WWE Superstar Drew McIntyre can’t wait to get back on the road
For its first show back at full capacity, the T-Mobile Center will host the flagship program of wrestling company WWE, Monday Night Raw, on Monday, July 26. Not only will fans from Kansas City and the surrounding area be able to see the Center back in action, but viewers across the country and around the world will see WWE superstars like Alexa Bliss, AJ Styles, Bobby Lashley, and more enter the squared circle. It will mark the return of the wrestling brand to Kansas City for the first time since October of 2019. When I spoke by phone with WWE superstar and two-time champion Drew McIntyre, it was readily apparent he was just as excited for the return of live wrestling as the fans.
The Pitch: I assume that you have to be somewhat grateful that you’ve been able to work throughout quarantine, even though it’s been a very weird experience? It’s been weird watching and I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you as a performer.
Drew McIntyre: Yes, certainly different. Obviously first and foremost, I do feel grateful that I was able to still be employed during a very difficult time for a lot of people and very grateful also that my job entailed giving people an escape during the most difficult times, as odd as it was, especially at the top of the pandemic, at the height of it, when every other sport shut down, every entertainment company shut down and WWE pushed ahead.
We brought our shows from the Performance Center initially, which was basically a warehouse with no fans in there. We had to try and redo how things have always been done. We’re throwing things against the wall, seeing what was sticking and figuring out ways we could reach the fans at home and keep them entertained during that time, until we pivoted into our Thunderdome where we’re at right now, with all the lights, lasers, pyro—everything you expect from WWE—and our fans back virtually.
Which has been awesome, but there’s nothing like the live fans. As interesting as at times it was, and very rewarding for me, career-wise, and more rewarding, giving people that escape. I can’t wait to hear our live fans back. Once again, we had a one-night only at WrestleMania with 25,000 life fans. It was such a tease for that night to have it and then go back to no fans again.
I can’t wait to get back on this run and see the fans live. We’ve always said our fans that are the number one superstar and it has been proven completely right over this past year that the fans make WWE what it is. It creates that unique atmosphere they can’t get anywhere but WWE. In this first go-around of these shows, it’s going to be like WrestleMania every night.
Is there any sort of fear in yourself that, after spending over a year getting used to performing without crowds, that the roar of the crowd might distract you a little bit?
No and yes. I mean, I’ve always been a wrestler—since I was 15—and I’m so used to it. I assume it’s like getting back on a bike. I feel so comfortable in the ring, with fans there and listening to them and a lot of people get so lost in the match and what they’re doing.
They forget that we are performing for our fans and it’s a very interactive product. I’ve been doing it a long time and I’ve learned to relax in there. Even though I’m in a physical contest, I’m also aware of our fans and very in-tune with how they’re reacting and I can dictate where I go with my match, by how they’re reacting.
Of course, at the same time—at WrestleMania, I allowed myself to be distracted by MVP so perhaps. I don’t know. I was taken aback. My emotions got the best of me and it cost me the match at WrestleMania. Maybe I do have to be on my game and not get too excited for the fans—I can be excited,, but also stay in the match at the same time.
Coming from your start on the independent circuit and then working your way up to the WWE, you’re used to performing in rings and buildings of all sizes to crowds of all sizes. That’s got be something that helpful to have in your back pocket?
Yeah. I mean, that was going to helpful for me in being champion and kind of leading WWE during uncharted waters. I’m very grateful for my journey and that everything happens for a reason. Anyone who knows my story and all of the ups and downs, you can possibly imagine to get to that point and how they prepared me for being WWE champion and leading the charge. I have wrestled in front of nobody back in the UK because you know, myself and my buddies were starting the UK scene and I have wrestled in front of 90,000-plus fans. I’ve been in every situation imaginable in the ring and outside the ring and I’m grateful for that because it allowed me to kind of lead the charge during these odd times.
Once you’ve had the WWE championship, does that make you want it even more? Now that you know what it’s like to hold that belt, does that make you just thirst to have it back even more?
For me, yes. And I think, if you look throughout history, there’s people that were meant to be champions and those that perhaps didn’t realize the responsibility level and they didn’t quite handle it and well, maybe cracked under the pressure. Being a WWE Superstar is incredible. If you make it to WWE, you’re part of the best of the best. There’s only one WWE. That’s an achievement in itself, but there are different levels to this industry. Being WWE champion comes with a lot of responsibility and pressure and not everyone can handle that.
I freaking love it. I’ve dreamed about it since I was a kid. My journey has prepared me for it. And I love that responsibility. I love being on last and having to put on the best performance. I love representing the company outside of the ring. And yes, I do want to be WWE champion because that is my lifelong dream. Right now, I don’t have it and I want it.
Back in April, you had your first book come out, entitled A Chosen Destiny: My Story. Your autobiography means you’ve joined the ranks of folks like Mick Foley and Brett Hart and Jim Ross who have all put out books detailing their lives in wrestling. What was that experience like for you–getting to tell your story all the way from your start, as you said, at 15, up through now as a WWE superstar?
First of all, it is crazy that I even have a book in the first place. All the people you mentioned pretty much wrote their books after they were finished their career, not kind of getting rolling to the significant point of their career, but it was brought to my attention. Like, “Hey, would you be willing to put your story down? You’re so open about it on the flagship Monday Night Raw and so open about it in interviews. You talk about your experiences in wrestling, but also outside of wrestling–the challenges you’ve faced, how much you’ve had to overcome. We really think you could help some people.”
That was the inspiration for the book. My wife and I sat down and made a decision that we were going to write this for wrestling fans and non-wrestling fans with the idea that was going to be an open book, talking about the tough times and really helping anybody that might be going through a dark period to let them know that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel and let them know that’s what it’s all about.
Writing it and going through my history–it was wild. It’s amazing how many things you block out. Me personally, I’m able to block out the negative things and store them away in the back of my brain and pretend that everything was just hunky-dory in my entire journey.
You go through it again and the biggest thing for me was understanding that well, okay—there’s periods of my life where I wasn’t so confident and went through a lot of anxiety and confidence issues. I had such a great support system. That was the big theme of it: I realized that since I was a kid, I always had my family believing in me and my mother behind me, then getting to America and just having such a good support system around me—especially when times get tough—with family, friends, and neighbors.
Then, inevitably my wife being the one that took care of me during the most difficult period of my life. She believed in me—not just as a wrestler, but more specifically as a person—and helped me reach my potential as a person, which in turn helped me reach my potential as a wrestler. It made me really appreciate everyone that’s been there for me throughout my life.
I find it fascinating that you’ve faced some of the biggest, strongest men in sports entertainment and it seems that writing A Chosen Destiny was almost a more daunting task than going head to head with someone like Brock Lesnar.
Oh, absolutely. It was awesome. I was like, “Wow, I’ve had some really influential females in my life that really shaped who I am today,” which I knew it, but to go through the story I was like, “Now, that’s really cool.” My story reads like The Wizard of Oz or something: they’re coming from a small town. Kansas is like Scotland to me. I come to Oz—the WWE—and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” is my journey of all these ups and downs. The Wizard’s obviously Vince and eventually, I had to find my heart and my courage. Sheamus is still trying to find his brain to this day. [laughs]
How do you mentally prepare for facing a beast like Brock Lesnar, since he’s not only huge, but astonishingly fast and agile?
I imagine if you’ve got a sold-out stadium of 80,000 people, it’s going to get you by, but I did it with nobody in the building, complete silence. I can’t even describe it as fighting at your local bar with nobody there, because at least there’d be music playing. So it was essentially like me and Brock meeting up in a parking lot with a ring there, having a fight with without the adrenaline going. Not like the way it should be.
So yeah, I’ve felt Brock and I situation, no one else’s fought before. Before I went to the ring at WrestleMania, you know, I was backstage with such a skeleton crew. Obviously with everything going on at the time, I was by myself most of the period before the match. I stood there by myself backstage and I was trying to get myself into the right frame of mind: “This is the main event at WrestleMania. Your life’s work. The last match of the weekend. Everyone’s going through a difficult time. You’ve got a feel-good story to bring some smiles to the faces. You pull off this win here. Get yourself in the zone, get yourself in the zone,” and I couldn’t quite get myself where I needed to be.
And I glanced over and I see Brock off in the distance, pacing like a maniac: “Oh, that’s Brock Lesnar you’re about to face,” and suddenly something clicked in me. It was like I’m getting in the zone, all of a sudden, when I see Brock in a distance pacing around with the title around his waist. Then, when my music hit, I went to the next level. Even though there was nobody there, I was just so in the zone and I felt like I was just in my own little world. There could have been 90,000 people there and I would have been in my own little true world, ready to fight him.
Brock came out with his game face on. If you look at Brock’s eyes, when he comes out, he wasn’t phoning it in. He was ready to put on a performance that day and if you look at my eyes, what was going through my head–and it sounds insane, I know, when I say it, but this is really what was going through my mind: “If you pull a fast one Brock and try and screw me here, I’m going to beat your ass for legit.”
It’s insane to say it, but sometimes you have to work yourself up into this frenzy. I used to do it when I played soccer when I was younger. I’d work myself into these crazy places and I did it before that match with Brock.
After having a year where you’re not on the road, how do you begin to readjust to that life?
The driving and flying and grinding that comes with multiple performances in multiple cities a week? It’s the Nike slogan: you just do it. I’ve had my entire life being on the road. I have, as I said, wrestled since I was 15. I had school, obviously—high school and college—and in my free time, I was on the road the entire time. All my summer holidays were spent wrestling since I was a kid. I was signed to WWE at 21 from university, come straight to America, and was straight on the road full-time.
I’ve only ever known being on the road, aside from this past year. It was a hard adjustment at first, being home. I would drive at the beginning of the pandemic for two, three hours, just randomly. My wife would say, “What are you doing? What’s wrong with you?” And I was, “I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve never had this much free time. I’m so used to driving places.” I did it for a long time. Eventually I cut it out and learned a bit more about myself and who I am.
I spoke to a few people about this, and hopefully everybody’s had the mentality of looking for the positives during the negative time. I learned to be a little more present at home, learn to balance my work and personal life. I’ve always been such work driven, but you can have balance and it turns out if you turned your mind off work for a second, it really benefits your job, because it lets everything process and you actually go further if you can take your mind off it for a second. I’ve worked on that during this time, but I am excited to get back on the road. I was born to be on the road. It’s my dream to be on the road. I miss our live fans so much and I can’t wait to get back in front of them.
WWE Monday Night Raw is at the T-Mobile Center on Monday, July 26. Details on that show here.