Last night on the April 24th, 2023 edition of Monday Night Raw, WWE’s Chief Content Officer Triple H opened up the show with one of the company’s biggest announcements in recent memory. Following his recent announcement of the WWE draft returning this week, we were all introduced to the reinstated World Heavyweight Championship. Being perhaps the wrestler most closely associated with WWE’s version of the hallowed “Big Gold Belt” which existed from 2002 to 2013, it was only right for Triple H to continue his run of exciting decisions and introduce the championship he was the inaugural holder of nearly 21 years ago.
A quick note on the title design. It is stellar. I understand that in this era we need the big WWE W in the middle of the belt, and the design of this title is as close as we can get to slapping the W on while making it look grandiose.
The news comes in the wake of Wrestlemania 39’s closing moments, with Roman Reigns standing tall as the show faded to black; a tremendously deflating and rather unexpected conclusion to his match against The American Nightmare Cody Rhodes. In an article last month, I entertained the idea that maybe, just maybe, WWE would go there and have Roman win to reach the illustrious 1,000 day mark on his current reign as WWE Undisputed Universal Champion. This new World Heavyweight Championship will adorn its first holder on May 27th in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at Night of Champions; coincidentally the very same day Roman Reigns will reach the 1,000 day mark on his title reign. As of writing, it appears the new championship will be the Raw exclusive world championship and Roman Reigns will remain on SmackDown as its top champion.
With the corner WWE was backed into last year when the WWE and Universal Championships were unified (thanks, Vince), it was only a matter of time until WWE had to finally make a decision regarding the concept of two world championships, and in my opinion the right call was made. When unveiling the title, Triple H made remarks about Roman, stating that he did the smart thing and made his reign into a situation where he does not have to defend the title as regularly, and so forth. These comments led to discourse online with people calling this World Heavyweight Championship a “consolation prize” of sorts.
“THIS is why Roman Reigns should have lost at Wrestlemania. While the new title looks nice, and I like the nod to Big Gold, there was no need for this. Cody wins and then they could have just split the titles again. Instead, it's a consolation prize. #WWERaw” - @solomonster on Twitter
Given the circumstances of last year’s belt unification and WWE’s decision to continue on with Reigns’ reign at least into next month to hit the millennium mark, this was just about the best thing that could be done. Whether it was Roman or Cody walking out of ‘Mania as champion, this logic would’ve made the title seem like a consolation to these people anyhow.
And no, this is not a consolation prize. A major reason for this being that this is not an unprecedented event. The very same World Heavyweight Championship that is being revived was born from the need for a second world championship amidst the first WWE Brand Split in 2002. Then WWE Champion Brock Lesnar became SmackDown exclusive and thus left Raw without a top prize, wherein Triple H was awarded the Big Gold Belt by Eric Bischoff in September. The case for this new introduction of the World Heavyweight title being a consolation prize comes from the fact that Roman Reigns has beaten just about every viable contender over the last 2 and a half years, and this may make this title seem like an “everyone Roman beat” pool of people competing for the title. In effect, yes, this is what’s happening but let’s not act like almost every major title match Roman has defended in has ended in a clean and decisive victory. Just in his last three major title defenses, Roman has defeated Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Cody Rhodes all ended under dubious circumstances. The same can be said for a laundry list of other competitors Roman has defeated over his reign.
Instead, we as a wrestling community can look at this as an opportunity to see those same stars get their moment in the sun. Tell me seeing Sami Zayn lift the World Heavyweight Championship wouldn’t be one of the most cathartic moments in wrestling history (though he will definitely not be competing in Saudi Arabia so hold your breath for this moment). With a roster as deep and talented as WWE’s, we as fans should be salivating at the thought of what big-time matches can happen yet again with another World Championship to contend for. Sometime down the line, we all want to see Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn headline a Premium Live Event for the World Championship.
This all begs the question: what’s next for Roman? We will absolutely see him hit the 1,000 days mark and continue on towards three years as champion in August. I foresee a situation where the Universal Championship (or whatever it will be called) is the marquee show closer of a title where we see Roman defend against the Brock Lesnar (sorry), Drew McIntrye’s and Bobby Lashley’s of the world, and the World Heavyweight Championship being the workrate counterpart with people such as Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, AJ Styles and Cody Rhodes vying for the prize.
The 2023 WWE Draft starts this Friday, April 28th on SmackDown and will begin to lay out who potentially could be competing in the inaugural match for the World Heavyweight Championship. I’m personally hoping for Seth Rollins and Finn Balor to rehash their inaugural Universal Championship match from SummerSlam 2016, with Rollins getting the win and the championship this time around. I can’t think of anyone in WWE more deserving in this current moment.
All of this certainly makes one wonder just how much longer Roman’s World Title reign will last now that there is a second top prize in WWE. If my prediction is correct in how Roman’s title will be treated going forward, we could very well see Roman take this into WrestleMania 40 and finally have that marquee match against The Rock. For now, we should relish this turning point in WWE’s booking You can follow Noah Drouin here: Twitter: @Endydoe Cover image ©WWE