The United States Championship was created in WCW and became one of the most prestigious titles in the business. Not everyone can compete for the World Championship and midcard titles are extremely important in setting a well-balanced roster. Many great stars held the title in WCW such as Ric Flair, Sting and Steve Austin to give it the credibility it needed to mean something to the fan base. WWE decided to bring it back to their product in 2003 to serve as the midcard title for the SmackDown brand since Raw already had the Intercontinental Championship during the brand split.
The title has been in play for the past thirteen years and has been met with inconsistent results. 2000 through 2010 was an interesting transition period for WWE following the victory of the Monday Night Wars into the brand split. The move to the PG rating also changed the tone of the show and created many different philosophies. Various U.S. Title changes occurred out of nowhere with names you would have never expected if you look at the history books today. We’ll name them all here as we break down the top fifteen most random wrestlers to win the United States Championship in the 2000s.
15 Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy's career has been met with ups and downs. Everyone loves what The Hardy Boyz contributed to pro wrestling during The Attitude Era and they’ve gone on to have vastly different singles careers. Jeff blossomed into a main event face and one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE during his peak. Matt unfortunately never had the same luck of connecting with fans to such a level, but he did find success.
WWE employed Matt for years as a great worker to add depth to the roster. The older Hardy brother saw his career peak around 2006 during his personal feud with Edge over Lita. Once the momentum ended, Matt slipped lower down the card. It was surprising to see him randomly win the United States Championship and get a midcard title reign in 2008. The feud with MVP over the title was stellar, but you can’t argue it was a peculiar choice for the time.
14 Big Show
Eddie Guerrero was the perfect choice to be the first winner of the United States Championship when WWE decided to bring it back. His work was second to none at the time and delivered the perfect qualities to make the title credible. WWE started to realize Eddie could become a main event player and made him lose the U.S. Title to Big Show. This was one of the many stints of irrelevancy for the big man struggling to find his place on the television show.
WWE always gave random pushes or titles to Big Show as a way to prevent him from becoming a complete joke inbetween their stints of giving up on him. There’s no doubt Show won the title with the intention of being a transitional champion until someone better came along. John Cena’s red hot momentum led to him defeating Show in the opening match at WrestleMania XX to win the United States Championship as the first big title win in his career to end the random title reign.
13 Booker T
The United States Championship wins by Booker T in the WWE just followed his time in WCW when he won the same belt in his prior wrestling life. Booker entered the lower main event picture when coming to WWE as the biggest WCW star of the Invasion and eventually became one of the most beloved stars in WCW. It was a bit surprising to see him devolve into a midcard heel when traded to SmackDown during the early years of the original brand split.
Booker would capture the United States Championship three times in the WWE and had quite a few memorable feuds for the title. His best-of-five series against John Cena helped get Cena to the next level before becoming the face of the company. That was the high point of Booker’s first WWE United States title reign. The latter featured him enter another long series of matches with Chris Benoit. Booker did a good job with the title, but the title wins came out of nowhere.
12 Kofi Kingston
WWE saw great potential in Kofi Kingston from day one and it definitely worked out with a long career that's still thriving on the main roster. Kingston always displayed a tremendous level of athleticism and connected with the younger audience during his early days in the company as a high-octane face. One of the first major moments of Kingston’s career was a United States Championship win over MVP in 2009.
The title change was the right call, but there was little build for Kingston at the time. We saw him have great matches but his character development was lacking due to the company showing very little direction. A random title win is always good for one’s career but it leaves the audience wondering how it actually happened. Kofi struggled to put together a strong title reign and ended up losing it to The Miz just a couple of months later without benefiting from it.
11 Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan will always be remembered for overcoming all of the odds being stacked against him. No one expected Bryan to achieve success in WWE following his signing from Ring of Honor. The company ended up firing him for breaking a few rules during the initial Nexus beat down segment but he returned months later. Bryan saw a noteworthy push as a beloved face during his return and he was positioned against The Miz.
Bryan won the United States Championship by defeating Miz in his first ever WWE singles match. The great match saw fans get behind him for the first time in the early stages of what he would evolve into. It was just quite unexpected considering Bryan left the company for months and never had the ideal WWE look for a star. The title win was improbable and helped launch him into having an outstanding run as one of the company’s top stars of the recent era.
MVP was given the ball and ran with it when called up to play the heel character of a stereotypical rich athlete. The backstory of MVP spending time in prison and having very little odds of making it in pro wrestling added another layer to his shocking success in the WWE. MVP won the United States Championship relatively quickly into his debut and had one of the best reigns with the title in WWE history.
His title win came at the end of a long feud with Chris Benoit and put MVP on the map as someone to pay attention to. MVP was arguably the most compelling character on SmackDown and proved WWE knew what they were doing by making him a champion so early into his tenure. A random title reign usually leads to failure, but the story of MVP showed just how beneficial it can be to stand out as an exception to the rule.
Carlito's potential showed a future World Champion but he obviously could never put the pieces together. Many in WWE say that he showed a lack of passion or commitment for his craft to get to the next stage in the main event picture. You can’t say that he never received a fair chance. Carlito entered with great fanfare as he defeated John Cena to win the United States Championship in his first television match.
The work of Carlito delivered during the title reign and even though it only lasted a few weeks, it gave him a huge debut into the television product after months of vignettes. Carlito still had a good career despite his underperforming. WWE continued his push with many opportunities but he could never seize the moment or grab the “brass ring.” Carlito’s United States Title win gave us a memorable moment but it was completely out of the blue with one of the most shocking changes in the history of the belt.
8 Shelton Benjamin
Another promising talent with plenty of talent that could never put it together was Shelton Benjamin. His in-ring work left us all in awe with moves that only seemed possible in video games. WWE gave him a few chances to thrive and he actually held a victory over Triple H in one of the more unbelievable Raw moments. Benjamin eventually regressed and became an afterthought on the roster falling behind many of the new stars.
That made it an extremely random decision to see Benjamin win the United States Championship when drafted to SmackDown in 2008. Benjamin made the peculiar decision to dye his hair gold as “The Gold Standard,” which just made everything more random. His title reign did nothing to help rejuvenate his career and left him in the background of the company. Benjamin’s odd win just damaged the credibility of the title by trying to recapture magic that no longer existed.
Most wrestlers to become main eventers and World Champions never fall back into the midcard title picture. JBL found himself in the unfortunate position of being relegated into the United States Championship tier about a year after having a long WWE Championship reign. His title reign was forgettable but it did help add a little more prestige to the belt. A recent World Champion holding a midcard title will always provide a new dynamic to a lesser championship.
WWE completely changed the standing of JBL and made the whole thing a random turn of events. JBL went from defending the WWE Championship against John Cena at WrestleMania 21 to winning the United States Championship from Chris Benoit in a match that very few remember. The decline in JBL’s position showed with the title win that ended rather abruptly at the hands of Bobby Lashley. JBL likely doesn’t hold the U.S. Title reign among his greatest career achievements.
6 Orlando Jordan
Not only did JBL randomly hold the United States Championship, but so did his cohort Orlando Jordan. As the Chief of Staff for JBL’s Cabinet, he won the U.S. Title by defeating John Cena in one of the weirdest history book notes. Jordan didn’t have any particularly special skills and appeared to be perfectly average in the ring to harm his credibility as a champion.
The only reason he initially won the title was due to Cena needing to lose it before winning the WWE Championship and JBL’s friend beating him added to their story. If you remember anything of note from Jordan’s successful title defenses, you deserve a paycheck from the WWE. Jordan had the classic failing reign that made him look somehow worse after the reign ended. Of course, it didn’t help that he lost it to Chris Benoit in a 25-second match. The proof that random title runs typically are a disaster is perfectly shown with Jordan.
5 Mr. Kennedy
New wrestling fans would be absolutely shocked to learn that recent TNA flop Mr. Anderson was once viewed as a future World Champion in the WWE as Mr. Kennedy. The instant push on SmackDown turned Kennedy into a hot commodity that seemed bound for greatness. Kennedy pulled off victories over various former World Champions such as Booker T and Rey Mysterio in his early years on the main roster.
The first title win of his WWE career came in the form of the United States Championship when he defeated Finlay and Bobby Lashley in a triple threat match. While Kennedy was indeed getting a huge push, the title win came out of nowhere as he won it randomly as the other two competitors competed over the belt for months. Kennedy’s U.S. Title reign ended just six weeks later and he never held the title again. The career trajectory went downhill completely with injuries and bad decisions, but you can never take away his United States Championship victory.
A championship is never in good hands when you have R-Truth’s name in the records as a prior title holder. R-Truth has talent and did his best to provide entertainment to the wrestling world. It did moderately work for years, but he was never credible enough to contend for any singles title in the WWE. That didn’t stop them from putting gold around his waist as R-Truth won the United States Championship by defeating The Miz.
R-Truth won the title after it was vacated and it was definitely the biggest accomplishment of his singles career. No one could have seen him winning the belt but Vince McMahon has shown to be a fan of Truth’s work. This felt like a “thank you” gift for all he contributed to the product. Hard work can pay off to make up for other glaring flaws and it helped R-Truth become one of the most random United States Champions in recent history.
Finlay’s shocking return to the WWE ring helped add much needed depth to SmackDown in 2005 and he became one of the best workers on the roster. WWE employed him as a trainer following the purchase of WCW and he did an outstanding job in the role. It was decided that Finlay should return to the ring and he ended up winning the United States Championship at the age of 48.
A wrestler of that age making his official WWE in-ring debut and quickly winning a championship is the definition of random. Finlay proved the world and pulled it with a credible title reign. We can only wonder how amazing he would have done in his prime under the WWE banner since he was one of the best midcarders in his late 40s. The title reign of Finlay was completely random, but it worked out to help make him one of the most respected members of the WWE roster.
2 Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley's push during his early years in WWE clearly showed that he was someone the company wanted to make into a future face of the franchise. Lashley was supposed to reach the level of John Cena as one of the top Superstars in WWE but it never happened for him. Everyone knows how protected Lashley was from day one but it was shocking to see him win the United States Championship in 2006 when he defeated JBL.
The midcard titles were already diminished at that point and someone as important as Lashley likely would have been kept far away from the damaged goods. It didn’t help Lashley’s standings that he lost the title within six weeks to Finlay. The company decided to move him to the ECW brand as ECW Champion and it helped add more momentum to him than anything his random United States Championship reign did. Lashley should have never held the U.S Title but it will always stand out oddly in the history books.
1 Bret Hart
Only one man could hold the crown of being the most random United States Champion of the 2000s and that is Bret Hart. “The Hitman” has not been a legitimately active competitor for WWE since 1997 but he wrestled a few matches in 2010. Despite his obvious physical limitations, Hart worked short and silly matches to get the closure he needed in his career. It only made sense he wrestled his final matches for WWE after his horrible WCW run.
The incredibly random moment saw Bret defeat The Miz to win the United States Championship in a No-DQ Match thanks to the interference of Tyson Kidd and David Hart Smith. Hart had another moment in the sun as a champion in a WWE ring to thank him for the years of hard work he gave to the company. The Hitman would vacate the title since he wasn’t an actual wrestler anymore but we’ll always have the memory of Bret winning the United States Championship in a random moment.