WWE United States Championship
|WWE United States Championship|
The WWE United States Championship belt
|Date won||May 5, 2014|
|Date established||January 1, 1975|
WWF/E (2001; 2003–present)
The WWE United States Championship is a professional wrestling championship in WWE. Along with the WWE Intercontinental Championship, it is one of the two secondary titles of the promotion. It was originally a championship promoted in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (later known as Jim Crockett Promotions and World Championship Wrestling aka WCW). Although generally contested on the undercard at WWE shows, a match for the title once headlined the WCW World War 3 pay-per-view event.
The WWE United States Championship was originally known as the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship and began as a regional championship created by and defended in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling run by Jim Crockett, Jr. Following the title's introduction in 1975, Harley Race became the inaugural champion on January 1. The title quickly replaced the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship as the top singles title in the promotion. While the National Wrestling Alliance recognized only one World Heavyweight Champion, there was no single undisputed U.S. Champion as a number of NWA regional promotions recognized their own version of the title and champion. That all changed, however, in January 1981 when the NWA territory based out of San Francisco, the last remaining promotion outside the Mid-Atlantic territory that recognized its own U.S. Champion, folded.
The title remained the primary championship within the Mid-Atlantic territory until 1986 when Crockett gained control of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The U.S. Title then became the secondary championship of the promotion. After Ted Turner bought the company and renamed it World Championship Wrestling in November 1988, the title continued to be used and recognized as secondary to the World Championship. WCW eventually began to slowly pull itself away from the NWA, demonstrated by the company changing the name of the title to the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) United States Heavyweight Championship in January 1991.
In March 2001, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) purchased World Championship Wrestling. As part of the purchase, the United States Championship became WWF property. Throughout 2001, the title was referred to as the WCW United States Championship, as this was during The Invasion period. At Survivor Series 2001, the title was unified with the WWE Intercontinental Championship. The United States Champion, Edge, defeated the Intercontinental Champion, Test, becoming the new Intercontinental Champion and the United States Championship was then deactivated.
In July 2003, the title was reactivated as the WWE United States Championship by SmackDown General Manager, Stephanie McMahon, and was commissioned to be a secondary championship to the SmackDown brand. Eddie Guerrero became the first champion after months of having been vacated through a tournament in the finals at Vengeance 2003 vs Chris Benoit. This was done shortly after the WWE Intercontinental Championship was recommissioned by the Raw brand, making the title its equal counterpart. The title remained on SmackDown until April 13, 2009, when reigning champion Montel Vontavious Porter was drafted from SmackDown over to Raw during the 2009 WWE Draft, moving the title with him. On April 26, 2011, reigning champion Sheamus was drafted to SmackDown during the 2011 WWE Draft, briefly bringing the U.S. Title back to the brand. Five days later, Raw's Kofi Kingston defeated Sheamus for the title at Extreme Rules, returning it to Raw. Since August 29, 2011, when all WWE programming became "Supershows" featuring the entire roster, the U.S. Title has been defended on both Raw and SmackDown.
The inaugural champion was Harley Race. There have been 78 different champions, with Chris Benoit, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Lex Luger and Wahoo McDaniel having the most official reigns at five (Flair has a sixth reign that isn't officially recognized). The longest reigning champion was Lex Luger who held the title for 523 days from May 22, 1989 to October 27, 1990. The shortest reigning champion was Steve Austin who held the title for approximately five minutes. Dean Ambrose is the longest reigning champion under the WWE banner at 351 days from May 19, 2013 to May 5, 2014, rarely defending the title in his last 5 months as champion.
On the April 6, 1991 edition of World Championship Wrestling, Nikita Koloff destroyed the classic 80's United States Championship belt during a post-match brawl with Lex Luger, who was in his fourth reign as champion. Koloff, who claimed to be the true champion, knocked Luger unconscious by striking him with the title and then repeatedly smashing the belt into a ringpost. Luger would appear without a physical title belt, and later become the first to wear a newly designed title, which WCW used until closing in March 2001. This version of the United States Championship would also be used during WCW's "invasion" of the World Wrestling Federation until WCW's storyline demise at the 2001 Survivor Series, in which the United States Title was unified with the Intercontinental Championship. Between WCW and WWE, the title has been vacated twenty times.
During John Cena's third reign as the United States Champion, he introduced a custom "spinner" belt. On the March 10, 2005 episode of SmackDown, the "spinner" version was "destroyed", with the help of John "Bradshaw" Layfield, after Orlando Jordan defeated Cena the previous week for the title, reverting to WWE's standard U.S. Championship belt.
The current champion is Sheamus, who is in his second reign. He won the championship by defeating previous champion Dean Ambrose along with 18 other wrestlers in a 20-man battle royal during the live broadcast of Raw on May 5, 2014 in Albany, New York.