Sheamus is the current WWE World Champion.
Not Roman Reigns. Not Dean Ambrose. Not Seth Rollins. Not John Cena.
No, it is the Celtic Warrior reigning on top with the biggest and most prestigious prize in the entire industry. While it certainly was a shocking way to end the big 2015 WWE Survivor Series pay-per-view, hindsight suggests maybe we should have seen it coming a mile away...like the end of every calendar year for 20 years!
Don't believe me? Let's take a look at WWE and their past year-end surprises:
1995 - After nearly a year on top, it was time to move on from Diesel as WWE Champion. Bret Hart defeated him clean as can be at November's Survivor Series. Months later, Kevin Nash would join WCW, as Shawn Michaels was gearing up to be 'the man' in WWE. Not new champion Bret Hart.
1996 - Sid defeated Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series for a quick championship run that was merely designed to give HBK his big win back two months later. Clever and an unexpected plot twist but right in line with what November would give us in the wrestling world.
1997 - Obviously all about the Montreal Screwjob. New champion was crowned when Bret Hart 'lost' to Shawn Michaels. The business, arguably, was never the same again.
1998 - WWE traded the title back and forth between The Rock and Mankind over and over while plans were being set up for Stone Cold Steve Austin to get his crowning moment at WrestleMania 15 in 1999.
1999 - Thanks to a new writing team shakeup, Big Show of all people was given the WWE Title at the Survivor Series PPV, replacing the injured Stone Cold last minute. Less than two months later, he dropped the belt to Triple H, and Mankind transformed into Cactus Jack because the company was short of fresh challengers.
2000 - Even though he was not slated for any WrestleMania 17 main event plans in April 2001, Kurt Angle was rewarded with a four month WWE Championship run. From October 2000-February 2001, he was on top. When Mania time came, it was all about Rocky and Steve Austin...not Angle.
2001 - Who would become the first ever Undisputed Champion? Stone Cold? The Rock? Kurt Angle? No to all three. WWE went with a wild card option in Chris Jericho and rode his new heel act at the end of 2001, knowing full well of his placement on the totem pole.
2002 - WWE ended 2002 by playing hot potato with "both" of their major belts. The World Title went from HHH to Shawn Michaels and back to The Game. The WWE Title went from Brock Lesnar to Big Show to Kurt Angle all in one month's time.
2003 - Both major titles changed hands in September, almost 'resetting' the company before the end of the year. Bill Goldberg beat HHH for the World Title. Brock Lesnar beat Kurt Angle for the WWE Title. Triple H would regain his title by December's Armageddon pay-per-view.
2004 Smackdown was all set with JBL as the long-term WWE Champion. Raw was a bit in flux, so they created a controversy over who was champ. Triple H, who did have the title, had to vacate it after a screwy RAW finish. Weeks later, inside the Elimination Chamber, the whole thing was finally resolved...with HHH regaining the belt.
2005 - It was actually early January 2006, but Edge enjoyed a three week title reign, and due to Batista's injury, Kurt Angle shifted from RAW to Smackdown to become the World Champion. Also, Eric Bischoff was removed as Raw General Manager after a three year run. In continuing my theme of the column, there was a big shakeup before the Road to WrestleMania began.
2006 - Booker T reigned as World Champion in the summer, but it was all about Batista defeating him for the gold, which did happen at Survivor Series. The change was due to big plans of a showdown between Batista and The Undertaker at WrestleMania 23.
2007 - John Cena injured his arm on Raw and had to vacate the WWE Title. In a surprising turn of events, Randy Orton was awarded the belt only to drop it to Triple H, before losing it right back to Mr. RKO. All in the same night! Smackdown was the Edge Show back then and sure enough, he grabbed the World Title in December 2007 en route to feuding with Taker in early 2008.
2008 - The World Title on RAW bounced from Chris Jericho to Batista back to Chris Jericho to John Cena in the fourth quarter of 2008. Smackdown was just as wild. Triple H lost the WWE Title to Jeff Hardy at the end of the year, after finally deciding to trust the high flying superstar. Neither Cena or Hardy made it to Mania as champ.
2009 - Like the Jeff Hardy push in late 2008, WWE took a risk in late 2009 giving RAW newcomer Sheamus the top prize besting John Cena in a Tables Match. Shocking the world, the message was loud and clear in the company looking to take a chance on somebody before January's massive time of the year started.
2010 - The Miz became WWE Champion in November 2010. The Miz. THE MIZ! To be fair, he deserved it after a remarkable year and ended up main eventing WrestleMania 27. On the Blue Brand, Kane was World Champion but couldn't hold onto the title until 2011. Edge beat him in December to claim the prize.
2011 - CM Punk became the NEEWWWWW WWE Champion at Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden. Mark Henry won his first ever World Title in September from Randy Orton but lost the gold to Big Show at TLC, who immediately fell to Daniel Bryan. Lots of moving parts, all setting up the WrestleMania 28 card.
2012 - More into early 2013. The Rock was coming back to win the WWE Title. Alberto Del Rio beat Big Show for the World Title and turned face. All the while, AJ Lee and Dolph Ziggler were the new heel duo, and John Cena was on his road to redemption. Certainly an interesting time.
2013 - With WWE (again) looking to shake up the product, the decision was made to merge their major title belts. Randy Orton was the WWE Champ, and Cena had just become World Champ. Thus, it was determined the two long-time rivals would face off at TLC. The winner being WWE World Champion. Similar to late 2001 and Y2J, the company went with an upset pick in Orton over Cena.
2014 - The Authority had been removed from power, Brock Lesnar was the dominant WWE World Champion, Sting had debuted in November, and all the usual rumors and speculation were flying due to WrestleMania season around the corner.
2015 - That brings us to present day. As I outlined above, the end of the year is when WWE likes to take chances. They know January-April is their real money making quarter, so if you want a swerve or shakeup - do it in September/December. Then by January, you know if the gamble paid off or if Mania plans will proceed as originally intended. Year after year after year, it has happened and will surely again 12 months from now. Fans were guessing outcomes on the path to Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose, but in reality, a detour was the real destination.
WWE told us Sheamus was leaving Survivor Series as champion.
We just didn't want to listen.
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