How WWE can legitimize its new World Heavyweight Championship from the start
It’s tough to not think of WWE’s new World Heavyweight Championship as a consolation prize after Triple H announced the creation of the title in lieu of Roman Reigns’, well, reign of terror as Undisputed WWE Universal Champion.
Yes, the company finally recognized the need for each of its flagship shows to have its own world title. But, the announcement led to mixed feelings across the WWE Universe. Some worried about this new belt seeming like a second-place trophy behind Reigns’ success, and others wondering if it weakens the history behind Reigns’ push to 1,000 days as Universal Champion.
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Combine all of this with the fact that the crowning of this new champion will take place at WWE’s next event in Saudi Arabia in a tournament filled with both RAW and SmackDown superstars (despite a newborn brand split and the fact that this title was created to be RAW-exclusive), and fans are already hesitant about what is supposed to be considered an equivalent to the title Reigns currently holds.
So, as WWE navigates through a tournament to determine the “first-ever” WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H (and whoever is or isn’t in charge at this point) will need to make sure they nail it to properly legitimize this new top prize.
The first step was ensuring that the right wrestlers were picked to compete for this new honor, a process for which we’ll give Triple H and company an A-minus.
On the RAW side, superstars like Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Damian Priest, Shinsuke Nakamura, and The Miz will battle it out for a spot as RAW’s representative in the tournament finals.
On SmackDown, big names like AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Bobby Lashley, Sheamus, and Austin Theory will compete for what, at the surface, appears to be an opportunity to move to RAW as a new world champion.
Rhodes’ inclusion in the tournament hurts things a little bit, as he has already mentioned how he wants to finish the story against Reigns for what is currently the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. Even his winning of this new title would feel like a cheap alternative, and would dampen the impact of his need to finish his story.
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Theory’s presence in the field dampens the importance of the United States Championship, though his spot as the lone heel on the SmackDown side of the equation could serve as a way to set up his next feud.
The problem with a few of the competitors from a legitimacy perspective is how many lost to Reigns over the last 1,000 days.
Edge lost to Reigns multiple times. Balor, both as himself and as the Demon, lost to Reigns multiple times.
Mysterio lost to Reigns once. Rhodes, albeit with interference, lost to Reigns once. Styles didn’t wrestle Reigns during this specific title reign, but lost to him multiple times in the past.
Theory was booked as being scared to cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Reigns, and settled for the United States Championship.
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For any of those names, winning this new World Heavyweight Championship immediately makes the title feel like a consolation prize.
With all of that factored in, the only remaining names without a prior history of big losses against Reigns include Lashley, Nakamura, Sheamus, Priest, The Miz, and, most importantly, Rollins.
It’s not surprise that Rollins has been the biggest focus of the new championship’s television appearances in the title’s first few weeks of existence. Reigns never beat Rollins during any of his title runs, and Rollins is one of the lone blemishes on Reigns’ record over the last three-plus years after a disqualification win against his former Shield member at the Royal Rumble in 2022.
On the RAW side of things, Rollins seems like a no-brainer at this point, and could easily carry the title as a workhorse for months to come with plenty of heels to work with on Monday nights.
The lone hiccup would be how Rhodes gets booked, but a potential rematch with Brock Lesnar after a surprising finish at Backlash could help pave the way for Rhodes’ removal from the tournament.
On SmackDown, things get considerably more interesting.
Styles seems like a phenomenal (pun intended) choice to challenge Rollins at Night of Champions in Saudi Arabia, and he has yet to encounter Reigns in his Tribal Chief phase.
Lashley also has a clear-cut reasoning for a spot in the finals of this tournament, having never been pinned when it came time to end his WWE Championship run ahead of WrestleMania 38.
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If the last match of the tournament does pit a RAW superstar against a wrestler from SmackDown, you’re likely to see one of those options between Rollins and Styles or Rollins and Lashley.
With Rollins winning either of those possibilities, the title immediately starts off with a top-tier match to kick off its new lineage, and the first WWE World Heavyweight Champion is one with a legitimate case as someone who took Reigns to the limit, and didn’t even lose in the process.
Fast-forward to Survivor Series in November (if they go back to RAW vs. SmackDown matches as a result of the brand split), and you instantly have a feud between Reigns and Rollins that has a sound backstory and loads of star power.
What do you think about the new WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Let us know by following @SOTSports on Twitter or checking out our YouTube channel!
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