The WWE Guide to U.S. (Title) History
The United States Championship is one of the most historic titles in WWE, tracing its roots to NWA’s regional Mid-Atlantic United States Championship. On January 1, 1975, Jim Crockett introduced the NWA United States Championship, and the inaugural match saw Harley Race defeat Johnny Weaver to become the title’s first holder. The championship remained affiliated with NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions’ NWA/WCW until Ted Turner acquired Crockett Promotions and launched WCW on November 21, 1988. The title was defended in WCW until WWE acquired its longtime rival in March 2001.
Today, the United States Championship remains one of the most coveted prizes in all of WWE – and the focal point for many memorable matches featuring Superstars, Legends and WWE Hall of Famers. WWE.com looks at several of the best and most historic matches, as well as the transformation of the United States Championship over the past 30 years.
Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine
Starrcade - November 24, 1983 - Greensboro, N.C.
Perhaps no contest highlights the rivalries spawned over the United States Championship like the Dog Collar Match between U.S. Champion Greg Valentine and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Earlier that year, Piper defeated Valentine for the U.S. Title,then lost it back to him a few days later. To settle their differences, the two competitors clashed at Starrcade in a Dog Collar Match so brutal that Valentine permanently damaged Piper’s hearing after hitting him in the ear with the collar’s chain. Piper did not reclaim the title with the win, but he showed the heart of a true champion.
Magnum T.A. vs. Tully Blanchard
Starrcade - November 28, 1985 Greensboro, N.C.
One of the most infamously vicious battles in WCW’s history transpired at Starrcade 1985 in an “I Quit” Steel Cage Match. Magnum T.A.’s goal was not only to win back the coveted U.S. Title from Tully Blanchard, but also humiliate the champion and, ultimately, his cohorts in The Four Horsemen. The two competitors engaged in a ferocious brawl where it seemed that neither would ever quit. Ironically, after a wooden chair was tossed into the unforgiving steel confines, T.A. used it to his advantage, forcing Blanchard to quit and reclaiming the U.S. Title.
Sting vs. "Stunning" Steve Austin
When Lex Luger vacated the U.S. Title in 1991, WCW held a tournament to determine its next champion. Sting squared off against “Stunning” Steve Austin in the finals at the Omni in Atlanta. Both men were exhausted from the excruciating tournament, but still managed to leave everything in the ring for their confrontation. The rarely seen match was an early highlight of both competitors’ careers, but Sting managed to defeat Austin and capture his first United States Championship.
"Stunning" Steve Austin vs. Ricky Steamboat
Bash at the Beach 1994 marked Hulk Hogan’s WCW debut, but it was the evening’s U.S. Title Match that stole the show. Future WWE Hall of Famers collided as U.S. Champion “Stunning” Steve Austin battled Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. At the time, Austin was one of the fastest rising stars in all of sports-entertainment, and Steamboat was the seasoned veteran. Both competitors proved in this competitive clash that they would soon be revered as two of the greatest ring warriors of all time, but it was Austin who managed to use the ropes to his advantage, keeping Steamboat down for the pinfall and retaining the title.
Meng vs. Sting
Great American Bash - June 18, 1995 - Dayton, Ohio
WCW’s face-painted franchise and the monster known as Meng squared off in the finals of a United States Title tournament after WCW management stripped Vader of the title for having a bad attitude. The tournament featured many of WCW’s top competitors vying for the chance to represent the United States, with the finals presenting a daunting challenge for The Stinger as he faced the monstrous and powerful Meng. In a battle of strength and sheer willpower, Sting managed to overcome the odds and defeat the brute, capturing his second United States Title. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
Sting vs. Ric Flair
Longtime rivals Ric Flair and Sting squared off on the very first episode of WCW Monday Nitro. At the time, Sting was the United States Champion, and while the title was not at stake, this very match would become a sign of things to come with the rise of WCW and the impending Monday Night War. This memorable battle at the Mall of America will always be synonymous with WCW’s most storied rivalry.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Jericho
Before their memorable battles for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship in late 1997, WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho squared off for the U.S. Title at WCW SuperBrawl VII. Their battle within San Francisco’s Cow Palace gave fans an exciting preview of what was to come in the extraordinary careers of both competitors. Jericho was still a newcomer and held his own against Guerrero, who had previously faced the likes of Ric Flair and defeated Diamond Dallas Page for the U.S. Title.
Guerrero would retain the title against Jericho, but a long-standing rivalry had only just begun.
Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero
WCW Uncensored – March 16, 1997 - North Charleston, S.C.
One of the most competitive match-ups in the history of the U.S. Title came in a No Disqualification Match between champion Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. This contest highlighted the heart and determination any competitor requires to win or defend the U.S. Championship. Usually, No Disqualification Matches are filled with illegal holds and foreign objects. However, with the exception of Malenko using the title as a weapon early on, both competitors relied on their masterful technical abilities in and out of the ring. The contest seemed to be a stalemate until Guerrero’s rival Syxx (X-Pac) came to the ring with a video camera. With the camera tossed in the ring during a scuffle with Guerrero, Malenko grabbed it, hit Guerrero and won the United States Championship.
Dean Malenko vs. Yuji Nagata
WCW Saturday Night – May 24, 1997 - Salisbury, Md.
Since the title’s inception, the United States Title has been held in high regard not only in America, but all over the world. As United States Champion, Dean Malenko battled international sensation Yuji Nagata in a series of matches in 1997. One of the most memorable occurred on WCW Saturday Night. A top star in Japan, Nagata was looking to make a name for himself in America; defeating a U.S. Champion seemed the ideal way to achieve this objective. However, as one of the most technically sound grapplers in history, Malenko proved why he was the champion by capturing Nagata in the Texas Cloverleaf to score the victory.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Raven
In early 1998, a bitter and personal rivalry existed between U.S. Champion Diamond Dallas Page and Raven. DDP, never one to back down from a challenge, battled the leader of The Flock in a Hardcore Match. The champion held his own until Raven’s Flock, including Sic Boy, Kidman, Hammer, Lodi, Reese and Horace, interfered, ultimately allowing their boss to capture the United States Title by hitting Page with a DDT into a sink. However, Raven would lose the title one night later to Goldberg.
Goldberg vs. Hollywood Hogan
The WCW World Championship was actually the ultimate prize in this contest, but there have been few times in history that a U.S. or Intercontinental Champion also has an opportunity to challenge for the ultimate prize. In this case, the U.S. Title symbolized the undefeated streak and complete dominance synonymous with Goldberg. In front of thousands in his hometown of Atlanta, an unstoppable United States Champion would defeat “Hollywood” Hogan and became WCW World Champion. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Bret Hart
WCW World War III - November 22, 1998 - Auburn Hills, Mich.
In the fall of 1998, one of the most heated rivalries over the United States Title unfolded between Diamond Dallas Page and Bret “Hit Man” Hart. This particular contest highlighted the meaning and importance of the coveted title and the fact that competitors will do whatever it takes to carry it - even if that means enlisting help from the New World Order. Hart claimed victory with help from an nWo referee until a WCW official halted the decision, allowing DDP to catch Hart in the Diamond Cutter and letting the match’s true official, Charles Robinson, make the definitive three count. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
Tajiri vs. Kanyon
Monday Night Raw – September 10, 2001 - San Antonio, Texas
During the WCW/ECW invasion of WWE, WCW U. S. Champion Chris Kanyon issued an open challenge to any WWE Superstar to take his title. Tajiri answered the self-proclaimed “Alliance MVP’s” call with a battle that not only highlighted the resilience of The Japanese Buzzsaw, but also the heart of a WWE Superstar. Unable to keep Tajiri down, Kanyon attempted to hit him with the title, but Torrie Wilson distracted the champion, allowing Tajiri to spew green mist in Kanyon’s eyes. This move netted Tajiri the title, and put him in the history books as the first WWE Superstar to win the United States Championship.
Kurt Angle vs. Edge
Monday Night Raw – November 12, 2001 - Boston, Mass.
The rivalry between Kurt Angle and Edge will always be remembered for its classic Hair vs. Hair Match at Judgment Day 2002. However, the fuse was lit between these two competitors early on, when Edge challenged Angle for the U.S. Title on Raw. Both Superstars showed their athleticism and extraordinary technical skills during an impromptu match that saw many near-falls and shifts in momentum. Angle became momentarily distracted when Kane’s music began to play, and although The Big Red Monster never showed, Edge took advantage, Spearing the champion and winning the U.S. Title. Six days later, Edge defeated Test to unify the U.S. and Intercontinental Championships.
Big Show vs. John Cena
WrestleMania XX not only saw John Cena win his first United States Championship at his Showcase of the Immortals debut, it was also the first time the prestigious title was ever defended on the Grandest Stage of Them All. Cena battled then-U.S. Champion Big Show in a bout that showcased Cena’s willpower and impressive strength, as he managed to give The World’s Largest Athlete two Attitude Adjustments to secure the victory.
John Cena vs. Booker T vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Rene Dupree
Great American Bash – June 27, 2004 - Norfolk, Va.
At 2004’s Great American Bash, U.S. Champion John Cena displayed the true heart of a future WWE Champion by taking on Rene Dupree, Booker T and Rob Van Dam in a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match. The odds were stacked against the Cenation leader as he had previously defeated each Superstar in the weeks leading up to The Bash. After eliminating Van Dam, Cena showed why he would eventually become synonymous with Hustle, Loyalty and Respect, rallying back from a double-team effort by Dupree and Booker T. After Dupree’s elimination, Cena and Booker T would battle until the bitter end when Cena earned the pinfall and retained the U.S. Title.
Booker T vs. John Cena
In WCW, Booker T competed in a memorable “Best of 7” series for the T.V. Title. Then-SmackDown General Manager Kurt Angle wanted to recapture that magic in WWE, and ordered Booker T in a “Best of 5” series against former U.S. Champion and rival, John Cena. After splitting the first four decisions, the two Superstars met in the final match at No Mercy. There, Cena was able to counter a Scissors Kick with an Attitude Adjustment for the win and his second U.S. Title.
Carlito vs. John Cena
Only four days after the conclusion of his grueling “Best of” series with Booker T, John Cena defended his U.S. Championship against a new Superstar, Carlito. Earlier that evening, Carlito made his debut challenging Cena and spitting an apple in the champion’s face. As the opening bell of their match rang, the WWE Universe witnessed a heated contest that displayed the skill and competitiveness of each young Superstar However, the WWE Universe also learned for the first time what Carlito was willing to do in order to win, by using Cena’s chain to knock out the champion and secure the pinfall.
Matt Hardy vs. MVP
Backlash – April 27, 2008 - Baltimore, Md.
Over the course of a year, Matt Hardy and U.S. Champion MVP shared a bitter and bizarre rivalry. This Odd Couple-relationship grew stranger as the two began having weekly competitions, such as eating pizza or shooting basketballs. However, after circumstances forced them to partner in the ring, they wound up becoming tag team champions and best “frenemies." Finally, after they lost the titles and Hardy cost MVP the Money in the Bank at WrestleMania, the two squared off for the U.S. Title at Backlash. The memorable contest proved how well both Superstars knew each other’s in-ring abilities. Ultimately, Hardy capitalized on a brief opening, taking down MVP with a Twist of Fate and winning the coveted U.S. Title from his arch-nemesis.
Bret Hart vs. The Miz
Shortly after his return to the ring at WrestleMania XXVI, Bret Hart became the verbal target for U.S. Champion The Miz. The Awesome One wanted to prove “Hit Man” was a relic of the past and challenged him to a match. As the contest got underway, Miz announced there would be no disqualifications. However, the combined efforts of The Miz, Chris Jericho, Vladimir Kozlov and William Regal could not stop the Hart Family. With an assist from The Hart Dynasty, “Hit Man” locked Miz in the Sharpshooter and captured his first title in WWE since 1997.
The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan
Ever since his debut as a Rookie on season one of WWE NXT, Daniel Bryan found himself constantly berated by his WWE Pro and U.S. Champion, The Miz. Even after being eliminated from WWE NXT, Bryan would come back and set his sights on his former mentor. Finally, at Night of Champions, the student schooled the teacher as Bryan defeated The Awesome One to capture his first U.S. Championship – and first title as a WWE Superstar.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz vs. John Morrison
Hell in a Cell – October 3, 2010 - Dallas, Texas
Two weeks after defeating The Miz for the U.S. Title, Daniel Bryan faced The Awesome One and John Morrison in the first-ever Triple Threat Submissions Count Anywhere Match. Not only did Bryan have to keep an eye out for Miz’s then-personal assistant Alex Riley, he had to remain on his toes as Morrison used the arena as a playground for his parkour skills. Even with interference from Riley, Bryan displayed the resilience of a true U.S. Champion, putting The Awesome One in his patented LeBell Lock and retaining the title. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan
WWE Bragging Rights was always about brand supremacy between SmackDown and Raw. In 2010, Raw’s U.S. Champion Daniel Bryan battled SmackDown’s Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler in a Champion vs. Champion Match. Though neither title was at stake, this five-star contest would symbolize the caliber of Superstar needed to hold either title. Ziggler and Bryan’s match was so memorable, in fact, that it tied HBK-Undertaker II for WWE.com’s 2010 Match of the Year.
Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus
Extreme Rules - May 1, 2011 - Tampa, Fla.
An impromptu decision by SmackDown General Manager Teddy Long had U.S. Champion Sheamus defending the title against former U.S. and Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston in a Tables Match. In what quickly became a battle of strength vs. agility, both Superstars did their best to avoid acquiring any unwanted splinters. However, the incredible agility and high-flying maneuvers of The Dreadlocked Dynamo would eventually catch up to The Celtic Warrior. Kingston launched from the top rope, boom-dropping to the outside and sending Sheamus crashing through a table and capturing the U.S. Title. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
Zack Ryder vs. Dolph Ziggler
Thanks to an assist from his broski John Cena, Zack Ryder earned a U.S. Title opportunity against Dolph Ziggler at WWE TLC in 2011. With the WWE Universe firmly in his corner, Long Island Iced-Z pulled out all the stops against Ziggler. The 2011 Slammy Award winner for "Trending Superstar of the Year" caught his opponent in the Rough Ryder, claiming the U.S. Title and celebrating at ringside with his father.