10 Most Unlikely First WWE World Championship Defenses
A Champion defines oneself on competition, though the first hurdle isn't always what was expected.
The crowning glory for WWE superstars (not named Xavier Woods) is to become WWE World Champion. From the early territory days, to the little thing in bars, to the global spectacle it is today, the end goal for most of those under the employment of WWE is to reign as the top champion; a feat very few actually achieve.
How a World Champion is defined can all stem from that first defense, that first chance to showcase what their era at the top of the mountain will look like. Batista solidified his first World Heavyweight Championship run in a rematch with Triple H, Seth Rollins saw off Randy Orton in his inaugural reign, and Ric Flair toppled Randy Savage, only to run straight into the legendary Genichiro Tenryu two weeks later.
For the following champions though, their first obstacles were slightly against the grain of what was expected. These first challengers were not necessarily the elite calibre expected to set the tone for a title reign, but it was still important to put down these opponents to ensure a reign wouldn't end quickly with a shock loss.
A quick ground rule before getting started. Here, we'll be looking at those championship reigns involving the WWE, Universal, World Heavyweight, and Unified WWE Universal Titles.
10. Roman Reigns Vs. Jey Uso (Universal Championship) - 27/09/20
The Bloodline has been dominating WWE TV for over a year now, with the combined antics of Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman, The Usos, and now Sami Zayn and Solo Sikoa ensuring Reigns' dominance as Universal/Undisputed WWE Universal Champion in a generation-defining two-year reign. However, it wasn't always peachy in The Bloodline...
Back at Payback 2020, Reigns defeated champion Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman to capture the Universal Title. Five days later on SmackDown, Jey Uso returned from a three-month hiatus (after a long-term injury to his brother Jimmy) to take part in a No. 1 Contender's Fatal-4-Way match which he - incredibly - won. This lined up a match between the two cousins for the upcoming Clash of Champions PLE, the run-up to which featured coy stares between Jey and the Universal Championship belt, as well as formative behaviours from Reigns that would eventually evolve into his 'Tribal Chief' persona.
Roman would see off Jey after Jimmy threw the towel in for him at Clash of Champions, and again in the "I Quit" Hell in a Cell rematch a month later, with Reigns manipulating Jey to say "I quit" by threatening harm on a still-injured Jimmy Uso.