As I discussed in my recent book review on Dick Bourne’s United States Championship: A Close Look at Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's Greatest Championship, Jim Crockett Promotions’ United States Heavyweight Championship was one of the most prestigious titles in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), serving as a steppingstone to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and being 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. However, which one of these stars is the greatest U.S. Champion of all time? It’s time to find out as Canadian Bulldog’s World presents The Greatest U.S. Champion of All Time Tournament. This is part one of round one, an elimination tournament with the winner advancing to round two and the loser heading to WWE Main Event (just kidding, I wouldn’t do that to my arch-enemy).
Here are your competitors for round one:
Harley Race vs. Tully Blanchard
Paul Jones vs. Barry Windham
Jimmy Snuka vs. Magnum T.A.
Terry Funk vs. Ricky Steamboat
Bobo Brazil vs. Nikita Koloff
Dick Slater vs. Lex Luger
Dusty Rhodes vs. Greg Valentine:
Sgt. Slaughter vs. Johnny Valentine
First Round Byes: Blackjack Mulligan, Ric Flair, and Wahoo McDaniel.
The first-round matches are being held at the historic Charlotte Coliseum (now known as the Bojangles Coliseum) in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charlotte Coliseum opened in 1955 and could hold 10,000-14,000 people, depending on the event. Tonight’s card is headlined by the first round of The Greatest U.S. Champion of All Time Tournament. Dignitaries from the world of professional wrestling are on hand including former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz, current AWA World Champion Verne Gagne, and former WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino.
Round One (Part One)
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Harley Race vs. Tully Blanchard
Harley Race was arguably the last of the true NWA Champions, a man who could defend the title in the ring in the event of a double-cross while he drew packed house after packed house making challengers look good even while he emerged victorious. Race’s innate toughness, technical skills, and ability to brawl as needed made him one of the greatest wrestlers of his age as well as one of the greatest NWA World Heavyweight Champions of all time. Race was the first man to hold the U.S. championship, winning it in a fictional tournament held in Florida when he bested Mid-Atlantic great Johnny Weaver in the final round. Race’s status as a former world champion gave the belt instant credibility for when Race defended it against Johnny Valentine in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, with Valentine defeating Race on July 3, 1975 to win the belt.
Tully Blanchard earned his stripes working in his father’s Southwest Championship Wrestling promotion. Unlike some sons who worked for their fathers, Blanchard could wrestle and draw, whether in singles or tag team action. Blanchard earned notoriety for his team with Gino Hernandez as “The Dynamic Duo,” a heel team that ran roughshod over the Texas promotion. Blanchard entered the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1984, quickly becoming a top star including a nearly one-year reign as the promotion’s Television Champion. Blanchard’s U.S. title reign saw him win the belt with the help of his valet Baby Doll, “The Perfect 10” during a match against Magnum T.A. (more on him soon). Blanchard’s slingshot suplex can end a match instantly.