Established in 2016, the Universal Championship is billed as the top prize on Monday Night RAW. To this point, the title has seen five reigns spread between five different titleholders with only one vacancy in its history. The current champion is Roman Reigns.
Reception and History
The Universal Championship has been heavily criticized by viewers in both its design and its lineage. It has often been referred to as a “paper championship,” a criticism that became especially rampant during Brock Lesnar’s reign. In terms of its design, the belt has been described as a knockoff WWE Championship with red leather instead of black. In the weeks following the belt’s reveal, fans in attendance would chant and jeer about the belt’s design. Of course, such banter has since died down.
For many, the lineage of the Universal Championship started off on the wrong foot and never recovered. The title was created out of necessity rather than creativity. After Battleground 2016, then-Smackdown Superstar and WWE Champion Dean Ambrose defeated RAW Superstars Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to retain the title and make it exclusive to Smackdown Live. Left without a top championship, RAW Commissioner Stephanie McMahon and then-RAW General Manager Mick Foley created the Universal Championship to replace and compete with Smackdown’s WWE Championship. Many fans were highly critical of the move, believing that the World Heavyweight Championship should have been brought back. The title’s only saving grace went up in flames when inaugural champion Finn Bálor was forced to relinquish the title 22 hours after winning it due to a legitimate shoulder injury he sustained the night prior at SummerSlam. Since then, the only reign of notoriety has been that of Brock Lesnar, whose 504-day reign was mired in controversy and criticism due to his lack of true representation.
The current champion is Roman Reigns, who defeated Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam to win the title. His first title defense ended in a No Contest against Braun Strowman at and inside Hell in a Cell. Mick Foley was the Special Guest Referee and the match served as Strowman’s Money in the Bank cash-in. The following night, Reigns successfully defended the title against Baron Corbin in a No Disqualification match. Reigns is next slated to defend the championship at Crown Jewel against Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar in a Triple Threat match.