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GUNTHER trying not to focus on Honky Tonk Man’s record; Praises rival

Only five men in the history of WWE have held the Intercontinental Championship for a full calendar year or longer. But only one man has accomplished that feat in the past 35 years. Earlier this week, GUNTHER’s current run with the workman’s title surpassed the monumental 365 day mark and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down any time soon.

The impressive and brutalizing ring tactician has cut down every opponent in his path since being called up to the main roster last April. He has yet to lose a single one-on-one match via pinfall or submission, with GUNTHER’s last clean defeat coming at the hands of Bron Breakker in what turned out to be his NXT sendoff match.

Almost two months to the day that he made his SmackDown debut, the Vienna, Austria native decimated Ricochet to capture his first Intercontinental Championship. He’s gone on to have one of the more significant IC Title reigns of this century and is quickly closing in on breaking a record that has stood since August of 1988.

The Ringer General will be in Cincinnati, Ohio this weekend as WWE hosts one of their SuperShow events at the Heritage Bank Center down on the Queen City’s riverfront. GUNTHER was a guest on ESPN1530 to promote the show and told the flagship station of the Cincinnati Bengals that while he’s well aware of what’s on the horizon, it’s still a little early to make chasing down the Honky Tonk Man’s 453 day benchmark a priority.

“Oh it’ll be, obviously, a great accomplishment and maybe the biggest accomplishment of my career, to that date. But also there’s still some time to go and I try to focus on what’s right front of me and make the best out of that situation. I don’t try to get caught up in the future, with what ifs and what could happen, even though it’s not that far away. I think once it’s all said and done, I’ll be able to lean back and enjoy it a little bit. It definitely would be, very rewarding and a big accomplishment.”

Speaking of what’s currently in front of the Intercontinental Champion, GUNTHER had nothing but positive things to say about one of the men that have quickly become his biggest rivals over the past few weeks.

Imperium has overtaken the Bloodline’s position as the biggest thorn in the sides of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. It seems like every tandem on Raw and SmackDown wants a piece of the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions, but the aggressive pursuit of their gold by Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci brought the champs right into the crosshairs of the Ring General.

On screen, GUNTHER doesn’t seem to have much respect for his competition on Monday nights. Out of character, when asked about working with Zayn specifically, he was extremely complimentary.

“Very charismatic person. A very, very talented guy in the ring. It was really good to get in the ring with him in Germany, I think, 13 years ago or 14 years ago already. He’s always been a fantastic wrestler. So to be at it again with him right now, I feel like it is fantastic, so many years later. One of the best around.”

Sami Zayn on the other hand, may not be as happy to be mixing it up with GUNTHER once again. If you aren’t aware by now, the big Austrian’s offense can leave a mark. Both figuratively and... quite literally.

As more professional wrestlers have begun to lean into their athleticism and showcase an arsenal made up high impact aerial maneuvers, GUNTHER has found a way to standout with a more old school, ground and pound approach. Just pummeling his opponents until they can’t take anymore.

It’s a style and an in-ring story that has been quite fruitful for the Ring General thus far in his career.

“Yes, definitely. I think it’s something people can relate to. Somebody getting beaten down, by a big bully in a nasty way, and the other one is standing up against it, and not taking it. That’s a very simple story that everybody can relate to. Actually, subconsciously, I think that’s why people like it and that’s why people are at entertained by it.”

When you hear GUNTHER speak during an episode of Raw, the passion, love, and respect he expresses for the squared circle is not a fabrication. He doesn’t need anyone to write that dialogue for him.

True to his character, GUNTHER takes the sport of professional wrestling very seriously. A product of his youth and the early days of his career in Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling.

“Vienna, and also Germany, have a big wrestling tradition. Like in Vienna, there was a tournament each year. 60 days in a row, there would be matches in the city center. And I was always used to wrestling being presented as a sport, as a competition. And that kinda stuck with me” GUNTHER said. “And I think that’s just something that I try to employ into character that I am right now. And I think that it’s a good contrast to most of the other guys that are focused, a little bit more, on entertainment.”

You can check out the full interview in the link below, if you’re interested in hearing GUNTHER’s thoughts on the American sports scene. Has he been able to get invested in the MLS as much as he is with the European fútbol leagues? What will Lionel Messi bring to MLS? And what mistake did he make when he attempted to become and NBA fan?

You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.

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