An Interview With Drew McIntyre – Part One – The Journey To Wrestlemania

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June 2014. Drew McIntyre finds himself relieved of his duties from his dream job. Somehow. Everyone involved could have agreed that it didn’t quite go to plan. It’s not that they were shocked it had happened. He was on TV every week with 3MB but he wasn’t Drew. The real Drew. He wasn’t the guy who made the world sit up and take notice mere days after that fateful day that his dream had died. He needed this to become what he is now. A beast. A phenom. A guy trusted with such a huge spot at Wrestlemania that each and every wrestling fan in Scotland should be glued to this match. This is our World Cup Final. This is our Superbowl. One of your own in there with the best of the best. While Drew was picking up the pieces and working out how to re-invent himself, Roman Reigns was main eventing Wrestlemania the following year….and for the next 3 years after that. A superstar whether anyone likes it or not and even though this match will not go on last, don’t like that fool you into thinking it isn’t absolutely massive. Momentous. Roman Reigns is in remission after a second bout of leukaemia took him away from doing the thing he loved and you are frankly out of your mind if you don’t think Drew being the chosen one in this case isn’t of huge significance . 

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“”I feel good, I feel ready…..just looking forward to it now. I’m sure I’ll get a little nervous right before that but besides that I’m feeling nothing but excitement for it. I’ve been preparing for this moment for 18 years and its finally here. I’m just ready to go out and kill it now.” Photo Credit:WWE

Drew admits himself it won’t fully hit him until it’s all said and done. When you’re in that bubble its hard to see how much of a big deal the whole thing is. How much impact you are having on people before the match and the lasting impact the match itself could potentially have. While performers always know to an extent how their match has gone, a wee nod from the boss doesn’t do any harm. 

“You know yourself how it went, but when you get the feedback from Vince and your peers its always a good feeling even if it just backs up how you felt about the match within yourself. He’s seen literally everything so if he thinks you’ve gone out and done a good job its high praise. I don’t think he’d have us in this situation at all if he didn’t think we were capable of stealing the show.”

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Photo Credit: David J Wilson. Very talented man.

While their rivalry heading in to Wrestlemania has involved, for the lack of a better term, several bootings being dished from Drews boot to Romans jaw; as a person and a performer he is a man Drew admires. Hating Roman Reigns might seem like some sort of noble cause to some but if you speak to anyone involved in wrestling there is nothing but praise for how he conducts himself in and out of the ring. The resolve he has shown to make it back for Wrestlemania in spite of cancer tells you all you need to know about Roman as a person but that’s not what makes him such a formidable Wrestlemania opponent. Being Roman Reings takes care of that. He is a Wrestlemania icon. He is one of the two men on earth to have the unimaginable accolade of beating The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. He doesn’t do throwaway matches on the grandest stage of them all and without the pressure of being in the main event, with a crowd ready to react negatively if the slightest thing goes wrong, it has the potential to be his best Wrestlemania match yet. They’ll be performing in front of a crowd who are desperate to see two thoroughbreds leather each other stupid. Working with Roman Reigns almost always yields great matches and Drew McIntyre doesn’t do shiters either so strap yourselves in for a cracker.

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“Roman has got so many people over with the audience you don’t even realise. AJ Styles when he first came in had some amazing stuff with Roman and the stuff with Braun was top class. He got so much stick and I never really seen why because he’s so good, looks great, you can understand why you’d want him on a poster, and from a wrestling perspective he’s really good in the ring so its like whats the problem? He’s not one of these guys who has the look and nothing else he has it all. ”

Drew and Roman have followed very different paths but both have done the bulk of their learning in WWE. Drew just learned how to be a top guy elsewhere while Roman was put in the unenviable position of having to do it from scratch on the main roster in WWE. Learning as he went with the limelight thrust firmly upon him; he needed that brotherhood with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to give him that edge. Drew has made sure to systematically break down Roman’s whole support system in the weeks leading to their Mania head to head. Ensuring that he has a wounded animal facing him without his pack as opposed to facing the top dog. He had no interest in being in Romans yard and instead wanted to wipe the top dog out. Remodel the whole place in his image. As much as his promo work calling out the locker room is Drew being in character, some of it rings true. If you think he’s talking about you…guess what?

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“He went down a different path from Seth and Dean. He worked hard to get as good as he’s got under the brightest lights possible and he’s thrived. Theres very few like him. He was born for this. People don’t appreciate how good he is. Everyone’s who’s went on to do well in recent years worked with Roman at some point. He’s so good and to be able to work with him in such a big match is such a huge thing. He’s someone who gets casual fans interested and throw into the bargain he’s so good in the ring. He walks into a room and every eye is on him. He’s the nicest guy and the fact that he got the reaction he got when he did come back was amazing for him. He was so positive throughout (his battle with cancer). To him beating cancer again was just another fight he had to win.”Roman-Drew

While nothing is set in stone, the hope in the future for Drew is that he and Roman cross paths again. A lot will depend on the match quality at Wrestlemania, but it would take something exceptional for the match not to be great. Drew standing just that little bit taller. That little bit meaner. It makes people believe he can beat someone who is a prolific winner on the big stage and if that dynamic works so well, why only use it for one match

“Even if we go separate routes afterwards for a while id like to see it come back to me and him. It’s a case of let’s make the Mania match awesome, and then the RAW after is usually sort of a reset storyline wise and if we go out separate ways then it will definitely be something we can come back to. If the match at Mania wets everyone’s whistle and gets them excited to see more it’ll maybe be better to leave it for a while. Let me go build this character and pick it up down the line where people know it’ll be shit hot.”

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Image Credit: WWE

Drew doesn’t have to prove his competence to anyone after nearly 20 years at this, but there is a weight to him being the man chosen to compete with Roman this year. He is as game as they come but he’d only be in there with someone he absolutely trusts at this stage of his return and he knows Drew being a naturally menacing villain works in his favour. Drew will pummel Roman Reigns in this match and the crowd will have no choice but to get behind him. For the first time ever they’ll feel needed. Like Roman physically and mentally outgunning his opponent isn’t a forgone conclusion. They know he’s human and not some factory produced superstar who’s winning no matter what. They will react because the brutality Drew has the capacity to unleash will make it happen, and his appreciation for the confidence shown in him will only push him to another level, as he went on to explain to me. At 4 in the morning while he drove from one town to the next.

“The vote of confidence that having that match gives me is huge. From the company and of course Roman himself. I’m ready to knock it out the park. I’m not getting ahead of myself and thinking this is it, to me it just lets me know I’m on the right track and hopefully this will lead somewhere good.”

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When Drew was signed in his early 20s, he was placed in a position that by his own admittance, he wasn’t quite ready for. He had all the tools but he had yet to acquire the expertise to best utilise them. Despite that, he found himself on TV before he’d really learned how to be on TV. Like a student on their first day of acting class being given the starring role in a sitcom. It just needs done. If they want you to do it, you don’t have the time to think about the why, what and when, you just do it. When he was asked to do TV mere months into his contract, he was on TV.  When he was told he was The Chosen One, he was chosen. He had to learn on the job.

“Its night and day (from when he was first signed to now). I was just a kid when I got signed. All I wanted to do was wrestle and at that stage I had no backup plan so I was really lucky that it worked out. When I got signed I had no idea what I was doing. The Irish Whip show we were on was the only TV I’d done but it wasn’t a professional setup so I was such a novice. We were comfortable with cameras and all that but it was on so much of a higher level and it was such a shock in every way. They put me on TV so soon as well, and looking back I wasn’t ready back then. I was ready to be A guy, but not one of THE guys. When I came back it was a different mindset. I was a different performer. I had plenty to offer and they knew that, I knew that, and we were all on the same page. I’ve been presented with every conceivable thing in wrestling. Every situation and to be able to say that at 33, having grown up in WWE and done the whole thing a bit back to front, it’s a unique thing to be able to offer. That experience and talent to back it up.
A big difference in me was that I had taken everything I’d learned being on the independent scene, took what I’d learned from helping to build companies up and added that experience in to what I bring to the table now as a performer”.

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It was a wrestling journey that took Drew from the comfort of travelling around the world with WWE, to having to figure it out on his own. He had to grow as a man and performer, and with that growth came a level of experience that no one else in the business can boast. He went to all corners of the globe making the ICW Title a World Title and held the top titles everywhere from TNA to SWA in Scotland. He was the standard-bearer and it was clear from an early stage that it was a matter of when and not if. He was going back to WWE at some point but it benefitted both them and him for Drew to continue honing his craft all over the world.

“It’s a sort of similar thing to working the territories back in the days, in the sense that I’d took everything I’d learned from working crowds all over the world and sort of put it all together to get what you see now. I think it’s a big part of what’s got me where I am now. I know people are anxious to see me do well and get places quickly but for me its all about the long game. It’s about establishing this character and using as the TV time I get as well as I possibly can. I have that experience of being a top guy elsewhere but it means nothing here. You start from the bottom and its been up to me to make people take notice. People forget I’ve only just really got established as a singles guy on the main roster recently. I turned on Dolph around Christmas and it’s really just been from then on, so there’s plenty of time to establish the character and get it to where I want it to be.”

In the lead up to the Royal Rumble it seemed Drew was being positioned to not only be in the running, but a favourite to win. Unimaginable 4 years previously but the experience he had gained in his time out of WWE, coupled with the metamorphosis he undertook since being re-signed made it inevitable. Drew has always been a scarily huge man, but his time in the gym after sustaining a long-term injury while in NXT had seen his body become…well, frightening. A big hairy weapon of mass destruction, and that’s not a euphemism. He’s just…huge. A big boay. Large. If he was in the NBA he’d be…well quite wee but thats the NBA. Wrestling and real life wise, he had gone from an impressive big man to an absolute unit. Momentum may have carried Seth Rollins to end up winning the 2019 Royal Rumble but just to be in the running was a huge victory for Drew.

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“To get to this stage its been about all the wee impactful moments along the way,  leading to me actually being a favourite for the Rumble. I came out and took out No Way Jose and his wee dancing crew right away and people are thinking “oh shit, Drews here!”. The mood changed when I went in and that was a great feeling for me. There was an extra energy about it. You don’t really get to take in the atmosphere, you just need to go in there and go through everyone. I think when Dolph came out everyone expected me to chuck him out but with the assist from Braun he gets me out and that gives us something to explore down the road. ”

Drew was eventually punted out by a combination of his former allies Dolph Ziggler and Braun Strowman, but the initial plan for Dolph to eliminate Drew aided by Braun on the apron was foiled by a brick wall kidding on to be a human wrestler.
“Braun’s so big that when I hit him on the apron I didn’t actually go out. Dolph’s superkick was meant to take me out but Braun being so big I just kinda rebounded off him and landed back on my feet, but Dolph got me out eventually.”

Standing face to face with a big man like Roman Reigns and making it look believable is one thing. Drew at times actually towers over Roman; but Braun Strowman? A different story entirely. He is a fridge freezer with a beard. A behemoth. A bus in a vest. A really (really)  large man.
“I’m legit 265 right now so I’m just happy I can stand face to face with him and it doesn’t look stupid. That was kinda my goal coming back. I wanted to stand in front of people like Roman. People like Brock. People like Braun. And for people to look and think “that actually makes sense”

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“Tell ye whit, I might no like that big Scottish guy but he’s a fine lookin bitta gear” – Braun Strowman. (Image Credit – WWE)

 

Drew being someone who is capable of taking Braun to the canvas is a compliment in itself. It takes some doing, but having a cannon masquerading as a right boot doesn’t hurt. The Claymore being such a big facet of Drew’s offence is one of those happy accidents only wrestling can provide. A kick that happened pretty much because Drew fell due to his trousers being too right. Stick with what works. If it puts Braun Strowman on his arse…it works. “Putting him down is no joke. Its like…he’s a guy who can flip a truck for christ sake. If I can put someone like that on his arse I must be doing ok. He’s a big athletic giant and there’s not many people who can go toe to toe with him image wise and not only is he a giant but he’s put over as a guy who can flip trucks *laughs* so he doesn’t have to jump around like he does and make me look so good but he does it anyway. He makes the claymore look devastating and I appreciate him wanting to make it look as good as he makes it look.”

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Matching up with the likes of Braun Strowman has been pivotal in showing head office that he can do it against the best around today, but It’s all the other bits and pieces that makes Drew a guy considered good enough for this spot. Things like making a 4 hour round trip several days a week in the early days of Shawn Michaels taking classes at the Performance Centre. An opportunity his early affiliation with NXT afforded him and one 10 year old Drew would be freaking out about. The Heartbreak Kid telling you how to wrestle. Even if you’ve been doing it 15+ years, you listen.

“I wasnt going to all the classes (when he was with NXT). I wasn’t under a contract where I had to be at the PC all the time. I was just there as a talent. I chose to go to the PC a lot of the time and especially to work with Shawn Michaels. I’ve been around for a while and as much as I’d never claim to know everything, I know what I’m doing, but when Shawn Michaels shows you a different way of doing something or asks you to consider going down this route, you listen. I was willing to drive a 4 hour round trip every day for a long time just to work with him and feed off his knowledge. No matter what tools I have in this business, he has newer, shinier ones than I could ever imagine. I’m a Nokia 3310 and he’s an Iphone X. Just when you think you know a bit, you listen to him and realise you know nothing. He always seems to be right and you’re left wondering “why didn’t I think of this before?” when he does suggest something, then you realise…he’s Shawn Michaels. The reason you didn’t think of it before is that you’re not him. The only people who know this stuff are the ones who have been to the very top. ”

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Drew may have the ear of people like Shawn and Triple H, but his endorsements come even further and wider than that. Kurt Angle has chosen to make Drew look like an absolute killer on more than one occasion. Something of a passing of the baton as Kurt bows out of in ring competition at Wrestlemania on Sunday. Indeed if the match with Roman hadn’t panned out it may well have been Drew to face Kurt as he bows out, but having that endorsement clearly means a lot. To have the ear of so many influential people in wrestling is a surefire way to reach the upper echelons. Always learning. Even at 33.

“Most of the time those people have either made so much money they don’t want to train people or they’re no longer with us so it’s a privilege to have someone of Shawn’s experience and stature who still has the passion to train others. Shawn isn’t just part of that group of elite performers, he’s the best in ring competitor of all time. There’s not many people I’d make this extra effort for after 16-17 years doing this. I learned so much in that year working with and if there’s anything I’m really not sure about I’ll always ask his opinion. He had me as his favourite for the Rumble as well which was amazing to me considering how far out of the running I was in the past.
I’m not afraid to ask people like Hunter and Shawn these things and that’s why they want to help. They know I really want to learn not only for my own future progression but I want to learn so I can help the business. They’ve watched my journey and they respect the work I’ve put in to get to this stage. The plan on my end is to be one of the main guys in the company and being in a position to help the next generation. That’s what I want to do.”

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Image Rights:WWE Anklelock rights: Both these dudes

 

“Kurt was brillaint to work with. I mean he really fuckin let me anihilate him and he done that because he was comfortable doing it. If he didn’t think doing that would be a boost for me and he didn’t want me to get that boost it wouldn’t have happened. So that means a lot as well. To have someone that’s a living legend in wrestling to have that faith in you. Hitting his own moves on him and tapping him out with his own anklelock was something I really appreciated. He didn’t have to do that for me but he made me look like an absolute killer. It made me feel like I was on the right path but lets take it one week at a time. Its something I can use to move forward but it’s about not getting ahead of yourself. Its cool and it was a great moment for me but that’s one week, then we need to think about the next one. Don’t get complacent and think you’ve made it. ”

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Having been at this for the best part of his life its hard for Drew not to feel like an auld timer, but the stories of some of the elder statesmen in WWE keep him young. One in particular told by Kane of a charming encounter with the guy who landed on the moon. Archie Mcpherson’s Da. A very old man….

“Kane told me a story once that made me feel better (about being 33) One time he had a legit old man tell him he used to watch me when he was a young man. He looked at him, done the Kane head tillt and asked him “Did you now?” and he said “Yes” so even though he wanted to tell him he was the oldest man he’d ever met in his life and there’s no possible way that’s true he just said “Thank you sir, I appreciate that” so that makes me feel a wee bit less old. Matt Hardy gets it as well from people who are far too ols to be saying they used to watch him as a kid”

Over the hill he most certainly isn’t but it does seem a lifetime ago that Drew was asked to follow Vince McMahon with not the slightest idea of what he was even following. No idea he was about to become……chosen “He never told me. I was told I was doing a promo and they told me Vince was going to do one before me and that leads to me coming out. So I had no idea, waiting around for my cue to come out and he went out and done the chosen one promo. Talking about how I’m a future world champion and total badass. I’m watching this for the first time like “Whit? me? is he talking about me?” it was insane as a 23-24 year old to year your boss say all these things, and you’ve got this script to remember at the same time, so it was all absolutely insane. It’s never happened before and even though it didn’t pan out the way we hoped, it’s still something I always look bad on fondly. It’s a big part of my history and really shaped the man ive become and the way the story has ended up going so its something I could definitely see resurfacing at some point. ”

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Praise has come from many sources, but few have been as vociferous as Mick Foley. He was sent Drew’s promo when he made his ICW return and was so impressed he messaged Triple H mere weeks after he’d let Drew go telling him to keep a keen eye on that Scottish guy who had all the potential. “Mick Foley was someone who always spoke up for me. He saw my ICW comeback and I didn’t know this at the time but apparently he messaged Triple H and told him I know you’ve just released this guy but you should really be keeping an eye on him.”

drewfoley2“I wanted to do my mission statement there. That was my home. That was where I was comfortable. I wanted eyes on ICW as well as myself. I wanted the worlds eyes on us all and it really resonated with Mick. He really wanted to do something to help get the word out and that was when he mentioned it on the stone cold podcast and it was a whirlwind from there so that was when I thought right motherfucker…this is your opportunity. Go out there and fucking do it.”

It’s all lead to this point. A match that sort of come from nowhere and yet ended up making all the sense in the world. People accused Roman of being the companies boy. A guy who would be handed success no matter what he done. No matter how he wrestled. They resented him for it, yet just when public sympathy for him is at its highest, he hasn’t been shoehorned into a title match. He hasn’t been given a legend for a marquee match that might not be as demanding physically. He’s not tucked away somewhere safe. He’s in there with a killer. He’s in there against a guy with everything to prove and all the power and momentum behind him to go out and prove it. He was made for this moment and during a night that has so many huge matches. The first ever Womens Main Event for christ sake. A monumental match that will rightly take the main event spot ahead of this match. multiple world title matches, and a match with a McMahon in it….thats something special, but don’t let this pass you by. It has all the potential to come from pretty much nowhere three weeks ago to be the showstealer.

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“With Mania it wont be until the match is over and I’m in the hotel room with the wife before I can really reflect on it. It’s always all go so you don’t get the chance to really let it all sink in. It’s so busy, but once its over I’ll get the chance to really let it sink in. I’ll get to look back on what its taken for me to get to this point”

Its an important milestone but thats all it is at the end of the day. Its a chapter to a story that’s far from finished and if Drew has his way this will be the springboard to him realising his dreams. All in good time though.

“At this point the casual fans don’t know me enough to see me taking the belt. They havent seen the ICW stuff and the TNA stuff and even if they knew me from before they dont recognise me because it looks like ive eaten myself and grown chest chair *laughs*
I’m more comfortable now in what I am. This is not far off who I am, im a lot more friendly in real life and a bit nicer I think *laughs* but the passion Drew Mcintrye the character has for wrestling is very similar to the passion Drew Galloway has for it in real life. I just want to go out there and do myself, my family and Scotland proud and repay the faith thats been shown in me.”

Drew’s track record is pretty consistent with this type of situation. The bigger the match, the bigger the performance and no matter what the outcome, Drew will emerge from this in a stronger more prominent position that he was before it. Exactly where he belongs. On the road to becoming World Champion.


Images taken from WWE and of course the usual thank you to David J.Wilson for his fine work

Part Two of the interview will be online next week. Thanks to Drew for making the time for this during a very busy period.

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