In July of 2016, the WWE announced the return of the brand split. The main title in WWE, the WWE Championship, would head to the Smackdown Live brand, leaving Monday Night Raw without a major Championship. Then, later on in the month, we would all be introduced to the big red belt, the Universal Championship.
The very first Universal Champion was to be crowned at SummerSlam. Seth Rollins was put into the match automatically since he was Raw’s number one draft pick. WWE then held two fatal four-way matches on Monday Night Raw, with the winners of said matches facing off against each other to determine who would go up against Rollins for the Universal Championship.
Finn Bálor won the first fatal four-way match, with Roman Reigns winning the second one. Bálor defeated Roman which gave him the opportunity to go to SummerSlam and face Rollins. Bálor defeated Rollins to become the very first Universal Champion.
Since then and at the time of writing this, we’ve seen 6 different WWE Superstars hold the Universal Championship. I decided to take those 6 and rank them, in order and crown the best Universal Champion.
6. Finn Bálor
As stated earlier, Finn Bálor was the very first Universal Champion, however his reign is also the shortest with the title. In The Demon King’s match against Rollins, Rollins threw Bálor into the barricade, injuring him. An MRI would later reveal that Bálor suffered a labrum tear, that forced Bálor to go on the shelf, causing him to relinquish the Universal Championship.
It was really a shame Bálor got hurt here. I mean, we never want to see anybody get hurt in the ring, but Bálor had just made his Raw debut a month before. Bálor was an absolute star in NXT, and him coming to Raw and getting an immediate title opportunity is something we haven’t seen happen since. It was a big deal and could’ve really solidified Bálor as a main event talent on the main roster.
The only reason Finn is last is because of the injury. I truly believe if Finn didn’t get hurt, he would have been at least top 3. The talent that the man has, paired with the push of the company’s biggest title would have made for some incredible moments.
Goldberg is the reason I fell in love with wrestling. Watching him in WCW destroy people in seconds and just be that all around killer was awesome to a young me. His time in WWE in 2003-2004 was horrible. We don’t know if it’s because Goldberg didn’t really want to be there, or maybe he thought he was better than everybody there. We don’t know, but it was pretty bad.
When Goldberg was rumored to return to the WWE in 2016, I got excited. He was older, he was more mature and we hadn’t seen him in 15 years. Goldberg then beat Brock Lesnar in two minutes at Survivor Series and I went absolutely insane. Nobody has ever done that to Brock, and it made Goldberg look incredible.
Then, he challenged Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship. From there I knew this wasn’t going to be good. Goldberg beat Brock Lesnar in two minutes, there was no way Kevin Owens was going to walk out of Fastlane with the Championship, and he didn’t.
Goldberg defeated Owens and became the new Universal Champion. He held the title until WrestleMania 33, where he dropped it to none other than Brock Lesnar. Goldberg held the title 28 days, however that isn’t the only reason I have him number 5.
Goldberg didn’t need the title in my opinion. I understand why he got it, so Brock could eventually get it at WrestleMania, but I didn’t like it one bit. Kevin Owens was doing great stuff with the Championship, and his program with Chris Jericho could’ve ended wonderfully with a Universal Championship match at WrestleMania, instead of a United States Championship match.
4. Roman Reigns
There was a time when people booed Roman Reigns out of every building he worked in. No matter what he was doing or who he was facing, he was booed relentlessly. Then, he won the Universal Championship and the boos got louder. People just didn’t like Roman Reigns, and didn’t want him as Champion.
Reigns defeated Bobby Lashley to put himself in a Universal Championship match at SummerSlam against then Champion Brock Lesnar. Reigns defeated Lesnar to become the Universal Champion for the first time in his career.
Reign’s time with the Universal Championship was cut short when he announced that he had been battling leukemia for the past 11 years, and it returned. Nobody really knows where Roman’s title reign would’ve lead to. He was in a very weird spot where his former Shield members were apart of almost every feud he had.
Not to mention, the weird team of then Money in the Bank holder Braun Strowman, Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler was Reigns’ main rivals. The title reign being cut short was unfortunate, especially because of the reason. But when you look at what Reigns did in that time, it just wasn’t anything special. I truly believe, we would’ve gotten a Roman Reigns heel turn down the road with the title had he not relinquished it.
3. Seth Rollins
This may surprise some people that Rollins isn’t in the first two spots, but honestly, I don’t think his reigns have really been that special. Rollins first won the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35 against Brock Lesnar.
After the win, Rollins would feud with AJ Styles, but to be honest with you, I can’t remember a thing from it. I do, however, remember the feud that came next, with Baron Corbin. We’d get a Corbin-Rollins match at Super Show Down, then again at Stomping Ground with that horrible Lacey Evans special guest referee stipulation.
At Extreme Rules, we got a mixed tag match of Lacey Evans and Baron Corbin going up against Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and Universal Champion Seth Rollins, with the winners getting both belts. Rollins and Lynch won, but Mr. Money in the Bank Brock Lesnar cashed in on Rollins and won the title back.
Seth then won a 10-man battle royal the very next night and to earn the right to face Brock for the title at SummerSlam. Rollins defeated Lesnar to become a two time Universal Champion. Since then, Rollins would go on to become a double Champion when he and Braun Strowman became Raw Tag Team Champions. Seth defended and retained the Universal Championship against Strowman at Clash of Champions.
Even though he has two reigns, as I said earlier, they just haven’t really been that memorable up until this point. Rollins is scheduled to face Bray Wyatt at Hell in a Cell, which should be an incredible match, but for now, I have him ranked third on the list.
2. Brock Lesnar
If this was a list of the longest combined reigns, then yes, Brock Lesnar would be number 1. He’s held the Universal Championship a combined 688 days. During his first title reign (which lasted 504 days) Brock Lesnar defended his title just 7 times before he lost it to Roman Reigns.
Brock’s second reign, which he won at Crown Jewel after the Roman Reigns announcement, lasted 156 days. In those 156 days, Brock Lesnar defend his Championship twice….just twice.
When Brock cashed in the Money in the Bank contract and defeated Rollins, he only defended it one time afterwards, which was when he lost it to Seth. It may seem crazy to some to think that Brock isn’t the best Universal Champion ever, but how can the man be considered the best ever when he never showed up to defend it?
WWE fans were furious over this. Why give Brock the title if he’s only going to show up once a year and never defend the title? Brock has focused his time fully on WWE recently, leaving the UFC for the foreseeable future, but as far as Championship reigns go, Brock is not number one.
I will say that if Brock gave up his UFC dream, and had focused 100% on the WWE and being Champion, I feel we would’ve gotten much better programs out of him. Look at the matches he had with the likes of AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and Finn Balor. Brock can put on really good matches, when he shows up for work.
1. Kevin Owens
I truly don’t think there’s any debate here. Kevin Owens was the best Universal Champion WWE has had. He won the vacant title on an episode of Raw with a little help from Triple H. Owens then defended his title twice against Rollins, defeating Rollins both times with the help from his best friend Chris Jericho.
Owens and Jericho went on to be one of the most entertaining acts in WWE in quite some time, with the List of Jericho and their eventual split at the Festival of Friendship being well received by the WWE Universe.
Owens title defenses almost always involved Y2J. At Roadblock: End of the Line, Owens defeated Roman Reigns by DQ to keep the title after Jericho hit Owens with a Codebreaker. Owens then had to defend the Universal title at the Royal Rumble, with Jericho being suspended above the ring in a shark cage.
Owens eventually dropped the title to Goldberg at Fastlane, thus ending his reign at 188 days. I said it earlier, I don’t think Goldberg should’ve won the Championship, but he did. Owens’ time with the Universal Championship is some of the best work WWE has had in years at that time, and I don’t think it could’ve been done with anybody other than Owens and Jericho.
So, there you have it. Do you think I’m wrong? Is Seth the best Universal Champion ever? Maybe Brock? Be sure to let us know!
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