Most shocking moments of the year in professional wrestling

Goldberg beats Lesnar at Survivor Series (0:55)

Take a look at how Goldberg was able to beat Brock Lesnar at WWE's Survivor Series. (0:55)

A true surprise in the world of wrestling in the age of the Internet is rare. Once more than a few people are in on something, the information will leak to a dirt sheet or someone will let loose just enough information on Twitter to deprive wrestling fans of the kinds of moments that made them fall in love with wrestling in decades past.

That's what makes our list of the most shocking moments of 2016 so compelling and memorable; instead of predictable storylines or spoiled moments, in a few rare instances, the magic was back.

There was a runaway candidate for the top of this list, and as you might have already guessed, it involved a return more than a decade in the making and took less than two minutes, from beginning to end.

Goldberg beats Brock Lesnar in 86 seconds at Survivor Series

Eighty-six seconds. After a buildup that began on ESPN's Off The Top Rope, Goldberg returned to the WWE to face Brock Lesnar after 12 years away from the business. Their original matchup at WrestleMania went 13 minutes and WWE Universe fans were expecting a colossal collision between two of wrestling's biggest names. Lesnar tried to bully Goldberg in the early going as he had to with so many opponents before, but a spear, and another spear and a jackhammer followed -- and that was it. The quickest main event in WWE PPV history accomplished its goal of telling multiple stories. The beast, Lesnar, did not take his opponent seriously enough and suffered the most embarrassing defeat of his WWE career. Goldberg, the returning hero, conquered Lesnar and set off a return that now continues at the Royal Rumble. -- Andrew Davis

In one of the most shocking moments (and hotly debated booking decisions) in recent memory, Goldberg defeated Lesnar in less than two minutes at Survivor Series. Despite Lesnar being built up over the past several years as a nearly unstoppable monster -- ending The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak, dismantling John Cena at SummerSlam 2014 for the WWE championship and never being pinned to lose that title -- he was defeated in what turned out to essentially be a squash match to a man who hadn't wrestled in the WWE in over 12 years. There is still seemingly a larger story to play out, but it left all fans shocked and some dismayed. -- Nick Irving

In multiple interviews (including one on ESPN), Goldberg expressed a desire to come back to the WWE for one more match, and said his ideal opponent would be Lesnar. So it was not a surprise when the high-profile match was made for Survivor Series. Conventional thinking had Goldberg putting up a good fight in the match, before eventually succumbing to one of the WWE's top draws. However, when he quickly dispatched Lesnar, it was a shock to viewers not only because it went against expected booking, but it was evident that the match was not the end of the Goldberg-Lesnar story, as everyone thought. The most impactful moments in wrestling are the ones no one can see coming -- and no one saw this coming. -- Andy Smith

Lesnar had been on a path of destruction since returning in April 2012. He ended The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak, F-5'ed Vince McMahon, broke Triple H's arm, and physically abused Cena (on multiple occasions). Forgive me if I thought Goldberg was destined to become another name on the long list of people who foolishly challenged The Beast. I had been so focused on Lesnar's reputation for thrashing all of his opponents that I simply forgot Goldberg's own reputation for vanquishing his foes. It took only 86 seconds for Goldberg to emphatically remind me. -- "Stat Guy" Greg Hyde

Shane McMahon jumps off Hell in a Cell at Wrestlemania 32

Anyone who was at AT&T Stadium can tell you that this was the best moment of the night. Many expected that Shane McMahon would pull off something incredible, but nobody really knew how big he would go. As soon as he started to climb the side of the cell, it was clear what was about to happen -- and you could feel all 101,000-plus fans in attendance simultaneously stand up. The best thing about this moment: Undertaker moved, leaving McMahon nothing to break his fall outside of a trusty old WWE announce table. I'd be perfectly fine if this was the last "high-risk" move we saw Shane O-Mac perform in his career ... but I'd also by lying to you if I didn't think he had at least one more in him. -- Steve Braband

Triple H turns on Seth Rollins

You had this feeling something -- anything -- could happen in late August on "Monday Night Raw," with the Universal championship up for grabs. And it did, as a Fatal 4-Way turned into the best double cross of 2016, hands down. In the closing moments of the match, Triple H appeared out of nowhere, seemingly on the scene to help long-time Authority buddy Seth Rollins -- only to Pedigree his protege and all but hand the title to Kevin Owens. The fans couldn't believe it; neither could Rollins or Owens, who had a now-indelible look of disbelief on his face. The glacial aftermath is disappointing (Triple H has not appeared on television, while Rollins has not become a favorite fans can really get behind), but that moment of betrayal was hair-raising. -- Matt Wilansky

AJ Styles debuts at Royal Rumble

Styles may have been familiar to a certain type of wrestling fan because of his success at so many non-WWE outposts, but he was still largely an unknown to a majority of fans who only watch WWE when he hit the stage at the Royal Rumble match as the No. 3 entrant. The Orlando crowd -- a mix of die-hard wrestling fans and locals familiar with his work at nearby Universal Studios during his TNA days -- provided the perfect backdrop for Styles' debut. The level of the pop when the then-unfamiliar "Phenomenal" theme hit and "I am Phenomenal" flashed on the TitanTron was retroactively deemed fitting after a brilliant half-hour performance. He immediately went toe-to-toe with Roman Reigns, eliminated Tyler Breeze and Curtis Axel, and was involved in lots of action before Owens eventually tossed him out. If WWE fans didn't know Styles was a true superstar before the Rumble, they did that day -- and that debut set the stage for a spectacular year that'll go down in the history books. -- James Quintong

Zack Ryder wins Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania

There are plenty of contenders for this particular award, but I think if you had told me at the beginning of 2016 that Zack Ryder would win a seven-man Intercontinental title ladder match in front of more than 93,000 people, I would have laughed you out of the room. He may have lost the title the next night on Raw, but it was a classy move by WWE to reward the hard work Ryder has put in over nine years of toiling, scratching and clawing for scraps. The ovation when he grabbed the title was beautiful, and his tears (and those of his father, who joined him) in the ring afterward were just as heartwarming. -- Nic Atkin

Shane McMahon returns

After a lackluster delivery of the "Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence" award to Stephanie McMahon on the Feb. 22 edition of RAW, Detroit was surprised with something completely unexpected and exhilarating. The very familiar "Here Comes the Money" theme rang through the arena and the crowd erupted as Shane McMahon made a return to the ring for the first time since 2009. The reaction clearly moved Shane, creating an unforgettable scene. Shane's return initiated a feud with The Undertaker, leading to another memorable moment at WrestleMania 32 when Shane crashed through the announce table after a 20-foot fall from the top of Hell in the Cell. His return was also the beginning of what would eventually turn into a Raw and SmackDown Live brand split, which has been very successful thus far. -- Sean Coyle

Finn Balor's rapid rise and fall on Raw

Technically, this was a series of shocking moments, but over the course of a single month's time, Balor surged from NXT star to the first WWE Universal champion -- and then lost it all to a traumatic shoulder injury. Let's start at the beginning -- after more than two years atop the ranks of NXT, Balor was a shocking first-round selection by "Monday Night Raw" in the brand separation draft and immediately got thrust into the main event. On his debut evening, he defeated Owens, Rusev and Cesaro in a Fatal 4-Way, and then Reigns in the main event of the show, to become No. 1 contender for the new top title on Raw. He'd go on to beat Rollins for that championship at SummerSlam, but during the match a powerbomb into the ring barrier caused Balor to tear a labrum in his shoulder, which he also dislocated. He popped it in and finished the match, and appeared on "Good Morning America" the following morning -- but by Monday night Balor was relinquishing the championship -- and soon after, on his way to Alabama for surgery. -- Tim Fiorvanti