Long-time star vying for the belt, former rival - 5 challengers for Gunther's Intercontinental Championship following his win on WWE SmackDown

Gunther is still the Intercontinental Champion on WWE SmackDown
Gunther is still the Intercontinental Champion on WWE SmackDown

Gunther was in a big-time match on the most recent edition of WWE SmackDown. After weeks of issues with the giant Braun Strowman, the battle-tested Austrian defended his Intercontinental Championship against The Monster Of All Monsters.

While it was an epic back-and-forth bout with fans regularly on their feet, Strowman was ultimately unable to dethrone Gunther for the title. The Ring General's win came somewhat clean. Kaiser and Vinci attempted to interfere early in the match but were long gone by the time the bout came to a close.

Strowman is another in a long list of opponents Gunther has managed to topple on the blue brand. He's also defeated the likes of Ricochet, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sheamus, and Rey Mysterio with the Intercontinental Championship on the line.

With so many stars battered and bruised, who will be next to step up to The Ring General on WWE SmackDown? Which star may pursue the coveted Intercontinental Championship? WWE's roster is stacked, and there's a ton of great potential candidates who could attempt to dethrone the Austrian star.

Below are five challengers for Gunther's Intercontinental Championship following his win on WWE SmackDown.

#5. Butch and Gunther have history in another life

Butch in action
Butch in action

Butch is one of the most talented stars in WWE. He was the second-ever NXT United Kingdom Champion and happened to be a pillar on the British brand before moving to NXT and later WWE SmackDown.

Back when Butch was known as Pete Dunne, he clashed with Gunther, who was then known as WALTER. The two battled in numerous independent wrestling promotions but also clashed on both an NXT TakeOver event and on NXT UK television.

The two talented European stars could clash over the Intercontinental Championship on WWE SmackDown. Many fans are still hoping to see Butch channel more of The Bruiserweight and there's no better time to do so than when battling The Ring General. Plus, fans already know they can put on an incredible match.

#4. Kofi Kingston likely wants a rematch after losing to Gunther on WWE SmackDown in December

Kofi Kingston
Kofi Kingston

Kofi Kingston has won numerous championships on both WWE SmackDown and RAW. He's a former WWE Champion, Intercontinental Champion, and United States Champion. Kingston is also one of the most successful tag team wrestlers in history.

The highly decorated Kofi Kingston battled Gunther on three occasions. Two of those were in six-man tag team action where his team was victorious, but Gunther wasn't pinned. He also battled the Austrian in a singles match on the December 2nd, 2022 edition of WWE SmackDown but came up short.

Whilst the New Day member lost, he took the fight to The Ring General for over ten minutes. Given that the title wasn't on the line, he could still find himself in championship contention soon. Could the current NXT Tag Team Champion attempt to win singles gold as well?

#3. Xavier Woods often mentions that winning the Intercontinental Championship is a goal of his

Xavier Woods vs Gunther would be a BANGER for the Intercontinental Championship ๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ”ฅ #SmackDown

Xavier Woods is another member of The New Day. While he doesn't have the accolades Kingston does, he is a multi-time tag team champion and one of the best tag team wrestlers of his or any era. He's also a former King of the Ring Tournament winner.

Given that Kofi Kingston has already lost to Gunther, perhaps Xavier Woods can battle the Intercontinental Champion instead. They've never had a one-on-one bout, which would make for a very fresh match.

Another key reason why they should compete is that Woods has often talked about his desire to win the Intercontinental Championship. He did the same regarding King of the Ring and eventually won the tournament, so perhaps the coveted Intercontinental Title is next.

#2. Santos Escobar nearly won the WWE SmackDown World Cup

Santos Escobar
Santos Escobar

Santos Escobar is a rising star on the blue brand. The former NXT Cruiserweight Champion leads the Legado del Fantasma faction. The group also features Zelina Vega, Cruz Del Toro, and Joaquin Wilde.

Legado del Fantasma doesn't have much experience with Gunther. While Imperium and Legado were both top stables prior to joining the main roster, the two groups mostly stayed away from each other.

Given the talent in both stables, a rivalry between Escobar and Gunther could lead to Legado del Fantasma and Imperium having epic six-man tag team matches. Plus, Santos nearly won the WWE SmackDown World Cup, so a title opportunity was nearly within his grasp already. They would also likely have incredible matches together.

#1. Drew McIntyre vs. Gunther could be a major feud on WWE SmackDown

"I want it. He wants it. The fans want it. It's only a matter of time."- Drew McIntyre on a match with GUNTHER [The Bump]

Drew McIntyre is one of the top stars on WWE SmackDown. The Scottish Warrior is a former WWE Champion who's held several other belts in the company and in other promotions all around the world.

The Scottish Psychopath and Gunther have only locked horns on television once, and it was on a program that many fans didn't see. They clashed at Tribute To The Troops 2022 in a six-man tag team bout. McIntyre, Ricochet, and Sheamus defeated Imperium in a feel-good moment.

A bout between these two stars could be epic. Both are bruising brawlers who hit hard and like to be hit hard. Given Gunther's incredible matches with Sheamus last year, Drew & The Ring General could likely deliver matches of similar quality if the opportunity arises. Plus, fans want to see the bout, so it really should come sooner-rather-than-later.

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Edited by Ken Cameron