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WWE’s New World Championship Takes Some of the Shine Off Roman Reigns

The new world heavyweight championship inevitably muddies the previously crystal-clear main event picture.

Two certainties emerged during this week’s edition of WWE’s Monday Night Raw. First, a new world champion will be crowned. And second, Roman Reigns will be holding onto his title for even longer.

Paul “Triple H” Levesque unveiled WWE’s newest men’s title, the world heavyweight championship, during a segment on Raw. A new champion will be crowned at Night of Champions in May, which is no accident, as that was done to please business partners in Saudi Arabia by adding intrigue to the show in Jeddah. Originally, that card was intended to be King of the Ring, but it was changed to Night of Champions for this specific purpose.

The decision to add a new world champion has its pros and cons, but it undoubtedly adds a convoluted element to the main event. Right now, there is zero question about the top of the WWE hierarchy. Roman Reigns holds both the universal championship and the WWE title, and he is the single biggest star in the company. When surrounded by his Bloodline entourage of Paul Heyman, The Usos and Solo Sikoa, his presence becomes even more magnified.

A primary drawback to the unveiling of a new title is that, invariably, it weakens Reigns. As he approaches a historic 1,000-reign as champ, the moment that he loses the belt will be weakened—even if only slightly—because there will be another men’s world champion already in place. Another issue is the timing. This is being forced to fit the upcoming WWE draft, which is purposely being held ahead of the Saudi show. That does not take into consideration The Bloodline’s incredible popularity, as they are producing a story line that is carrying the entire industry. Shifting to two world champions is a move to make when business is lagging, which is definitively not the case here.

It is somewhat of a surprise that the decision to split into two champions did not come from CEO Vince McMahon. Levesque oversees WWE’s creative, and he believes that Raw needs a world champion. It will be a shock if Reigns does not take the WWE undisputed universal championship with him to SmackDown, which then opens the playing field on Raw for a new champion.

But it is worth questioning whether each brand (Raw and SmackDown) needs its own world champion. There is no reason Raw couldn’t build around Gunther, the reigning intercontinental champion, as its focal point. Yet, per multiple sources close to WWE, this is how Levesque prefers the setup and structure heading into the draft, which will begin Friday on SmackDown.

A prevailing positive in this situation is that the decision allows many members of the roster a very real chance of winning a world title, one that has not otherwise existed during Reigns’s ongoing run of dominance. Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes, Kevin Owens, Bobby Lashley, Finn Bálor and Drew McIntyre all immediately come to mind, as well as Sami Zayn, as people who could carry the belt and give it meaning. If someone becomes extremely popular (like Zayn did leading up to WrestleMania 39), the opportunity now exists to give a title run to that person.

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This was not the only major news to break Monday night. CM Punk briefly—and very visibly—appeared backstage, speaking with members of the roster and even requesting a few minutes of Levesque’s time before being asked to leave. Given the acrimonious nature surrounding his departure from WWE and the lawsuit that followed, it was a surprise that he would be backstage at Raw, even with the show being held in Rosemont, Ill., near his hometown of Chicago.

If it was a play for publicity as he works to return to an on-screen role in AEW, it was certainly an interesting choice. As of now, Punk is expected to appear on Dynamite in Chicago on Wednesday, June 21. While it would add a different element to AEW’s programming, the situation with Punk remains tenuous.

But Punk is not the focus for WWE. All eyes are on the upcoming draft, as well as the crowning of a new world heavyweight champion.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.