This week's NXT ended on a bizarre note when Walter, having just beaten Roderick Strong, grabbed a microphone and called himself "Gunther" while proclaiming himself the winner of the main event. The name change caused an instant wave of backlash on social media — some of which you can see here — but not for the reasons you might think. WWE making its wrestlers change or alter their names is nothing new, and some of the anger regarding the change was simply due to the fact that the "Ring General" had already made a name for himself within WWE given he holds the record for longest championship reign of the modern era (870 days as NXT UK Champion) and had appeared on both the NXT brand and the main roster in recent years.
But the real frustration came from what appears to be a pretty big oversight from the company. It was reported earlier this week that WWE had filed the trademark for Gunther Stark, and Walter's announcement seemed to indicate that was going to be his new name. Except that is also the name of a well-known German U-boat captain from World War II.
While WWE's recap of the show still refers to him as Walter and the former champ hasn't changed anything on his social media, WWE.com's official roster page now reflects the name change. It appears WWE has split the difference by not giving Gunther a last name.
Even former WWE stars have voiced their disappointment, with Keith Lee tweeting out, "Man....if what I'm hearing is real....Poor Walter." The 34-year-old had made a name for himself on the independent scene as one of the hardest-hitting grapplers in the world and one of the most promising stars coming out of Europe, though he often stated in interviews that he had no interest of moving to the United States in order to wrestle for WWE full-time. His recent departure from NXT UK to NXT seems to have reflected a change in that stance.
The company has always been very high on him, especially when you look at comments made by Triple H. At one point, while on an interview with The Bump last year, he even compared him to Brock Lesnar.
"It is tough to bet against Walter," Triple H said. "Anyone who has watched him over the last few years, anyone who has recently watched him against Ilja [Dragunov], one of the most physically imposing, physically dominating performers out there. There's no wasted movement, he's not flashy, he doesn't care about how it looks, he's just effective. That said, you've seen it in the past with other talent like Brock Lesnar.
"Brock has struggled a lot of times with more smaller guys, speed kills," he continued."You would watch Brock Lesnar sometimes step in the ring with Daniel Bryan and have a much more difficult time, Daniel Bryan would get much more in because Brock couldn't strike as hard and as fast, he would have to catch him first and find his way. In that process, he would eat a lot of shots, now it would take a lot of shots from Daniel Bryan's size to knock Brock Lesnar down, but he ate a lot of shots to get one in. Walter just has to sustain that."