With WrestleMania approaching and the card continuing to take shape, it’s interesting to take a look back at how plans for the WWE Universal Championship have evolved since its inception. The Universal title made its debut at SummerSlam, but its first owner held on to it for less than 24 hours. Finn Balor’s injury forced the company to scrap plans it had laid out for the RAW main event for at least the next two months.
Though WWE officials had yet to draw up anything concrete for Balor at WrestleMania 33 at that point, they did have his his next two pay-per-view title defenses lined up. As we discovered, The Demon King was supposed to defend his WWE Universal Championship against Kevin Owens at Clash Of Champions in September, followed by a triple threat with Owens and Chris Jericho at Hell In A Cell.
At the time, Balor’s run with the Universal title was projected to be lengthy, but unknown if he would have carried it all the way to WrestleMania. It turned out to be a moot point anyway, as his SummerSlam injury forced him to relinquish it, and the creative staff had to call a major audible.
The proposed three-way match at Hell In A Cell with Balor, Owens, and Jericho would have also ignited a breakup between Jeri-KO and eventual feud. Originally, Jericho had designs on departing the WWE again before the end of the year, but he has signed several extensions to the point he’s a certainty to compete at WrestleMania. Owens was given the Universal Championship even though the bigger picture at the time was to continue setting the stage for the eventual Triple H-Seth Rollins showdown.
If Owens retains on Sunday at the Royal Rumble, he’ll be going on his sixth month as Universal Champion. Jericho recently became the United States Champion for the first time in his career, and Balor is inching closer to a return, although it is still unclear if that return comes this Sunday or in time for a build to a WrestleMania match.
We’ve noted how Vince McMahon has had second thoughts on the finishes of both the WWE Championship and Universal Championship matches at the Royal Rumble, but plans for three of the four competitors in those matches appear to have their WrestleMania plans set now. The fourth, AJ Styles, still looks to be on a collision with Shane McMahon for the big show, but that has yet to be confirmed.
According to a new report, WWE officials are still considering three potential WWE Universal Championship matches for WrestleMania, and the picture should be a little clearer once the dust settles from the Royal Rumble. The three bouts in contention for the spot are Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, and Roman Reigns against the Undertaker.
Owens vs. Jericho and Lesnar vs. Goldberg are locks for WrestleMania no matter what, regardless if a title is on the line. Of the three, Owens and Jericho are the least likely to fight over the Universal Championship as of now, and it looks like they’ll fight over the U.S. title instead.
The most interesting of the three possibilities, of course, would be a proposed match between Roman Reigns and the Undertaker. As of two weeks ago, the Undertaker was not scheduled to compete for either the WWE or Universal Championship at WrestleMania, but this would indicate that Vince and other WWE officials are reconsidering that. He is still slotted to face someone from RAW after a proposed bout between the Deadman and John Cena was squashed.
There is a growing push to have Randy Orton win the Royal Rumble match and then have Bray Wyatt win the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber, setting up a title bout between Orton and Wyatt at WrestleMania. Officials would have a little more work to do to set up a Reigns-Undertaker Universal Championship match, considering the Phenom is unlikely to wrestle at the Fastlane pay-per-view.
Goldberg and Brock Lesnar have been pinpointed to headline WrestleMania, and if they’re to battle over the Universal title, it would definitely mean that one of them will win the Rumble. As we’ve noted, Goldberg is set to wrestle at Fastlane while Lesnar is currently not booked to appear on the show.
There have been some rumblings of Finn Balor making a surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble match, but as of now, despite being the first-ever Universal Champion, he won’t be the next one.
[Featured Image by WWE]