500 days and counting as Intercontinental Champion.
‘The Ring General’ was originally a talent that many had already written off as a failed project on the main roster. As a foreign heavyweight coming into the shoddily-booked world of the main roster, folks were right to believe that eventually WALTER/Gunther would be written into an anti-American programme, likely ending with him being demolished by whoever they considered their old-glory waving hero of the month. Let’s face facts: pretty much every European, Asian or Middle-Eastern heel that’s run with the whole ‘I’m big and scary and I shout in a different language to you’ gimmick has soon turned into a comedy skit once their monster heel antics were over with.
Gunther would have suffered the same fate.
If a certain someone was still manipulating the booking backstage, chances are we’d have ‘The Ring General’ in some sort of dance-based persona or not part of the WWE roster full stop. Fortunately for everyone involved, with Triple H in charge, Gunther was allowed to maintain his physical wrestling style, his aura and his no-nonsense character from NXT and the indies and soon evolved into the biggest success story of recent memory.
Considering the general pessimism surrounding Gunther upon his arrival, to think that he would have not only usurped The Honky Tonk Man’s legendary Intercontinental title reign but to also hold the record for longest performance in a Royal Rumble match is simply insane. Gunther has gone from little-to-no-hope to suddenly being a potential Universal Champion once ‘The Tribal Chief’ has wrapped things up on his end. Despite the initial groans, the rebranded Gunther has become a household name to casual fans, something which I personally never expected when the then-WALTER first emerged on SmackDown Live last year.
Gunther’s quality of matches has been second to none. Looking back at his instant classic defences against the likes of Chad Gable, Tommaso Ciampa, Bronson Reed and Ricochet, there’s no doubt that Triple H is backstage loving the fact that his pet project has gone above and beyond expectations. Considering the WWE style of performing wouldn’t usually allow the same brutality seen in matches like WALTER/Ilja Dragunov or any of his previous bangers on the indie circuit, it was a pleasant surprise to hear that first cringe-inducing chop delivered by the big man on national television.
Haitch knew that’s precisely what brought Gunther to the dance in the first place, letting the super heavyweight do his big-beefy thing and slap people silly is exactly what the main roster needed in a new monster heel. Gunther has helped provide WWE with some of its best matches since his debut in NXT and that hasn’t slowed down. His matches with Sheamus and Drew McIntyre especially drew huge praise and attention from fans that were leaning more towards AEW at the time. It’s a breath of fresh air after so many years of tedious matches that have just let people down. Gunther delivers and then some on a weekly basis.
Put simply, Gunther has reaped the rewards of being one of the most successful wrestlers on the main roster for the last 5-6 years. It’s hard to think of other NXT call-ups that have done quite as well as Gunther. His title reign will go down in history as the one that helped claw the IC belt out of obscurity, a reminder of what a mid-card championship can do for a budding superstar, the necessary stepping stone to greatness. I hope that Gunther holds that championship for another year, or even more. Gunther is showing no signs of slowing down and his presence and reputation are only growing with each passing match.
Well done, Triple H, you’ve managed to finally make a star out of someone that’s honestly deserved it since day one. Same again with Pete Dunne, please?
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