GUNTHER retained the WWE Intercontinental Championship at WWE SummerSlam 2023 with a clean victory over the returning Drew McIntyre.
The hard-hitting, back-and-forth match delighted fans in attendance, and it ultimately ended with a series of moves from GUNTHER, culminating in a power bomb.
Drew McIntyre returned to WWE at Money in the Bank in the United Kingdom amid speculation about his future in WWE. McIntyre, Triple H and even Michael Cole poo-pooed the idea that McIntyre may be on his way out at WWE, though each seemed to admit that there were truth to some of the reports.
“So here’s a funny thing on the amount of speculation that happens around things,” said Triple H during the Money in the Bank press conference.
“I read stuff, I see stuff all the time that’s printed and put out there. People say, ‘Sources say.’ 75 percent of it is completely off base. If Drew had an issue, it’s news to me. He was just out, with an injury and getting some stuff fixed. While he was out, he had something else he wanted to get fixed so we did it and here he is.”
“It was cool, getting the break. There were a lot of rumors and headlines on the internet when I was out, probably like 50 different things. It was amazing all the stories about me out there. When you’re not on TV, people talk, and you know, there might have been some smoke to some fire with a few of them, but it was nice,” McIntyre told TMZ Sports (h/t Ringsidenews).
McIntyre’s contract is reportedly due in 2024. As of this writing, it is believed McIntyre has yet to sign an extension with WWE, as his contract is reportedly due in 2024. As GUNTHER nears the Honky Tonk man’s historic Intercontinental Championship record, which will be broken on September 7, he went off as a sizable -850 favorite. WWE loves its own history, and GUNTHER coming this close to such a historic record made him a near-lock to retain. But McIntyre’s lingering contract status was the game within the game that made an upset more than possible. WWE having McIntyre dethrone GUNTHER, whether it be at SummerSlam or elsewhere, could have been used as a bargaining chip to entice Drew to stay. At the same time, perhaps WWE is playing hardball, refusing to allow McIntyre to progress until he is signed, sealed and delivered.
While McIntyre is a made man in WWE, his status as a top star took a tumble due to circumstances outside of his control. McIntyre’s WrestleMania moment was ravaged by the pandemic, and the former WWE champion has never been able to recapture the magic of his Royal Rumble 2020 win. In a crowded main event picture on SmackDown, WWE’s plans are seemingly locked up through WrestleMania 40—where Drew McIntyre will not be a factor.
It can be argued that McIntyre is in need of a fresh coat of paint. While McIntyre retains credibility in WWE, he can completely reinvent himself in AEW similar to his resurgence following his first WWE exit.