The WWE Universal Championship is a world heavyweight championship, created and promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). It is one of two world titles in the promotion, and was created on July 25, 2016 to rival the WWE World Championship, which became exclusive to SmackDown following the re-introduction of the brand extension on July 19, 2016. The championship is named in honor of the WWE Universe.
With the reintroduction of the WWE brand extension, a draft took place on the SmackDown Live premiere episode on July 19, 2016 and WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose was drafted to SmackDown. At Battleground on July 24, Ambrose successfully defended the title in a triple threat match against Raw draftees Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. When Ambrose retained the title, Raw was left without a world title. Subsequently, Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon and Raw general manager Mick Foley created a new championship, the WWE Universal Championship, the following night on Raw to serve as the brand's top championship. According to Foley, the title was named in honor of the WWE Universe, the name WWE uses to refer to its fan base.
The inaugural champion was crowned at SummerSlam on August 21, 2016 in a singles match; Seth Rollins was automatically set for that match, as he was not pinned at Battleground, while his opponent was determined by two fatal four-way matches on Raw, with the winners wrestling each other in a singles match. Finn Bálor won the first fatal four-way by defeating Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and Rusev, while Roman Reigns won the second by defeating Chris Jericho, Sami Zayn, and Sheamus. Bálor then defeated Reigns and was added to the title match. At SummerSlam, Bálor defeated Rollins to become the inaugural champion. As a result, Bálor became the first WWE wrestler to win a world title in their pay-per-view debut, as well as winning his first world title in about a month since debuting in WWE's main roster.
The title was unveiled at SummerSlam 2016. The title is similar in appearance to the WWE World Championship, with a few notable differences. The strap is red, to symbolize its exclusivity to Raw, with the underline of the WWE logo in the center plate being black to make it visible. As the belt is similar to the WWE World Championship, the center plate is a large cut out of the WWE logo with diamonds sitting inside an irregular heptagonal plate, with the phrase "Universal Champion" in small print sitting underneath the logo. Each side plate, sitting on the other side of gold divider bars, features the same default side plates of the WWE World Championship, with the champion's logo able to be customized for the side plates as a similarity of the name plate feature.
The physical title garnered a negative reaction from the live SummerSlam audience, who chanted "This belt sucks"; this sentiment was echoed online. Adam Silverstein of CBS Sports called it "ugly".
Finn Bálor was the inaugural champion, but he was forced to vacate the title due to suffering a legitimate injury in winning the title. Due to this, his reign is the shortest at 22 hours while Brock Lesnar has the longest reign at 504 days, beginning on April 2, 2017 and ending on August 19, 2018. Kevin Owens is the youngest champion at 32 years old while Goldberg is the oldest when he won it at 50.
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- Champion history - History of the wrestlers who have held the belt.
- Title matches - Matches in which the title was defended.
- Champion gallery - A gallery of all champions.
- WWE Universal Championship at CAGEMATCH.net
- Official WWE Universal Championship Title History
- Wrestling-Titles.com: WWE Universal Championship