The Intercontinental Championship has, historically, been considered the workhorse title in WWE and though this reputation isn’t unwarranted, the same or a similar distinction can be attributed to the United States Championship as well. This is especially true given recent champions such as Finn Bálor, Seth “Freakin'” Rollins, and Bobby Lashley, all of whom have been world champions as well. If former world titleholders aren’t striving for the star-spangled championship, it’s been contested by stars on the rise including Austin Theory. There is history to be had with the gold, too, which can lead to many topics of discussion. Chief among said topics is the question, who is the longest-reigning WWE United States Champion?
The Longest-Reigning WWE United States Champion
A Brief History of the United States Championship
Established in 1975, the title once known as the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship was designed to be defended in promotions under the National Wrestling Alliance banner. Its life began in the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling promotion, even becoming the promotion in question’s top prize. However, with championship guidelines being somewhat loose during this period, various NWA-affiliated promotions had their own versions of the title. The United States Championship’s life continued under World Championship Wrestling and, later on, the World Wrestling Federation following its purchase of WCW in the spring of 2001.
The United States Championship was briefly deactivated following a unification match also involving the Intercontinental Championship at that year’s Survivor Series. In July of 2003, as part of that year’s WWE brand extension, the title returned under the name of the WWE United States Championship; it’s important to note that it retained the title lineage dating back to 1975. The U.S. Championship remains a staple of WWE, its value seeing an exponential increase once the WWE Championship and Universal Championship titles found themselves under the ownership of Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. With this brief history out of the way, let’s get into some of the finer details regarding the United States title throughout its life.
Who Has the Longest United States Championship Reign?
At 523 days, the longest-reigning United States Champion is recognized as Lex Luger. Specifically, this references his third run with the title, which began in May of 1989 following a victory over Michael Hayes. Luger’s opponents during his reign included Flyin’ Brian Pillman, Sid Vicious, Sting, and Mean Mark, the latter of whom wrestling fans may know better as The Undertaker. Luger’s third United States Championship reign lasted until October 27, 1990, when Stan Hansen bested him for the belt at that year’s Halloween Havoc event. Across his 5 U.S. title reigns, Luger amassed a total of 950 days as champion. With this being the longest reign across the title’s entire life, this begs the question, who’s the longest-reigning U.S. Champion under the WWE banner?
In this case, the longest-reigning WWE United States Champion is Dean Ambrose. At the 2013 Extreme Rules event, Ambrose pinned Kofi Kingston to capture the title, marking the future 3x AEW World Champion’s first championship victory in WWE. Furthermore, he was the first member of The Shield to capture singles gold. Despite holding the WWE U.S. title for almost a year, Ambrose’s time as champion has been regarded unremarkable. For context, he only defended the title 14 times, which is paltry given the length of his U.S. title run. Ambrose eventually lost the WWE United States Championship on the May 5, 2014 edition of Monday Night Raw, defending it in a 20-man battle royal that was won by Sheamus.
The Top 10 Longest Recognized United States Championship Reigns
- Lex Luger (523 days – 3rd reign)
- Rick Rude (378 days)
- Dean Ambrose (351 days)
- Montel Vontavious Porter (343 days – 1st reign)
- Nikita Koloff (328 days)
- Barry Windham (283 days)
- Ric Flair (253 days – 2nd reign)
- Shelton Benjamin (243 days)
- Steve Austin (240 days – 1st reign)
- Antonio Cesaro (240 days)
Who Was the First United States Champion?
On January 1, 1975, Harley Race became the first United States Champion. As mentioned earlier, at this point, the title was known as the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship and formed under Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Race’s title reign lasted 183 days. Though others would hold the title for longer periods after him, he became one of the names most synonymous with the gold.
By the end of the United States Championship’s run in WCW, the final recognized titleholder in said promotion was Booker T. He won the title at WCW Greed in March of 2021 and held it until WCW was sold to the WWF. When the Invasion storyline began, Booker T was not only the United States Champion but the WCW World Heavyweight Champion as well. As a result, Booker presented the title to Kanyon, making him the first true U.S. Champion under the WWE banner.
Following the title unification at Survivor Series 2001, as mentioned earlier, the United States Championship remained dormant until 2003. It was reintroduced on SmackDown following the brand extension, becoming the show’s secondary title. In July of that year, Eddie Guerrero won the vacant title in a tournament final at Vengeance.
Who Has the Most United States Championship Reigns?
When it comes to determining who has the most United States Championship reigns, one needn’t look further than “The Nature Boy.” Ric Flair has held the U.S. Championship more times than any other with 6 reigns. He held the star-spangled title multiple times from 1977 to 1996 across the National Wrestling Alliance and World Championship Wrestling. Coming in at 5 U.S. title reigns is a total of, ironically enough, 5 wrestlers each competing for second place in U.S. Championship history.
The Wrestlers With 5 U.S. Title Reigns
- Lex Luger
- John Cena
- Chris Benoit
- Wahoo McDaniel
- Bret Hart
Header Image Credit: National Wrestling Alliance
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