It was July 2016 when the Brand Split took place, the WWE Champion at the time Dean Ambrose was being drafted to SmackDown, leaving Raw with no main title.
One last opportunity was laid out for Raw, with both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, Dean’s former Shield teammates, being placed into a triple threat on July 24th at Battleground. Sadly for Raw, Ambrose pinned Reigns and left for the Blue Brand, resulting in a new title being announced the next night by Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon and General Manager at the time, Mick Foley.
The Universal Championship was unveiled, with many people disliking it simply based off its color, I still have daily comments about the ‘Big Red Belt’ and reasons for why it is worthless and should be retired in favor of just the WWE Championship. I’m going to put forth the case that this isn’t necessary, it just needs to be used a bit differently, well, a lot differently.
The belts first winner was Finn Balor, who after defeating Reigns to move on to this match faced Seth Rollins at SummerSlam, a month after the title’s inception. Rollins was automatically in the match as he was not pinned in the triple threat with Roman and Dean, and although Rollins put up a hell of a fight, Balor was successful in becoming not only the first ever Universal Champion but also the first person to win a top title in their pay per view debut.
Alas, Finn was injured during the match, so a new Champion was to be decided, Finn had held the belt for less than 24 hours and is still owed his rematch. Go figure.
A week later a new champion was decided when Kevin Owens was aided by Triple H during his four-way with Big Cass, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns.
Owens had a great 7-month reign during which we had the treat of his and Chris Jericho’s friendship. During this time, Paul Heyman was in the process of challenging Goldberg to a match with Brock Lesnar, based mostly off of the fact that Goldberg was the pre-order bonus on WWE2K17, plus Goldberg defeated Lesnar back at ‘Mania 20. Goldberg, after 12 years out of the squared circle, returned at Survivor Series to beat Lesnar in spectacular fashion, 1 minute 26 seconds.
This was booked perfectly, considering how many people complain about the predictability of the current product. Goldberg then announced he was not done, that he would be in the Royal Rumble match and also that he had been named the new number one contender for Kevin Owen’s Universal Championship. Goldberg was a good cash cow, why have a cow if you can’t milk it?
Lesnar also entered the Rumble the following week, in hopes of getting some revenge by eliminating Goldberg, yet lightning struck twice and he eliminated Lesnar almost straight away upon entering two places after Brock.
As you can imagine, Brock was livid and challenged Goldberg to one more match, this time at WrestleMania 33. Before the that, Goldberg had his match with Owens and won the belt, mainly so that it would be on the line for the ‘Mania encounter. They didn’t even need the belt involved. The Universal Championship and also Brock Lesnar were both in good standing still at this point, with no talk like you will find now.
Maybe the slightest bit of dissension about the overuse of Suplex’s and under-usage of every over move invented. Problem is, Suplex City became a big chant and thus he would have been told “do more of what you’re doing”, it went well with his gladiator-esque aura. When his music hits, it is like the arena gates have been opened and the proverbial beast is loose and has prey in its sights.
Brock went into a great program with Samoa Joe, where he defended twice successfully, first at the Great Balls of Fire event (bet you forgot that was a thing) and then again at a live event. Joe had a third chance at SummerSlam 2017 when Lesnar defended in a 4-way with him, Braun Strowman and Reigns, where Brock pinned Roman for the win.
Next in line was Braun Stowman, who in my opinion made the most credible attempt against Lesnar’s reign as Champion. The two had a great build up and pay off, with this being where I would have had a change of holders, this is where it all changed, I think.
WWE had blown their most credible challenger and a threat to Lesnar. No-one else would have done it as believably, however, Reigns had seemingly been marked for greatness and was destined to be the one to take it. They even had him defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania to put Roman on a level that only him and Brock shared.
Brock has been fun for a long time, but now Braun was more fun, and they went with the wrong choice.
Lesnar was then scheduled to face Jinder Mahal, the then WWE Champion in an inter-promotional match at Survivor Series. Luckily AJ Styles won the title from Jinder beforehand so we got AJ vs. Lesnar. No one can deny that in this encounter, same with Braun and Samoa Joe, Lesnar showed respect and sold when he needed to etc, he didn’t squash them and made them look credible.
Brock wasn’t selfish or selfless, he was just doing his job as a wrestler and playing the role he was assigned. The match was non-title and after a great effort, but not great enough, AJ was pinned by Brock.
It was decided, Raw’s new title had been put above the already established and prestigious WWE Championship. Wrong move number two.
Strowman was still on the hunt for the title, this time with Kane also making his presence felt, the three giant men spending the week’s up until Royal Rumble 2018 destroying each other with whole areas of arena and other mad segments, such as Braun finding the grappling hook Legend of Zelda style before using it to try and kill Lesnar and Kane, because attempted murder is a thing in WWE sometimes (see Austin/Rikishi and various other scenarios) leading to a triple threat at the event.
Lesnar has given the win again, Strowman was beginning to lose his credibility. Who were they going to have that was credible enough to take care he belt believably? Strowman was built much stronger than Reigns, was far more over with the crowd, even lasted through five of the six other men in the Elimination Chamber, before succumbing to Reigns and his push.
Another chance to make Braun champion had been squandered, choosing the unpopular over the popular. Reigns went on to face Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 but they were met with a horrendous reception from the crowd, the plan was aborted and Lesnar got the win, despite rumors to the contrary and his confirmed return to UFC.
Reigns then got another chance at the Greatest Royal Rumble, with a hokey finish in their cage match that saw Reigns hit the floor first but Lesnar still awarded the win. You know what that means folks, we’ve got another one to go.
The problems are people are bored with Lesnar and think he has no passion, Reigns is not wanted as champion by many and he gets more top title shots than anyone else I can think of. Braun is just there doing his own thing, Owens is bouncing around with the other semi-challengers, Lashley is busy with Sami Zayn and Finn seems to have annoyed someone backstage as he takes a loss every time he gets a match that he has to win to go on to the title match. Even if they don’t want him as champion they could have just given him the match so that we all stop going on about it. Right this wrong WWE.
This is WWE though and they don’t like to listen to us too much. Hence Roman being rumored to have the SummerSlam match that Brock will be returning to in-ring action in. Here’s the thing, rumor also has it that Brock re-signed on the Raw before WrestleMania, meaning Roman’s loss at ‘Mania wasn’t based purely on the crowd response.
It was confirmed that Brock was off to UFC at some point by none other than UFC President Dana White, and Brock now reportedly had a deal that pays him handsomely for appearances when required, up until WWE decide otherwise.
At this point, people did not care. They had heard of the no-shows and the squashing of people like The Miz. Brock seemed lazy like he had realized how much he was worth to people, and that he could kick up a fuss to get more attention and money. I put it to you though that this is the character they have been building him as since he returned to WWE, a star who is a legitimate athlete that can cause harm, someone a cut above the rest, a paradox of sorts. In wrestling you simply can’t build someone that big, because this is what happens, you have to work stupidly hard to make anyone seem like a threat storyline wise.
Brock is undoubtedly there to earn his money, he has a contract that would be enforceable should he no-show etc, it’s all a work, in my opinion. They started building and then looked back and realised they had built too far, he is meant to be that cocky, he is meant to think he is above the other stars, he technically is in the eyes of a lot of people, however hardcore wrestling fans and stats people who see the work put in by other stars see Brock as undeserving, and just want a change.
Look at it in this way, if Brock was so visibly and blatantly disrespecting the authoritative power of WWE and his contract, showing unprofessional behavior and being so hard to work with, would he really be in such demand? I don’t care who you are, WWE or UFC could give up on anyone person tomorrow, erase them from history, the company would continue, the person would become a side note in time, remembered by some but lost to time.
Is this a good time to point out that Lesnar has just surpassed CM Punks 434 day record as the longest main title holder of the current era? Yet he has 10 defenses and Punk has 141 defenses. Different animals but still…..
I also believe Roman is better than most give him credit for. He is there all the time, rises to the occasion, takes a lot of big pins, many detailed here, and does a lot of charity stuff. He definitely does not deserve the hate he receives, just imagine how well you would perform at work each week if you were met with the same reception he is.
Taking these two things into account, I do think Brock needs to drop the title, not to Reigns, but to Finn or Strowman. Rollins would be great but he is on his own mission at the moment with the Intercontinental Championship. I also think that to save the credibility of the title as a whole, we need it to be defended more often, maybe as a TV title type deal, just Universal for the WWE Universe, as planned. This could involve a weekly defense, possibly in an open challenge type format. It will not be looked upon the same way as the WWE title, even in time, the WWE Championship has so much more lineage and history.
This needs to be given to whoever is the most over, and build it like that, change hands when another challenger comes along with the same kind of pop that the current champ had, make it about the thrill of chasing the title, while building the holder up after numerous defenses to make a more credible WWE Champion when they join that long line of legends, have it as a gateway between the mid-card title and the WWE title.
Allow Roman to fall back and have a character adjustment, just tweak slight bits, give Brock the time he needs to do his UFC training etc and come back to a better reception now that it’s not like he’s holding the title ransom.
Oh, and I almost forgot about Bobby Lashley, the ‘Destroyer’. I would be happy for it to be him that faced off with Brock and took the belt, rather than these bland storylines he has been given. However, given the slights on Braun and Finn since the creation of the title I believe it should be Finn Balor that slays the beast, Strowman that beats Finn and Lashley feud with Brock before going on to face Braun. Also, Roman may be looked upon differently by then and can quietly be reinserted into the scene with no friction.
I believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that we will enjoy the Universal Championship, cheer for Roman and like Brock again in time if WWE decides to do things the right way going forward. For now, we have until SummerSlam to wait and find out what is next, plus we will have a Money in the Bank winner floating around. All I ask as a fan is for the patience of the other fans, it will turn out ok, we just need to get past this dark time of uncertainty.