The NWA Mid-Atlantic United States Heavyweight Championship was awarded to Harley Race on January 1, 1975, with the explanation that he had defeated Johnny Weaver in a tournament final. Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling declared Race to be the first United States Champion. It was the top title of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and by 1981, it was the one and only United States championship in all of the NWA.
When Ted Turner bought Mid-Atlantic, and turned it into WCW, the NWA Mid-Atlantic United States Championship Wrestling became known as the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship. Upon WCW's departure from the NWA in 1993, the title became the exclusive property of World Championship Wrestling.
When the WWF purchased WCW in 2001, they obtained all of World Championship Wrestling's assets, including their championships like the United States title. Initially, the U.S. title was unified with the Intercontinental Championship at the 2001 Survivor Series as they were each company's secondary championship. Edge, already the US champion, defeated Test for the IC belt, but the US title was retired as a result of the Winner Take All match.
One year after the WWE brand split, Smackdown! General Manager Stephanie McMahon resurrected the United States Championship as a secondary title on Smackdown! below the WWE Championship. Raw had just re-introduced the Intercontinental Championship as well. In the tournament finals, Eddie Guerrero defeated Chris Benoit at WWE Vengeance 2003 to become the first US champion since Edge.
In late 2005, reigning WWE United States champion John Cena introduced a customized design, including a spinning centerplate, resembling the then-trendy spinner hubcaps of the day (see right). When he was defeated by Orlando Jordan for the title, Cena's custom design was retired, and the previous WWE design was reinstated. This is the design still used.
Between 1975 and 2010, there were almost 70 different United States Champions with a total of about 120 reigns. Chris Benoit, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, and Wahoo McDaniel each had the most title reigns (five). Lex Luger held the title for 523 days between May 22, 1989 and October 27, 1990. Stone Cold Steve Austin held the title for 5 minutes, giving him the shortest reign.