It was more than 10 years ago Vince McMahon dubbed Drew McIntyre as “The Chosen One.” However, this prophecy wasn’t fulfilled until WrestleMania 36 when the Scottish performer defeated Brock Lesnar to become WWE champion.
This milestone capped off a far from conventional road to the title for the Royal Rumble winner, one that had its share of bumps including a worry if the “Show of Shows” was taking place or if he would make it back into the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. Reflecting on it all, McIntyre believes the way his story played out made reaching the top of the mountain that much more special.
“Considering the situation after I got over my initial anger and disappointment that was captured on that WWE Chronicle, I began to realize how serious the situation was,” he said. “We’re still pushing ahead and giving the world WrestleMania and content to take their mind off things. This became a bigger deal. The fact we still brought the world WrestleMania meant the world.
“It was weird. Backstage obviously there was nobody there, aside from the health and safety guys following CDC guidelines. It was super quiet. It was a ghost town, but as soon as my music hit I fell into the zone. Brock and I had our match. I had that moment with the title. It wasn’t 80,000 screaming for me, but I would have reacted exactly the same.”
Those who stood by the Raw superstar through his WWE release, return, and everything in between were not there to celebrate the victory. That didn’t stop McIntyre from putting his hand out into the camera thanking everyone who never gave up on him.
“I can’t believe they kept it in there. I just wanted to show the real emotion at the time because it was how I was really feeling,” he said. “I wanted to thank everyone for standing by me on this whole journey. I wanted to thank everyone for choosing WWE during these difficult times. That was the kind of moment that wouldn’t have happened at any other WrestleMania. Nobody will forget this WrestleMania when the world stood still and the fact we brought so much joy to people. That’s what means the most.”
Days after headlining WrestleMania, the first British WWE champion explains why his work has just begun.
It had to be hard holding it in before WrestleMania aired, knowing your time was finally coming. Kind of like a kid on Christmas waiting for the world to find out.
Drew McIntyre: I definitely couldn’t when I was younger, but I’ve developed this ability to store things off in the corner of my brain and forget about them. I’m very good about doing that with negativity. If I don’t want to think about something, I can store it off in a corner. The fact it happened I thought, ‘OK, it’s done. It goes off in the corner.’ Also, nothing happens until it happens like in any part of entertainment. Every interview I did after that I probably sounded genuine talking about the match like it was coming up because that is how I felt.
The title was living in a room, and I wasn’t allowed to look at it. It wasn’t official. That’s how I treat everything. I was watching it happen like everyone else on the couch. It was surreal, an out-of-body experience. I felt the same emotions watching the match. I was reacting to all the F5’s and Claymore kicks. My wife had to move, afraid she would catch an elbow. Seeing the social media outpouring was nothing like I had ever seen. Then I heard the social media interactions were 13.8 million. To see those numbers and to hear so many watched, this meant more than my potential moment in front of 80,000 people.
You mention never knowing really what can happen until it does. We saw that on Raw when you had that impromptu match against the Big Show shortly after facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. What was that experience like? I think that was one of his best recent matches.
Big Show is very good at his job. He has always been trying to push for me when I was a kid not getting any opportunities. When I was struggling in my mid-to-late-20s, he put me over every chance he could. That's what is so good about Big Show. He is so talented on the microphone and facial expressions, but he can still go in the ring. I know some people weren’t too sure when he came out. I was taken aback, but I thought it was very unique. It’s a unique situation. Why would we do anything the same?
What kind of advice or pearls of wisdom have you gotten from past champions like a Triple H or Shawn Michaels? Or even Vince McMahon, what has he said to you now that you’re on top of the mountain?
Mostly positive comments about being proud of what I was able to achieve and never giving up — not just in the ring and growing up as a performer but outside the ring. I can be trusted to represent the company as a top guy. That stuff means a lot, but the biggest piece of advice is to don’t forget what brought you to the dance. Like Drew McIntyre is suddenly going to change into running around and kissing babies. I laugh and joke around on the microphone. That’s sort of the thing that helped get the crowd behind me because that’s the real me. But when the bell rings, there is a reason they called me a psychopath for a while because I can get a little crazy in the ring. If you bring a tarantula in a cage to the ring, I might squash it. I’m different than everybody. So don't change what brought you to the dance.
One of the great things about your story is how you’ve come back from so many obstacles and worked your way up. You talk a lot about how you always wanted to be the leader and the face of the company. What do you think you bring as champion, maybe compared to others in the past?
I’ve always said the journey over the past 19 years has prepared me. I’m ready for anything and to represent the company in any situation. Especially in these times, there has been no champion in the past who had to be in this current situation of the world. I want to be the guy to lead the company going forward ... we are pushing ahead as best we can while following CDC protocol to bring original content. I want to be the champion carrying the load during this time.
Like there is nobody there, but we can’t take it down a notch, we get up 10 notches. That’s what I expect from the girls and guys around me. I want Raw to be the top show from top to bottom. Even though nobody is there, we have to be creative and think outside the box. Look at the Boneyard, look at the Funhouse — there are ways to do it. The writers are great, the backstage staff is great, and our talent is great.
When you look at the roster, who do you see right now who might have the potential to step up the way you have?
There are a lot of people who just have to put together those last two pieces. I’d say the last few months leading into the Royal Rumble I wasn’t quite where I needed to be. I was able to present myself as myself and relate to the crowd. Those were the last few pieces for me, even though I would have been a good champion and worked hard and been fine. It worked out where now it will be really good because it’s the real Drew. I can throw a Ricochet out there and an Andrade that I think can really step up as time goes on.
When you think about the Boneyard Match and Firefly Funhouse, this opens the door to a new world of creativity for WWE. Boundaries are definitely pushed here. If you could have a similar cinematic match, where would you like it to take place? For me, I loved that insane workout video you did in Scotland.
My wheels are turning. I already have some ideas. I hope everyone on the roster are all pitching ideas and how we can come together as a team to be creative. You can’t rely on other people to do the job for you. It’s a team effort. I don't want to give too much away, but let’s just say if we have Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley end up in a bar situation with our knuckles taped, that may be interesting.
Without a crowd or even many of your co-workers there to celebrate your big WWE title win, is there anything you did to mark the occasion?
My wife turned my mother’s ring into a chain that I could wear. Regarding the celebration, it’s the same as it always is. To be honest, I had not gone to the after party for WrestleMania the last couple of years because I just wanted to spend it with the wife. I love being around everyone and celebrating with everyone and will swing by to see some people really quick, but I don’t want to hang out, drink and party.
Drew did that tenfold in his 20s. I’m 34 and sound like I’m in at least my 40s, but that’s because I’ve been around for so long. This year I did essentially what I would have done, which is be with the wife and the cats and home. We watched a movie, I think it was The Lobster. It’s so weird. It’s kind of suitable I guess because with the Drew story nothing ever quite goes to plan. I guess the celebration is fitting that we watched the weirdest movie of all-time. If anyone has not watched it, be prepared. It’s kind of like the Firefly Funhouse of movies.
I hope the wife isn’t getting jealous of the time you’ve been spending with the championship these days.