Kevin Owens retained his WWE Universal Championship against Roman Reigns Sunday night at the Royal Rumble with Chris Jericho suspended above the ring in a shark cage. That stipulation was implemented as a way to prevent any outside interference. However, due to Mick Foley adding a last-minute no disqualification stipulation to the bout, it opened the door for Braun Strowman to run in and cost Reigns the match and the Universal Championship.
It had been noted that the original plan was for Reigns to go over in the match, but Vince McMahon made the switch in the final week leading up to the show. However, once the decision was made to keep the Universal Championship on Owens beyond the Royal Rumble, plans still remained in place for him not to carry it into WrestleMania.
The same plans were written for AJ Styles, but the company decided to have him drop his WWE Championship at the Rumble, rather than two weeks later at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. The SmackDown brand is now forced to speed up its booking with the short turnaround between pay-per-views, as Styles and John Cena will be joined by four other superstars in that main event.
As far as Roman Reigns, he had two separate angles laid out at the Royal Rumble. The Inquisitr noted last week that his next feud would come with Braun Strowman, and that is, in fact, the short-term plan. The two will be headlining the live event circuit between now and March, but after failing to capture the Universal Championship, the big picture is his eventual showdown with the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Reigns’ loss at the Royal Rumble takes him out of the Universal Championship scene for the next several months, and his Rumble match performance may have finally set the stage for the heel turn fans have been longing for. Those house show matches with Strowman will culminate in a match at Fastlane, and even though that will likely headline the RAW live events, it won’t close out that brand-exclusive show in March.
That spot will belong to the Universal Championship match, which will, as of now, still include the current champion, Kevin Owens. However, during the latest edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, it was noted that Owens will defend his Universal Championship against none other than Goldberg. The Inquisitr previously reported that Goldberg was slated to main event Fastlane, and this still appears to be the plan a little over a month away from the show.
As noted, Owens is not penciled in to carry the Universal Championship into WrestleMania. With Goldberg lined up to be his next opponent for the title, it’s safe to assume that the title change will come at Fastlane. Owens has been all but locked in for a singles match with current best friend Chris Jericho at WrestleMania. Even though there were no signs of dissension at the Royal Rumble, that is still the plan as far as those two are concerned.
After Goldberg dethrones Owens at Fastlane, it is expected that he will carry the Universal Championship into WrestleMania and defend it against Brock Lesnar. WWE officials have been planning for Lesnar and Goldberg to headline their biggest pay-per-view of the year, regardless whether there was any gold involved or not.
Last Thursday, the Inquisitr pointed out that Vince and company were still debating which WrestleMania match would be showcasing the Universal Championship. The three matches up for consideration were Goldberg and Lesnar, Owens and Jericho, or Roman Reigns and the Undertaker. The final call was made either Friday or Saturday to go the route detailed above. Reigns vs. Undertaker and Owens vs. Jericho are still planned for the card, but the top title won’t be involved.
And even though there have been rumors that Goldberg may be willing to sign an extension through the 2018 WrestleMania, the expectation is that he’ll drop the Universal Championship to Brock Lesnar this April to finally put Brock over in a feud that has seen Goldberg have the upper hand at every turn. A part-time Lesnar would then run with the belt up until SummerSlam and drop it to either Reigns or Strowman, though that is always subject to change this far out.
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