As odd as it may seem, the WWE World Champion Seth Rollins is not the top down on the company’s ladder despite his win over Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 last weekend. That distinction still belongs to John Cena, the current United States Champion, although the 15-time World Champion is third in position in terms of title distinction.
Back in the day, the United States Title meant something, especially in the NWA. Harley Race was recognized as the first ever champion, having beaten Johnny Weave in a national tournament in 1975. Since then, greats like Jack Brisco, Ric Flair, Wahoo McDaniel and Magnum TA made the belt popular, and in some regions that only saw the world champion when he toured the country, the United States Title meant as much if not more to that promotion.
Overall, there have been 79 different champions. Ric Flair holds the record for having the most reigns at six, while John Cena holds the record for most reigns under the WWE banner at four. Lex Luger holds the record for longest reign, with his third reign lasting a total of 523 days, while Dean Ambrose holds the longest reign since WWE reactivated the title, at 351 days (overall the third longest in the title’s history). Only two men, Lex Luger and Rick Rude, in history have held the championship for a continuous reign of one year (365 days) or more.
It is that kind of prestige someone like Cena brings to the current strap. This is his fourth title reign as he first won it back in 2004.
I’m reminded of great battles from the past like Magnum TA and Wahoo McDaniel, which eventually led to Magnum TA and Nikita Koloff and their Best of Seven series in the mid-1980s. Koloff, the then hated Russian, would not be denied as he took the strap much to the disapproval of the fans.
Koloff would defeat then Wahoo McDaniel to unify the NWA National Heavyweight Championship into the US title.
Those matches mattered as much as the U.S. Title match between Cena and Rusev last week. I did not necessarily agree with the WWE’s decision to take the belt from Rusev because his unbeaten streak and run through the roster was impressive – something the company needed in light of the Roman Reigns debacle. But when the move was made to make Rollins the new company title holder, letting Cena win the strap makes more sense after the fact. Does this mean that Cena will eventually get a title shot because he is now the U.S. Champ? Maybe not, given that there are others in line for the title.
Brock Lesnar will be given his rematch. The program between Randy Orton and Rollins is heating up again after the two were showcased last weekend. Daniel Bryan has to figure in the mix, having won the Intercontinental Title and of course, there is still Reigns to think of as a future champion.
In this case, putting the strap on Cena is more than dollars and sense. It really about the right person to defend what makes us the most proud. And when someone steps on Old Glory, who else are you going to call on to defends its honor?