March to WrestleMania 35: Exploring the Universal and WWE Championship Scenes

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Welcome another edition of the March to WrestleMania 35, breaking down the environment around all the championships heading into the biggest show of the year to set the tone for 1) recapping how we got to this point, 2) discussing possible plans for WrestleMania and 3) guessing where this all going to end up once WrestleMania has concluded.

This post will be covering both the top world titles on Raw and SmackDown by breaking down the Universal Championship and WWE Championship.

Let’s start with what we already know…


THE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Who is the current champion?

Brock Lesnar. Just by saying that, you should know the rest of this, as his title reigns follow a pattern, but let’s break it down anyway.


He’s over 120 days into this current title reign, bringing his total days with this particular belt to over 620. Outside of the 64 days Roman Reigns held the belt from SummerSlam until he had to vacate it, Lesnar has effectively held the title since WrestleMania 33.

If you’ve watched WWE at any point over the past 2 years, you know exactly what this title reign has been like, how often it’s been defended, what the matches are typically booked as, etc.

Who will challenge for the title at WrestleMania?

After winning the Royal Rumble, Seth Rollins immediately did what he said he was going to do in challenging Lesnar. Since then, Rollins has been on the sidelines to heal up from a back injury that has his WrestleMania match in jeopardy, but there hasn’t been some public outcry of panic that he won’t be able to perform on April 7th.


If that does indeed go down and Rollins isn’t cleared to compete, WWE will undoubtedly replace him with Roman Reigns. He’s the most logical person to slot in, but until something happens that points in that direction, we can assume this will go down as Rollins vs. Lesnar as planned—by which, of course, I mean the plan dating back to around the Royal Rumble time. Heading out of WrestleMania 34, it’s doubtful WWE was looking ahead and thinking Rollins vs. Lesnar for this title was the game plan.


What happens at and after WrestleMania?

The optimist in me hopes Rollins beats Lesnar and The Beast Incarnate takes time off to go do his UFC stuff while Rollins holds the belt until SummerSlam and drops it to a guy like Drew McIntyre.

The pessimist in me says WWE won’t resist the temptation to have Lesnar retain the title, because it won’t be the main event so it’ll be “okay” to disappoint fans, and then have Roman Reigns earn a title shot either for the Raw after WrestleMania or the subsequent pay-per-view. Then, Reigns will be the one to take the title from Lesnar, who will promptly go away, while Rollins will be moved into some other feud.

To be clear, I don’t look at it as a negative that Reigns would be champion. The pessimism is targeted toward the idea that Lesnar will keep the title even longer, as I’ve been a staunch opponent to the idea of him even winning the title at WrestleMania 33, let alone having it the past 2 years, and I just want this whole Lesnar thing to be over with. I’m hoping, even if the belt goes to freakin’ Humberto Carrillo, that it all ends at WrestleMania and we can move on.

THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP

Who is the current champion?

Daniel Bryan defeated AJ Styles to win the championship for the fourth time on November 13, 2018 on an episode of SmackDown Live. This has by far been Bryan’s longest title reign with this belt, as his previous three reigns were just a few minutes, less than one day and 64 days.


Under his new heel persona, The New Daniel Bryan has even debuted The New WWE Championship by changing the belt to something more eco-friendly, replacing the leather strap with “100% sustainable hemp” and the traditional adornment with plates carved from a naturally fallen oak tree.

He has former enemy Erick Rowan by his side (in a role that may have been originally planned for Lars Sullivan, if you’re into conspiracy theories) to help act as backup muscle to protect his championship, which he retained in the Elimination Chamber.

For the most part, his adversaries for this title reign have been Styles and Kofi Kingston, although Kevin Owens will be fighting him for the belt at Fastlane.


Who will challenge for the title at WrestleMania?

You’d have to assume at this point that it’s Kingston, right? I mean, he was the most logical person to go with for Fastlane and WWE opted to replace him with Owens, who was rumored to be one of the top choices regarding Bryan’s opponent for WrestleMania.

Logic would dictate that Owens will come up short at Fastlane and Kingston will earn his way into another title opportunity. That is the easiest way to go about things, and WWE loves to take the easy way out, because fans do want to see Kofi get his title shot and the heavy lifting of the feud has already been done.

If Kingston doesn’t get inserted into the Fastlane match, it’s a done deal that he’ll fight Bryan at WrestleMania, because WWE cannot just say “nope” and not do the match at all, or think that people will be okay with it going down on a random episode of SmackDown in March.


This is especially true when thinking about how there aren’t any other options available who would make sense and distract from the Kingston choice. Even if John Cena were to jump in at the last minute to start a program with Bryan, people at MetLife Stadium are going to be chanting “we want Kofi” and it will derail the whole thing.

Either Kingston vs. Bryan at WrestleMania is a singles match, or Owens gets thrown in and it becomes a Triple Threat. Those are the only options, unless WWE officials are insane.

What happens at and after WrestleMania?

As much as momentum is on Kingston’s side, I can’t see him winning the title. I also don’t think it will go to Owens if he’s involved in the match.

That new belt was created with the intent to keep it on Bryan as long as possible, I think, and I don’t see him dropping it until at least May or June once the Superstar Shake-up has already been able to establish new challengers for him.

So when it comes to WrestleMania, I think we’ll see a hard-fought match where Bryan is able to retain the title by hook or by crook, likely with some help from Rowan. However, there is a slight possibility WWE goes with the flow, puts the title on Kingston for the feel-good moment and to pay tribute to the career he’s had so far, even if he’s doomed to drop it back on the next episode of SmackDown, at Money in the Bank or at Backlash.

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