The United States championship has been a belt that has gained and lost prestige all at the same time. It has garnered credible champions and some questionable champions as well.
Originally known as the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship and created by the NWA, it was intended to be defended regionally, hence why it was the United States championship.
But lately, it’s been held by stars born internationally. (Now how does that make sense?)
Anyways, throughout the belt’s existence, many people have held it as champions. From Harley Race to Dolph Ziggler, the belt has a rich history behind it.
Beginning as part of the NWA promotion which got bought and turned into WCW which in turn was purchased by the WWE, the United States championship has survived through many companies.
But eventually, it was deactivated after they merged it with the Intercontinental championship, yet it ironically was brought back to compete with the Intercontinental championship belt as mid-card belts for the then separated and exclusive brands of RAW and Smackdown.
But with a resurgence after being discontinued for a few years, it obviously had lost a bit of that prestige that made it special because two years had been blank for the United States championship’s history.
Those two years could never be made up, but the prestige could be regained with credible champions.
It all started well, with a tournament to crown the new United States champion. There were many participants, but in the end, the two people who made it to the finals and had to face off for the vacant belt were Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit.
After a hard fought battle, Benoit lost and Eddie walked out as the United States championship.
A few years later, the belt had switched hands a few times between Eddie Guerrero, John Cena, Big Show, Booker T, Carlito and Orlando Jordan.
But a man who had yet to win it in the WWE was still a part of the hunt for the belt. Benoit challenged Orlando Jordan for the championship and won the belt in a record amount of 25 seconds.
He then provided an entertaining feud with the belt by surpassing his record and retaining the United States championship in 23 seconds, but this was not his reign that made him the greatest US champion in the belt’s history.
His greatest reign was yet to come.
His fifth and final reign which began on Oct. 13, 2006, was his greatest reign and the reign that makes him the greatest US champion in the belt’s history.
It was the reign that brought the belt to relevance once again after a small decline within the past few years. It gave the belt prestige.
This reign all began when he defeated Mr. Kennedy for the belt. It was a battle of arrogant newcomer vs calm veteran where the veteran put the cocky newcomer in his place.
In defeating Kennedy, Benoit helped show the world that Kennedy had potential through their spectacular match that they had put on in the ring. In defeating Kennedy, it began the reign that made the United States championship truly important again.
But how can one man make the belt more important than the other wrestlers who held it before or after him?
The answer is simple.
Benoit’s final reign had potential, relevance and passion.
Throughout Chris Benoit’s whole reign he faced many challengers, most of which were veterans who hadn’t received their dues like Chavo or newcomers who were as cocky as the person he had to beat to get the belt from in the first place such as MVP.
Through facing Chavo he showed that Chavo had potential to be used better than how he was being used after Eddie’s death and not fail to the WWE’s expectations.
He helped unleash that Guerrero fire that was in Chavo’s uncle Eddie from Chavo by taking him to the limit which helped show that Chavo had the potential to carry the Guerrero name.
Through feuding with MVP, he showed the potential that MVP had by making him step up his game and delivering matches as well as promos that showed that he indeed deserved the monster push that he was seemingly receiving.
He made MVP into a true valuable player, if not the most valuable player of the Smackdown roster at the time.
Benoit’s reign was made from potential. All of those who faced him were bound to show a side of theirs that had never been seen before, the side of possibility for stardom.
Aside from potential, Benoit’s reign gave the United States championship relevance.
He gave it relevance by making it a worthy mid-card title that could be considered up to par with the other titles in the WWE.
He made it relevant enough that people knew that the United States championship mattered.
He defined the term of champion who welcomed all challengers because he lived it. He defended the belt against anyone and was not willing to give the belt up without putting on a fight.
He was a fighting champion.
He always defended it as if was the most important thing in his life.
His passion showed through the belt as he was willing to put his body on the line and do whatever it took to keep the belt.
At times, his passion for the United States championship seemed to make the belt more important than the WWE and World Heavyweight championships!
Chris Benoit’s passion is what made the belt relevant.
Throughout the belt’s whole history, there have been many bearers to hold the belt, and each of them have had a reign or more to prove why they deserved that belt in the first place.
But no other United States champion showed that they were the best United States championship in the title’s history more than Chris Benoit.
Sure, some of them are credible names to take the role of best US champion, but none can match the prestige that Benoit brought to the belt with as much passion as he had.
His passion took the belt’s prestige to new heights. He made the belt into a true championship.
Benoit was a champion who showed it day in and day out as he took the definition of champion to heart by challenging anyone, never backing down, defending the belt with pride and holding it with a passion as if it defined his life.
Benoit is, was and forever will be the best United States champion who ever held the belt in its history.
He had the aggression and passion to make anyone look good. He was a real champion as his passion made him keep it for a lengthy 222 days.
He made the belt relevant, and if it were anyone else, they wouldn’t be able to keep it that way.
Take MVP for example. Sure, he got the belt, and the relevancy was still there, but once he went to RAW, he lost that prestige that the belt had. It didn’t matter anymore. Benoit’s rub could only last for so long.
There has been no champion since who has made the belt mean as much as the main championships as much as Benoit was able to do because compared to the wrestlers of today, Benoit had passion.
Compared to the wrestlers of the United States championship’s early years, no champion made it mean as much as Benoit did.
Chris Benoit made the belt prestigious and relevant, and it couldn’t have happened without his passion for the business.
Chris Benoit will forever define the term champion, and no reign showed it as much as his fifth United States championship run.
Chris Benoit is the best United States champion in the title’s history.