We are coming off of America’s birthday, and so it is time to look at WWE’s own patriotic title. The United States Championship has been a mainstay in WWE programming since the purchase of WCW. Aside from a brief retirement from 2001-2003, the U.S. Championship has been a reliable midcard belt. You can put it on established stars or give it to a hot newcomer to legitimize them.
With that, let’s take a look at the best reigns of all time. This is not a list of who the best overall United States Champions are; instead it is ranking the top five single reigns of all time.
5. Dean Ambrose, May 19, 2013 – May 5, 2014
The longest single United States Championship reign in WWE history is held by Dean Ambrose. Now Jon Moxley in AEW, Ambrose held the title as part of The Shield. He was their singles star, with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns operating as the tag team.
While the reign was lengthy, it wasn’t full of standout matches. Ambrose won the title off of Kofi Kingston at Extreme Rules 2013 and lost it to Sheamus in a Battle Royale in May the next year. Defenses against Rob Van Dam, Big E & Mark Henry had lots of potential, but all ended with DQ finishes. This reign gets the fifth spot because of length and the fact that during this time Ambrose and The Shield became the most popular new act in years.
4. Daniel Bryan, September 19, 2020 – March 14, 2011
This United States Championship reign was part of what made Daniel Bryan a popular name with WWE fans. His title win here is part of his legendary feud with The Miz. Miz taunted and berated Bryan as his NXT pro, and it led to a tremendous match where Bryan won his first WWE gold. We recently covered this on our latest Daniel Bryan episode of Crossbody of Work.
The reign had Bryan make successful defenses against Miz, John Morrisson, and Ted DiBiase Jr., before losing the title to Sheamus. A second straight successful title reign was ruined by Sheamus. While it wasn’t as full of amazing matches as some others, it still was an amazing introduction to Bryan for the WWE Universe.
3. Rusev, November 3, 2014 – March 29, 2015
When he debuted on the main roster, Rusev was one of the best new acts. Flanked by Lana, he decimated opponents and was destined for gold at some point. He eventually got it, knocking off Sheamus and capturing the gold for Russia. Rusev was the Bulgarian Brute, but that didn’t sound as good to the WWE brass. Instead, he got to fight for the Russian motherland with real-life wife Lana at his side.
Rusev was a dominant champion, taking out competitors like Jack Swagger and John Cena. Cena would knock off Rusev at Wrestlemania 32, but the champ still had the biggest moment of the match. He arrived on a damn tank! That’s worth a ton of points all alone.
2. MVP, May 20, 2007 – April 27, 2008
When I think of the US Championship, my mind goes to MVP. Montel Vontavious Porter was defined by his nearly year-long reign as US Champion on SmackDown. His feud to capture the title from Chris Benoit was excellent and ended with MVP picking up a 2-0 win in a two out of three falls match.
MVP was not the noblest of US Champions. Defenses against Rey Mysterio & Kane ended in a count-out, and he wasn’t exactly a fighting champion. His feud with Matt Hardy was one of the best things on SmackDown and led to Hardy dethroning the champ. Whenever we think of MVP’s first run, it is hard to picture him without the red, white, and blue strap.
1. John Cena, March 29, 2015 – August 23, 2015
The United States Championship Open Challenge is the greatest era of the United States Championship in history. Cena was a three-time champion before taking the belt off of Rusev. He hadn’t held the belt since his first run on SmackDown, instead choosing to become a multi-time World Champion and the face of wrestling.
In 2015, Cena turned his attention to the United States Championship and dethroned Rusev at Wrestlemania. Once he had the title, Cena started the US Open Challenge. Every week a new challenger would emerge and have standout bouts. Sami Zayn debuted on the main roster through the challenge. Midcarders like Stardust, Neville, and Cesaro got a chance to shine in a bigger spotlight. Raw became appointment viewing to see who would challenge Cena for the title every week. Once he lost the title to Seth Rollins, it was never the same.
Did your favorite reign make the list? Which ones did we miss? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @FPC_Wrestling.