It’s time for Round Two of The Greatest U.S. Champion of All Time Tournament, presented here at Canadian Bulldog’s World. In case you’re just tuning in, this tournament includes the 21 greats who held Jim Crockett Promotions’ United States Heavyweight Championship, one of the most prestigious titles in the National Wrestling Alliance. The belt served as a steppingstone to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and became the focus of many top programs in JCP. The 21 different men who held the belt were either famous veterans or rising stars who eventually became legends.
Round One featured 18 grappling greats battling to advance to round two while three other competitors (Ric Flair, Blackjack Mulligan, and Chief Wahoo McDaniel) received byes for having held the U.S. title the most times. Keep in mind that the wrestlers working the matches are in the same physical condition they were when they held the U.S. Championship which means nearly every competitor is in their wrestling prime.
The second-round matches are being held at the iconic Greenville Memorial Auditorium, located of course in Greenville, South Carolina. The 7,500 seat multi-purpose arena was built in 1958 and lasted until September 20, 1997 when it was imploded to make room for the Bi-Lo Center (now known as the Bon Secours Wellness Arena). Bob Caudle and David Crockett will be calling the action for round two’s matches. Every match in the second round is one fall with a 45-minute time limit.
Round Two (Match One)
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The referee begins counting both men out. 1, 2, 3 no one is moving. 4, 5 Race grabs the second rope as Piper rolls around. At 6, Race grabs the rope, ending the count at 7. Race ambles towards Piper and picks him up. This could be it for Piper. Race whips Piper into the ropes but Piper surprises him with a sleeperhold!
Piper has Race locked in the sleeper in the center of the ring. David Crockett shouts, “There’s no escape for Race!” as things look bleak for one of the greatest NWA World Heavyweight Champions of all time, and a man vying to lay claim as the greatest U.S. Champion of all time.
Roddy Piper vs. Harley Race
Rich Landrum interviews Harley Race before the match with Race saying he’s the greatest wrestler on God’s green earth which means he’s destined to be known as the greatest United States Champion as well. Race says he knows what kind of individual Piper is and if he wants to brawl, he’ll brawl. If Piper wants to wrestle scientifically, he’ll wrestle him scientifically, but no matter what, Race vows to come out the victor.
Referee Stu Schwartz signals for the bell to ring after he checks both wrestlers for foreign objects or other irregularities. Collar and elbow tie-up with both men positioning themselves for leverage. Piper and Race tumble around the ring, but neither gets the advantage. Another tie-up, but this time Race knees Piper in the gut. Side headlock by Race but Piper escapes, whipping him into the ropes and catching him with a back body-drop. Piper applies an armbar on Race, driving his knee into Race’s shoulder for added leverage.
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Piper maintains the armbar until Race gets to his feet and positions Piper on the ropes, kneeing him in the gut. Race slams Piper down onto the mat then hits “The Rowdy Scot” with a falling kneedrop to the head. Race repeats the maneuver as Piper rolls around on the mat. Harley picks up Piper and hits a salto suplex, stunning Hot Rod. Cover on Piper but Roddy kicks out at two.
It’s just ten minutes into the match and Race applies a side headlock, hoping to sap some strength out of Piper. After a few minutes it looks to be working. The referee checks but Piper’s still in it. In fact, he gets to his feet and escapes by suplexing Race down to the mat. However, Piper is spent from the headlock and executing the suplex. Race gets to his feet first but Piper fires off some punches to the gut. Race headbutts Piper then throws him through the ropes onto the unforgiving cement floor.
Race tries to escape several times, but Piper isn’t letting go. Finally, at the 30-minute mark, Race somehow snapmares Piper, freeing himself from the hold. Race rakes Piper’s eyes, hoping to catch a breather. Showing incredible resiliency, Race headbutts Piper, stunning him. Harley lifts Roddy up for a side suplex. Slow cover by Race as Piper kicks out at two. Race drops another knee on Piper’s head. It’s been working so far and it works again. Race goes to the second rope and comes off with a flying headbutt on Piper. Cover for a near-fall.
Although he thinks Schwartz is making a slow count, Race knows better than to waste his time arguing with him. Instead, he picks up Piper for an under-hook suplex. Race goes to lock the hold but instead, Piper counters, back body-dropping Race onto the mat. Piper is clearly on rubber-leg street though and falls to the mat after dropping Race.
Harley follows Piper out onto the floor and drops a knee across Piper’s head. Race bends down and starts punching Piper in the head as Stu Schwartz makes the ten count. Race gets back in the ring and starts jawing with the referee. Bob Caudle notes Race might be able to get a count-out win here, but he doesn’t seem to want to. Piper is slow to get to his feet and manages to get on the ring apron. Race meets him and punches Piper, knocking him off the apron. Piper lands hard. Race is about to go out again, but Schwartz tells him to stay in the ring. Race argues with Schwartz as Piper staggers around the ring, shaking his head.
Outside the ring, Piper looks like he’s going to the mat apron, but he grabs Race’s leg, surprising him and pulling him out. Piper poke to Race’s eyes, followed by “Hot Rod” ramming Race’s head into the mat apron. Piper whips Race into the ringpost and Race collides, collapsing to the floor. Piper rolls into the ring to break up the count then rolls back out. He grabs Race and rolls him back into the ring. David Crockett notes Race has managed to anger Piper, putting himself in a bad position. Piper picks up Race and hits a swinging neckbreaker. Cover on Harley, but he lands a foot on the bottom rope. Piper drops a knee across Race’s leg then covers him again. Race kicks out at two.
Piper is shouting something at Race as the two begin exchanging blows. Piper whips Race into the ropes and catches him with a double thrust. Race goes down as Piper drops a knee across Race’s head. Piper applies a chinlock, driving his knee into Race’s back. Piper is giving Race quite the battle and right now everything is going Piper’s way.