/4)
Day Eight: Shootin' from the lip (The Miz)
Day Nine: The Hugger - Our girl, Bayley (Bayley - 3/4)
Day Ten: Believe in The Shield (The Shield)
Day Eleven: The Lasskicker - Grand slam (Becky Lynch - 4/4)
Johnny Cullen writes about games for a living and has written for the likes of Eurogamer, VG247 and Official PlayStation Magazine UK and also podcasts about games for My Favourite Game. You can follow him on Twitter - for mostly games hijinks but also WWE tweets (and be a bit obsessive over Bayley), The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Jonsi & Alex) - @JohnnyCullen.