The United States Championship has been in a stale place in recent years. Different title holders have emerged but the belt has been lacking significance. While Dean Ambrose was able to piece together a 351 day title reign, the title still felt obsolete as it was rarely defended.
More recently, an interesting angle was introduced that saw Rusev win the United States Championship. The idea of a big Russian-aligned brute holding the prestigious American-made championship made for some compelling television. Which we take as much as we can from the WWE product of today. Of course, Rusev was defeated for the United States Championship at WrestleMania by the all-American boy himself, John Cena. This would place a lot more importance on the title; having the top man in the company as United States Champion.
John Cena has since been placing the title on the line on a weekly basis – making him a fighting champion – in what has become known as the “John Cena U.S. Open Challenge.” Consistently placing the title on the line is a good thing and doing it with John Cena seems like the proper move. This keeps him out of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture for the time being and allows for mid-card talent to perform with the biggest name in WWE.
The title which was first known as the United States Heavyweight Championship was introduced back in 1975 as a regional title in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. The title would then make its way through World Championship Wrestling before their doors were closed. Then in 2003, the United States Championship would officially be recognized as a championship belonging to WWE.
Over the years, the belt has been held by some of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time; future WWE and WCW World Champions – legends of the industry. The following article will pay homage to some of the great men who were fortunate enough to capture the patriotic title.
These are the top 20 greatest United States Champions of all time:
19 Harley Race
The legendary Harley Race is recognized as many things in the world of professional wrestling; one of which is the first official United States Heavyweight Champion.
Race was awarded the title on the first day of the new year in 1975 after defeating a wrestler by the name of Johnny Weaver in a tournament final. This would be the one and only championship reign for the inaugural United States Heavyweight Champion – a reign that lasted 183 days.
18 Sgt. Slaughter
Who better to hold the U.S. title than a true patriot? Sgt. Slaughter is a former two-time United States Heavyweight Champion, having held the belt for a combined total of 305 days during his time with the National Wrestling Alliance.
Sgt. Slaughter would move on from the United States Heavyweight Championship and eventually win what is now considered (debatable at the time) the biggest and most sought after title belt of the all; the WWE Championship.
17 Roddy Piper
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper is one of the greatest performers in the history of professional wrestling to have never won a World Championship, a true squared-circle travesty and outright injustice of the industry.
However, the outspoken, controversial Scotsman who made wearing a kilt and being a heel look cool has had his share of accomplishments throughout his illustrious career. This includes three United States Championship reigns, totaling 220 days.
16 Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin is perhaps best known as a tag team wrestler. In WWE, Benjamin would find success as one half of the World's Greatest Tag Team while also aligning himself with a WWE legend in Kurt Angle.
When it was time for Benjamin to break off as a singles competitor, an initial push and small program with Triple H left many speculating about his future – which looked bright. Benjamin never captured a WWE or World Championship but his lone run with the United States Championship lasted an impressive 240 days.
15 John Cena
The current United States Champion, John Cena is in the midst of his fourth title reign. The man who we have grown accustom to seeing wear the big gold has once again captured the title of his beloved United States.
John Cena won the United States Championship for the very first time at WrestleMania XX – in a sense making his title victory against Rusev at this year's event a full-circle type scenario. The accumulative number of days that John Cena has held the United States Championship stands at 230+ and counting.
14 Steve Austin
Attitude Era fans know Stone Cold Steve Austin best as the hero (or anti-hero) of their generation. If you were in high school during this traditional period of professional wrestling, Steve Austin may have been your biggest foul-mouthed friend.
Of course, prior to becoming the biggest WWE Superstar of all time. Steve Austin was “Stunning.” Steve Austin was a “Hollywood Blond.” and a two-time United States Champion – holding the belt for a grand total of 240 days.
Montel Vontavious Porter: here we have another could-have-been-bigger-than-he-was, not-quite-as-successful-as-he-should-have-been WWE story. M.V.P. had promise but more often than not, promise is quickly broken in WWE.
However, during his tenure with the company, M.V.P. was a pretty good United States Champion – winning the title twice and holding the gold for a total number of 419 days. Solid run on the mid-card but never pushed beyond.
The wrestling world is still buzzing about Sting and his first official match in a WWE ring. The questions are now circulating as to what comes next for The Icon? Time will tell but it appears as though the WWE Universe has not seen the last of Sting.
Naturally, being a WCW lifer, Sting has placed his name on almost every championship list in the company. The United States Championship is a title which Sting has held on two occasions with his total number coming in at 234 days.
12 Bret Hart
Obviously, everybody knows why Bret Hart made his way over to WCW back in 1997. Therefore, there is no reason to retell a tired old tale. While his time in the rival company is certainly not the greatest run of his career, Bret Hart still managed to rake up the statistics.
Aside from winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship twice, Hart would also gain the United States Championship on four separate occasions – as well as one more time years later while back in WWE. All told, Bret Hart is a five-time U.S. Champion with 188 days of total title reign.
11 Booker T
While the WCW ship was slowly sinking and the poor quality of the product was on full display, the one bright spot to emerge was that the rise of Booker T as a main event player had officially begun. Booker T would go on to become five-time (repeat if you must) WCW Champion.
Of course, Booker T would also win the United States Championship while in WCW; walking out on the final day with both the World and U.S. Title belts. In WWE, Booker T would add three more U.S. Championships to his resume with a total number of 271 days as champion.
10 Ricky Steamboat
The influence of Ricky “The Dragon' Steamboat in the world of professional wrestling is vast, although slightly unappreciated, especially by younger fans or strict viewers of WWE programming. Nevertheless, Ricky Steamboat is one of the greats.
When it comes to the United States Championship; Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat stands firm as one of the best to have worn the belt; having won the title four times and holding the championship for a total of 253 days.
9 Barry Windham
Barry Windham came up in the wrestling business during the all-important decade of the 1980s. There have been many debates in regards to the superior decade, the '80s or the '90s, but one thing is certain about the '80s; it was a time for Horseman – which Barry Windham became.
Barry Windham would only manage to capture the United States Championship once but his title reign and time as champion are hard to ignore. Barry Windham would put together a championship reign of 283 days.
8 Magnum T.A.
The story of Magnum T.A. and his professional wrestling journey is a hard and horrible tale of a man who was on his way to superstardom before an unfortunate car accident brought an end to his in-ring career and nearly his life.
During his short stint in the business, Magnum T.A. would become a two-time United States Champion – holding the title for a combined total of 302 days. Magnum T.A. was well on his way but was bound by unforeseeable circumstance.
7 Wahoo McDaniel
The name Wahoo McDaniel may not immediately spark memories into your mind. McDaniel was a prominent and proud Native-American professional wrestler whose biggest success was found while performing for the National Wrestling Alliance.
Wahoo McDaniel would find himself wearing the United States Championship title five different times for a complete total of 289 days as champion – making him one of only a handful of men to have won the championship five times.
6 Nikita Koloff
Nikita Koloff was billed as “The Russian Nightmare” during his time with the National Wrestling Alliance. The idea of the rogue Russian tough guy coming into America to challenge its wrestlers dates back some time.
While the greatest feud in the career of Nikita Koloff was his rivalry with Ric Flair, Koloff would put together a fantastic run as the United States Champion – a title which he only won once but held for a total of 328 days.
5 Blackjack Mulligan
With a name like Blackjack Mulligan, you better be rough, you better be tough and you better be able to hold your own inside of that wrestling ring. Which, of course, Blackjack Mulligan was able to do with ease during his professional wrestling career.
Blackjack Mulligan would never gain any of the main championships of the promotions for which he was employed but he did manage to win the United States Championship three separate times, holding the belt for a total of 498 days.
4 Lex Luger
Lex Luger is tricky to discuss on many lists. His contributions to the wrestling business are not necessarily the biggest but he has played his part. For example: Luger was the guy who defected from the WWE and showed up on the very first Monday Nitro.
Lex Luger has also held the United States Championship for more accumulative time than anybody else, with a total of 948 days during five runs with the title. Once again, Luger played his role. However, this guy was once thought to be the next Hulk Hogan … No!
3 Greg Valentine
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine has had a long career in the professional wrestling business – working anywhere and everywhere along the way. Never a main event superstar but a well-accomplished one nonetheless.
Greg Valentine would go on to become a two-time United States Champion and hold the belt for a total of 391 days. Not a bad number for the well-traveled man who has surely seen his share of different wrestling rings.
2 Rick Rude
“Ravishing” Rick Rude: another great who was never afforded the opportunity to wear the top gold in any company. Rude was filled with charisma, ego, and an aggressive mean streak which played out well in the ring.
While never becoming a World Champion, Rick Rude would become a one-time United States Champion and hold the belt for a total of 419 days. The Ravishing one was a unique character who is missed by wrestling fans to this very day.
1 Ric Flair
The greatest World Champion of all time … but also the greatest Unites States Champion of all time? … Damn right! Ric Flair has done it all, so is there much of a surprise to the fact that The Nature Boy has won the U.S. Championship more than anybody else (tied with a few other wrestlers?
Ric Flair is a former five-time United States Champion – having held the prestigious title for a total of 821 days. When Ric Flair called himself “The Man,” he was not lying or bragging. In the world of professional wrestling, Ric Flair is The Man.