The Ring General ascended the mountain quickly in NXT UK and conquered Pete Dunne the Friday night before Wrestlemania 35 on NXT Takeover: Brooklyn to win the NXT UK Championship.
Since his debut in January, the man known simply as Walter has crushed his competition. He’s been booked as an unbeatable machine thus far, and NXT UK put their big strap on him quick.
As I’ve said in previous columns here at TWM, it usually irks me when a promotion brings in a new guy and books him as the next big thing and/or forces the belt on him or her right away. In some cases, it does make sense. When Ronda Rousey came into the WWE she had already established credibility with the fanbase. Hence, booking her as a year-long unbeatable machine and putting the belt on her was fine. You could make pretty much the same case for Brock Lesnar. But Goldberg, Pre-Rock Rocky, ’95 Diesel, Roman Reigns? I just don’t like it when it feels like the promotion has already made plans for somebody to go over whether he or she has established that they have “it” with the fans and in the ring, whether he or she has proven ability to work the crowd.
I prefer the Shawn Michaels and Kofi Kingston stories, when the guy puts in years and works his way through the title ranks to the big belt. It creates a narrative, makes the ultimate title win more of a climax (whatever CM Punk says about Kofi getting the
Then why in the hell is Walter my favorite wrestler in perhaps any WWE promotion going right now? What’s so damned intriguing about this squash monster that I can’t get enough?
Don’t get me wrong. He didn’t come out of nowhere to dominate NXT. He’d already put on a Meltzer-certified 5-star match in Pro Wrestling Guerilla and held a couple of promotions’ big belts. On the other hand, working under the assumption that NXT UK really is his first exposure to a wider audience, his ascent and coronation has been fast.
I’ve gone back and watched the Walter matches on NXT UK, from his debut January 30th against Jack Starz to the win over Pete Dunne last Friday night, and after some real soul searching, I think I might have some answers on why Walter has become my (and your) must see on any WWE brand.
That Ring Entrance is Badass
Ah, Symphony No. 9, fourth movement. We all know it. We’ve heard it in everything from cartoons to car commercials. Ren & Stimpy, Jumanji, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Always Sunny in Philadelphia have used it. But man does NXT UK use it right for Walter. Somehow it doesn’t feel old or tired. It feels epic.
Couple Dvorak’s music with that Undertaker-esque lights-out entrance, only for a single white panel to emerge with Walter suddenly standing there silhouetted, and you’ve got goosebump inducing stuff. His size adds to the power of the entrance, his broad shoulders highlighted by the white “V” neck on his long black coat as the lights come up again.
In an era when hard rock and hip hop music coupled with insane video and light shows dominate the ring entrance themes, this classical score, the darkness, and the heavy black and white imagery accompanying the heavy pounding music, feels awesomely unique.
His Body Type is…Different
The giant muscle will probably be in professional wrestling forever. But the biggest, muscliest don’t dominate the scene as much as the late 80s and 90s. Body types like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, and Cody Rhodes get over big time now. Once the Kevin Nashes of the world admonished the push behind stars like Rey Mysterio as not being believably big enough to beat huge opponents. Superstars such as Triple H and Eddie Guerrero were never pushed for world titles until they bulked up big time. Bob Backlund, Shawn Michaels, and Bret Hart were definitely more like exceptions to the rule than the standard.
Then in WWE universe chanted “YES!” in 2015 when big muscle man Roman Reigns won the belt declaring Daniel Bryan as their champion. Yes, we certainly live in a different age of what is required of the wrestler’s physique. But let’s be clear, that movement highlights the ability for smaller guys to finally get the push for being good wrestlers. Walter is huge.
At 6 feet 4 inches and 297 pounds, he’s squarely in the “big man” category. However, his body shape is more that of Dusty Rhodes or early Dustin Rhodes than a Kevin Nash or Undertaker. And while he’s big, he’s not freakishly big like Yokozuna, King Kong Bundy or Andre the Giant such that a flabbier shape is more accepted (they were 450-plus pounders). Yet there’s something incredibly retro and pre-80s style wrestling to the way Walter’s man boobs jiggle when he throws a punch. While his arms are big, they’re more the big strapping build of a midwestern farmer than the veiny, striated muscle structure of most wrestlers. Because of this, it seems like I can imagine Walter wrestling in any era: from the carnival tents to 1970s NWA wrestling.
Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that his body type feels more real. He feels somehow like a guy I would know in my life, and that makes the wrestling and the wrestler behind it more interesting to me. While he won’t get many comparisons to the American Dream, this is the one worth making.
And Dusty Rhodes never did a running shotgun dropkick. Which takes me to the ultimately intriguing thing about Walter…
He Can Move for a Big Man
Let the Vader comparisons begin. He can powerbomb a man ferociously AND he can go to the top rope and fly. Same as Vader. AND as Vader was known as “Big van Vader,” the big Austrian was known as “Big van Walter” during his wrestling days in Japan (oh by the way, Vader also wrestled in Germany and Japan, like Walter, before making it big for an American promotion; okay I’m done with the Vader stuff and apologize, Vader is just so awesome).
But seriously Walter can move. He frog splashed Pete Dunne off the top rope for his UK Championship win! I’ve already mentioned his patented running shotgun dropkick. When he teamed with Pete Dunne against the Coffey Brothers he freaking sprints into and across the ring when tagged in! Imagine Dusty Rhodes or even Vader sprinting! As he comes in during that match he gives a Coffey a running big boot faster than Hulk Hogan could ever fathom, then runs and leaps up and does a running “Coupe de Grace” sit down on the man. His suplexes are crisp and graceful.
I’m excited to see what this big man might pull out of the bag next, and that’s a very rare notion with big men.
Ultimately I’ve probably overthought this. Like a Bruiser Brody or a Roddy Piper, I just freaking like this guy. He’s just different enough and awesome enough. I want more.
Long live the reign of WALTER!…wait, no. Scratch that. Get this dude on SmackDown now.
You can find me on Twitter @gritvanwinkle.