WWE’s penchant for changing wrestler names is a well-trodden path. The company does it all the time, predominantly to ensure they own a name they can trademark and market. However, when one of their most popular rising stars, WALTER, was rebranded as “Gunther” on Tuesday night — well, WWE really stepped in it.
The 34-year-old wrestler from Austria is a massive crowd favorite. WALTER established himself on the independent scene throughout the 2000s and 2010s, routinely having some of the best, hard-hitting matches wherever he went. Seriously, the man is a delight. An old-school throwback wrestler with a modern flair, who looks like a James Bond villain, making his one-word, all-caps name absolutely perfect.
However, people took notice when a copyright filing by WWE including the ring name “Gunther Stark.” It has been presumed WALTER was going to move away from NXT (WWE’s developmental brand) and onto its main roster to coincide with the Royal Rumble, making the name change a natural part of the process.
Just one problem. There already was a “Gunther Stark,” and he might have been a Nazi.
Now look, I know not EVERYONE who fought for the Germans in World War II was a member of the Nazi party — but Gunther Stark was at the very least a U-Boat captain who fought for the Nazis. So taking a man who is from Austria and re-branding him after a very-real historical figure, who just so happened to be on the Axis side of WWII, considering everything happening in the world right now is ... hoo boy.
Former WWE wrestler Keith Lee, couldn’t believe it either.
Man....if what I'm hearing is real....— Selective Lee (@RealKeithLee) January 19, 2022
Maybe it’s all just a weird coincidence. Perhaps someone in the WWE creative department is a big Game of Thrones fan and thought it sounded like Ned Stark’s weird German cousin. Or maybe there’s an actual Nazi sympathizer making decisions and didn’t expect anyone to catch their Easter Egg. I’d like to believe this was an innocent mistake, but not double-checking that your Austrian wrestler might be getting the name of a potential Nazi is worthy of ridicule.