The WWE Universal Championship a world heavyweight championship created and promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE. It is one of two world titles in the WWE, alongside the WWE Championship.
Named in honor of the WWE Universe, the championship was established on July 25, 2016, to be the world championship of the Raw brand. Its creation came as a result of the re-introduction of the brand extension and subsequent draft on July 19, 2016, in which the WWE Championship, the promotion's original world title, became exclusive to SmackDown. The inaugural Universal Champion was Finn Bálor. Since its inception, matches for the championship have headlined several pay-per-view events, including SummerSlam 2017 and WrestleMania 34.
With the reintroduction of the WWE brand extension, a draft took place on the SmackDown Live premiere episode on July 19, 2016, and then-WWE Champion Dean Ambrose was drafted to the SmackDown brand. At Battleground on July 24, Ambrose successfully defended the title in a triple threat match against Raw draftees Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. When Ambrose retained the title, Raw was left without a world title. On the following episode of Raw, Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon and then-Raw general manager Mick Foley created the WWE Universal Championship to serve as the brand's top championship. According to Foley, the title was named in honor of the WWE Universe, the name WWE uses to refer to its fan base. In response, the WWE Championship was subsequently renamed to WWE World Championship before reverting to the former name in December 2016.
The inaugural champion was crowned at SummerSlam on August 21, 2016, in a singles match. Seth Rollins was automatically set for that match as he was Raw's number one draft pick and was not pinned in the WWE Championship match at Battleground. His opponent was determined by two fatal four-way matches on Raw, with the winners wrestling each other in a singles match. Finn Bálor won the first fatal four-way by defeating Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and Rusev, while Roman Reigns won the second by defeating Chris Jericho, Sami Zayn, and Sheamus. Bálor then defeated Reigns and was added to the title match. At SummerSlam, Bálor defeated Rollins to become the inaugural champion, and as a result, Bálor became the first WWE wrestler to win a world title in their pay-per-view debut, as well as winning his first world title in less than a month of his debut on WWE's main roster.