When 2022 draws to a close, Gunther would have held the WWE Intercontinental Championship for 205 days. This is just one of many reasons why Gunther is the WWE breakout star of 2022. Sure, Sami Zayn has reached new heights in recent months. Logan Paul has had two very impressive matches. But, nobody who debuted on the WWE main roster has had the impact of Gunther. Let’s take a look at his 2022.
Gunther: WWE’s Breakout Star of 2022
When 2022 began, Gunther was called WALTER. He’d recently left NXT UK and was engaging in some pretty uninspiring feuds on an NXT 2.0 that nobody really knew what to make of.
But as we hit WrestleMania weekend, WALTER reminded us what he was all about with a decent match against LA Knight at NXT Stand & Deliver. He then lost an NXT Championship match to Bron Breakker and many wondered if that was the end of WALTER; a performer with so much potential that many feared WWE wouldn’t know how to handle.
WALTER debuted as Gunther on SmackDown on April 22 and the name change was met with controversy. At least he had Marcel Barthel with him, but he was now called Ludwig Kaiser. There was a fear that WWE was taking a good thing in WALTER and Barthel and ruining it.
These fears were slowly quashed as Gunther squashed various jobbers on SmackDown.
As the Spring became the Summer, Gunther was quietly winning matches in dominant fashion.
.@Gunther_AUT look to send shockwaves in his #SmackDown debut. pic.twitter.com/vTl2HV81uR
— WWE (@WWE) April 10, 2022
Intercontinental Championship Win
Gunther was handed a shot at Ricochet and his Intercontinental Championship. On the June 6 edition of SmackDown, Gunther defeated Ricochet to win his first major championship in WWE. in a decent match. Gunther and Ricochet have feuded ever since this match with the Austrian always coming out on top.
Gunther also had an impressive title defense against Shinsuke Nakamura. Gunther’s championship defenses were becoming the best in-ring action on SmackDown.
Three months into Gunther’s reign, it was time for a feud that truly put him on the map.
Match Of The Year
Gunther is an absolute hero in the United Kingdon. He helped put the UK scene on the map when he held the NXT UK Championship for 870 days. So, with the Clash at the Castle event planned for Wales, UK there was a hope WWE would put Gunther in a showcase match.
Boy, did WWE deliver? Gunther and Kaiser entered into a rivalry with Sheamus, Butch, and Ridge Holland. This was set to culminate with Gunther vs. Sheamus at Clash at the Castle in front of a crowd that loved both competitors.
Before the bell rang, Giovanni Vinci debuted to even the odds in the rivalry and complete the Imperium stable. Vinci and Kaiser brawled with Butch and Holland to the backstage area. This cleared the arena for Gunther and Sheamus to fight uninterrupted.
The two men put on a hard-hitting and evenly-weighted match that hooked the 62,296 attendees in. As the match developed, so did the support of the crowd as they longed for Sheamus to win the Intercontinental Championship on UK soil.
WWE had the opportunity to provide a feel-good moment and satisfy the fans with a Sheamus victory. But, thankfully, WWE gave Gunther the victory. Fans at the Principality Stadium reacted well to Gunther retaining the championship as it reflected that WWE was committed to telling a longer, deeper story. That story is about Gunther as the most dominant Intercontinental Champion of all time.
WWE The Bump awarded the bout the 2nd best WWE Match of the Year. This writer would put it slightly higher. There is no doubt it was one of the greatest matches from the past 12 months.
200 Days And Counting
The Austrian star saw out the year with enjoyable bouts against Sheamus and his Brawling Brutes. This was followed by a solid program with Rey Mysterio Jr. With more than 200 days as Intercontinental Champion under his belt, Gunther is the most dominant holder of that title in over a decade.
Cody Rhodes held the title for 236 days between 2011 – 12. You’d have to go back to Shelton Benjamin’s 244-day reign (2004/2005) or The Rock’s 265-day reign (1997/1998) to find anyone that has hit the 200-day streak of Gunther.
With WrestleMania more than three months away, it’s likely Gunther will go into the show as the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion since the late 1980s, an era when most title reigns lasted at least a year.
A match of the year candidate. Consistent dominance in matches. A record title reign. You’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone who debuted in WWE in 2022 that’s had such an impact as Gunther.
Header Photo Credit: World Wrestling Entertainment
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