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The ascension of Drew McIntyre in 2020 is a story that writes itself. Once a wrestler presented to the fans in initially promising fashion, his credibility was gradually whittled down to that of the third wheel in a quirky stable made for laughs. McIntyre was then cast out of WWE entirely, the ill fated tagline “The Chosen One” ripped from his hands by the very person who anointed him as such in the first place.
Three years later, McIntyre returned home, in a way. Although NXT at the time was not on the same level as the main roster, his foot was firmly in the door that would see him return to where he once performed. It was only a matter of time before he broke that door down. For McIntyre was on a self prophesied path to back underneath WWE’s brightest lights. A journey he began the moment he received that “future endeavours” memo. A journey in which he spent three years pillaging the independent scene. Filling his résumé with prominent positions and World Championships in notable promotions such as ICW, Evolve, Defiant, PWG, and even TNA/Impact.
If Drew McIntyre was looking to make sure Vince McMahon knew he had erred in letting him go, he was going the right way about it. One has to consider, though, if maybe this was what McMahon wanted of his former chosen one. For him to find himself. For him to become a man. To become the embodiment of a wrestler worthy enough to challenge Brock Lesnar on the Biggest Stage of Them All. And look like a superstar while doing it.
This in itself offers up its own problems, however. In the form of none other than Brock Lesnar. The Beast admittedly, and possibly surprisingly, has just over a fifty percent success rate at Wrestlemania. Be that as it may, he still exudes an all conquering aura that many wrestlers, big and small, have fallen victim to over the years. We saw this personally exhausted trope condensed into a wildly divisive thirty minute showing in this year’s Royal Rumble. With many hopes dashed for fans of Lesnar’s opposition over the years, it’s easy to wear a cynical hat heading into the wrestling calendar’s marquee weekend. Nevertheless, hopes of McIntyre conquering the beast once and for all lie in the breadcrumbs WWE frequently drops in its canon, consciously or not.
Firstly, there is the obvious clue foretelling Lesnar’s fate in April, that being McIntyre himself stopping Lesnar’s dominant Rumble run dead in its tracks in emphatic fashion. Additionally, though, the only other active and full time wrestler to earn WrestleMania victories at Lesnar’s expense is Seth Rollins. A brace, no less. The same Seth Rollins considered a “chosen one” by WWE management previously, too. Both on screen during The Authority’s twilight years, and behind the curtain with the oft used storyline of the babyface overcoming insurmountable odds.
So far, so McIntyre, then, come Wrestlemania 36’s end. Thanks of course to the prophet Seth Rollins….However, one of the issues with this, interestingly, is a possibility Rollins actually predicted on the Raw after McIntyre’s Rumble win. He warned the Scot of the WWE Universe’s fickle nature. That it would only be a matter of time before the fans stab McIntyre in the back. We’ve seen it happen time and again. A wrestler seemingly handpicked by the masses to bare the torch for the foreseeable. Only for them to be fed to the wolves after creative direction didn’t pan out exactly as it had in the fans’ heads. The new toy isn’t as shiny as it once was, and it’s time to bay for blood on behalf of the next apparently underutilised performer.
Sometimes, however, who can deny the hivemind its grievances? How many more weeks and segments will there be before McIntyre’s numerous calls to arms become repetitive? Tired and stale, even? WWE once again risks turning that organically garnered good will into disdain for, and rejection of, the current flavour of the month.
Fan impatience is definitely an issue when it comes to building a star long term, but it’s not the only reason. Maybe not even the worst. Just last week, WWE made headlines for the wrong reasons once again with the fallout from Super Showdown. Several contemporary wrestlers ended the night looking up at the lights in defeat to superstars from previous generations. This is now not just a growing problem at Wrestlemania. With Saudi shows seeing title changes left, right, and centre, as well as angles that result in multi-month angles on regular television, the argument that they are glorified house shows has become null and void. Goldeberg’s Universal Championship win over The Fiend the biggest case and point presently.
I understand and even respect the allure of yesteryear’s greats returning to tangle with the younger wrestlers. But the Goldbergs and Undertakers of the world won’t be around in a decade (if they are, then God help us all). These undoubted legends are seen as such for the times they stepped up to the plate on the grandest stages. The Wrestlemania moments that defined an era and set the tone for years to come. Today’s generation is seldom given the chance to reenact such momentous occasions. Without these, the current crop will simply not have the lustre and attention of its predecessors. The nostalgia trips in five or ten years time won’t offer the same allure as they currently do. If they do. This is not a vicious cycle. Rather, it is a downward spiral. Drew McIntyre doesn’t stand a chance of becoming a wrestling megastar if this current trend continues.
This damning evidence suggests a pattern. Either WWE’s chosen ones hold in their hands nothing but a poisoned chalice or, worse, an empty one. McIntyre may indeed just be the latest in a long line of wrestlers used to placate the hardcore audience. A temporary salve for those fans’ ills, while the casual audience pile in and out for injections of nostalgia that will eventually, surely, decrease in potency. Yet, crowning McIntyre is a decision that makes business sense.
As the year began, WWE’s decades long relationship with Sky Sports came to a sad end. The move to BT Sports, a channel broadcast in far fewer homes than Sky, was criticised by online fans. So much so, that some predicted WWE’s popularity will decline across the pond over the coming years. Well, try telling that to BT Sports. The promotion thrown WWE’s way far exceeds any commitment afforded Titan Towers by its previous partner. Certainly since the WWE Network all but culled the need for a PPV model.
Regular promotion and broadcasting by BT of all programming, now also including NXT and its UK counterpart. Documentaries and footage following British WWE wrestlers, which in itself has crossover potential through the talent’s public support of several sports teams. Especially football, the channel’s main focus. As an example, included in the build to one of Scotland’s Old Firm matches in late 2019 was a predicted win and vote of confidence from Gallus’ Joe Coffey for his beloved Glasgow Celtic. Imagine further exposure in similar scenarios. Wrestlers cutting promos on one another in the build to a big game. Or even wrestlers against sports personalities, which initially offered laughs online as Kevin Owens called out Chris Sutton, and Sasha Banks Gary Linekar. Cheesy as it without a doubt is, the impressionable youth will lap up interactions between their larger than life heroes from different outlets.
This is us into only the third month of the relationship between WWE and BT Sports. In addition, Raw and Smackdown highlights are now broadcast on the free-to-air Channel 5. This is a real eye opener, for it marks the first time in nearly twenty years since WWE has been available in all television owning homes in the UK. Who knows what possibilities await, especially if WWE is to crown its first British world champion next month?
This is why the timing couldn’t be better for WWE to strike while the iron is hot. Its exposure in Britain has undergone a sizable transformation seemingly overnight. So, too, in terms of presentation, has the potential champion in waiting. A champion who, for now, already holds North American support in his grip, offering up the potential for transatlantic superstardom and crossover.
Although not a must, all would benefit if McIntyre was a prominent face on UK television with the WWE Championship hanging from his shoulder. What are necessities though, personally, are that WWE has to handle McIntyre’s rise more carefully than it did Rollins’. Or even Roman Reigns’. It has to implement a plan that sees him not only steamroll the Road to WrestleMania, but the traditionally rocky path thereafter. Most importantly, it has to show unconditional trust in McIntyre. Trust that doesn’t waiver to the point that management’s finger shakily hovers over the “Part Time Legends” button.
If WWE insists on using those past their prime in stadium environments, it needs to begin ensuring there actually will be able bodied megastars at its disposal in years to come. McIntyre has shown all the traits of such a star, within WWE and out. To quote John Cena, which for him his catchphrase should no longer apply, McIntyre’s time is now.
The best characters in wrestling are those who are extensions of themselves. Drew McIntyre is a wrestler hellbent on fulfilling a destiny set before him by his own patron years prior. He is the Drew Galloway from the indies who imbibed the traits of a leader along his journey back to the Showcase of the Immortals. One that had him return to the waiting arms of the man who saw that leadership in him all those years ago. McIntyre not only appears to be grabbing the proverbial brass ring, but to be Claymoring its head clean off.
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