By former Lords of Pain 205 Live reviewer, “205 Clive”.
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On the Road to this year’s Wrestlemania, I wrote of the journey back to WWE for Drew McIntyre. Also, of how the once ill fated moniker “The Chosen One” could finally bear fruit. Ten long years before such acclaim was spoken into existence. There was a question over whether McIntyre would be one of the lucky few to claim a victory over Brock Lesnar. At Wrestlemania, no less. The evidence compiled to that point told me it was a justified question to ask.
Low and behold, the story WWE, Drew, and Brock all told together had a happy ending. From the build to Royal Rumble, all the way through to the Show of Shows. Although a significantly delayed prophecy, The Chosen One pulled the proverbial claymore from the stone in the end.
Fast forward to WWE’s next “Big Four” event in Summerslam, and McIntyre still stands tall atop the pile beneath him. He is somewhat untested in a way. For his run has been during a time when there is no live audience for television, or even house shows, with which to mould a tangible connection with the people. If Nielsen ratings were the only metric with which you would gauge WWE’s success, then an argument could be made that McIntyre isn’t a drawing champion. Knowing Vince McMahon’s propensity for changes on a whim, even with this global pandemic being an easy excuse for off-kilter viewing habits, Drew is obviously doing something right to keep the man in charge happy.
That sentiment has never felt more on point than following what was, for me, a surprise victory over Randy Orton. A wrestler whose own stock is the highest it’s been in years. Orton has been on a rampage of almost peerless form since he started tangling with Edge. The argument for best heel in wrestling today is almost null and void when this incarnation of The Legend Killer is in full swing. From a long term booking standpoint, one wouldn’t have been surprised to see Orton win the WWE Title here. His program with Edge is far from over, and the Rated R Superstar’s return from tricep injury would sync up rather nicely with Wrestlemania 37 on the horizon.
In addition, a common scenario fantasy booked is that Drew losing the title wouldn’t be a bad thing. As long, of course, as another coronation in front of a live crowd is in his immediate future. With that optimistic mindset, a loss to a red hot heel wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, would it?
Instead, after a hard fought bout with hard way bleeding, McIntyre left Summerslam the victor. Outsmarting the ever cerebral Orton by negating the delivery of both the much protected RKO and Punt. It was a performance becoming of a wrestler still able to sate fans with his “workrate”. A display so full of resilience and resolve, it leaves the initial runs of other first time baby-face world champions in its dust. It was, maybe above all else, a statement. That Drew McIntyre is an iteration of the man making the title, rather than the title making the man.
This match alone encapsulated McIntyre’s entire run as WWE Champion to date. The above traits have been present since January, but prominent since April. Three former world champs have now fallen prey to McIntyre’s hunt. All four, I suppose, if you REALLY want to throw Bobby Lashley’s ECW title reign into the equation. Though, even without the same plaudits held by Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, and Orton, Lashley was presented as the biggest threat he’s been in both of his WWE runs. It’s hard to present a six foot five powerhouse as one who had the odds stacked against him. But stack them they did, thanks to uber confident MVP in Lashley’s corner.
Adversity has been a common companion to McIntyre in his title run. So much so, it’s something that really suits him, despite his size. Whether it’s through a literal numbers game in the form of Rollins, his disciples, Los Ignorables de Zelina, et al. Or outright unfair stipulations that made a victory over Ziggler an incredibly tough ask. McIntyre has finely swaggered that line where all could come tumbling down around him while simultaneously being confident enough to not let it phase him. Strongly booked segments. Soul destroying one liners that leave his opponents hollowed out with embarrassment. Defying physics with nip-up Claymores that laugh in the face of the Superkicks that stare him down. You name it, McIntyre has done it. He has a strong case to be called the best booked WWE Champion in a very long time.
What’s more, McIntyre is succeeding where many others have failed. Kofi Kingston and Dean Ambrose immediately spring to mind as wrestlers much better suited to the chase, rather than being chased. Drew McIntyre, on the other hand, welcomes the hunt, and looks great doing it. The “fighting champion” tagline is oft overused in wrestling. Yet, it feels very justified when you think of McIntyre.
I genuinely struggle when trying to conjure up negatives in Drew’s 2020. He’s ticked so many boxes, personally, he’s onto a new page. What I’m trying to get across here, in typical long winded fashion, is that Drew McIntyre is an outstanding champion, and a great advert for the company in these…altogether now… unprecedented times.
Add in the intangibles, and you begin to see the face of a company who possesses enough uniqueness to stand out from the crowd, too. Respect given to, and time for, several on-screen interviewers. All done with a twinkle in his eye and a sing-song cadence in his voice. The unique opportunity afforded him through social distancing guidelines. Where hardly a day goes by without a new media interview flooding our feeds. Those turns of phrase he has made his own, which sound that bit more threatening and believable with a Scottish accent (no bias here, honest). Around this time, or even before now, interest in a wrestler, by both management and fans, has usually begun to wean. To the point where boredom or disdain is the loudest opinion. Unless I have my tartan tinted glasses on, no such ill will has been directed McIntyre’s way. Yet.
If the plan going forward is for Drew to remain where he is, then the true test will come if and when he performs in front of a live audience. How will they react to an act that so far has been in a heavily controlled environment? Both from a WWE presentation and now Thunderdome fan behaviour aspect? Will the fans turn on him like they have so many others? Or will they pick up where they left off in March, and continue with the unconditional support he seemingly received from those in attendance?
There is every chance that, come the next monthly Network event, McIntyre’s time at the top will be over. That this piece will have aged quicker than a glass of milk left out in the sun. The concern over Orton holding the strap pending Edge’s return could rear its head afterall. After that, the concern over when, or even if, McIntyre mixes it up the main event again begins to fester.
My hope, though, is that WWE realise it has happened across a real opportunity here. One which sees us have a genuine, strong (and strongly booked), likeable, baby-face “big guy” world champion for the first time since possibly Dave Batista. That seems like a long time ago. But when one considers how often Vince has dipped his toes into the OVW Class of 2002 well, such a comparison doesn’t seem that far fetched.
If all parties involved play their cards right, Drew can thrust himself into that group of go-tos Vince relies on so heavily. He can be the one in ten years’ time whose attraction match at Wrestlemania at least freshens up what is becoming the same greatest hits played over and over again. He can be the poster child for WWE going into an ever increasing digital age, what with how accessible he has been with computer and smart device use at an all time high. If all involved do play their cards right, then Drew McIntyre really can be the chosen one, and then some.
Read my previous Brand Extension columns here.
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