Somewhere deep inside WWE headquarters, one of the most philosophical questions that always seems to pop up is: "What's in a name?"
For WWE, it must mean everything because they have been doing a lot of switch-ups lately with their NXT call-ups. Pete Dunne became Butch, and Raquel Gonzalez became Raquel Rodriguez.
This isn't due to an identity crisis. These performers are being given monikers that the promotion cannot only have intellectual control over but can hopefully be marketed effectively for merchandise sales, marketing, etc.
Then there is the man once known as WALTER, whose switch to the name Gunther made a lot of the WWE Universe cringe. The Austrian powerhouse had established himself under his own real name. Several critics said this identity switch negated everything he accomplished in NXT UK, where he reigned as champion for an astounding 870 consecutive days.
Now, the 6'4", 300-pounder has transformed into more like a traditional-type character from the past. Gunther looks suspiciously closer to a 1950's pro wrasslin' villain than a modern-day mauler.
His old persona was built around simply showing up, brutalizing an opponent, and then exiting the ring in victory. Pretty simple stuff. Now? He looks more like a military-trained athlete from the days of the Cold War. One of those Eastern European athletes from the '80s who dominated the Olympics, or a new-age version of Ivan Drago.
To finish off the look, they gave him an overcoat as red as the flag of the old Soviet Union and a manager with a German name, Ludwig Kaiser (the former Marcel Barthel). As far as Vince McMahon and the WWE creative team have gone here, they are really turning back the clock in several ways.
This presentation may be outdated to some. But for some reason, wrestling fans always seem to fall for the 'foreign invader' gimmick, no matter what era we're in. It's probably because of some level of patriotism. OR? Just a natural urge to want to pound anyone who doesn't embrace the good ol' red, white and blue.
At the end of the day, it won't matter what WWE calls him. Gunther has all the tools to be a huge star, under any identity
Gunther's greatness lies in his simplicity. One thing that hasn't changed is his hard-striking, powerful ring style. He's also somewhat of a throwback in this area as well. He somewhat resembles Killer Kowalski in the ring, stalking his opponents and cornering them with his huge frame, only to then simply chop them down with his massive hands.
His sheer brute force has captured the imagination of the fans. And in an era where everyone is doing standing moonsaults and corkscrew planches, The Ring General does just what the word 'fight' implies: He just beats the crap out of someone with slaps, slams, and suplexes. He does it rather well.
So, despite being given a new name and a fresh coat of paint, the guy underneath is still the WALTER that we once knew. He's still going with what brought him to the dance. At 34 years of age, he is still going to improve as he faces better performers on the main roster.
For now? WWE has been feeding him preliminary competition for him to light up. They are certainly building him as an unstoppable machine, and Gunther is doing his best to play that role. It's not too hard, considering no one who has ever seen him wrestle once would doubt his toughness.
You can call him anything. Gunther's talent hasn't changed, and it continues to grow every day. Given time on SmackDown and a couple of really strong feuds, we may see this superstar in the Universal Championship mix sooner than any of us may have expected. He's that good, and he's clearly got the WWE machine behind him.
Maybe that's why they dressed him in that rose-colored jacket. Because you know what they say? A rose by any other name... is still a rose.
What do you think the future holds for Gunther on WWE SmackDown? Could he be a future Universal Champion? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
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