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Where does Dean Ambrose rank among the longest-reigning United States Champions ever?
Since Harley Race defeated Johnny Weaver on New Year’s Day in 1975 to become the inaugural United States Champion, the man holding that title has been regarded as one of the top grapplers in the wrestling world. In fact, if you look at the list of champions, you’ll see a litany of competitors who went on to become Superstars, World Champions and WWE Hall of Famers, like Roddy Piper, Sting and Ric Flair.
Dean Ambrose became the 77th competitor to hold the prestigious title after defeating Kofi Kingston at Extreme Rules on May 19, 2013. The Shield’s ”Lunatic Fringe” answered nearly every challenge to his championship, whether by hook or by crook, for 351 days until he was defeated by Sheamus in a Battle Royal for the title on Raw.
Ambrose is the longest-reigning U.S. Champion in WWE history … but where does The Hound of Justice rank among the most enduring United States Champions of all time? WWE.com’s crack statistician crunched the numbers and found out.
Antonio Cesaro — 239 days
The Swiss Superman stormed into WWE and made an immediate impact. Antonio Cesaro captured the United States Title from Santino Marella just four months into his WWE career, at the SummerSlam 2013 Pre-Show.
After that, Cesaro steamrolled over anyone in his way for 239 days, fending off challenges from Zack Ryder, Justin Gabriel and even WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter. On the April 15, 2013 edition of Raw, Kofi Kingston was finally able to put an end to Cesaro’s dominant reign.
Cesaro’s 239 days currently makes him the tenth longest-reigning United States Champion of all time, edging out another WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, who held it for 231 days between 1979 and 1980.
Steve Austin — 240 days
Before he was “Stone Cold,” Steve Austin was “Stunning.” A can’t-miss prospect in WCW, Austin was destined for greatness from the very beginning. He quickly captured the Television Title twice before moving on to the company’s Tag Team Championship with Brian Pillman.
Fans and officials truly began to take notice of Austin’s capabilities, however, when he defeated Dustin Rhodes in two straight falls to win the U.S. Championship at Starrcade 1993. “Stunning” Steve held on to the title throughout the majority of 1994.
After 240 days in the driver’s seat, battling with stars like The Great Muta and Johnny B. Badd, Austin was finally unseated by Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at Bash at the Beach 1994.
Shelton Benjamin — 243 days
Shelton Benjamin called himself “The Gold Standard” later in his WWE career. Three reigns as Intercontinental Champion proved that to be a fitting moniker. Yet during his resurgence in 2008, Benjamin won the title adorned in stars and stripes from Matt Hardy, coincidentally, at The Great American Bash.
Shelton Benjamin dominated the competition over the next eight months, hanging on to the United States Championship for 243 days, climbing above Austin into eighth place all-time. Benjamin’s reign ended at the hands of MVP, who appears later on this list.
Ric Flair — 253 days
Ric Flair won his the first of his record 16 World Heavyweight Championships in 1981. Before that, though, The Nature Boy helped make the United States Championship into a highly coveted title.
Flair first won the title in July 1977, defeating the legendary Bobo Brazil. He held the title for four months before longtime rival Ricky Steamboat dethroned him. He wasn’t without the title for long, as he regained it on April 9, 1978, from the original Mr. Wrestling. The Nature Boy came close to making it into 1979 as the champion, until Steamboat unseated him once again.
Ric Flair & Barry Windham (tie) — 283 days
The fifth-longest reign in history is held by two men. Two members of The Four Horsemen, in fact — WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair and Barry Windham, at 283 days each.
Flair’s second reign as U.S. Champion began in April 1980, when The Nature Boy defeated Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, and lasted until January 1981, when he lost it to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Windham defeated Nikita Koloff in the finals of a tournament to crown a new U.S. Champion on May 13, 1988. Windham held onto the championship for 283 days, until he was dethroned by someone you’ll see a little later on in the list, Lex Luger.
Nikita Koloff — 328 days
The Russian Nightmare stomped over from Moscow and laid waste to some of America’s finest grapplers. Nikita Koloff’s Soviet siege reached its height on Aug. 17, 1986, when he defeated the beloved Magnum T.A. to claim the United States Championship for Mother Russia.
Koloff remained champion for nearly 11 months, until a newcomer to the Mid-Atlantic territory named Lex Luger took the title from his clutches.
MVP — 343 days
He’s half man, half amazing, and the fourth longest-reigning United States Champion of all time.
Not even a year into his WWE career, Montel Vontavious Porter won the U.S. Title, his first championship ever, at Judgment Day 2007. For the majority of his run, MVP was embroiled in a bitter rivalry with Matt Hardy that even saw the pair capture the WWE Tag Team Titles. However, Hardy finally had MVP’s number 343 days later, defeating him at Backlash 2008.
Dean Ambrose — 351 days
Dean Ambrose’s lengthy reign as United States Champion lands him at No. 3 all-time.
After defeating Kofi Kingston to claim the title at Extreme Rules 2013, Ambrose survived the challenges of Rob Van Dam, Dolph Ziggler, Kane and many others who have tried to take the title away from him.
On April 28, 2014, Ambrose passed MVP to become the longest-reigning United States Champion in WWE history. One week later, the Hound of Justice's record-setting reign came to an end after 351 days, when he was defeated by Sheamus in a 20-Man Battle Royal for the championship.
"Ravishing" Rick Rude — 378 days
The first Superstar to hold the United States Championship for a full calendar year, “Ravishing” Rick Rude underwent a career renaissance with the title around his trim waist.
After coming up short in challenging Ultimate Warrior for the WWE Title, Rude jumped to WCW and demolished Sting shortly after his debut to win the United States Championship. With a new fire lit under him, Rude ran roughshod over WCW for the next year, viciously battling back anyone who dared to challenge him.
Unfortunately, Rick Rude never lost the championship. After 378 days, an injury forced WCW officials to strip him of the title.
For Ambrose to climb to the second spot on this list, he’ll have to remain United States Champion when the calendar turns to June 2.
Lex Luger — 523 days
One of several competitors to hold the United States Championship on five occasions, Lex Luger also boasts the longest reign of all time.
The Total Package’s third turn as U.S. Champion began on May 22, 1989, when he regained the title from Michael P.S. Hayes. Luger went on to hold the championship for 523 days, defending against all comers while challenging for the NWA World Title himself.
Luger was finally unseated by Stan Hansen at Halloween Havoc 1990, though he would win the rematch at Starrcade, just two months later.
In order for Dean Ambrose to call himself the greatest United States Champion of all time, The Hound of Justice has to hold onto his coveted title until Oct. 25, 2014. Can he last another six months, with plenty of Superstars eager to dethrone him? The sly Shield member will have to resort to every trick in his book.