12 United States Championship Matches That WWE Fans Won't Ever Forget

If you're a WWE wrestler, odds are you have some kind of aspiration of becoming a world champion. The WWE and WWE Universal Championships are the absolute pinnacle in terms of the promotion's in-ring rewards, hence why they're so sought after by all who step between the ropes. That said, there's certainly no shame in collecting other titles on your way to the top of the mountain. As far as the men's singles divisions of "Raw" and "SmackDown" go, you can go after the WWE 24/7 Championship, the WWE Intercontinental Championship, or the WWE United States Championship if you want to bolster your trophy case.

Of those three championships, one could easily argue that the US title has the most tumultuous history of them all. Originally a National Wrestling Alliance and later World Championship Wrestling title, WWE reintroduced it in 2003 after a brief retirement where it has remained ever since. The likes of John Cena, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, and more have held it, though it hasn't always been treated as a prize worth fighting for. In fact, at some points, both it and the then-title holder have disappeared from pay-per-view and weekly television cards entirely.

At the same time, when proper time and attention has been given to the United States Championship, the matches for it have achieved fame. Here are 12 WWE US title matches that have managed to stick in the collective memory of WWE fans.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto - January 12, 2016

Even though he was still tagging with Sin Cara at the time — collectively known as the Lucha Dragons — Kalisto took a big solo step by winning his first singles title under the WWE banner. On the January 11, 2016 edition of "Raw," he defeated League of Nations (Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Rusev) member Alberto Del Rio for the WWE United States Championship. It wasn't an easy victory for the rising WWE star, as it took him over 15 minutes to overcome a very game Del Rio in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sadly, it didn't amount to a memorable nor lengthy reign either, thanks to the former champion.

Understandably upset over his loss on "Raw," Alberto Del Rio demanded a rematch, and a rematch he received. He stood across the ring from Kalisto once again on that week's edition of "SmackDown," which aired on January 14, 2016. Despite Kalisto's best efforts, he couldn't overcome Del Rio and Barrett, who aided his stablemate from ringside. His title run ended that night after a fairly brief back-and-forth match, but the disappointment doesn't end there. Since "SmackDown" was a taped show, technically he lost the United States Championship on January 12, meaning he only held the title for a single day.

Kalisto's one-day United States Championship reign remains the shortest in the history of WWE. The match he lost it in is far from a classic, but when it comes to US title statistics, it's one folks can't help but talk about.

Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio - WrestleMania 35

"The Samoan Submission Machine" Samoa Joe won his first main roster WWE title on the March 5, 2019 edition of "SmackDown." He defeated Andrade, R-Truth, and Rey Mysterio to take home the WWE United States Championship, using his signature brand of in-ring ferocity to ensure it stayed around his waist heading into WrestleMania 35. At the event, he'd take on Mysterio in a singles match, and while that may sound like it has the potential to be an incredible match between two ring generals, what fans at MetLife Stadium and watching around the world from home got was quite the opposite.

The defending US Champion wiped the floor with the challenger under the bright lights of WrestleMania, forcing him to submit in just under a minute. It turned out that Mysterio went into the match with a shoulder injury that he sustained during a match against Baron Corbin on the previous Monday's "Raw" episode. Therefore, instead of calling off the match against Joe entirely, the two athletes went out anyway and kept things quick.

The following month, Rey Mysterio and Samoa Joe clashed yet again at the Money in the Bank 2019 event, where Mysterio managed to dethrone Joe as United States Champion in a quick bout. Nevertheless, it did little to make fans forget about his incredibly decisive loss to Joe at WrestleMania 35.

Edge vs. Test - Survivor Series 2001

The WCW-ECW invasion of the WWF in 2001 is the definition of a missed opportunity. With a clear talent imbalance between the two sides and loads of poor booking decisions, the angle flopped in no time at all. By the time Survivor Series rolled around that year, the WWF was ready to put the whole storyline to rest. That also meant retiring WCW's championships, which had floated around on "Raw" and "SmackDown" from wrestler to wrestler for the better part of 2001 and lost any credibility they had left.

One such championship that would bid wrestling fans farewell at Survivor Series 2001 was the WCW United States Championship. Since arriving on WWF television, a handful of people wound up with the belt before it landed on Edge's lap. The future "Rated-R Superstar" then faced WWF Intercontinental Champion Test in a unification match at Survivor Series, walking away with both titles. With that, the WCW US Championship — a once-incredibly desirable title made great by the likes of Lex Luger, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, and more — was officially dead, just like the company it formerly called home.

While this match wasn't for the WWE United States Championship, it was for a WWF-owned WCW United States Championship. Even though this is nowhere near Edge or Test's best match, it's noteworthy as the last gasp of one of WCW's richest prizes.

Rusev vs. John Cena - Fastlane 2015

Throughout 2014, the WWE roster was put on high alert when Alexander Rusev — whose name was later shortened to just "Rusev" — started to tear through the stars of "Raw" and "SmackDown." "The Bulgarian Brute" ran through WWE veterans and relative upstarts alike, showing no mercy in pursuit of glory and championship gold. By November, he had the WWE United States Championship around his waist, and it became abundantly clear that it would take someone special to end Rusev's reign. Enter John Cena: A man who'd never backed down from a challenge and, more often than not, overcame his opponents with relative ease.

John Cena and Rusev met between the ropes in a one-on-one contest for the first time at Fastlane 2015. With the US title up for grabs, Cena brought the fight to Rusev in a match that many imagined would've stopped the latter's momentum dead. However, the defending champion scored a surprising victory when he locked in the Accolade submission hold, causing the Cenation leader to pass out. Rusev managed to crush WWE's Superman, further proving himself as someone worth keeping an eye on going forward. Of course, Cena got his rematch at WrestleMania 31, where he took the US Championship for his own.

Though the remainder of his WWE career had more downs than ups, Rusev's United States Championship match victory over John Cena at Fastlane 2015 made him a star. Few men can claim to have beaten Cena clean during this era, and Rusev is one of them.

Zack Ryder vs. Dolph Ziggler - TLC 2011

After spending some time in the "SmackDown" tag team division alongside Curt Hawkins, flanking Edge as he dominated the World Heavyweight Championship scene, and reinventing himself on "ECW," Zack Ryder became an incredibly popular solo wrestler in 2011. Thanks in large part to his YouTube series — "Z! The True Long Island Story" — WWE fans saw a new, charismatic side of him that wore his love for wrestling on his sleeve. As a result, he became a merchandising juggernaut and steadily featured more and more prominently on WWE programming as he chased down singles gold.

With months upon months of working his tail off behind him to get there, Ryder got his shot at immortality at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2011. He challenged Dolph Ziggler for the WWE United States Championship in what, up to that point, was easily the highest-profile match of his entire career. "The Showoff" couldn't overcome the determined Ryder, who took the US Championship away from him in a moment that had the Baltimore crowd jumping for joy. At last, WWE's resident "Broski" had proven to the world that he was so much more than just an internet darling.

Zack Ryder didn't hold onto the WWE United States Championship for long, though that doesn't diminish the excitement of his win. It's not every day that a WWE star can scratch and claw their way to a championship victory like he did, and when it does happen, it's something special.

Daniel Bryan vs. the Miz - Night of Champions 2010

The first few years of Daniel Bryan's main roster WWE run were odd, to say the least. Introduced on the debut season of "WWE NXT" — back when it was still a game show competition — with the Miz as his coach, he'd immediately garner fan attention as an underdog. However, after his elimination from the show, he'd join the Nexus stable for its destructive "Raw" arrival before WWE promptly released him for choking ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own necktie. By SummerSlam 2010, though, he returned to the company eager for a fresh start and with his eyes on the top of the WWE card. Thus, his long climb began.

Continuing his feud with the Miz (and, to a lesser extent, commentator Michael Cole, who made his dislike for Bryan known via his headset), Bryan challenged for the WWE United States Championship at Night of Champions 2010. "The Awesome One," who was in the middle of his own rise to superstardom, brought the fight to his former "NXT" rookie, but it was all in vain. Even with the help of his protégé Alex Riley, the Miz couldn't prevent Bryan from leaving Night of Champions as the new United States Champion. With this submission victory, it became clear that not only was he here to stay, but he was destined for greatness.

As the 2010s continued on, Daniel Bryan became one of the biggest stars in WWE with near-unrivaled fan support for wrestlers of this era. His United States Championship win was the start of it all.

Bret Hitman Hart vs. The Miz - May 17, 2010

In the years following his incredibly controversial departure from the WWF after the Montreal Screwjob, Bret "The Hitman" Hart was understandably hesitant to work with the company again. Come the late 2000s, however, and it appeared that the in-ring icon was prepared to make a return to WWE programming. He notably got some storyline retribution on the man that screwed him over all those years ago, Mr. McMahon, in their match at WrestleMania XXVI, but he didn't stop there. Hart had one more title run in him as part of his 2010 WWE comeback.

Live from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Bret Hart stepped between the ropes on the May 17, 2010 edition of "Raw" to face the Miz for the WWE United States Championship. Due to a previous loss, The Miz was required to put his title on the line against a Hart family member. He chose the older, slower Bret, believing it would be an easy victory. However, if one thing is true in professional wrestling, it's that if you mess with one Hart, you mess with all of them. The Hart Dynasty (Tyson Kidd, David Hart Smith, and Natalya Neidhart) helped him defeat the Miz and win his first WWE championship in over a decade.

The following week on "Raw," Bret Hart took on the job of "Raw" general manager, prompting him to vacate the United States Championship. He didn't get much of a run with the title, but the unexpected yet awesome nature of his win more than makes up for it.

Dean Ambrose vs. Kofi Kingston - Extreme Rules 2013

Survivor Series 2012 saw the landscape of WWE change forever, as one of the most dominant trios in the history of the company made their debut. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose — collectively known as the Shield — put the "Raw" and "SmackDown" rosters on notice with their sudden arrival. In the weeks and months to come, they'd descend from the crowd to prey on various wrestlers, building their reputation as a stable not worth messing with. They'd even overcome Sheamus, the Big Show, and Randy Orton at WrestleMania 29, but they desired far more than just sanctioned wins.

The Shield were also after championship gold, and on the same night that Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns secured the WWE Tag Team Championships, Dean Ambrose won his first of many WWE singles titles. He took the WWE United States Championship from Kofi Kingston in an undercard match at Extreme Rules 2013, and little did fans realize how long he'd hold onto the title. Though he didn't defend it too often, Ambrose would cling to the US title for a staggering 351 days, eventually dropping it to Sheamus in a 20-man battle royal on the May 5, 2014 edition of "Raw."

On its own, 351 days as any champion is impressive, but in this case, it's extra special. Since WWE reintroduced the United States Championship in 2003, Dean Ambrose has enjoyed the longest unbroken reign — one that's unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

John Cena vs. Kevin Owens - Battleground 2015

Upon defeating Rusev at WrestleMania 31 to become the new WWE United States Champion, John Cena made his mission clear: restore the title to its former glory. At the time, the title had become something of an afterthought on WWE television, so Cena wanted to feature it weekly as part of his United States Championship Open Challenge. This concept produced some of the best matches of Cena's career as he worked against the likes of Stardust, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, and other rising WWE stars. "NXT" staple Kevin Owens proved no exception once he arrived on the main roster and made a beeline for the champ.

After two non-title bouts at Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank 2015 — both remarkable bouts in their own right — Kevin Owens finally got his United States Championship match against John Cena at Battleground 2015. At this point in their match trilogy, each man had a win in their back pocket, so in addition to the title being up for grabs, bragging rights were as well. Like their prior two encounters, Cena and Owens put the pedal to the metal from the opening bell and never let up. The US Title ultimately stayed with Cena, but Owens had nothing to be ashamed of once the closing bell rang.

The John Cena-Kevin Owens rivalry was incredible, considering it supplied some excellent matches, reminded everyone just how good Cena is, and further solidified Owens' place in WWE. The 4.25 star rating the Wrestling Observer awarded their Battleground clash is very much deserved.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit - Vengeance 2003

In the late 1990s into the 2000s, there were few better wrestlers in North America than Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. The two had studied their craft meticulously for years, impressing in promotions such as WCW and ECW before finally making their WWF debuts in 2000. Both men continued to deliver between the ropes and wasted little time adding to their trophy cabinets. Despite their real-life friendship and brief on-screen alliance as part of the Radicalz (alongside Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn), neither Guerrero nor Benoit would hesitate to steamroll the other if it meant becoming a champion.

Case in point: Vengeance 2003, where Chris Benoit met Eddie Guerrero inside the squared circle in the finals of the WWE United States Championship tournament. Each of them overcame some stiff competition on the road to the pay-per-view event, and neither of them so much as entertained the thought of not leaving the arena that night as the new title holder. Per usual, Guerrero and Benoit implemented an expert blend of power, technical, and high-flying maneuvers to put on a gripping match. Rhyno proved the true difference-maker, though, interfering in the match to hit Benoit with the Gore and pave Guerrero's road to victory.

In the end, Eddie Guerrero was crowned the first WWE United States Champion, kicking off the title's run with style. Rhyno's intervention aside, this is a solid bout between two of the all-time greats that's difficult to forget once you've checked it out.

John Cena vs. the Big Show - WrestleMania XX

The Big Show became the second-ever WWE United States Champion when he defeated Eddie Guerrero for the title at No Mercy 2003. "Latino Heat" wouldn't regain his lost championship, instead focusing on the WWE Championship in the early months of 2004. That meant the likes of Billy Gunn and Hardcore Holly could challenge Show for the belt, though they were woefully unsuccessful. With WrestleMania XX approaching, the latest thorn in the champions side would go by the name of John Cena, and he was more than ready to make an impact at "The Show of Shows" at Big Show's expense.

After weeks of feuding, John Cena challenged the Big Show at WrestleMania XX for the United States Championship. In months previous, Cena had become one of the most must-see stars on "SmackDown" as he developed his "Doctor of Thuganomics" persona. Week after week, he'd tear up his opponents on the mic as well as between the ropes, hence why he wound up with a US title shot. Unsurprisingly, the much larger and more experience Show dominated most of the match, so to win, Cena had to get crafty. He utilized his brass knuckles to chop Big Show down like a redwood tree behind the referee's back.

John Cena won his first main roster WWE championship at WrestleMania XX, proving his naysayers wrong in the process. This was just the start of his meteoric rise to become the next face of the company. For that reason — and the tacky spinner United States Championship he'd introduce — Cena's match with the Big Show remains a highlight.

Seth Rollins vs. John Cena - SummerSlam 2015

With his Shield teammates in the dust, Seth Rollins embarked on the run of a lifetime throughout most of 2015. After cashing-in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 31 to become WWE Champion, "The Architect" became a fixture of "Raw" and "SmackDown." With his ties to authority figures Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, fans and WWE superstars alike despised the slippery, self-absorbed Rollins and desired nothing more than to see him taken down a peg. Come SummerSlam season that year, it appeared that John Cena could very well be the person to do it.

Cena and Rollins faced off at SummerSlam in a winner-take-all WWE and United States Championship match. No one in WWE had ever held those two titles simultaneously, so one of these men would leave the arena that night having made history. Bearing this in mind, Rollins and Cena fought hard to add the accolade to their résumé at the expense of the other, but when the smoke cleared, the former had a belt on each shoulder. Bizarrely, had it not been for the intervention of longtime "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart on Rollins' behalf, the outcome could've looked much different.

Seth Rollins and John Cena left it all in the ring at SummerSlam 2015 and more than succeeded at making the United States Championship a worthwhile prize to chase. Jon Stewart's interference is still a bit baffling in hindsight, though it doesn't necessarily harm the quality of the match preceding it.