Gunther recently surpassed Shelton Benjamin’s 2004 record to become the longest-reigning intercontinental champion of the 21st century. In just a few days, his 257 day record will also overtake The Rock’s 264 day run to put him in the top 5 longest reigns of all time.
Since one of the big speculations heading into WrestleMania 39 was that he would fight Brock Lesnar, which now seems entirely out the window, there is a good chance he holds onto this belt not only up until that point, but much longer.
Making it to WrestleMania puts him at 295 days—above Mr. Perfect (280) and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (285) to become the #3. But there is quite a jump to reach the next record.
Macho Man Randy Savage holds a 414 day reign for the #2 spot. Lastly, the record for all-time longest Intercontinental Championship reign naturally goes to The Honky Tonk Man, as we’re all aware, at 454 days.
In my mind, Gunther reaching the #3 spot is inevitable. Not dropping the belt at WrestleMania is about a 50/50 shot, depending on who he’s up against (I still think it will be a Triple Threat with Drew McIntyre and Sheamus). And while I definitely want to see The Celtic Warrior win that belt to complete his Grand Slam Champion goal, I’m now finding myself questioning whether now is the title to do it, or if The Honky Tonk Man’s record is a bigger priority.
When Would Gunther Beat Honky Tonk Man’s Record?
For context, in order to beat the record, Gunther would need to hold onto the Intercontinental Championship until September 8, 2023. Nearly 7 more months sounds like a gargantuan task, especially considering that out of 183 title reigns, only 16 have gone as 197 days or longer in total. It is far from the average, especially considering how long Gunther’s already gone past that point.
The clock is ticking. More than likely, his time is up at WrestleMania.
Records are Meant to Be Broken…Right?
Many times a record is set, it is unintentional.
Despite how you and I might obsess over these things, I don’t think WWE is actively trying to maintain who has the longest combined in-ring time over the course of all their Royal Rumble appearances, for instance.
Honky Tonk Man’s record is only a month longer than Macho Man’s. At the time, I firmly believe WWE was simply having fun with his character building up hype to get his ass beaten, only to squeak by and retain for another day. Then, when the time came that they grew tired of it, they called it, had Ultimate Warrior win to put him over, and moved on.
Santino Marella brought out The Honk-A-Meter to tease he’d be going for the record, but didn’t come remotely close. Truthfully, that was the last time it ever felt like someone had a shot to break the record, but it didn’t happen, for whatever reason.
This has me wondering if WWE just hasn’t come across someone they wanted to break the record, or if they actively DON’T want the record to be broken. After all, it is the top thing Honky Tonk Man’s ever done in his career.
But they aren’t exactly trying to make sure HTM goes down in history at this point. It isn’t like they’re preserving the legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin here. So what gives?
Demolition held the longest tag title reign for so many years up until The New Day took that spot. Then, a few years later, we’ve seen The Usos top that over the past few months. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed to see The New Day’s record broken, even though I’m a huge fan of Jimmy and Jey. But I do think there is something special to who holds each record.
In the same boat, Kane’s record of Royal Rumble eliminations being beaten by Roman Reigns felt cheap to me. Braun Strowman topping that and Brock Lesnar matching that number to tie Strowman for the leaderboard now has me thinking nobody will ever do better, and I kind of wish Kane’s record had stood the test of time.
In your mind, what is more important: respecting the legend that has held a record for so long, or setting up someone else to do better than that?
Should someone win more Royal Rumbles than Steve Austin? Would you be okay with a future WWE Superstar having a longer WrestleMania streak than The Undertaker?
What’s interesting is that Gunther already broke a record this year by outlasting Rey Mysterio’s Royal Rumble time. While still short of Daniel Bryan’s Greatest Royal Rumble run, The Ring General is now the man with the longest “traditional” Royal Rumble time ever.
Should he overtake the Intercontinental Championship record, too? Or is it more important to you to retain that piece of history for HTM?
Gunther’s Momentum & Benefits from Breaking the Record
Debating whether a record should stand the test of time or be put to bed has to come with the question of “who beats the record, then?” And since this is about Gunther, let’s break down his momentum and how this is a strong possibility.
Not only did he score that Royal Rumble record this year, but in doing so, he put on a show-stealing performance. Coming out as the first entrant and lasting all the way until the runner-up spot sealed the deal that he’s someone WWE is looking at as a future main event player.
At this point, if we didn’t already think so with his record-breaking United Kingdom Championship run, and how infrequently he’s taken a loss, it seems almost set in stone he’s going to be a world champion in the future. It’s only a matter of time.
When that happens could be one of the biggest deciding factors of whether or not he should beat HTM’s record.
Hypothetically, let’s say he’s penciled in to win the title at WrestleMania 40. Maybe he even beats Cody Rhodes for the belt to bring that back around and tap into some xenophobia against The American Nightmare.
If that’s the case, I think it makes perfect sense for him to hold into September, beat the record, drop it at some point in October or November—ideally, in a way that he still looks strong, but simultaneously puts someone over in the process. Then, he can go on to win the Royal Rumble, challenge for the belt at WrestleMania, and win it.
He’d be following the trajectory of many stars before him, holding a midcard title as a test run setup to his world title. Holding the Intercontinental Championship for the record time, instead of just dropping it at WrestleMania and having other random feuds for the next year, keeps his stock high and allows him to continue riding a wave of momentum.
WWE could be confident Gunther can take the loss at WrestleMania and they’ll put him in good enough feuds to keep him hot, but WWE Creative has a notoriously bad history with thinking they can pull something off, failing at it, and then just shrugging with an “oh well, shit happens, move on” approach. Just look at how long it has taken Rhea Ripley to come back to Charlotte Flair after the abysmal booking at WrestleMania 36 that we were specifically told would make perfect sense in a few weeks/months, only for it to be a few YEARS later and the best they can do is have Ripley say “I still want to beat Flair.”
Does Gunther NEED this record in order to be a future main-eventer? I don’t think so. But would it be something that would make it significantly easier to make that transition, and almost foolproof, wherein I don’t trust WWE to pull it off otherwise? Absolutely.
What is More Important, a Classic Joke or a Serious Run?
I don’t think anyone is in a better spot to break this record than Gunther. But even if that’s my opinion, you may disagree, and that might not even be just because of Gunther, but because the concept in general.
Maybe you think keeping up the classic joke of Honky Tonk Man’s funny record is overall more important than giving the record to someone who is serious.
Funny enough, despite how much I’m arguing in favor of Gunther doing this, I can see the argument behind this point of view.
To play devil’s advocate for a moment, isn’t it a little flat? Right now, the longest Intercontinental Championship reign is a tale of legend. A comedic character held it for an absurd amount of time before getting squashed. That’s memorable.
Can you tell me who has the record for the longest United States Championship reign?
I had to look it up. Under the NWA lineage, it is Lex Luger at 523 days. Under WCW, it is Rick Rude at 378. Then, under WWE’s history, it is Dean Ambrose at 351 (just above MVP’s 343, for anyone wondering).
Gunther holding the Intercontinental Championship the longest boosts the credibility of the title and himself, but it also makes the record somewhat boring. It just becomes a story of a serious monster heel who was unbeatable for over a year. That’s it.
Some people look at pro wrestling with only the lens of a pure sport. They enjoy their product to be “the two best wrestlers putting on the best in-ring showcase of technical skills” and the pomp and circumstance beyond that (even promos and gimmicks) doesn’t matter. They’d rather watch a WrestleMania filled with 10 copy/paste Kurt Angle or Bryan Danielson matches in a row than to see some variety.
Others look at sports entertainment and think things like win-loss records are ridiculous. Everything should be about story, character, silly gimmicks and campy soap opera stuff, because that’s what separates this from just watching amateur wrestling.
I’m someone who finds himself somewhat in the middle (which usually pisses people off and makes them think I “hate everything” just because I’m not taking an extreme side). I like my matches to be good and I groan at the acting on NXT, for instance, but I also find myself bored with AEW more often than not because I don’t care enough about seeing some legendary Japanese wrestler I’ve never heard of pop in for a 25 minute dance routine series of maneuvers out of nowhere with zero build just because “Don’t you want to see Guy 1 versus Guy 2? Eh?”
Part of me would hate to see this record broken, and wish that Gunther was holding the United States title instead, because I have no worries erasing Luger’s record. But there’s that nagging voice in my head that says “if Gunther doesn’t, who will?”
To be honest, whether I want it to happen or not, I think Gunther is going to fail in this question. I don’t expect Gunther to hold the championship until September. Even though his WrestleMania opponent has yet to be announced, I currently expect him to drop the belt there, ending with a top 3 run, which he should still be proud of.
But if you’re asking me should Gunther beat Honky Tonk Man’s record, I currently lean toward yes.
The record has been there for quite literally my entire lifetime, as Honky Tonk Man won the belt a few weeks before I was born. I’ve never known anything other than this record. And while I do think there is merit to having a comedic run with the belt on the history books, I don’t think Honky Tonk Man is someone WWE needs to walk on eggshells around erasing.
Gunther is on a precipice of stardom. He could be made with this record, and it could give him an easier transition into the main event world title scene.
WWE can’t always rely on the past. New stars have to be made. And there are few on the roster right now who I would trust more than Gunther to fill one of those spots.
I say do it. Pull the trigger. But if you have to stop that from being a reality, I’ll take Sheamus becoming Grand Slam Champion at WrestleMania as compensation.
What do you think should happen with this record? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!
You can keep up with all your wrestling news right here on eWrestlingNews.com. Or, you can follow us over on our Twitter and Facebook pages.