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Gunther on the Intercontinental title: “I want to win this title and make it the biggest prize to conquer”
SummerSlam marked a kind of rebirth for WWE.
While Vince McMahon is likely to remain heavily involved in certain areas of the company, Paul “Triple H” Levesque is now the one publicly responsible for WWE creativity. That was evident at SummerSlamand again two nights later Raw, particularly in the way women’s wrestling was presented and through a renewed interest in Ciampa. This is also great news for one of WWE’s most formidable rising stars, reigning Intercontinental Champion Gunther.
If you temporarily lost sight of the IC belt, it was intentional. The title was not defended Wrestlemania 38, nor has it mattered all year. Since Gunther defeated Ricochet to become champion in June, it wasn’t shown either money in the bank or SummerSlam. But there is real potential with Gunther as the champion and Levesque as the creative mind. Levesque oversaw his push as NXT UK Champion, a 685-day title reign that elevated Gunther (then known as Walter)’s status in WWE.
Through a violent and believable approach to pro wrestling, Gunther plans to restore meaning to a championship once known as the stepping stone to the WWE Championship.
“I want to get that title and make it the biggest prize there is to conquer,” says Gunther, Austrian-born Walter Hahn. “That’s the approach I took to the NXT UK Championship. The champion makes the title. That’s what I intend to do here.”
Gunther is in the early stages of a feud with Shinsuke Nakamura, which is a solid way to start his run as a champion. He looks different than most of his peers across the company. At 6ft 4in, he is a legitimate height which further enhances his punishing style in the ring.
“It’s not about entertaining everyone,” says Gunther. “I want to be efficient and I want to be effective. That is my main focus.”
While he bears a resemblance to Walter, the man who currently portrays Gunther has completely redefined his image. He’s slimmed down and now boasts one of the sharper physiques in the industry.
It’s a bit chilling to see pictures side by side comparing Walter and Gunther. While incredibly proud of his success in Europe, NXT and American indies as Walter, he’s poised to break new ground as Gunther.
“I was a big fan of how I looked,” says Gunther. “I loved the foreign heavyweights who went to Japan and beat up the babyfaces. And I was successful. But when I stagnate, I fall behind. I always want to be one step ahead. Nobody ever told me to lose weight. I knew the transition to the main roster was happening, so I wanted to transition into something new.
“When we moved to Orlando, Marcel [Ludwig Kaiser] and Fabian [Aichner] were a great support. They are both in great shape and we have created a motivating and productive environment.”
The weight loss didn’t make Gunther any less terrifying. He noted that he still weighs around 250 pounds but now with improved muscle definition.
“I see the pictures of the comparisons and I’m proud of it, but I’m still me,” says Gunther. “I’ve never had cardio problems. I’ve always felt very comfortable, so it doesn’t seem so drastic to me. Maybe if you look at pictures it does.”
Another significant change was the transition from his real name, Walter, to Gunther. He handled that with ease as well, anticipating differences in presentation as he left Europe and fully committed to WWE.
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“Life in America was never something I pursued,” says Gunther. “I really like the way of life in Europe. But in the back of my mind I knew it was time to take the next big step in wrestling. You have to be in the United States to do that, and last year the timing was perfect for me.
“So moving from Walter to Gunther is part of the process in this business. Look at wrestlers who have made it to the top, they’ve almost all gone through some changes. I’m confident in what I’m doing in the ring and I kind of expected the name change. There’s no reason to get excited. Gunther gives the same vibes as Walter. When I go to the ring there is a certain atmosphere. I agree. I still am.”
The intercontinental title has lost its luster in WWE. But the reigning champion believes that will change as long as he holds the belt.
“I’m going to give this title the prestige it needs and make it the greatest prize in wrestling,” says Gunther. “I would love to wrestle John Cena and anyone else who is considered elite. I didn’t come here to be mediocre. I came here to be in the ring with the best.
“I’m just starting out. I’m really looking forward to this journey.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Brock Lesnar’s performance at SummerSlam was spectacular. Everyone involved in the Last Man Standing match deserves credit, but Lesnar replayed a match we’ve witnessed multiple times and made it unforgettable.
- In addition to highlighting Tommaso Ciampa as the in-ring performer, Raw’s presentation was noticeably different in the way it contained interviews, backstage segments (including one with The Usos), a match and a brawl involving the dominant new faction involved Bayley, Io Sky and Dakota Kai.
- Becky Lynch’s shoulder injury will disrupt her momentum, but she still pulled off a stellar promo on Raw.
- The standout match on the Ric Flair’s Last Match card was the four-way Lucha Libre match. Here’s a great photo with some of its stars.
- I would love to see PAC make a run for the AEW title.
- Japanese women’s promotion Stardom is introducing a new title that will hopefully lead to some great games in the United States.
The Scenic City Invitational brings excitement to the indies
Scenic City Pro Wrestling hosts its annual Scenic City Invitational on Friday and Saturday, offering the opportunity to see the industry’s top indie stars.
The Tennessee-based event, which will be broadcast live on IWTV, is a tournament that features old-school in-ring psychology with some outstanding master craftsmen. This year’s field of 16 includes Myron Reed, Jaden Newman and Dominic Garrini.
“People are going to see incredibly talented and motivated wrestlers from all backgrounds, regions, styles and levels of experience,” said Scott Hensley, Scenic City’s promoter, who made the decision this year to include women in the tournament. “We always want to showcase some of the best wrestlers in the world and to do that we felt we had to include the likes of Trish Adora, Masha Slamovich and Billie Starkz – they all live up to the distinction of being truly among the best wrestlers in the world.”
In addition to the two-day invitational, Scenic City added two more shows to the summer festivals. It starts with The night before Show on Thursday, then Futures Showcase on Saturday, both of which will air on IWTV.
“That TWE [Chattanooga]: Eve and Action Futures Showcase Tournament events are additional opportunities for us to engage with the local scene and showcase newer wrestlers who we truly believe are the future of Scenic City and beyond,” says Hensley. “The Futures Showcase Tournament has nine participants each year and eight of the first 27 signed professional deals with major promotions, so we’re excited about the platform it’s become.”
Now in its seventh year, Hensley is grateful that the annual SCI tournament has become a true showcase for talent hungry to make their mark.
“Our tournament is meaningful because it provides a platform for independent wrestlers to be seen while also raising money for good local causes,” says Hensley. “We have fans traveling from the UK, Australia, Canada and Mexico to see our shows and we have a worldwide audience through IWTV as well as alumni signed with all the major wrestling companies. I have people thanking me for changing their lives in terms of their wrestling careers and we have also raised tens of thousands of dollars for local schools. As a kid growing up with GI Joe [action figures] wrestling with each other, it’s a dream come true.
“It has grown into a family-friendly destination wrestling event seen by people around the world where you might see the next big star before it makes it big.”
Tweet of the week
Congratulations to Ric Flair on his last match and having Tony Schiavone – who was amazing on the show – by his side was perfect.
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