Since its inception in 1975, the United States Championship has been a revered title held by some of the very best. It has also had its fair share of bizarre moments. How can we forget the time Steve Austin held it for less than 5 minutes? Or the time the title was written off television in 2001 after Edge’s US/Intercontinental title unification?
With this historical championship has come many memorable reigns. Here are the ten longest-reigning US Champions in combined days.
Our list starts its lineage in Jim Crockett Promotions and does not include the WWWF version of the United States Championship (which was held seven times for over a 4,000-day period by Bobo Brazil, twice by The Sheik, and once by the legendary Pedro Morales, Ray Stevens, and Johnny Barend).
10. Nikita Koloff – 328 days (1 Reign)
Despite having only one solitary reign with United States Championship gold, the Russian Nightmare makes the list of longest-reigning champions with a total of 328 days.
Koloff would dominate Jim Crockett Promotions and later World Championship Wrestling over the next few years, feuding with the Four Horsemen, and wrestling 5-star matches against Paul Ellering and the Road Warriors as well as against his Super Powers tag team partner, Dusty Rhodes.
He was in high-caliber programs for the majority of his career as a beloved face and despised foreign heel. His reign as United States Champion in his early days, however, cemented him as a monster who was here to stay.
Nikita Koloff beat Magnum T.A. in the summer of 1986 after a long stint of the US title being vacant after it was stripped off T.A. for punching Bob Geigel, the then NWA president.
During his near 11-month reign, Nikita would turn babyface and defended his title against a whole host of stars while even getting a kayfabe broken neck, an injury that was reaggravated after two spike piledrivers from the Four Horsemen.
He would lose the title to Lex Luger in July 1987 in a steel cage match after being on the receiving end of a chair shot. The Russian Bear looked strong in defeat and would win other titles in the future.
This lengthy title run of 328 days is the 5th longest in history in one run.
9. Dean Ambrose – 351 days (1 Reign)
The Shield was WWE’s hottest prospect in 2013 consisting of three unique individuals from developmental who went about doing what the Nexus did but with more impact. As the dangerous unit began taking over WWE, Dean Ambrose beat transitional champion Kofi Kingston at 2013’s Extreme Rules to win the US title.
His US title win seemed promising at first, but as with many things WWE, they had no idea what to do with the title after his win.
While he would get some wins over a part-time Rob Van Dam, an off/on pushed Mark Henry, and Kane by countout, the majority of his reign was spent not defending the title.
Instead, Ambrose would wrestle in a Money in the Bank match, the Royal Rumble, and at Survivor Series. At one point during his reign, he went on a near four-month stretch without defending the title from October 28th until February 10th, 2014.
After nearly an entire year as champion, he lost it to Sheamus in a battle royal on Raw in May 2014. He had unremarkably become the longest-reigning champion in the WWE exclusive era. He never really chased the title again. Instead, he would win the Intercontinental, Tag Team, and WWE World Championship titles.
He has since gone on to become the only superstar to win the New Japan Pro Wrestling IWGP US and WWE US title. Either way, it is WWE’s longest reign and yet a disappointing one for what it could have been for Dean.
8. Chris Benoit – 357 days (5 Reigns)
Holding the title across WCW and WWE with two and three reigns respectively, Chris Benoit might very well be the person many most associate with the title.
Throughout the 2000s, the Rabid Wolverine was the defending champion three times, amassing almost a year with the gold on WWE’s SmackDown brand.
His first reign came at a point where he along with Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Shane Douglas, Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, Juventude, and Psicosis were amongst the only highlights of a slowly dying WCW. Here he beat David Flair and formed a new faction, The Revolution, after leaving the Four Horsemen.
Benoit would lose his first US title to Sid Vicious at Fall Brawl about a month later.
His next US title reign would come after Scott Hall got a knee injury, only to lose it to Jeff Jarrett one week later.
He arrived in WWE in 2000 and won his first WWE United States Championship in 2005. He tapped out Orlando Jordan in less than 30 seconds to win the title at that year’s SummerSlam.
In 2005, Benoit beat Orlando many other times in quick matches to retain the title. He lost it to Booker T a month later, starting a confusing and complex feud. After Booker T won it, it was vacated due to a double pin, before Randy Orton won a best of 7 for Booker to win back the belt.
Benoit would defeat Booker to earn his second WWE reign as US Champion at No Way Out 2006, holding it for little over a month before losing it at WrestleMania to JBL.
After a return in 2007, his final reign came after beating Mr. Kennedy. Benoit would hold onto the title for an impressive 222 days, even beating MVP at WrestleMania 23 before losing it to MVP at the following Judgement Day.
Benoit would never again hold the title.
7. Rick Rude – 378 days (1 Reign)
In the year plus category now, and with only one reign, Rick Rude easily broke this barrier.
The egotistical mustachio defeated Sting at the Clash of the Champions 17 on November 19, 1991, after capitalizing on an injured leg of Sting with aid from Paul E. Dangerously.
Rude would go on to have one of the greatest WCW feuds of all time against Ricky Steamboat, a feud that included brilliant steel cage and iron man matches. During this heated rivalry, Rude was banned from doing top rope moves, and he even broke the Dragon’s nose (in kayfabe, of course).
After leaving the Dangerous Alliance alongside Madusa, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, Bobby Eaton, and Paul E., he became a top title contender.
His reign likely would have lasted longer, but in late 1992, he legitimately broke his neck. This forced Rude to have to vacate the United States Championship after nearly 14 months.
When he returned from the injury, he had a series of matches for the US title against Dusty Rhodes, but he couldn’t win it back. He soon suffered a career-ending spinal injury in a match with Sting in 1994, ending Rick’s in-ring career although still appearing for WWE and WCW.
Recommended read: Rick Rude – More Than Ravishing
6. John Cena – 403 days (5 Reigns)
John Cena had his first reign as United States Champion after using brass knuckles and strength to beat Big Show at WrestleMania 20. This reign lasted nearly four months before being vacated.
Cena would regain the title from Booker T before quickly losing it to a debuting Carlito, who used Cena’s own chain (because you have got to make Cena look strong).
Cena won back the title from Carlito Caribbean Cool over a month later despite being stabbed by Carlito’s bodyguard, Jesús!
Another nearly 4-month title reign took place until he lost it to Orlando Jordan. That’s right, Orlando Jordan beat John Cena. Sure, JBL hit him with the US title (because WWE just had to make Cena look strong), but it was still a surprise considering Jordan went on to easily lose multiple times to the next champion, Chris Benoit.
Cena’s later reigns were more memorable as he had by then become a top star. During his fourth reign, he turned back negativity from fans with constantly great performances each week, putting over mid-carders who had little exposure in the US Championship Open Challenge. Stars elevated by this include Neville, Cesaro, Xavier Wood, Stardust, and Sami Zayn. Cena produced great matches with new moves, displaying a great level of balance against the uprising superstars in the company.
After holding the belt for nearly five months, he lost it at 2015’s SummerSlam to Seth Rollins with the deadly foreign object of ‘American talk show host,’ when Jon Stewart hit Cena with a chair.
Cena would win it back for the fifth time two months later at Night of Champions, defeating Rollins in Seth’s first match of the night. Cena would lose the title one month later to a returning Alberto Del Rio. The return for Del Rio was a disappointing one, where he was accompanied by Zeb Colter, for some reason.
Anyhow, John Cena had shaped the title in the mid-2000s and reinvented it in the 2010s, being a crucial part of the title’s history, propelling him to the top.
5. MVP – 419 days (2 Reigns)
MVP might be another one of the people that people associate with the US title in the same way D’Lo Brown is with the European title, Crash Holly with the Hardcore title, and Batista as World Heavyweight Champion.
His first reign started in May 2007, beating Chris Benoit in a 2-out-of-3 falls match. His reign lasted 343 days, the longest WWE reign with the belt until Ambrose broke it six years later.
At nearly a year, his run was defined by a feud against Matt Hardy. Not only did they win the tag titles whilst feuding, but they also had many contests to decide the better man, such as pizza-eating, chess, and basketball contests.
MVP did not always defend his titles on pay-per-view, and he would compete in a Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania XXIV and the Elimination Chamber at No Way Out while US Champion.
After nearly a year, he lost it to long-time rival Matt Hardy at Backlash in April 2008. After this, he started going on a losing streak.
His next reign in 2009 was less remarkable, beating Shelton Benjamin and taking the title over to Raw. Nowhere near the length of his first reign, he only held this title for two and a half months before losing it to rising star, Kofi Kingston.
Overall, his lengthy time with the United States Championship was memorable and entertaining, never making you forget about the title even if he was not defending it. He got some big moments and is regarded highly today.
4. Blackjack Mulligan – 509 days (4 Reigns)
The hard-hitting Blackjack Mulligan caused destruction as well as racked up titles during his time in the business.
His first US title came back in 1976, where he defeated Paul Jones. He would go on to hold the title for over 200 days.
After Paul Jones regained the title off Mulligan, they traded the title multiple times. Mulligan’s 2nd reign lasted eleven days, however, it is not acknowledged.
He won it back for a 3rd time, this time with another 200+ day reign before losing it to the legendary Bobo Brazil.
Blackjack held it for the fourth and final time in 1977, after defeating Ricky Steamboat and holding the title 77 days. As one of the first champions, these changes all took place at house shows.
A 6 foot 9, and 300-pounds, Mulligan was a massive star literally and figuratively, feuding with Bruno Sammartino, Andre the Giant, and Bruiser Brody. He also teamed with Blackjack Lanza as well as dressed as a member of the Machines. Overall, his hoss legacy lives on with the US title as one of his greatest shows for this.
3. Greg Valentine – 512 days (3 Reigns)
Greg Valentine was a revered grappler who found NWA Tag Team Championship gold alongside Ric Flair in The Dream Team, as well as WWF Intercontinental Championship gold with a brilliant feud with Tito Santana. He also had three memorable reigns as United States Champion in the Mid-Atlantic territory.
Valentine first won the US title from his former partner Ric Flair on July 26, 1980. He would hold the title for 121 days before losing it back to the Nature Boy.
After a short stint in the WWF, Valentine would return to the Mid-Atlantic territory, where he beat Wahoo McDaniel for a 2nd US title won with help from manager Sir Oliver Humperdinck.
During this time, the Blonde bombshell had various heated matches with Roddy Piper – most famously brutal dog collar matches. After Valentine attacked Piper’s injured ear, an enraged Hot Rod wanted revenge for forcing his ear to bleed and beat Greg on April 16th, 1983, ending a 163-day reign.
Piper lost the belt two weeks later after the referee stoppage to Valentine, who held it for a further 228 days.
Valentine would lose the championship to Dick Slater in December 1983 before leaving for the WWF, never again holding the title.
Greg Valentine would hold the United States Championship for an impressive 512 days overall, establishing himself as a star. This may be peak Valentine, so if you have only watched his work in the WWF, go again and re-watch his classics from this time period.
2. Ric Flair – 773 days (6 Reigns)
Holding the title for over two years in combined days, the Nature Boy Ric Flair had the most runs with the United States Championship at six.
Along with sixteen to twenty-five world title reigns (the number of his world championship reigns varies by source, ranging from 16 to 25, with Flair himself claiming to be a 21-time champion), a Royal Rumble victory, being the second-ever triple crown champion, a multi-time Hall of Famer, and a winding list of further honors, he was a great United States Champion.
Flair cemented the title early, beating Bobo Brazil in 1977, only a couple of years following a horrific plane crash that almost claimed his life. Flair held the strap for 84 days before losing it to Ricky Steamboat, someone he would have some truly enthralling matches with down the line.
Ric would win the title back from Mr. Wrestling and hold it for 253 days before losing and regaining it from Steamboat again, this time holding it for 133 days.
After a vacation from the belt, Flair soon won it again off Jimmy Snuka, holding it for over three months.
He would trade the title back and forth with Greg Valentine, but neither reign is officially recognized.
His sixth and final reign came sixteen years later in WCW in 1996, where Flair defeated Konan. He would hold the title for nearly 5 months before vacating it due to injury. During this last reign, he was feuding with the Four Horsemen as a fan favorite.
As one of the most despised but beloved wrestlers of all time, Flair was a great United States Champion and he summed up a large quantity of time with the belt.
1. Lex Luger – 950 days (5 Reigns)
By a country mile, Lex Luger is the longest-reigning United States Champion of all time, with no viable challengers in sight to his throne.
The Total Package first won the US title after defeating Nikita Koloff in a steel cage match on July 11, 1987. During this time, he was part of the Four Horsemen. He would hold it for 138 days before losing it to Dusty Rhodes and leaving the Horsemen.
His next reign would come in 1989 after beating Barry Windham. He would hold the title for only 76 days before being defeated by his former friend, Michael P.S. Hayes.
Luger won back the title from the Pretty Sexy turncoat Hayes 15 days later. During this reign, Luger turned more desperate, rivaling with Ricky Steamboat but winning at the Great American Bash by DQ after refusing to fight until the no DQ stipulation was dropped.
US champion Luger went on to win a feud with ‘Flyin’ Brian Pillman before entering an Iron Man tournament against Ric Flair, Sting, and the Great Muta.
Luger eventually dropped the strap to the hard-hitting brute Stan Hansen after the longest single reign in United States Championship history at 523 days. For twenty months, Luger ruled supreme as the US Champ.
Luger would later win the title back from Hansen in a Texas Bullrope Match that took place at Starrcade on December 16th, 1990.
Luger held the belt for a further 210 days, however, the title was vacated after winning the world title.
He would again have a short run as United States Champion in 1998, defeating Bret Hart. He would lose it to Hart three days later.
With five reigns totaling nearly 1000 days, and the second most US Championship reigns (behind Flair’s six), it is doubtful Luger’s record will be in jeopardy anytime soon!
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