John Cena, Ric Flair, MVP and the Best United States Champions by State
The United States Championship's history is highlighted with Hall of Famers like Ric Flair and future members of that group like John Cena, but who was the best champ from each state?
The title's history dates back to Harley Race defeating Johnny Weaver in 1975. Since then, men from everywhere from Arkansas to Wisconsin have won and defended it. It's a championship that has traveled from the NWA to WCW and now to WWE, where Dean Ambrose carries on the tradition.
Each man considered for this list will represent the state they were born in, not necessarily where they grew up. So though Ric Flair is so closely associated with the Carolinas, he was actually born in Memphis, Tennessee and so gets the nod for best champ from that state.
The following United States titleholders from a wide of range of America's states are ranked based on the length of their reign and their popularity, as well as their influence and impact as champ.
Arkansas: Bobo Brazil
Bobo Brazil only held the United States title for 22 days, but his reign in 1977 had a bigger impact on the industry than the other Arkansas native's reign.
Sid Vicious won the same championship over 20 years later. Vicious, though, didn't help break racial barriers in pro wrestling with his U.S. title win and/or his career in general the way that Brazil did.
The headbutting Hall of Famer from Little Rock defeated Blackjack Mulligan for the champion only to lose it less than a month later to Ric Flair. That win, though, paved the way for future African-American wrestlers to win the belt.
Jim Duggan couldn't fend off the monster known as Big Van Vader.
Vader smashed Duggan's face on the mat on the way to his first and only reign as United States champ. Though billed from the Rocky Mountains, Vader was actually born in Lynwood, California.
It's a state that surprisingly doesn't offer Vader much competition for this spot. John Morrison, from Los Angeles, never won the title, nor did The Rock who was born in northern California.
The beast known as Vader rules here just as he did in his WCW heyday. He didn't lose the title in the ring. WCW stripped him off the gold when he went on one too many violent rampages.
Florida: Montel Vontavious Porter
Big names from the past such as Dick Slater, Scott Hall and Michael Hayes represented Florida as United States champ, but none of them had the lengthy, impressive reign that Montel Vontavious Porter did.
From May 2007 to April 2008, MVP fought off all comers.
His first reign is the longest in the WWE portion of the championship's history. His second was a solid 76 days, but it also stopped Shelton Benjamin from approaching MVP's record.
Feuds with Ric Flair, Chris Benoit and Matt Hardy were among the highlights of his time as champ and were the peak of his career so far.
Indiana: Terry Funk
When you think of Terry Funk, you likely think of Texas, but before Terry and the Funk family settled down in Amarillo and became household names, the Hardcore Legend was born in Hammond, Indiana.
Funk is the only United States champ from the Hoosier State.
He held the title briefly in 1975 before losing it to Paul Jones. His second reign came 25 years later when he defeated Lance Storm in Amarillo. The fact that Funk's two turns as U.S. champ came nearly three decades apart is a testament to his longevity.
Kansas: Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley, like Terry Funk, has no one in his way to earn a spot on this list. Kansas has produced its share of athletes like George Brett, Tyson Gay and Danny Manning, but its list of great pro wrestlers is short.
Lashley had a single reign as United States champ which spanned the early part of the 2006 summer.
He took the strap from John Bradshaw Layfield and later lost it to Finlay. At that time, the title reign seemed like it would serve as a launching pad for Lashley. Groomed to be a megastar, Lashley was out of WWE by 2008.
Massachusetts: John Cena
Even if Massachusetts offered more competition, John Cena would likely still be the best United States champs in the state's history.
His reign happened during the time of Cena's edgier persona, a gritty, street-smart rapper. He won the title from Big Show at WrestleMania XX (his WrestleMania debut) and held it for 114 days until Kurt Angle stripped it from him.
Cena then won a best of five series for the title against Booker T for his second reign. Then, after winning it for the third time, he didn't let go of it for 100 days.
His customized, spinning version of the championship brought new attention to the title and Cena served as a tough, brawling champ.
Michigan: Sgt. Slaughter
Michigan natives Scott Steiner and Rhyno have held the United States title, but neither can touch Sgt. Slaughter's reigns.
Slaughter held the championship twice, for a total of 305 days. His reigns also came when the title was at one of its peaks in prestige. The early '80s saw Hall of Famer after Hall of Famer win and lose the championship.
Slaughter's feud with Wahoo McDaniel was one of the highlights of his time as champ. As was when then-U.S. champ Antonio Cesaro challenged a 64-year-old Slaughter to a match on WWE Raw, decades later.
Minnesota: Nikita Koloff
With the kind of talent the state produced, it's no wonder that Minnesota-based American Wrestling Association had such star power at its peak. One of the more hotly contested states on this list, Minnesota was the birthplace of legends Nikita Koloff, Rick Rude and Curt Hennig.
Hennig held the U.S. title for 304 days in its WCW days.Rude held it for over a year until an injury forced him to relinquish it in 1992.
Koloff held it for about two months less than Rude, but just edges Rude out because how popular he became during his title run.
The Russian Nightmare's face turn, when he saved Dusty Rhodes from The Four Horseman, catapulted him into a new level of stardom. Outlasting Magnum TA in a best of seven series for the title, Koloff fought off every challenger until Lex Luger took the belt from him in 1987.
Missouri: Harley Race
You'll often hear Harley Race's name come up when announcers are trying to sell the fans on the title's prestige. "This is a title once worn by Harley Race!"
The first man to ever hold the title is one of the greatest wrestlers to do so.
The former AWA tag champ and NWA world titleholder is a member of several wrestling Hall of Famers after amassing a career built on grit, great matches and diving headbutts.
Were there more United States champs from Missouri, he'd likely still be the best, having held the championship for over 180 days and making it seem like a title just below the world's championship.
The Omaha native held the United States title twice, once beating Steve Austin in a tournament to win it and later defeating Meng in another tournament.
The two title reigns coincided with Sting's popularity swelling. He was quickly becoming the face of the WCW franchise in feuds against Ric Flair, Great Muta, Barry Windham and others. The U.S. title then received a big rub instead of being more of a forgotten title which it has too often become in recent years.
Sting wins the competition for best U.S. champ from Nebraska partly from a lack of competition and partly from two reigns that totaled more than 200 days.
New Jersey: Diamond Dallas Page
The battle for New Jersey is between Dean Malenko and Diamond Dallas Page.
While Malenko is the better wrestler, DDP held the United States much longer than The Iceman. Malenko had a single reign, holding the title for 85 days in 1997 before losing to Jeff Jarrett.
DDP defeated Curt Henning for the belt in December of that same year and didn't let go of it until next April. Page is also the only champ to defend the title in the main event of a pay-per-view when he fended off Bret Hart to cap off World War 3 1998.
New York: Lex Luger
New York has given us a number of excellent United States champs from Jim Duggan to Ricky Steamboat, but Lex Luger's career apex was his runs as U.S. champ. A man whom many consider the greatest U.S. champ ever wipes out his New York competition.
Luger held the title five times for a total of 948 days, longer than any other U.S. champ. His third reign lasted an astounding 523 days. Luger won the belt that time in May of 1989 and wouldn't relinquish it until October 1990.
The men he defeated to capture the belt is a list of legends; Nikita Koloff, Barry Windham, Michael Hayes, Stan Hansen and Bret Hart.
North Carolina: Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy ended Montel Vontavious Porter's record reign in 2008 and began one of his own.
His 84 days as champion isn't world-beating, but his only competition for best U.S. champ from North Carolina is R-Truth who was only champ for three weeks.
Hardy's pursuit of the championship was more interesting than his reign though. He and MVP battled in various competitions from beer drinking contests to arm wrestling bouts. Soon after Hardy won, he took the title with him to the ECW brand.
Oklahoma: Wahoo McDaniel
Just like Harley Race, when an announcer wants to hype up the U.S. title's prestige, Wahoo McDaniel's name gets thrown in the conversation.
The Hall of Famer not only held the title five times, but held it during an era where it was a highly sought after championship. McDaniel battled men like Ric Flair, Greg Valentine and Ricky Steamboat for the belt.
It was the centerpiece of many of his most intense feuds. McDaniel was also a superbly popular figure in the Mid-Atlantic area, bringing many eyes to the belt.
Other Oklahoma-born U.S. champs Bill Goldberg and Jack Swagger can't come close to his accomplishments as champion.
Ohio: The Miz
Dean Ambrose may eventually seize this position in the future, but it's too early in his reign to crown him the greatest, especially when two other Ohio natives had good runs with the belt.
Dolph Ziggler had a 182-day solid run, though one that didn't see him defend the title enough to maximize his talents. Miz's two runs lasted nearly a year combined and helped him go from former reality show star to legitimate star.
Feuds with Ambrose's former partner John Morrison and Montel Vontavious Porter were among the highlights of his first reign. In a strange turn of events, a 50-plus year old Bret Hart beat him for the championship in 2010, only to then vacate it.
Still, until Ambrose makes major waves as champ, Miz is the best U.S. champ Ohio has had.
Pennsylvania: Kurt Angle
Despite the number of excellent wrestlers from Pennsylvania, there has yet to be a true standout United States champ from the Keystone State.
Raven held the title for a single day. Shane Douglas held it for less than a month in 2001.
Kurt Angle was champion for a day less than Douglas, but won the title after winning the WWE title and after winning gold at the Olympics. His name recognition was a welcome addition to the title's history even though it was a championship that was mostly lost in the shuffle of the WCW and WWE merger.
South Carolina: Shelton Benjamin
South Carolina's other United States champs came in the form of giants, but it's a superb athlete who reigns over them.
One Man Gang briefly held the title at the tail end of 1995 and Big Show lasted from No Mercy 2003 to WrestleMania XX as champion.
Shelton Benjamin's reign was longer than both men combined at 240 days and consisted of a number of exciting title defenses. Benjamin thwarted men like Jeff Hardy and Hurricane Helms' attempts at becoming champ.
Benjamin looked to be on his way to challenging Montel Vontavious Porter for the longest single reign since it became a WWE title when MVP himself defeated him on the 500th episode of WWE SmackDown.
Tennessee: Ric Flair
One could argue that Ric Flair was the greatest United States champion regardless of state.
His greatness in the ring made every title defense a work of theater. His rising fame elevated the prestige of the belt. Holding it for a total of 636 days, longer than anyone not named Lex Luger, helps his case as well.
Tennessean Jeff Jarrett's three reigns are no match for Flair's run as champ.
The Nature Boy feuded with greats like Ricky Steamboat and Greg Valentine over the belt, producing classics along the way. The U.S. title was the launching pad for Flair's eventual megastardom.
Texas: Blackjack Mulligan
There isn't a state that has produced more great wrestlers than Texas, so there's no surprise that it is the state with the most candidates for greatest U.S. champ
Blackjack Mulligan's 498-day reign has him edge out his competition.
Aside from Mulligan, five members of the Hall of Fame have held that title. Booker T, Steve Austin, Barry Windham, Dusty Rhodes and Eddie Guerrero all had excellent reigns.
Stan Hansen and John Bradshaw Layfield held the title for about 50 days each.
Mulligan won the belt three times including a defeat over Ricky Steamboat in 1977. He was an intimidating figure as champion, his size and ornery demeanor making him as compelling as he was unnerving.
Virginia: Magnum T.A.
Orlando Jordan had a decent run with the belt in 2005, but his reign doesn't compare in terms of length or entertainment value.
When the Tidewater, Virginia native held the United States Heavyweight Championship it felt like a significant symbol of success. In fighting off men like Nikita Koloff, Tully Blanchard and Kamala, Magnum TA played a hero the fans could get behind.
During his feud with Blanchard, the two squared off in the greatest cage match in wrestling history with the U.S. title on the line. Blanchard and Magnum brutalized each other surrounded by steel, willing to put themselves through hell to earn revenge and championship glory.
His two reigns lasted just over 300 days and he maximized the drama of the belt when he held it with great matches and intense feuds.
Washington: Greg Valentine
Daniel Bryan produced some great work during his time as U.S. champ, but the Aberdeen native is beaten out by a man whose championships reigns were elevated by spectacular feuds.
Greg Valentine held the championship for a total of 391 days back when it was an NWA belt. He won it first from his bitter rival Ric Flair and later fought against Wahoo McDaniel and Roddy Piper with the title on the line.
Flair represented the obstacle he long struggled to overcome. Valentine and McDaniel's rivalry maintained heat for a long time. Valentine strutted around in a "I Broke Wahoo's Leg" T-shirt after injuring him.
Piper and Valentine's battle for the championship included the famously brutal Dog Collar match which featured a bloody Piper being carried around the ring in celebration of a hard-earned victory.
Wisconsin: Mr. Kennedy
A state with Wisconsin's population isn't likely to produce as many great wrestlers as Texas or Florida, so Mr. Kennedy runs opposed for the title of best U.S. champ from that state.
The loud-mouthed Superstar earned his only title reign by defeating Finlay and Bobby Lashley in 2005 in a Triple Threat match.
Kennedy would go on to hold the belt for a little over a month. A feud with Undertaker caused him to lose focus on being the best U.S. champion in history as he'd claimed he'd be, and he ended up losing the title to Chris Benoit.