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Gunther on Intercontinental Title: “I want to take this title and make it the ultimate prize to conquer”
SummerSlam marked a rebirth of sorts for WWE.
While Vince McMahon likely remains heavily involved in certain areas of the company, the one publicly in charge of WWE’s creativity is now Paul “Triple H” Levesque. This was evident at SummerSlamand again two nights later Raw, especially in the way women’s wrestling was presented, and through the renewed interest in Ciampa. It’s also great news for one of WWE’s most impressive rising stars, reigning Intercontinental Champion Gunther.
If you temporarily lost sight of the IC belt, it was designed. The title was not defended at WrestleMania 38, nor has it mattered all year. Since Gunther defeated Ricochet in June to become champion, it was not shown in either venue Money in the bank or SummerSlam. But there is real potential with Gunther as champion and Levesque at the creative helm. Levesque led his push as NXT UK Champion, a 685-day title reign that elevated Gunther’s (then known as Walter) status in WWE.
Through a violent and believable approach to professional wrestling, Gunther plans to restore meaning to a championship once known as a stepping stone to the WWE title.
“I want to take this title and make it the biggest prize to conquer,” says Gunther, who is Austrian-born Walter Hahn. “That’s the approach I had with the NXT UK Championship. The champion makes the title. That’s what I plan to do here.
Gunther is in the early stages of a feud with Shinsuke Nakamura, which is a solid way to start his career as champion. He looks different from most of his peers in the company. Listed at 6’4″, he has legitimate size, which further enhances his punishing style in the ring.
“It’s not about entertaining everyone,” Gunter says. “I want to be efficient and I want to be efficient. That’s my main focus.”
Although he looks like Walter, the man currently portraying Gunther has completely redefined his image. He has slimmed down and now sports one of the sharpest physiques in the industry.
It’s a bit disconcerting to see side-by-side visuals comparing Walter and Gunther. While he’s incredibly proud of his success in Europe, NXT and the US indies as Walter, he’s ready to venture into new territory as Gunther.
“I was a big fan of the look I had,” Gunther says. “I loved the foreign heavyweights going to Japan and beating the babies. And I was successful. But if I stay stagnant, I will fall behind. I always want to be one step ahead. No one told me to lose weight. I knew the move to the main cast was happening, so I wanted to transform 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.”
Losing weight didn’t make Gunther any less creepy. He noted that he was still right around 250 pounds, but now with increased muscle definition.
“I see the pictures of the comparisons and I’m proud of it, but it’s still me,” Gunther says. “I’ve never had cardio problems before. I’ve always been very comfortable, so it doesn’t seem that drastic to me. Maybe it is when you look at pictures.
Another significant change was the transition from his real name Walter to Gunther. He also handled it with ease, anticipating the differences in performance when he left Europe and committed himself fully to WWE.
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“Living in America was never something I pursued,” Gunter says. “I really like the way of life in Europe. But in the back of my head I knew it was time to move to take the next big step in wrestling. You have to be in the United States to do this, and the timing has been right for me over the past year.
“So the change from Walter to Gunther is part of the process in this business. Look at the wrestlers who made it to the top, they almost all went through some changes. I’m confident in what I do in the ring and I kind of expected the name change. No reason to fuss. Gunther gives off the same vibes as Walter. When I go to the ring, there is an atmosphere. This is who I am. I’m still me.”
The Intercontinental Title has lost its luster in WWE. Yet the reigning champion believes that is destined to change as long as he holds the belt.
“I’m going to give this title the prestige it needs and make it the biggest prize in wrestling,” Gunter says. “I would love to fight 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 getting started. I am very excited about this journey.”
(Online) the week in wrestling
- Brock Lesnar’s showing at SummerSlam was spectacular. Everyone involved in the Last Man Standing match deserves credit, but Lesnar took an iteration of a match we’ve seen many times before and made it unforgettable.
- In addition to highlighting Tommaso Ciampa as an in-ring performer, Raw’s presentation was noticeably different in the way it featured interviews, backstage segments (including one with The Usos), a match, and a brawl featuring the dominant new faction of Bayley, Yo Skye, and Dakota Kai.
- Becky Lynch’s shoulder injury would derail her momentum, but she still delivered an outstanding promo on Raw.
- The featured match on the Ric Flair’s Last Match card was a four-way lucha libre match. Here’s a great photo with some of the stars.
- I would love to see PAC get a shot at the AEW title.
- Japanese women’s promotion Stardom is introducing a new title that will hopefully lead to some great matches in the United States.
Scenic City Invitational, designed to bring excitement to indie
Scenic City Pro Wrestling is holding its annual Scenic City Invitational on Friday and Saturday, marking an opportunity to see the best indie stars in the industry.
The Tennessee-based event, which will be broadcast live on IWTV, is a tournament that features old-school ring psychology with some outstanding masters of the trade. This year’s field of 16 includes Myron Reid, Jayden Newman and Dominic Garrini.
“People are going to see insanely talented and motivated wrestlers from different backgrounds, regions, styles and experience levels,” said Scenic City promoter Scott Hensley, who made the decision to include women in the tournament this year. “We always want to feature some of the best wrestlers in the world and to do that we felt we had to include the likes of Trish Adora, Masha Slamovic and Billy Starks – they all live up to the distinction of being truly one of the best wrestlers in the world.”
In addition to the two-night invitation, Scenic City has added two more shows to the summer festivities. It starts with The night before show on Thursday, then the Futures Showcase on Saturday, both of which will air on IWTV.
“The TWE [Chattanooga]: The night before and Action Futures Showcase Tournament events are additional opportunities for us to partner with the local scene and showcase newer wrestlers who we truly believe are the future of the Scenic City and beyond,” says Hensley. “The Futures Showcase tournament has nine competitors each year and eight of the top 27 have signed professional contracts with major promotions, so we’re excited about the platform it’s become.”
Now in its seventh year, Hensley is grateful that SCI’s annual tournament has become a true showcase for talent eager to make a name for themselves.
“Our tournament is meaningful because it provides a platform for independent wrestlers to be seen while raising money for good local causes,” says Hensley. “We’ve had fans from the UK, Australia, Canada and Mexico travel to see our shows and we have a worldwide audience through IWTV as well as alumni signed to every major wrestling company. I’ve had guys thank me for changing their lives in terms of their wrestling careers, and we’ve also raised tens of thousands of dollars for local schools. As a kid who grew up booking GI Joe [action figures] fighting each other is a dream come true.
“It’s become a family-friendly destination wrestling event watched by people all over the world, where you might just see the next big star before he hits it big.”
Tweet of the week
Congrats to Ric Flair on his last match and it was perfect to have Tony Schiavone, who was great on the show, next to him.
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