The Universal Title was created back in the summer of 2016 when WWE elected to split its rosters once more and undertake a new brand split.
The WWE Championship which had been unified with the World Heavyweight Championship on December 15, 2013, was now exclusive to SmackDown. That created a void on RAW to be filled by the brand new Universal Title, named after the company’s fanbase, the WWE Universe.
The inaugural champion, Finn Balor reigned as champion for a single day only as he sustained a serious shoulder injury in his title bout with Seth Rollins at SummerSlam 2016. However, subsequent champions would have rather longer reigns. This feature looks back at the five longest Universal Title reigns in the belt’s seven-year history.
#5 “The Fiend” – 119 days (October 31, 2019 – February 27, 2020)
Bray Wyatt’s deranged alter ego, “The Fiend” was defeated by Seth Rollins in a hugely disappointing Hell in a Cell bout on October 6, 2019. The result of that contest nearly caused a riot in the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.
That meant the result of their rematch from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was somewhat predictable. Nevertheless, “The Fiend’s” victory over Rollins was an immensely popular result and kicked off Wyatt’s inaugural Universal Title run.
“The Fiend” successfully defended the strap in high-profile bouts with Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series and Royal Rumble. He then infamously dropped the title in a glorified squash match at Super ShowDown in Riyadh, meaning he won and lost the strap in Saudi Arabia, to Goldberg in one of the least popular match results this century.
That ended Wyatt’s 119-day run as champion. His subsequent Universal Title run would last only a week.
#4 Brock Lesnar – 156 days (November 2, 2018 – April 7, 2019)
Brock Lesnar’s second run as Universal Champion stretched from Crown Jewel on November 2, 2018, through to WrestleMania 35 on April 7, 2019.
He captured the vacant strap in a bout with Braun Strowman after Roman Reigns relinquished the title after his Leukaemia diagnosis. He successfully defended the gold against Finn Balor in a memorable sprint at Royal Rumble before dropping the belt to Seth Rollins in another short, supercharged match-up at WrestleMania, which opened the show.
Lesnar would regain the belt from Rollins during the summer before dropping it back to ‘The Architect’ at SummerSlam.
#3 Kevin Owens – 188 days (August 29, 2016 – March 5, 2017)
Kevin Owens was the second-ever Universal Champion when he captured the title Finn Balor had vacated on RAW.
Owens had a hugely entertaining reign as champion, which was highlighted by his partnership with Chris Jericho. The pair’s witty banter was a highlight of RAW during the Autumn and Winter months.
‘The Prizefighter’ successfully navigated title matches opposite the likes of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.
However, his reign was terminated in deflating fashion by Goldberg in a 22-second demolition at Fastlane on March 5, 2017. Owens has never held a World Title in the six years since that defeat.
#2 Brock Lesnar – 503 days (April 2, 2017 – August 19, 2018)
Brock Lesnar’s inaugural reign as Universal Champion was an epic one. It was the longest WWE World Title reign since Hulk Hogan’s first run ended in February 1988.
‘The Beast’ finally upended Goldberg in a five-minute sprint at WrestleMania 33 to claim the belt. He successfully retained the gold against all comers such as Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, and Roman Reigns before he finally dropped the gold opposite Reigns at SummerSlam 2018.
Lesnar would not be without gold for long. He would regain the strap three months later in a bout with Strowman after ‘The Big Dog’ was forced to relinquish the title due to a Leukaemia diagnosis.
#1 Roman Reigns – 1070 days (August 30, 2020 – Present)
The current, reigning Universal Champion, Roman Reigns is the record titleholder in the belt’s seven-year history. Reigns is closing on an incredible three years as champion.
His historic reign began way back during the COVID pandemic when he terminated “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt’s one-week run as champion at Payback 2020 by pinning Braun Strowman in a Triple-Threat encounter.
From that point on, Reigns declared himself ‘The Tribal Chief’ and built a stable consisting of his cousins, The Usos and Solo Sikoa called The Bloodline around himself. He shockingly aligned himself with longtime adversary, Paul Heyman as he embraced his new heel character.
Reigns has blossomed into the finest all-rounder in the business during this title reign, which shows no signs of ending anytime soon. ‘The Tribal Chief’ has turned back all challengers to his throne, some on multiple occasions.
He unified WWE’s World Titles with the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 38 versus Brock Lesnar. From that point on he has been known as the Undisputed Universal WWE Champion.
His title defences against Brock Lesnar, Cody Rhodes, Jey Uso, and Sami Zayn are all-time classics.
Only Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, and Hulk Hogan have held a WWE World Title for longer. Reigns may well be champion for many more months yet.
You can watch all of these Universal Title wins exclusively on the WWE Network.