Making Sense of Goldberg’s Universal Championship Win
The internet was set ablaze this past Sunday when Goldberg hit Kevin Owens with a spear and a jackhammer before dethroning the longest reigning Universal champion in 22 seconds. Many fans were angry that Goldberg so thoroughly dominated KO, who has been a fighting champion since being handed the title by Triple H back in September. Furthermore, they are worried about the long term health of the product since it seems that full-time superstars are thrown to the side during WrestleMania season in favor of old part-timers who will leave shortly after the event. So with that in mind was it an injustice for the WWE to have Goldberg so handily defeat Kevin Owens at Fastlane?
In short, no.
We might not know whether or not the decision will pay off until years from now, if ever. Hell, in a business like professional wrestling we will probably never know whether or not that was the “right” or “wrong” call. But there are several positives to take away from Goldberg’s title win.
The first has to do with the title itself. The Universal Championship was created this past summer following the brand split after WWE Champion Dean Ambrose was drafted to Smackdown Live. The first champion, Finn Balor, was injured during the match in which he won the belt ad was forced to relinquish it the Monday Night Raw after Summerslam. A few weeks later, a fatal four-way would crown a new champion and as we all remember, Triple H betrayed Seth Rollins and handed Kevin Owens the championship. Since then, KO has been weaseling his way to successful title defenses and did not win a single match cleanly against Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns, who he feuded with for the extended 5 month period. It was his “best friend” Chris Jericho who was always there to ensure he retained his championship. During KO’s extended reign however, Chris Jericho hit his stride and became one of the most popular wrestlers on the Raw roster as he got every catchphrase he introduced over and even made the List of Jericho one of the highlights of any Chris and Kevin promo. Chris Jericho outshined the Universal champion Owens, who came off as a guy who needed help to retain his title.
Despite Owens’ abilities as one of the most gifted athletes on the roster, he was booked as a lame duck champion. The Universal championship, which was still in its infancy as a recognized world championship, didn’t main event every show and wasn’t even the featured feud at times as the women’s championship outshined anything involved with the Universal title for a stretch in October (leading to the first ever women’s championship main event at Hell in a Cell between Sasha Banks and Charlotte). With Goldberg as champion, the Universal championship will likely main event WrestleMania. Goldberg is the most special attraction in pro wrestling and has been since his initial WWE run. His dominance in WCW is one of the greatest (storyline) runs in professional wrestling history and he was also quite dominant in the WWE, having only been pinned by Triple H. Goldberg was never beaten in a one on one contest in the WWE and now holds a belt that hasn’t yet had a dominant champion. Above all else the Universal title benefits most from Goldberg holding it.
Kevin Owens also benefits from losing to Goldberg. As contradicting as that may seem, there is no better superstar to lose your championship to than Goldberg. KO was not going to hold the belt forever and instead of losing it to a peer like Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns, he lost it to a legend. Also, he lost it in a controversial matter. In an act of pure poetic justice it was Chris Jericho who caused the demise of Kevin Owens’ title reign. The man that was responsible for him holding the belt for so long by constantly interfering in his matches was the man who ended Owens’ reign, just weeks after Owens ended their friendship by blasting him at Y2J’s “Festival of Friendship.” Now the two will square off at WrestleMania for the United States championship, which will also have a boost of credibility with a major WrestleMania program. Kevin Owens was protected in a loss to a man who hasn’t been pinned in a one on one match since WCW was around and immediately is inserted into what will become one of the main programs on Raw in a feud that will culminate after months of brilliant building. Oh, and Owens will get his rematch whenever he wants, so he isn’t even removed from the main event picture anytime soon.
Finally, it goes without saying that Goldberg-Lesnar for the Universal title is a bigger main event for WrestleMania than anything else the company could put on: two legit bad-asses with NFL and MMA ties (Goldberg was involved with EliteXC as a commentator) battling in what should be a hard hitting affair (however short it may be) and bringing mainstream attention to the product. The Universal title benefits from having such a high-profile affair at WrestleMania, Kevin Owens benefits by being able to steal the show with Chris Jericho in the undercard with far less pressure to deliver a classic, and the fans benefit WrestleMania now has two high stakes title matches to be excited for.