Drew McIntyre's Rollercoaster Journey To Wrestlemania Main Event Vs Brock Lesnar
Getting sacked from a job is never convenient but Drew McIntyre's release from WWE in 2014 came at an especially bad time. Three days prior, he had just moved into a new home with his girlfriend, now wife, Kaitlyn.
"I got the call and got fired so it was pretty sweet!" he told SPORTbible, recalling where he was when he was wished well in his future endeavours.
"I've just been finding out recently that I wasn't 'Mr Confident' when I got the call because in my mind I'm quite good at blocking out the negativity and always remembered I got the call and was like, 'No problem, I'm going to take over the world!'
"Doing a few documentaries and sitting with my wife recently, she was able to remind me that I was upset and angry. A lot of emotions - confused because we [3MB) were booked on everything, all the live events the tours and TVs.
"I was a little upset but I did put a plan together right away on what I was going to do and how I would show the world the real me. I remembered it as being so confident at the time and I guess it was a lot of believing it in the moment."
Signed to the biggest wrestling company in the world aged 21, the young man from Ayr, Scotland was was billed as 'the chosen one' by WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon.
In addition, he also had to deal with the fact that it was very much every man for himself backstage and he didn't have too many people on his side.
"Back then the mentality was like, 'He's taking my spot!'
"I realised a lot of people might not have necessarily been on my side even though they were nice to face. As much as I wasn't ready, people were really not looking out for me."
McIntyre won the prestigious Intercontinental Championship and claimed tag team gold with Cody Rhodes but his stint in WWE was otherwise underwhelming.
He did not fulfil his potential and only blames himself for not being ready for the opportunities presented even though he believed he was.
"I had so many areas of my game I needed to improve on-screen but off-screen I needed to grow up as a person," McIntyre admitted.
"I went from home to university and being told what to do and where to be by my parents and the school. Then I went to WWE, told what do and where to be - I was just a boy following these schedules.
"I still had a boy and student mindset, maybe going out drinking too much when opportunities slipped away. Instead of working hard to make opportunities happen, I did quite the opposite.
"The time away allowed me to get some perspective and realise I forgot this was the dream. I was able to look in the mirror and understand it was me."
While McIntyre accepts responsibility for his failings, his friend, former housemate and fellow Brit Stu Bennett (formerly known as Wade Barrett) - signed on the same day as McIntyre and former world champion Sheamus - has a different take on the "big kick in the balls" Drew suffered from WWE.
"In truth when Drew was released in 2014, there was no actual reason to release him, Bennett, now a commentator for the NWA promotion, stated.
"It was just a boneheaded decision from management. I would suspect someone in management didn't like him or had a problem with him personally because there was nothing about Drew that deserved to get released.
"He was obviously a bonafide star, he was good at all aspects of professional wrestling. His issues, if he had any at that point, were down to terrible booking, storyline writing and character decisions that were made by management but not by Drew.
"There were a lot of people in the locker room really angry when Drew got released because everybody knew what a stupid boneheaded decision it was."
McIntyre could have quite easily sat feeling sorry for himself. Not many people would have mentally recovered from such a setback. But rejection lit a fire inside him and he sought to reinvent himself on the independent scene.
He said: "I kept trying to stay so positive but I knew it was going to be such a long, hard road to take myself from where I was as a joke comedy character into what I believed I could be - which was the top guy.
"It was always laughable to some people to suggest that - and maybe even to myself because it seemed so far-fetched. But no matter what I was going to give it everything I've got and as time passed, the confidence grew.
"I started building up my body, got my confident in the ring and verbalising myself on the microphone, which was something I was terrified of at the time.
"So many companies gave me the platform to be the champion and be the face. I really believe that journey made me a man and got [me] to the point where I feel I can be the number one guy in the company."
One of the first companies to provide that platform was Insane Championship Wrestling, where he was the first ever champion in 2006.
So when his first WWE stint ended, a day later a phone call arrived from promoter Mark Dallas, who had found out the news whilst shopping in ASDA.
McIntyre, real name Galloway, who has been close friends with Dallas since the age of 14, didn't need any convincing and promptly hid for a week in Ayr - his friends fetching him items from the stop - ahead of a shock, goosebump-oozing return to the company at their next show.
This run would see Drew well and truly put ICW on the map byshifting 5,000 tickets for their big Fear and Loathing show in December 2015, where he defended a championship he had made into a world title.
Two years ago, his contributions were commemorated when he was named in the ICW Hall of Fame.
"I knew back then that Drew had the potential to be one of the biggest stars in the world so as a promoter I was salivating about the prospect of having that guy in my roster as someone who had a fire in his belly and wanted to prove they [WWE] were wrong to dismiss him," Dallas said.
"I think his comeback to ICW and how loud an impact that made on the independent wrestling scene, with his title run and making it a world title by defending it in six or seven different countries, really made him stand out.
"There was this thing prior to that when someone leaves WWE and for a couple of months things would go really well and they'd make a lot of money but it would deteriorate as time went on.
"He saw it as another avenue to go down and that it doesn't mean it's a demotion - it all depends on how you want to play it.
"He was flying every day of the week when he was on the independent scene so he worked very hard.
"In terms of ICW he was pivotal because we were growing as a company and it was seeing what was the next big thing. It was so easier slotting Drew into that spot."
In April 2017, after one of the most decorated runs in the history of independent wrestling, McIntyre re-signed with WWE.
Fast forward three years to 2020 and the 34-year old is the No.1 contender for the WWE championship at Wrestlemania after winning the Royal Rumble in front of 42,000 people in Houston, Texas.
He knocked dominant champion Brock Lesnar over the top with a brutal Claymore Kick and went on to outlast everyone else - eliminating Roman Reigns to realise a childhood dream and secure his ticket to the show of shows.
"I think the image of me and how I looked says it all. I didn't believe it was going to happen before it happened and once Roman's feet hit the ground I lost the power to walk," McIntyre reflected.
"Everything just came rushing through me, the journey to that point and the sacrifices that me and my family have been through to get me to that point.
"It was a very cool feeling for every down moment on the road where I felt like I couldn't go on, it was all worth it to know that, in that moment, all that hard work had paid off."
As he made his way backstage, McIntyre did the mandatory handshakes in Gorilla Position prior to his interviews for WWE's social channels.
Amongst the crowd of people waiting for him was pint-sized WWE superstar Drake Maverick - the two having known one another for over 20 years from their days of wrestling in front of 40 people in a social club.
"I just wanted to shake his hand, give him a pat on the back and say, 'Fair play, lad.'I've seen this journey and you're living proof.
"The guy had it all, lost it and then got it all back; it's honestly like watching Anakin Skywalker in front of your own eyes.
"He was destined to be the chosen one, the person that brought balance to the force and then he went on a bad path. Every failure you make, you learn from it.
"No-one is more deserving, more hard-working and more of an inspiration than Drew McIntyre.
He was the chosen one at the end of the day but he wasn't ready. Now he's a superstar and there's a difference between a star and a superstar.
"When he walks into a room, you know that guy does something and that's always the making of a superstar. He's the complete package.
"We've always known that but Drew hasn't always believed that. Anybody with focus, drive and determination, look at Drew's story of what you can be. It's the perfect story and I hope it gets the perfect end."
McIntyre had been reasonably successful in groups and tag-teams and in and around the main event scene, working with the likes of Roman Reigns and The Undertaker.
But he was longing for that extended singles push and needed that extra relatability. Much like with Batista in 2005, organically the crowd have turned him into a fan favourite.
Paul Heyman, in particular, has been a big supporter of him and helped McIntyre connect with the WWE universe on a whole different level.
"I never turned good," McIntyre said without hesitation.
"There was no moment where I saved the guy in distress or the girl in distress, I just started having a laugh and being Drew but still being an ass-kicker in the ring.
"I never said I was a good guy. I'm just Drew McIntyre doing Drew McIntyre things.
"People who don't know my story, it's hard to relate to a six foot five hairy Scotsman who's angry all the time and has no character.
"I started just adding more personality in there. I could feel the crowd responding me but also the people in the back noticed, especially Paul Heyman, who had a little more creative control.
"A lot of it was my own stuff but it was a collaboration with the writers there and Heyman himself.
"I was finding the last piece missing when the crowd started getting me. It just kind of streamrolled from there and thankfully they believed in me enough to give me that Royal Rumble victory. The part that was missing was just Drew being Drew."
McIntyre says he isn't a good guy but he's definitely being presented as that in this storyline. Typically, foreign talent in WWE's top spots are often not portrayed as being good.
Five-time Intercontinental champion Barrett, who headlined WWE shows with John Cena 10 years ago, is a prime example.
"I think as much as WWE say they are an international company, they have always based themselves around their top stars being American. You go through history and there's no doubt about that.
"There is something a little different when you're a foreigner trying to break through to the top. I think Drew is an especially different case because he's being billed as the top guy currently but he's also being billed as the babyface in this scenario.
"My run in 2010 when I was main eventing pay-per-views and I was in the main storylines with John Cena, I was always the bad guy. It's very common as foreigners. Drew is a rarity and it's really cool to see him in that position as a babyface."
After this long, arduous journey, McIntyre finally gets the match he has targeted for years. In fact, he had even envisioned it.
When the match was made official, laying eyes on the graphic created a bit of fuzziness inside him.
He explained: "I came back to the locker room after we had made the match and I think it was Ricochet who said, 'That's pretty cool' and pointed at the screen. I saw the image of me vs Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania and I had to sit down because that's what I had used as motivation for years.
"It's the biggest possible scenario I could envision. What's the biggest thing in wrestling? Wrestling Brock Lesnar because he's the biggest attraction and generally always got the title. The biggest match is at Wrestlemania so you've got build your body up so you look believable and you've got to get your in-ring game up - which was the easier part because it's something I was confident in.
"And also you've got to get your verbal game up because he's got Paul Heyman, one of the greatest talkers of all-time, by his side. I used that as motivation and an image I always had in my head."
Lesnar is, of course, a two-time UFC heavyweight champion with a 106-5 amateur wrestling record.
He's as legitimate as they come but McIntyre and his 6ft5 frame has no fear of the Beast Incarnate.
"[Steve] Austin used to say when he was in with Mike Tyson, in Stone Cold Steve Austin's mind he could beat up Mike Tyson. In Drew McIntyre's mind, he can kick Brock Lesnar's ass and you can see it in my eyes whenever I'm face to face with him. I genuinely believe it."
Unfortunately for McIntyre, the coronavirus outbreak means there will be no grand triumph in front of thousands of rabid spectators as WWE are airing Wrestlemania from the Performance Centre in Orlando.
It's a different type of challenge and an unusual scenario, but his long-time friend Dallas believe it's one he'll adapt to.
"It isn't an ideal situation for Drew because he's worked his whole life for that big moment in the main event in front of a massive crowd but that's just not what fate had instore for him.
"Instead he's in a very different position where he's providing something that is more important than ever and that's entertainment and escapism from real life problems. What an opportunity for Drew to provide that for wrestling fans all around the world.
"Although it's going to be a bittersweet moment if he does win the title because there's not going to be anybody there in the audience, at the same time it makes this show more important than any other Wrestlemanias that preceded it."
Irrespective of how many people are in attendance to see the big crowning moment, McIntyre serves as as inspiration. Just ask his fellow Scot Joe Coffey, who wrestled him for ICW and is now a key part of the WWE's NXT:UK brand.
"He became Scotland's hope of being a superstar and he had that pressure, especially when he was at WWE the first time being 'The Chosen One' - the pressure on you must be like Everest.
"Going away and building himself back up again, he's a credit to the industry for doing that. There's a lot of people that would just sit and rest on what they've achieved so far but he went and rebuilt himself basically.
"It's a major sense of pride. I'd love to see the odds for someone from Scotland, let alone Ayr, of becoming world champion.
"It's great to see for those who are training to become wrestlers and even the guys in NXT: UK that it can be attainable.
"The amount of roadblocks and stumbles we've all had in the industry, each individual person goes through our struggles and battles.
"Drew's had a lot of setbacks, some personal as well. It is inspirational to see. You just keep moving forward and it's a good mantra for life as well. There's gonna be dark days and hard days but there's some sun-rays at the end of it."
When two-nights of Wrestlemania action is over and done with, we could well have a new piece of history created. With victory, McIntyre will become the first ever British world champion.
He summarised: "That's the dream. It was my goal when I first came to America and now it seems a possibility.
"To be part of history, living my dream as WWE champion, would be really cool. I also have unlimited feuds because I haven't feuded with anyone except from Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania.
"Flying the flag here, maybe I can be the one to bring a pay-per-view back to the UK."