The United States title history dates back to the old territory era as many a promotion would use such a belt, sometimes as their main title. The Mid-Atlantic region was among the more popular and as it became Jim Crockett Promotions and then the UWF, the U.S. title became a bigger deal, soon seen as the secondary belt in the promotion and home to some great feuds and programs. The final Nitro had Booker T as champion when he beat Scott Steiner to hold both belts going into WWE. The title was unified with the Intercontinental Championship during the “Invasion” and that seemed to be its end. But in 2003, WWE revived it as a belt for SmackDown and it’s remained around since.
WWE has used it to elevate guys, John Cena especially given a nice push with his 2004 reign (with the “spinner belt”) to help make him a star. Other top reigns have included MVP, Kofi Kingson and Dean Ambrose as the title has had shots at being a big deal. Sadly, many reigns have been short and far too sour, some lasting only days and not doing a favor to either the worker or the title. Attempts are made now and then to build it up (John Cena’s open challenge last year) but they still seem to suffer as bookers seem to forget how to build the belt right. For a belt with such a good history to suffer this much doesn’t seem right and speaks to the state of WWE today. John Cena did some good things with the belt, having his "open challenge" but his reign didn't end with putting over a new star, but rather losing it to Seth Rollins thanks to Jon Stewart.
Here are 15 of the worst reigns for the WWE version of the U.S. belt and how poorly the championship has been treated over the years.
15 Mr. Kennedy
14 Kalisto/Alberto Del Rio
13 Booker T
He may have been good as a U.S. champ in WCW but Booker’s tenure with the belt in WWE wasn’t as good. He first won it in 2004 in an 8-way elimination bout but his tenure only lasted about two months, the latter half dominated by a “best-of-five” series against Cena which Cena ultimately won. Booker T won the belt off Chris Benoit in 2005 with the cool bit of going heel and a controversial match had the title held up for a “best-of-seven” series.
12 Jack Swagger
10 Orlando Jordan
7 Santino Marella
6 Matt Hardy
5 The Big Show
Historically, it’s important as the first change of the WWE version of the title. But it’s also annoying that after becoming the first WWE U.S. champion in 2003 and doing a great job at it, Eddie Guerrero dropped it to the Big Show. It was meant to be a “David vs. Goliath” bit and Eddie mocking Show in promos but came off a bad turn in a poor match. Show never looked right with the title draped on his shoulder and it was often ignored in his various matches.
4 Seth Rollins
3 Zack Ryder
2 Bobby Lashley
1 Bret Hart
This is not a slam on the Hitman himself to be sure. However, it was clear to everyone in 2010 that having Bret as an in-ring competitor was a terrible move. After his stroke and so long on the shelf, the one-time Excellence of Execution was a shell of his former shelf. After his messy bout with Vince McMahon at Mania, Bret was set up for a nostalgia run that included challenging The Miz at a show in Toronto. It was obviously just to reward Bret after the years of bad blood and the need of the Hart Dynasty to help him win just showed how bad off Bret was. He vacated it fast to make this nothing more than a brief blip in his legacy rather than a grand send-off and a reminder how even one as great as The Hitman isn’t immune to age.
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