Today Drew McIntyre is the fighting pride of Scotland. A hero who brought good news in a time where you would have been forgiven for forgetting is existed. There was once a time where not everyone in Scotland loved Drew Mctinyre. As unfathomable as it might seem now, there was a time where not many people believed what happened at Wrestlemania 36 was possible. When Drew was released from WWE in 2014 his stock was low. He’d admit it himself. If he continued to just be happy to be a part of the show then that’s all he’d have ever been.
Happy is a major stretch but I don’t think Drew was on the verge of quitting at the time his release came. It might have taken another year or two before he finally broke but the company done the hard bit for him and cut ties. For the first time since he was 20, Drew McIntyre was officially Drew Galloway again and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He needed to be Drew Galloway again. For himself and for the people who did still give a shit. He needed to give them reasons to keep believing and he needed to find ways to get the rest on board.
The best wrestlers are able to create a feeling with their work. A feeling that draws the audience in even if that audience hates you. Drew understood that after his release there would be a period he’d be wildly popular, but it wouldn’t be everlasting. People get it. We’ve all got eyes. He’s comfortably six inches taller than every other person in Scotland. He looks like someone made a sculpture of a greek god out of granite and taught it how to decapitate folk with dropkicks. No matter how successful it got for Drew in his time outwith WWE it was always his destiny to go back. How long it would take was entirely up to him.
He knew he needed to work harder. He took on a travel schedule that bordered on insanity when you don’t have a major company setting everything up for you. By his own admittance he had to grow up and learn how to do it all on his own. If he had to be in Glasgow 24 hours after a booking in New York, he’d be in Glasgow ready to go. If he needed to be in Australia 45 minutes after he’s main evented the Citadel in Ayr, yer man would make it down under in time to help the crew set up the ring. He was just everywhere. Somehow. People were invested even if they weren’t fully sure if he was their guy. They wanted to find out.
He became a figurehead for a plethora of companies but the one that mattered most to him was always ICW. The first company he wanted to appear for after his release was ICW. Fuck the 90 days, let’s do it now. The bandwagon all of a sudden was hurtling towards The Barrowlands as Drew looked to dethrone the champion who had reigned supreme for a year. His best pal Jack Jester. He was one of the folk who still cared when times were hard and Drew wasn’t even on TV pre 3MB days. A true friend who saw that Drew just wasn’t the same guy who had left for the WWE. Drew Galloway wasn’t this big surly guy who instantly mistrusted anyone he didn’t know, but Drew McIntyre was. Drew Galloway wasn’t a guy who was settled in his role as comic relief on Monday Night RAW, but for a time Drew McIntyre was. He had to find that guy again and start kicking down doors.
The 3MB stuff wasn’t completely useless. He bonded with Jinder Mahal both in 3MB and when they were both released on the same day. If you’d have told them they’d both win the WWE Title within 6 years they’d have laughed at you. Jinder might have anyway. Drew would have joined him but in the back of his mind he’d have known it was possible. He just had to make it possible. The tools were always there. The other purpose 3MB served was Drew discovering the heid removing scud missile that is the Claymore. 3MBs trouser situation was very leathery and very very shiny, Drew slipped and basically fell into a big single leg dropkick and it looked good so why the fuck not? Fast forward six years and the big man has whole arenas counting down from 3 before he hits it.
That’s what Drew does better than most. He makes people give a shit. When he papped Brock Lesnar out of a Royal Rumble he was dominating it was an announcement that the time for fucking about was over. No more aimless stables. No more “one of the favourites” for the Rumble. No more assumptions that he’d make it to the top one day. It was happening NOW. His first World Title win wouldn’t be on one of the weekly shows, or a wee run of the mill PPV with a mad gimmick. It was happening in front of the biggest crowd wrestling pulls on a yearly basis. 70 odd thousand in a stadium. Millions gripped at home or in the pub. All eyes on the moment Drew slayed The Beast. Then it happened. It all changed. Fuck.
When the whole thing started I think most people assumed Wrestlemania would happen whenever it could happen in front of an audience. It was admirable that WWE were giving it a go and doing the weekly shows in the safest environment they possible could at The Performance Centre but it didn’t seem likely that Wrestlemania 36 would still happen.
While I’m not entirely sure why it actually did go ahead, they done an excellent job making it something that didn’t make the current blanket depression we’re all suffering from feel worse. It often made life feel normal at a time when it…well….isnae. It was occasionally gripping at a time where the only thing you can remember gripping you is the fear. The cinematic stuff was proper escapism and certainly in Taker and AJs case, still very much felt like wrestling. Drew’s moment deserved an audience but more than anything else it just deserved to happen.
If they were going ahead with Wrestlemania 36 in front of an audience of Mojo Rawley, Mojo Rawley if he was in the NFL, Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and JBL then having Brock Lesnar beat Drew would have been the worst climax to a Wrestlemania ever. It just wouldn’t make sense. Brock is at his very best when he’s just beat the guy everyone wanted to win and crowd is sickened by it. With no crowd it could only be Drew. People needed the moment. They needed to feel something that wasn’t deflation.
If you’re Scottish the feeling was nothing but joy when the ref counted three after the last Claymore. The match would have gone a lot longer and would have been a hard hitting work of art if it was in normal circumstances but for the time they had, they managed to tell a story. A guy who was F5’ed out of his loafers in the final throes of the 3MB days managed to take 50 of the fucking things and still kick out.
When Drew re-signed with WWE he returned to a name that had once represented everything he hated about his career. It was attached to unfulfilled potential despite the early success he had with it and he needed to turn those failures into titles. He needed the name to provoke excitement rather than indifference followed by the faint sound of an air guitar. He needed the name to be taken seriously again. Winning the NXT Title was the first step but then an injury robbed him of the best part of a year of this redemption. Lesser folk might have let it get to them.
Waiting all that time to get back to the big time just to see all his momentum derailed must have been crushing. How often have we seen it as wrestling fans over the years when someone who had the world at their feet is never quite the same after an injury when they were heading for the top? Drew wasn’t letting it happen this time. Coming back from an injury is nothing when you’ve come back from the dead. He left a silhouette of that 3MB guy behind him, forgot how to shave, and learned how to boot the utter shite out of folk again.
Brock Lesnar’s role in the whole story should never be understated. Think what you like about Brock, he maybe gives a shit what 4 or 5 people actually employed by WWE think so the idea of him giving a fuck what people on the internet think is hilarious. He comes in for his shift, sells everything thrown at him, leathers folk he doesn’t like, has one of the best talkers of all time do his talking for him, and he goes home to ride Sable as your World Champion.
What he done for Drew at the Royal Rumble was unprecedented. No one who isn’t already a legend in wrestling has got the better of Brock so decisively the first time they properly went toe to toe. It would have been 100% believable if Brock went on to win the whole thing so the fact that Drew crashed the party half way through and booted him clean over the ropes (assist to Richard O’Shea for the wee baw boot beforehand) before staring through him as if he was saying “Ye sure there’s no one worthy of a shot of that title?” was remarkable. A huge moment in an era where not a lot feels so significant.
The whole story from the start was designed to make Drew looked as strong as possible. Brock almost scoffing at the locker room and deciding to win the Royal Rumble when he already had the Title just for the fuck of it was begging for someone to dislodge his jaw. He needed to be put in his place but the fact that the guy who done it had never even had a shot at the WWE Title never mind won it made it special. It was Drew’s arrival at the top table as the expense of one of the most dominant forces to ever step inside a wrestling ring. Whenever Wrestlemania was going to happen the moment was always going to be he is and as much as the official attendance will always be an eerie wee zero, we were all there with the big man in spirit. The World Champion is from Ayr, Scotland and that will never be anything other than a beautiful thing no matter how chaotic the world gets.