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.
No one saw it coming. No. One. You had your insiders who were teasing something hours and minutes before Raw went on air, but we had no chance in hell (hurr) in knowing 'the Boy Wonder' was back after a seven-year absence.
As soon as his music hit, you knew you were watching something pretty amazing. No two bones about it. Shane McMahon was back after being gone for seven years to the most incredible of ovations in Detroit that'll surely go down as one of the biggest returns in WWE history, and certainly one of the biggest pops ever.
This really needs emphasising: no-one in the slightest, outside those within the WWE who knew what was to go down, knew Shane O'Mac would show up the night after Fastlane in Detroit. And lets be honest here, not a lot of people were excited for the product after Fastlane in which we'd see another Roman Reigns-hedlined Wrestlemania against Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Moreso considering we had on Raw the ceremony of the first-ever Vincent J McMahon whatevergobbligook of a title they called it (I genuinely can't remember now at this point). There was a few people who, perhaps naively in hindsight, thought this was for someone besides Stephanie (for me, it was already obvious who it was when the award was announced).
I can actually tell you what I was doing just before Shane's music hit near word-for-word because I still remember that night. Stephanie comes to the ring, feigns surprise and preps her speech. All the while, I'm lying on the sofa and checking Twitter on my phone. Then, as I give a sideway glance to the TV as Steph is about to start her speech...
"Here comes th---"
Not even halfway through the line and I sprang from my sofa with my jaw hanging out of me in near silence. And then all I could do, as Shane walked out in front of a WWE crowd for the first time since 2009, was silently mark out (this was 1am GMT in the morning, there was people asleep at the time).
It was quite frankly insane to see it happen live. I don't know if it'd have had the same impact if I watched it the following morning recorded. I personally couldn't quite believe it. And neither could the crowd who were in attendance that night. Say what you will about the over-usage of the chant as of late the past few years, but this was one of those times where 'this is awesome' was genuinely used to perfection because it aptly summed up what was going on.
Once the excitement died down, two-and-two started being put together. There were rumours beforehand that the opponent for The Undertaker at Wrestlemania would be someone who hasn't been on the WWE roster. Then we got led to our conclusion: Shane and Taker in Dallas inside Hell in a Cell for control of Raw and therefore defacto control of the company (there was something about lockboxes, but lets not dwell on that). Now, say what you will about the match itself and whether it should have happened - Shane being gone for so long and Taker being as old as he is, among other things - the moment of Shane's return provided one of the biggest moments of the year. And lets be real, the match itself at Mania - or the show itself besides the IC ladder match and the women's triple threat - wasn't exactly the best, but that in itself provide one of the biggest moments of the year.
We'd all made and seen the jokes, considering his daredevil style in his first run, that he'd jump off the jumbotron screen inside AT&T Stadium. No, he didn't go that far. But this is a pretty close second.
Alright, it was highly rehearsed beforehand. And yes, the commentary table was cushioned to soften the blow. That still didn't make the sight of Shane O'Mac leaping off a much higher Hell in a Cell structure than even the one Mick Foley was thrown off of by Taker in 1998 any less amazing. Or terrifying. More so when considering his wife and sons were also there in the front row.
We all knew the end result after that: Shane lost, Taker goes 23-1 and that should be that. Shane goes back to China as a CEO and says goodbye. At least that's what I thought after. Instead, Shane stuck around. Despite losing the night before, he takes charge of Raw. And then, by popular demand, the next week too. And the week after. And the one after that and the one after that and so on and so forth.
Shane McMahon was back in the WWE again full-time, albeit just as a performer this time. And has, on-screen at least, steadied the ship of Smackdown Live as commissioner alongside GM Daniel Bryan in a show that is much better than the WWE's flagship program.
But no matter what to expect from Shane, especially as we begin to head into Wrestlemania season, I think it's safe to say the night after Fastlane when he returned in Detroit will take some beating on the WWE returns scale.
Here came the money, indeed.
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.
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