The metronome Drew McIntyre hears is the end of Roman Reigns’ run as Undisputed WWE Universal Championship drawing near. (Credit: WWE.com)
Eight days out from what will undoubtedly be the biggest match of his life at WWE Clash at the Castle, Drew McIntyre was obliterated with a series of chair shots by The Bloodline on SmackDown.
Less than 24 hours later, he drove to the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, for a live show in which he’d compete in the main event with a black-and-blue-bruised back alongside The New Day against The Brawling Brutes in a six-man tag team match.
The only thing missing from his carrying case that evening was the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.
WWE’s top title has hardly been defended on live events since shortly following WrestleMania 38.
Current champ Roman Reigns’ new part-time schedule doesn’t include the untelevised shows, and although he’s deserving of the luxury, McIntyre is of the mindset that The Tribal Chief’s hardware should be represented on all of WWE programming and not solely on special occasions.
He’ll have his chance to bring the belts back to the full-time roster at Clash at the Castle in Cardiff, Wales, when he challenges Reigns in the night’s highly anticipated main event.
The Scottish Warrior is no stranger to beating part-time performers in an effort to prove his worth as a world championship-caliber competitor. He previously defeated Brock Lesnar for his first WWE title–albeit in front of no fans thanks to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic–at WrestleMania 36 and went on to defend it successfully against WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg, among others.
“They’re huge stars, it’s as simple
as that,” McIntyre exclusively told Bleacher Report in Springfield. “With the Roman thing, I would never harp on him in a way
where I would say, ‘Screw him and his part-time deal.’ It was forced
in his lap, and he’s in a different place in his life, and I’m sure he
regrets some of the things he’s said in the past with where he’s at
now. They’re just things you say in the moment.
“I would never say to
anyone, ‘How dare you do that,’ but I do have my feelings about how I
think the title should be represented, and we need people like Roman
on the show, he’s our biggest star by far,” he continued. “The numbers are all real,
but I do think the title should be featured in every event, and I do
believe Drew McIntyre is the man to do that.”
As the self-proclaimed Needle Mover of WWE, Reigns has legitimately done big business for the company for the last two years of his historic title reign: steady SmackDown ratings, higher attendance numbers and overall renewed interest in the product.
He hopes Reigns, John Cena and The Rock can all appear whenever possible, as they are guys who put their
time in and are household names within the industry. That applies to celebrities coming in as well.
In his mind, if they can drive outside eyeballs to the product, that’s what matters most.
Drew McIntyre Has Yet to Beat Roman Reigns One-on-One
Clash at the Castle will be far from the first battle between McIntyre and Reigns.
Their initial encounter came on the equally grand stage of WrestleMania 35, where Roman reigned supreme. He won all of their subsequent rematches, including a champion vs. champion affair at Survivor Series 2020.
That last outing of theirs was easily their strongest because of the roles being reversed at that point, with McIntyre as the babyface and Reigns as the heel. Both hit their stride with new characters in 2020 and have made magic every time they’ve shared the squared circle since then.
“He’s always been my biggest foe, my
Kryptonite,” McIntyre said. “We’ve had so many significant matches, so many
significant moments. He’s always come out on top. I’ve let him
know that by yourself, you can beat every man on earth except one.
Now that he’s taken one step back in his life and career, it’s
allowed me to take two steps forward. That’s why I’m the man that’s
going to take him down.”
The stage was set for Clash when McIntyre bested Sheamus, a longtime-friend-turned-foe, in a Good Ol’ Fashioned Donnybrook match on the final SmackDown before SummerSlam to earn himself the title shot that has alluded him all year long.
The marquee match was originally teased at May’s WrestleMania Backlash event, but The Bloodline’s victory that evening ensured McIntyre would be kept at bay for a bit longer. Sure enough, the stars aligned just right for it to happen in Cardiff, marking the first-time WWE has held a major pay-per-view in the United Kingdom in almost exactly three decades.
McIntyre lobbied for an event across the pond for years, specifically after becoming a top guy when he had more leverage to make it a reality. Now that it is, he’s feeling confident and relaxed, if not a bit beaten up with all the attacks he’s endured at the hands of Reigns in addition to WWE’s rigorous road schedule taking its toll.
Although it’s only been two-and-a-half years since WrestleMania 36, he’s gained an unmeasurable amount of experience in that span of time and knows what it’s like to be at the apex of the promotion.
That said, this is not an opportunity he plans on taking lightly.
“It’s a different feeling, being a
couple of years older and more experienced,” McIntyre said. “I have been champion and
had the significant responsibility of being at the top of the card.
Roman talks about the levels thing. It’s a real thing. When you’re at
the upper-echelon, your life is 24/7 WWE, and I’ve had that for a few
How Drew McIntyre Finally Found His True Self in the WWE Ring
Becoming Undisputed WWE Universal champion at Clash would also in turn cement him as WWE’s top babyface, despite it being a role he already occupies unofficially.
The idea of Drew McIntyre being a natural fan favorite would have been unfathomable when he started out in 2009 on SmackDown. Interestingly, it wasn’t until he departed WWE in 2014 that he discovered that about himself.
“When I got fired from WWE and went out
and had my journey, I had to find myself, and that was when I really
got comfortable,” he said. “I started being the real Drew on the indies and TNA.
When I came back to NXT, it was something similar. When I returned to
Raw, I was a bad guy, and I was talking about feasting on carcasses
and eviscerating the competition. Nobody talks like that.”
He’s been a victim as often as anyone of subpar promos being written out for him word for word, though the hope among fans is that those days are over with Triple H now running things creatively.
Before The Game took the reigns, it was former Raw Executive Director Paul Heyman who really took a chance on him in early 2020 and allowed him to break out as a babyface. Sure enough, the experiment worked.
“I never imagined I’d be a good guy
in WWE, especially as a big foreigner,” McIntyre said. “And then I got the opportunity
one time. I believe Paul Heyman was in charge of Raw at the time. He
knew what I was capable of. We needed a replacement for a cage
match for The Fiend in a dark match. He told me to go out there and
buy time on the microphone. I was just the real Drew. I started
chatting, having a laugh, messing with some of the guys in the front
row, and you could see people turning around. The right people saw
that and said, ‘Just let Drew keep doing that.’”
He wanted to be someone fans could relate to. It was a stark contrast to the angry, one-dimensional Scotsman he portrayed previously.
Along with injecting more personality into his promos, he started counting down with the fans right before hitting his patented Claymore kick on his opponents for the win. That increased interaction endeared him to the audience that much more.
“After my Rumble win was the first
time I thought to myself, ‘Wow, being The Chosen One, the corporate
Chosen One, didn’t work out, but I can be the people’s Chosen One,” he added.
It’s been over 550 days since McIntyre last held gold in WWE. He wants nothing more than to experience that feeling of euphoria again, this time in a jam-packed arena on his home turf of the United Kingdom.
Six months ago, it could’ve been argued he was the wrong guy to dethrone Reigns as champ and hand him his first loss in almost three years. He was stuck in a dead-end feud with Happy Corbin while spinning his wheels character-wise, but his recent resurgence combined with his booking has made him a prime candidate to take the title.
He’s a rare case of a WWE babyface not getting overwhelmingly negative reactions after remaining a fixture in the main-event scene. Even he is surprised to still have so much crowd support, and his picture-perfect presentation ahead of Clash has had a lot to do with that.
“There have been times where I can’t
believe the people are still so strongly behind me as a good guy,” McIntyre said. “This day and age, it’s hard to keep people’s attention for more than
a second. They’ll switch to someone else and let you know it’s time
to do something different. Even certain things that I didn’t always
agree with, I did the best job I could with what was presented to me.”
Ditching the sword that he carried consistently from late 2020 to mid-2022 was a crucial part of his evolution. Fans may have noticed that it hasn’t been around as much lately, and that was done by design.
“The sword was featured probably more than the man a lot of times,” he explained. “I
was of the mindset that we should develop the man behind the
character more. I love the sword. I think it’s a great visual,
especially for outside viewers. And I agree, there’s no payoff. I can’t stab somebody with it.
“I wanted to use it Saving Private Ryan style
and get some actors and do it Hollywood style, but it was shot down
very quickly,” he joked. “But I think that was an issue with character
development for a while. The sword was front and center…but I
think a big benefit has been taking the sword out, developing the
character, and reminding them who I am.”
From starting out on the UK wrestling scene as a relative unknown with broken dreams to now headlining Principality Stadium for WWE’s most prestigious prize, McIntyre’s career will come full circle at Clash at the Castle if he can finally fulfill his destiny and be crowned champion.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.