January 1, 1975
April 2, 2017
NWA/JCP (1975–1988) WCW (1988–2001) WWF/WWE (2001, 2003–present)
The WWE United States Championship is a professional wrestling championship promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE on the Raw brand. Along with the Intercontinental Championship on the SmackDown brand, it is one of the two secondary titles of the promotion. It is currently held by Kevin Owens, who is in his first reign.
The championship was established as the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship on January 1, 1975 for the regional territory, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, later known as Jim Crockett Promotions and then World Championship Wrestling (WCW), which eventually seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Harley Race was the inaugural champion. This makes the United States Championship the only active championship in WWE that was not originated in the promotion, as well as WWE's second oldest active championship, behind the WWE Championship (1963).
After WCW was purchased by the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 2001, the then-WCW United States Championship was defended in the WWF until it was unified with the Intercontinental Championship at that year's Survivor Series. After the 2002 brand extension and the promotion renamed to WWE, the championship was reactivated as the WWE United States Championship in July 2003 as a secondary title of the SmackDown brand. As a result of the 2016 draft, it became exclusive to the Raw brand.
The United States Championship began as a regional championship called the United States Heavyweight Championship. It was created by and defended in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (MACW) run by Jim Crockett Jr. Introduced on January 1, 1975, Harley Race became the inaugural champion. The title quickly replaced the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship as the top singles title in the promotion. While the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) recognized only one World Heavyweight Champion, there was no single undisputed United States Champion as a number of NWA regional promotions recognized their own version of the title and champion. That changed, however, in January 1981 when the NWA territory based in San Francisco, the last remaining promotion outside the Mid-Atlantic territory that recognized its own United States 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 United States title then became the secondary championship of the promotion. After Ted Turner bought the company and renamed it World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in November 1988, the title continued to be used and recognized as secondary to the World Championship. WCW began to pull itself away from the NWA, demonstrated by the company changing the name of the title to the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in January 1991.
In March 2001, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) purchased WCW. As part of the purchase, the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship became WWF property and during the Invasion period, it was defended and referred to as the WCW United States Championship on WWF shows. At Survivor Series, the title was unified with the Intercontinental Championship when then-WCW United States Champion Edge defeated then-WWF Intercontinental Champion Test, becoming the new Intercontinental Champion. The United States Championship was then deactivated.
In July 2003, a year after the first brand extension went into effect in the promotion now renamed "WWE", the title was reactivated as the WWE United States Championship by SmackDown! General Manager Stephanie McMahon, and was commissioned to be a secondary championship for the SmackDown! brand. Eddie Guerrero became the first champion after its reactivation by winning a tournament at Vengeance, defeating Chris Benoit in the final match. This was done shortly after the Intercontinental Championship was recommissioned by the Raw brand, making the title its equal counterpart. The first brand extension ended on August 29, 2011, and the United States Championship could be defended on both Raw and SmackDown. In August 2014, the United States Championship belt, along with all other pre-existing championship belts in WWE at the time, received a minor update, replacing the long-standing scratch logo with WWE's new logo originally used for the WWE Network.
In 2015, WWE introduced an updated version of its Grand Slam Championship, and the United States Championship became officially recognized as a component of the re-established honor. In August at SummerSlam, then-United States Champion John Cena faced then-WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins in a title-for-title match, which Rollins ultimately won to become the first wrestler to hold the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and United States Championship simultaneously. Rollins held both titles until Cena defeated Rollins in his rematch for the title at Night of Champions the following month.
In July 2016, WWE reintroduced the brand extension; during the draft, then-United States Champion Rusev was drafted to the Raw brand. Days later, he successfully defended the title against SmackDown draftee Zack Ryder at Battleground, keeping the title exclusive to Raw.
Following the revival of the United States Championship in 2003, the title was designated to SmackDown. The brand extension was discontinued on August 29, 2011, but it was revived on July 19, 2016. The following list indicates the transitions of the United States Championship between the Raw, SmackDown, and ECW brands.
The inaugural champion was Harley Race. There have been 81 different champions, with Ric Flair having the most reigns at six. 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 "Stunning" 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. Booker T and Seth Rollins are the only two men to have held both the United States Championship and a world title simultaneously; in Booker T's case, the world title was the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, while Rollins held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Both Lex Luger and Goldberg were the United States Heavyweight Champion when they won their first world title, albeit in their case it was vacated soon after. Bret Hart is the oldest champion in the title's history, winning the title at the age of 52 on May 17, 2010.
On the April 6, 1991 episode of World Championship Wrestling, Nikita Koloff destroyed the classic 1980s United States Heavyweight 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 belt and then repeatedly smashing the championship belt into a ringpost. Luger would appear without a physical championship 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 Heavyweight Championship would also be used during WCW's "invasion" of the WWF until WCW's storyline demise at the 2001 Survivor Series, in which the United States Championship 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 United States Championship belt.
Kevin Owens is the current champion in his first reign. He won the title by defeating Chris Jericho on April 2, 2017 in Orlando, Florida on WrestleMania 33.