If you watched NXT 2.0 last night, you will have noticed that – in the culmination of the main event – WALTER announced that he is no longer WALTER, but Gunther. If you did not watch NXT 2.0 last night, you will have noticed that – in the culmination of the main event – WALTER announced that he is no longer WALTER, but Gunther. Yes, you read that twice – it is a news story which has (rightfully) circulated among wrestling fans throughout the day. Why? Because, a few hours prior to WALTER announcing this rather sudden name change, it was revealed that the WWE had filed to trademark the name “Gunther Stark”. An innocent name trademark attempt, you might think – perhaps paying homage to the Stark family of Game of Thrones fame. Perhaps the lucky recipient of the name “Gunther Stark” would be booked as a German, billionaire playboy; complete with iron, crime fighting power suit. It instead turned out to be far worse – the name is one which belongs to a Nazi German u-boat commander from World War II. Uh oh.
WALTER to Gunther Name Change: Unnecessary, Ignorant and Offensive
The Same Old WWE
We know why the WWE wanted to change WALTER’s name. Like most other independent wrestlers who came into the WWE with their “indie name” intact, WALTER very likely owns the rights to the name. Therefore, the WWE is limited in how much they can profit from a name they do not own – so, from a business perspective, it makes perfect sense and the WWE is within their right to change the names of their workers. That’s not the problem here. In many ways, WALTER was lucky because Gunther Stark (or simply Gunther, as he appears to be named) is a cooler name than others which have come before – Dolph Ziggler, Keith “Bearcat” Lee and countless others who have either had their name shortened or changed entirely. However, it is impossible to comprehend a company as large as the WWE filing to trademark this name without first doing a simple Google search of its history – and it is only a simple Google search required to bring up evidence that Gunther Stark was a pretty prominent Nazi. Either there has been a failure in researching the name, or they knowingly gave WALTER a name with Nazi connotations – which would not be surprising at all, given the WWE’s well-known history of placing foreign stars into either ridiculous or offensive gimmicks (don’t get us started on poor Sarray).
As is typically the case when the company makes negative headlines for situations such as these, there is the typical chorus of WWE defenders citing that it was likely a coincidence and “but they cut out the surname”, like that makes things any less offensive. It is gravely offensive to equate a present-day Austrian (or German, for that matter) to Nazism and it is offensive to Jewish fans, also. If the WWE had any regret about the decision to give this name to WALTER, they would have revoked the change in the hours between the revelation of the name’s history and the airing of the show. Instead, they merely and seemingly cut off the second name and intend to press on with WALTER bearing this new, offensive name. Shame on the WWE and shame on all those who have defended the WWE for making this change. This is the same company who prominently booked the Heidenreich character, let’s not forget. No matter what, WALTER remains one of the best professional wrestlers around today and we may only hope that his name change isn’t a reflection of his character direction. Long live WALTER.
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