One of the most talked-about stories in the wrestling world this week has been WWE's Gunther Stark saga. One week ago today, WWE filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in an attempt to trademark the name "Gunther Stark". Almost immediately after this news hit the web, anyone in the world with internet access simply Googled the name and were shocked to find out that Gunther Stark was not only a real person but was in fact a Nazi military Commander in World War II who died in 1944. So did WWE immediately trash any and all plans to use the name upon learning of its nefarious past? Nope! On Tuesday's NXT 2.0, they planted it on the already firmly established and very popular WALTER.
WALTER's name change to Gunther was received just about as poorly as anything WWE creative has come up with in recent times. Aside from pissing everyone off by abruptly and inexplicably changing the name of a very popular talent immediately after a match in a very awkward fashion, the fact that they clearly knew they had screwed up and attempted to use the name of a real-life evil man (made all the more suspicious by using it on WALTER, an Austrian-born wrestler who has used Nazi-Esque fashion and presentations) by simply dropping the last name was insulting to everyone's intelligence.
And the drama continues, as now today we can see that WWE has filed for an "express abandonment" of their trademark attempt for "Gunther Stark", which is available to see on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.
So what are we to make of this? Are they scrapping the immediately tainted Gunther experiment and letting WALTER go back to his long-known name next week, acting like it never happened? Or by sticking with simply Gunther, do they think that's enough of a change so that no one will associate it with the attempted Gunther Stark?
Honestly, who knows? As much as I hate when WWE plays storyline amnesia, this is a circumstance where it would actually be the best route to take. The whole Gunther situation is an awful one, whether you approach it from the idiocy of changing the name of a firmly-established wrestler on your own programming, or if you look at it from the far more foul lens that they were honestly trying to name an Austrian wrestler after a real Nazi.
And if you're trying to give WWE the benefit of the doubt that they would never exploit the name of a real evil man to get a wrestler over, I'll direct you to 2004, when they tried marketing Kenzo Suzuki as an anti-American character named Hirohito, which of course is the name of the very real Emporer of Japan during World War II. That gimmick and name were dropped almost immediately due to a very bad response and here's hoping that the Gunther name suffers the same fate.