Admit it, WWE’s Monday Night Raw wasn’t that bad last night. We got a heap of good matches, some interesting storylines and a clear path moving forward for the Red brand. Other than minor nitpicks, I can’t fault the last two nights of WWE entertainment – that is all except for the WWE Universal Championship, which might as well not exist at this stage.
The decision to slap the WWE Universal Championship on Brock Lesnar probably made sense at the time. Lesnar is a legitimate badass and him carrying the belt would give it an air of legitimacy. You’d think so at least, except we haven’t seen the Championship in almost a month. That’s a whole month where Raw’s main Championship – and arguably the most important Championship in the company – might as well have not existed.
You might say “so what?”, it’s just a Championship. But it’s not just any Championship – it’s THE Championship. It’s the belt that every Superstar on Raw should be aiming to capture. It’s the Championship that defines being a Raw main eventer. When doing press tours, it’s the belt that signals who the top guy in the company is. By not showing up on TV with the belt, audiences have no reason to care about it or its Champion.
This is important because, as we saw last night, it leads to a situation where the mid-card Championship becomes the defacto main belt. Instead of elevating potential main eventers, we end up with the likes of Finn Balor and Seth Rollins competing to get that shot. These guys are bonified main event guys and while it’s great for the IC Title, it pretty much means that no one beneath the main event can have any kind of title shot.
Add all this to the fact that the WWE Universal Championship hasn’t had the best of existences up to now, and it’s easy to see why fans consider it a joke belt. From its awkward unveiling through to giving a 50-year-old Goldberg a month-long reign, the Universal Championship hasn’t gained the kind of prestige needed to weather this kind of absence. The WWE Championship has been fought over by some of the greatest of all time. Winning it puts Superstar’s among that top-level of legend in the company – it elevates. Winning the WWE Universal Championship puts you alongside Goldberg and Brock Lesnar – two part-timers. It’s not there yet – but WWE seem oblivious to this fact.
Yes WWE has put the WWE Championship on part-timers before – but that ultimately worked. The Rock may not have done much, but at least he was seen as the WWE Championship in mainstream media. It brought eyes to the product. Lesnar does none of this – he returns home and sits around until the next time WWE need him. It’s not a great look for a Champion.
And yes – Kevin Owens did hold the Championship for a long time – but even his most hardcore fans will freely admit that the WWE dropped the ball on his booking. He only started to look like a true Champion right before dropping it to Goldberg, which ultimately meant nothing. It’s even more hilarious when (in kayfabe) you realise that Owens opted to chase the United States Championship over the Universal Championship. Same thing with Finn Balor – it seems the top Superstars (in kayfabe) just don’t seem all that interested in chasing the Championship.
If WWE wants fans to see the Universal Championship as more than a piece of jewellery, they have to start booking it as such. They need to make fans care about who wins it and who’s fighting for it. People cared when AJ Styles won the WWE Championship because it meant something. They cared when Rock and Austin fought to be seen as the best in the company. In the past, the main Championship was seen as the be all, end all in the company. It was so important that Vince McMahon spent the best part of 1998 working to get it off Austin – that’s how important it was. Yet there’s none of this passion for the Universal belt.
Right now Raw has some of the best talent in the WWE and all of wrestling – but you wouldn’t know it by the way the company is treating its Championship. With n desire or care from Superstars, who’d rather chase the secondary belt than make the effort to stepup, things will only get worse from here.