Incoming NXT 2.0 star Walter’s stateside debut on a WWE roster is something fans have waited a long time to see, but there’s yet another in-house controversy keeping cheers at bay. Just days before his official debut, the WWE filed a trademark to officially change the wrestler's name to Gunther Stark. Many pointed out the particular name was also that of a former Nazi commander, which quickly sparked a backlash against the WWE for planning tjat as the name for its incoming Austrian hopeful. The WWE made some changes to reverse course at the last minute, but so far, it’s not going too well.
Walter’s official NXT 2.0 debut (which came after a string of releases) went down on Tuesday, January 18, and after the aggressive wrestler dominated Roderick Strong, he grabbed the mic and revealed he’d henceforth be known as “Gunther.” The second name change, which nixed the last name “Stark,” is now officially part of the company's website’s roster, signaling execs intend on moving forward in spite of its remaining Nazi ties and the ongoing criticisms. Former WWE superstar Bully Ray Dudley didn’t hide his thoughts on the change, and voiced his displeasure on social media:
Walter RULED!!Gunther SUCKS!!@BustedOpenRadioJanuary 19, 2022
Bully Ray Dudley isn’t the only wrestling fan who feels that way, and in general, there’s a lot of confusion regarding the WWE’s insistence on keeping with the Gunther moniker, even after the initial trademark play for Gunther Stark spread to news outlets around the world. The decision to stay the course with “Gunther," despite it not being a name the Austrian-born Walter was previously associated with in his career is tough to understand in light of media coverage. (Especially considering his real name is Walter Hahn.) Not the best look for the WWE's fandom across the globe...
"Gunther" made mainstream German press. pic.twitter.com/ynHNc2ppUYJanuary 19, 2022
Right now, there’s no evidence that supports any ideas that the WWE intentionally chose the name Gunther Stark knowing its historical ties. Obviously, those within the company moved quickly to try and rectify the situation once the news broke. Unfortunately, the WWE does have a past history of giving foreign-born wrestlers gimmicks that mirror offensive stereotypes — and not everyone can own it like Iron Sheik — so to attach a name with Nazi ties to an Austrian wrestler is something that raised a few eyebrows. The name change is surprising to some, but former superstar Lance Storm didn’t seem phased by it.
Need I remind everyone Vince saw me as the partying dancing guy. Gunther is too much of a stretch all of a sudden?January 19, 2022
Many fans aren’t happy with the name change in general. There’s a widespread belief that it wasn’t necessary for Walter to change his name at all, and now he’s strapped to a name with controversy attached. It’s worth mentioning that Gunther was known as Walter all throughout his record-breaking 685-day championship reign in NXT UK. He’ll now have to forge a new path as Gunther, but he and the company might have an uphill battle based on early fan response.
Just woke to the news WALTER is now Gunther.Fuck off, WWE. You morons.January 19, 2022
Tensions are high amongst fans right now, but it’s possible this controversy may eventually fade in the coming weeks. Ultimately, there’s just a crowd of people who want to see Gunther be as dominant in NXT, and hopefully, the main roster of WWE in the coming years. There are a lot more factors at play than a name change for that to happen, though the outrage over the controversy is understandable. Perhaps some changes will come in the coming weeks for the character to further rectify the situation, but we can only wait and see. Maybe the WWE will introduce a new stable of wrestlers for Gunther to hang out with, presumably named Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Joey, and Chandler.
NXT 2.0 airs on USA Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET. Tune in to see Gunther’s opening run in the United States, and if he’ll be the absolute destructive force, he was overseas in NXT UK.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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