Independence Day, The Fourth of July, is a day for Americans to celebrate our freedom, remember those who have fought for our freedom and also light off a couple fireworks. What better day to kick off a series ranking the top ten United States Champions from each era?
The series will culminate in an article listing the top ten United States Champions of all-time. This series will only take into account what that wrestler did in that specific era. We will be following the United States Championship as it traveled from the NWA, to WCW, and eventually settling in WWE.
We start in 1975 when the championship was founded as the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship. During the 70’s, there were only 10 individual champions which we will be ranked by the number of reigns, length of reigns and any special circumstances such as being the first champion, etc.
The series should be great fun to rank, debate and also learn a few things. I hope you enjoy as we countdown the top ten United States Champions of the 1970’s.
10. Terry Funk
We kick off our list with the king of hardcore wrestling, Terry Funk. Funk became the third-ever champion when he won a tournament after the title was vacated. The Texas native held the NWA U.S. Heavyweight Championship for 18 days in November 1975. This would be Funk’s only reign in the 70’s and he would end up losing it to Paul Jones in his only title defense.
9. Mr. Wrestling
Number nine on our list is Mr. Wrestling, the former amateur wrestler also known as Tim Woods. Woods held the title for 21 days in March 1978. During his title reign, Wood successfully defended his championship five times, against the likes of Ken Patera, Baron Von Raschke, and Blackjack Mulligan. Although Woods won numerous titles while in the NWA, his reign as United States Champion wasn’t as successful. Mr. Wrestling would lose his title to Ric Flair in a hair vs. title match.
8. Bobo Brazil
Bobo Brazil comes in at our number eight spot with his reign only lasting one day longer than Mr. Wrestling’s. Brazil would gain the title after beating Blackjack Mulligan with Paul Jones as special guest referee. Despite not having a long reign, Brazil was the first African-American to win the United States Championship. In his 22 days as champion, Brazil successfully defended the championship two times, both against Blackjack Mulligan. Bobo would ultimately lose his championship to Ric Flair also.
7. Johnny Valentine
Our number seven spot is filled by Johnny Valentine, who was the second U.S. champion in history. Valentine’s run as champion lasted 93 days, in which he successfully defended the championship 14 times against the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Ken Patera, and Rufus R. Jones. Unfortunately, Valentines suffered a career-ending injury in an October 1975 plane crash that also held Ric Flair, Mr. Wrestling and David Crockett, the son of Jim Crockett. The injuries forced him to vacate the championship.
6. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
For the first time on our list, we come to someone who has won the championship more than once. Ricky Steamboat won the championship twice: the first in October 1977, the second in December 1978. In his first reign, Steamboat held the championship for 72 days, losing to Blackjack Mulligan on New Year’s Day. His second reign lasted a bit longer at 104 days. Steamboat would lose his second championship to Ric Flair on April 1st, 1978.
5. Paul Jones
Paul Jones is number five on our list and was a multiple-time champion in the 70’s. Jones held the championship three times, with his reigns lasting 107, 43, and six days, respectively. Jones was the fourth champion all-time and during his reigns as champ, he defended the championship a total of 31 times. Throughout most of 1975-1976, it seems as though he and Blackjack Mulligan were destined to continue trading the championship, as they had for most of that year.
4. Harley Race
We come to number four, in which we find the inaugural U.S. Champion, Harley Race. Race defeated Johnny Weaver in a tournament final to be crowned the new champion for Mid-Atlantic. Race’s reign as king would last 183 days, where he ultimately lost to Johnny Valentine on July 3rd, 1975. Although Race didn’t defend his championship, he will go down in history as one of the greatest.
3. Jimmy Snuka
Number three on our list is Jimmy Snuka, who was the last man to hold the championship in the 70’s. Snuka ushered the belt into the 1980’s with a 231-day reign. In his reign, Snuka defended the championship 26 times. “Superfly” won his title after defeating Steamboat in a tournament final in September 1979.
2. Ric Flair
Ric Flair is arguably the greatest wrestler of all-time, but on our list, he comes in at number two. Flair held the championship three times in the 70’s, totaling 470 days as champion. The father of Charlotte Flair was also the longest-reigning champ, with his second reign lasting 253 days. Flair defended the championship too many times to count and was a great champion, however, he isn’t number one.
1. Blackjack Mulligan
That would be Blackjack Mulligan, the man who held the title more times than anybody in the 70’s at 4 reigns. The grandfather to Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt also had the most days as champ at 506. Blackjack defended his championship more than 85 times in matches like a lumberjack match, No DQ match, and cage matches. Mulligan was the face of the 1970’s for the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship.