Welcome back to another edition of the only column on 4CRwrestling.com built by social media, the 10 Spot! This column is so much fun to put together and even more fun now that I co-author this thing with Robot Hammer. This week’s topic was a great one–albeit a challenging one–to create an article with, but I’m very pleased with how this one turned out. I asked for your top 10 NWA/WCW United States champions of all-time and got some awesome lists back for this one! While secondary titles don’t have the value that they once did (especially in WWE), there was once a time when this title was one of the most prestigious in all of pro wrestling. Some of the sport’s most legendary grapplers have competed for the US title and this week’s 10 Spot is our way of celebrating the honor & glory that came with winning this championship in years gone by. Before we get into the countdown, here’s the names of the wrestlers who missed the cut–a real ‘who’s who’ in NWA/WCW history:
*Barry Windham, Johnny Valentine, Ricky Steamboat, Goldberg, Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero
Who made the list built by all of you? Let’s find out who you ranked as the best US champions of all-time–it’s time for the 10 SPOT!!!
10. Nikita Koloff
1 time champion (8/17/1986-7/11/1987)
Robot Hammer: “As a kid, no other face turn meant as much to me personally as Nikita Koloff’s. Nikita won the US title as The Russian Nightmare, beating Magnum TA for the strap in a best of seven series in August of 1986. The next month, he defeated Wahoo McDaniel to unify his US title with the NWA National title. So that’s two proud Americans that fell to the deadly Russian Sickle in a short span of time. Things didn’t look very promising for the good ol’ USofA.
But when tensions between the US and the USSR began to weaken, Nikita was seen as a way to capitalize on then current events. He joined Dusty Rhodes in one of the Dream’s regularly scheduled matches against the Four Horsemen, and fans embraced him for it. Dusty and Nikita became known as The Super Powers, and as a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. He went from stealing the US title from America, to holding it as a proud immigrant to the States. He would go on to hold the title for nearly a year, defending it against the Horsemen, his uncle Ivan Koloff, and anyone else who wanted to test the Russian Sickle.”
9. Dustin Rhodes
2 time champion (1/11/1993-5/1993; 8/30/1993-12/27/1993)
Robot Hammer: “Some wrestling fans think that Dustin Rhodes’s success begins and ends with his time spent portraying Goldust in the WWF/E. If you look back a few years prior to his WWF debut, you discover that Dustin spent four years in WCW, proving that he’s always been a Natural in the squared circle.
After Rick Rude vacated the title in 1993, Rhodes defeated Ricky Steamboat to claim the belt. Dustin would later be forced to vacate the title himself, after a match with a returning Rude ended in a double pin fall. He soon regained the vacated title after another match against Rude. Dustin was still a bit rough around the edges in WCW, but his potential was still clearly evident.”
8. Sting/Blackjack Mulligan (tie)
Sting-2 time champion (8/25/1991-11/19/1991; 6/18/1995-11/13/1995)
Blackjack Mulligan-4 time champion (3/13/1976-10/16/1976; 11/28/1976-12/9/1976; 12/15/1976-7/7/1977; 1/1/1978-3/19/1978)
Billy: “Following his WCW World title win, Lex Luger vacated the US strap and its next holder would be determined by way of a tournament. On August 25, 1991 the man called Sting captured his first US championship by winning the tournament, defeating Arn Anderson, The Diamond Studd & Steve Austin to do so. By this point, Sting was far & away the franchise of WCW an him holding the strap elevated its importance. He had a fun feud with Cactus Jack & Abdullah the Butcher before his first reign would end at the hands of Rick Rude, which helped jump start Sting’s feud with the Dangerous Alliance in late 1991. Oddly enough, the Stinger’s second reign also came via winning a tournament. He defeated Arn, Paul Orndorff & Meng en route to picking up his second US title at the 1995 Great American Bash. Unfortunately, this was overshadowed by the WCW’s fascination with trying to recreate ‘Hulkamania’ 4-5 years after it had peaked. The thing about Sting holding the US championship was that whenever he was the man holding the gold, the title was instantly elevated just by being around the waist of the franchise of WCW. While Sting never had long reigns as US champ, they provided some entertaining matches & feuds for the fans of WCW and his spot is certainly warranted on any US champs list.”
Billy: “They don’t come any tougher in the history of the business that Blackjack Mulligan. A 4-time holder of the US title, Blackjack had many hot feuds in the Mid-Atlantic territory. None of those may be better remembered than his wars with Paul Jones, as they traded the title back & forth over the course of 1976. Wars with Wahoo McDaniel, Rufus Jones & others helped make Mulligan one of the Crockett territories biggest stars, starting in the George Scott era. He was the man who defined the title for a 2-3 stretch and Blackjack was a man who’d do anything to win or retain the US strap. His reigns as US champion were a huge part in making that title as important as it was during the Mid-Atlantic heyday.”
7. Tully Blanchard
1 time champion (7/21/1985-11/28/1985)
Billy: “Blanchard took the NWA by storm in 1984, entering the Mid-Atlantic territory and immediately becoming a star for JCP. After some great matches against Mark Youngblood, JYD, Ricky Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes & others over the promotion’s Television title he set his sights on the NWA United States title. ‘Tully Blanchard Enterprises’ aimed to take out Magnum TA and capture US gold. Tully’s first and only reign with the title started on July 21st, 1985 and the legendary feud with Magnum is one of the best in the history of the promotion. They produced some great stuff together, including a brutal & violent all-time classic at Starrcade ’85. While Tully never had a second run with the title, it’s hard to argue the impact he had on the title’s lineage. He carried himself like a true champion, no matter what title he was holding. He made you believe that he was the best around and that his title was the richest prize in the territory and will go down as one of the best US champs of JCP’s glory days.”
6. Rick Rude
1 time champion (11/19/1991-12/1992)
Robot Hammer: “What I’d like to have right now is for all you hyperactive 4CR fanatics to keep the noise down while I tell you what a REAL US champion is supposed to be like. Rick Rude rejoined the WCW in 1991, becoming a featured member of the Dangerous Alliance. He soon defeated Sting to claim the US title, holding it for 14 months. He’d hold the title until having to vacate it due to injuries.
While Rude’s WCW stint didn’t lend itself to the theatrics that are associated with his time in the WWF, he still had competitors like Sting, Dustin Rhodes, and Ricky Steamboat to defend his title against. I’ve always felt that Rude’s showmanship took precedence in the WWF, whereas his time in WCW let him focus more on his in ring skills. Either way, in either promotion, Rude excelled at showing all the sweathogs in the audience what a true competitor was supposed to look like. Now hit his music.”
5. Wahoo McDaniel
5 time champion (8/8/1981-9/1981; 5/21/1982-6/7/1982; 8/22/1982-11/4/1982; 6/24/1984-7/1984; 10/7/1984-3/23/1985)
Billy: “’The Chief’ is one of my all-time favorites and is one of the biggest stars that the Mid-Atlantic territory ever saw. Legendary toughness was Wahoo’s calling card and when you combined that with his charisma and skills, it’s easy to see why McDaniel is loved by so many fans of that era. He was arguably the biggest star in the area until his departure in 1978, but Wahoo seemingly picked right back up when he returned in 1981. He entered into a feud with US champ Roddy Piper and captured his first of 5 US championships in August of 1981. Wahoo became a fixture of the US title scene over the next few years, engaging in legendary feuds & matches with Sgt. Slaughter, Greg Valentine, Abdullah the Butcher, Rick Steamboat, Magnum TA, Billy Graham & others. His heel turn in 1984 to regain the title was beautifully done and is one of the best storylines from the time period. Injuries unfortunately took their toll on Chief Wahoo quite often during his times as champ but his reigns were box office and produced some classic matches & memories for the Mid-Atlantic faithful. Definitely more than deserving to be on this list.”
4. Ric Flair
6 time champion (7/29/1977-10/21/1977; 4/9/1978-12/18/1978; 4/1/1979-8/12/1979; 4/19/1980-7/26/1980; 11/24/1980-1/27/1981; 7/7/1996-11/1996)
Billy: “Before becoming the greatest World champion in the history of the business, Ric Flair made his name as a great United States champion. He defeated some true legends in his first five reigns including Bobo Brazil, ‘Mr Wrestling’ Tim Woods, Jimmy Snuka, Greg Valentine and of course, Ricky Steamboat. Flair used his time as US champ to prove that he could be ‘the man’ for the NWA and he did so on a nightly basis. Obviously, he would use these reigns to springboard to the World title and become a legend. ‘Naitch’ would actually go on to win the title again some 16 years after his last reign ended, defeating Konnan at Bash at the Beach ’96 and giving the title a big time shot in the arm. He would defend against some of WCW’s best until an arm injury in late-96 would force him to relinquish the title. Without his reigns as US champ, it’s hard to say whether or not the Crocketts would’ve taken the risk to implore the NWA to put the World title on Flair. But his feuds with the men mentioned above and many others proved that Flair was truly a diamond in this business and the rest, as they say, is history. WOOOO!”
3. Greg Valentine
3 time champion (7/26/1980-11/24/1980; 11/4/1982-4/16/1983; 4/30/1983-12/14/1983)
Billy: “The man known as ‘The Hammer’ has an indelible link to the United States title, with his reigns boasting two of the Mid-Atlantic territories greatest rivalries. His first reign came at the expense of his former tag team partner Ric Flair, whom Valentine turned on during a tag match against Jimmy Snuka & The Iron Sheik. The angle surrounding the match was white hot, as was their feud over the title. Valentine would re-ignite a war with former adversary Wahoo McDaniel over the title, who’s leg ‘The Hammer’ had broken a few years back. He would defeat his former Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title rival once again in November 1982 to capture his second US title. Roddy Piper would give chase to Greg’s title and in 1983 these two set out on a vicious feud that saw them trade the championship twice. They continued to wage war throughout the rest of the year, culminating in a non-title Dog Collar match at the first ever Starrcade. Valentine would drop the title to Dick Slater less than a month later but by then, Valentine’s name had been placed in the annals of great US champions. He would leave for the World Wrestling Federation not long after, but ‘The Hammer’ will always be closely associated with glory days of MACW and the United States championship.”
2. Lex Luger
5 time champion (7/11/1987-11/26/1987; 2/20/1989-5/7/1989; 5/22/1989-10/27/1990; 12/16/1990-7/14/1991; 8/10/1998-8/13/1998)
Robot Hammer: “Confession time: NWA Lex Luger was my jam. Everything clicked for the Total Package during his time spent in the south. Lex had the look, the crowds cheered or booed him in turn, and he had the right mix of opponents to accentuate his strengths. Luger’s baby face comebacks were pure magic and, to this day, the Torture Rack is still one of my favorite submission maneuvers.
Lex holds the record for the longest US title reign, and is tied with four other former champions with a record setting five title reigns. Luger defeated the likes of Nikita Koloff, Barry Windham, Michael P.S. Hayes, Stan Hansen, and Bret Hart to claim the title, and I didn’t see a single slouch in that list. Over the years, Lex has had more than his share of detractors amongst fans and critics, but I maintain the opinion that his career started off on the right track in the NWA, and the US Title was a huge part of his success.”
1. Magnum TA
2 time champion (3/23/1985-7/21/1985; 11/28/1985-5/29/1986)
Robot Hammer: “Terry Allen wrestled less than a decade, and spent less than three years working for the NWA’s Jim Crockett Promotions. But in that short amount of time, one thing was made abundantly clear: Magnum TA was going to be a major star in the wrestling business. Magnum claimed his first US title by defeating a man who had already established himself as a champion in the squared circle, Wahoo McDaniel. Soon after winning the title, he went into his career defining feud with the Four Horsemen, most notably Tully Blanchard. Tully claimed the title from Magnum, but Blanchard’s win didn’t stop Magnum from reclaiming the title. Their rematch was an I Quit match that took place within the confines of a steel cage. It was a brutal, grueling cage match that saw Magnum emerge victorious, and easily ranks among the greatest cage matches of all time. He followed this victory with a series of matches against the Russian Nightmare Nikita Koloff. This series led to Magnum being stripped of the title, and ultimately losing a best of seven series. It’s widely assumed that Magnum would leave the US title behind and begin a quest towards the NWA Heavyweight championship.
Everything was seemingly working in Magnum’s favor, until October of 1986, when a car accident would cause injuries that would leave him paralyzed on his right side for months. Thankfully, Magnum regained movement and physical therapy allowed him to regain his ability to walk, albeit with the use of a cane. Magnum would later spend time as a manager, a commentator, and an interviewer, but his in ring career was over.
Even though he only held the title twice, the US championship was a stepping stone that would have led to bigger and better things. There aren’t many sure things in life, and that rule certainly applies to the world of professional wrestling, but Magnum TA’s rise in the ranks of the NWA seemed as certain as it could be.”
There you have it, the greatest US champions of all-time as voted on by you! A list full of present & future Hall of Famers that really show just how important that title’s lineage is. Classic matches & memories have been built around the US strap throughout history that have stood the test of time. Thanks to all of you who voted on this one and I hope the outpouring of votes continues for the next 10 Spot. We’re rapidly approaching the half-year mark and I want to know what you guys have loved so far during the first 6 months in WWE. Next time on the 10 Spot, the top 10 performers in WWE for 2014 (so far)! Send those votes in so Robot & I can caount ’em down! Until then, keep having fun with wrestling–it’s why we started watching it in the first place!