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Reflecting Upon Drew McIntyre’s Incredible 2020

“Nobody looks more like an action figure than Drew McIntyre,” says NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano. Drew, looking as if he’s chiseled out of stone, is the closest that WWE currently has to resembling Disney Renaissance era Tarzan.

2020 for most of the world has been appallingly abhorrent. However, for 35-year-old Drew Galloway, it was the culmination and payoff of an incredible nineteen year odyssey.

Galloway, who grew up in Scotland where wrestling wasn’t quite as big as it was in other parts of Europe, dreamed of one day being World Champion in WWE, idolizing wrestlers such as Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid. He trained in the same school as Impact legend Doug Williams and former WWE superstar Paul Burchill. After running roughshod on the Independent scene, including becoming close with his best friend Sheamus O’Shaunessy (future four time World Champion), he was signed to WWE in 2007, immediately jumping to television to team with veteran Dave Taylor.

He didn’t stick and was sent back to developmental rather quickly. In 2009, he was called back up with the character of “The Chosen One.” He was, in kayfabe, handpicked by Vince McMahon as the future of the company. Set with arguably the best theme song of the last twenty years, armed with a very physical style and an easy to write character, he was immediately in the upper-echelon of the SmackDown card and won an Intercontinental Championship rather quickly. However, McIntyre struggled to stand out physically among a far more physically imposing roster that WWE had ten years ago. Mix this with his personal demons, he fell down the card quickly. It’s rumored that Jack Swagger’s World Championship run in 2010 was supposed to be McIntyre’s, but plans changed after reports of backstage struggles. It’s not as if Drew was knocking everything out of the park, either. The Chosen One was a brilliant character concept shackled by contrived promos and a guy who felt like he was playing Pro Wrestler, even if his ring work never faltered (seriously, check out the matches he and Chris Masters had on Superstars if you want some lesser known stuff that’s really solid). Following a run with 3MB, McIntyre was released from his contract in 2014.

With everything having crashed, Drew confirmed a lot of personal demons throughout 2020 in different documentaries on the WWE Network and cites his wife Kaitlyn as his turn around. Drew would then set the standard of what a workhorse is supposed to be with an incredible schedule around the globe of Independent Wrestling. In late July, he returned to ICW His first match in EVOLVE, he defeated Chris Hero for the EVOLVE Championship in a hard-hitting classic. The next night, he worked with former WWE Cruiserweight Champion Tony Nese. He was working ICW, EVOLVE, PWG, WhatCulture Pro Wrestling, PCW, RevPro, AAA, among others. He won the Impact World Championship. He worked any and all styles, with classics with talents such as Zack Sabre Jr., Noam Dar, Marcell Barthel, Big Damo, Marty Scurll, Johnny Gargano, Timothy Thatcher, Brian Cage and others. He even had a great match with his former WWE Tag Team Championship partner Cody Rhodes, whose Independent run following his WWE releases parallels that of Galloway. In 2017, he showed up in NXT at Takeover Orlando.

But this wasn’t the same Drew McIntyre back in WWE. He put on 20 pounds of pure muscle. By the time his NXT run was over, the WWE roster was a lot smaller. 6’6, 265 is so much bigger in 2020 than 6’6 245 was in 2009. With a roster featuring talent such as AJ Styles and Seth Rollins as its top full-time superstars, Drew had the potential to be a smashing success. But, his in-ring work was refined and he is one of the most athletic big men the company has ever seen. His promos have improved drastically and ever since his first WWE babyface run began about a year ago, he’s been the most natural man with a microphone. Everything Drew does has a purpose and everything is believable. Around this time last year, WWE turned him face and strapped a rocket to McIntyre, who hasn’t looked back.

Royal Rumble to WrestleMania

The 2020 Royal Rumble match is almost a tale of two matches. Brock Lesnar is the biggest name in combat sports of this generation. However, his path to his first WWE Championship and WrestleMania main event couldn’t have been more of an opposite to McIntyre’s. Brock Lesnar is the youngest WWE Champion of all-time, having had one of the best debut years in WWE history. Debuting the night after WrestleMania X-8, he had already won the King of the Ring to earn a WWE Championship opportunity that summer, where he defeated the Rock. Brock main evented the next WrestleMania against Kurt Angle, the greatest in ring performer of all-time. Fast forward 17 years since his WrestleMania 19 main event, and he’s a 42 year old Beast Incarnate who’s in his fifth WWE Championship reign and is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. He entered the match at number one and eliminated the first thirteen superstars to enter the ring, doing so in rather quick fashion. Barely even breaking a sweat, it’s Drew McIntyre at entrant number 15 that closed the book on the first half of the bout.

Drew hit Brock with a devastating Claymore Kick that sent Lesnar soaring over the top rope. As Brock laid down, Drew continued to stare him down until the next entrant. From there, it continued to be one of the most emotionally charged matches in WWE history, including the return of Edge. But it came down to two men: Drew McIntyre and Roman Reigns. Drew eliminated Reigns to win the Rumble, sending him to his first WrestleMania main event.

The build was fantastic, with Brock putting him over in a major way. Let’s clear the air: despite Brock Lesnar’s schedule and the constant criticism thrown upon him by some of the louder members of the audience, he is an incredible talent and an even more incredible business man. When Brock Lesnar sees money, he will make sure the right thing happens and in the process put the talent over in a way that nobody else can. The way that Brock Lesnar understands the wrestling industry is absolutely remarkable. Of course, he’s also backed by Paul Heyman, who is the best promo in wrestling history. The way that Paul Heyman can sell you the shoes that you’re currently wearing on your feet is second to none.

That empty threat of leaving Drew laying. The face off that had the crowd’s groundswell. The kip-up following the Claymore. The pop when McIntyre hits the second Claymore. The reaction when he holds up the Championship over Lesnar’s lifeless carcass. Lesnar’s spaghetti legs as he gets clobbered a third time. Instead of kipping up like he did the first two, he sits and stares at him, as if Brock Lesnar is undefeated Apollo Creed underestimating the underdog story that’s about to tarnish his entire legacy. The segment is just a chef’s kiss of what’s great when professional wrestling is done right, even if WWE rarely gets it right anymore. But with Drew McIntyre this entire year, they’ve gotten it right. Suplex City is just a location on the map in Claymore Country.

Drew has never had the perfect story and it met another fork in the road with the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of performing in front of a raucous crowd at Raymond James Stadium, it happened in an empty Performance Center in Orlando. But hey, even Warren Sapp didn’t get his Championship in Raymond James despite playing his home games there. That’s okay, because Drew had the opportunity to bring joy to a world that needed it. In the main event of the first WrestleMania held behind closed doors, he defeated Brock Lesnar in convincing fashion, finally achieving his dream as he reached out to the people at home watching around the world.

Top Guy During The Pandemic

Drew McIntyre had finally reached the mountaintop and normally it’s all downhill from there. Even just a year prior when WWE had Seth Rollins dethrone Lesnar and his wife Becky Lynch was the first female to win the main event of WrestleMania while also being the company’s biggest draw, their reigns were booked extremely poorly at the detriment of their on-screen personas. This had become a commonplace in WWE, with the old adage of “the money is in the chase” being more prevalent than ever before, at least in WWE, whereas you can look at other companies such as NJPW and a guy like Kazuchika Okada or AEW and a guy like Jon Moxley and say the opposite.

The WWE lost a lot of big name talent in the pandemic, including their biggest star in Becky Lynch who recently welcomed her first child, Roux. Roman Reigns was also gone for a majority of the pandemic due to health concerns from h is leukemia bout, Sami Zayn took a leave of absence, Charlotte Flair got injured, Brock Lesnar hasn’t been seen since WrestleMania and the WWE released a large number of its roster. The roster was extremely depleted. Another factor weighing against McIntyre was that there is no audience. In this industry, the audience is the glue that holds everything together. Any flaw in a match is far more noticeable without an audience and without the extra noise, it’s a lot more difficult to maintain a viewer’s attention. You can always separate the top echelon of workers by what they can do in front of no-house. If Drew McIntyre was not ready, this was going to be exposed.

Miraculously, nobody adapted better to the lack of an audience than Drew did. Not only that, he worked programs with talents such as Bobby Lashley and Dolph Ziggler and kept the interest at a high. Despite working with Angel Garza and Andrade ad nauseum, never once did he have the same match. His entire reign, whether he was working with top stars such as Randy Orton and Seth Rollins, or upper midcard stalwarts was constant banger of a match after banger of a match. He was one of the best promos on the show. In a wrestling world where overexposure has peaked its head so many times, Drew was on screen for most of show in his first reign and never once felt overexposed, despite sometimes working twice a night. In a time where the WWE desperately needed somebody to step up, Drew McIntyre had the best babyface championship reign since CM Punk in 2011-early 2012. Over 213 days, he defended the championship ten times. Across those ten defenses, his opponents have a combined 37 World Championships recognized by WWE between them.

Drew McIntyre would lose the championship to Randy Orton inside of Hell in a Cell, putting an end to his first WWE Championship reign. As the WWE unveiled the state of the art WWE ThunderDome to interact with fans, Drew carried them through a time there wasn’t any fans in any way whatsoever.

Second WWE Championship Victory

Drew McIntyre, after showing up unannounced and ripping into Roman Reigns, the new head of the table, on SmackDown would defeat Randy Orton only 22 days after his loss to become champion in one of the best matches of the year. At Survivor Series, he faced Roman Reigns in yet another match of the year contender.

Since, he’s real-life friendship with Sheamus has been the focal point of his character arc, including Sheamus taking him back to his ancestral roots. This will likely lead to a future program between the two, which shouldn’t be for the weak at heart. While breaking down Ilja Dragunov’s incredible NXT UK Championship challenge against WALTER, the two noted they’d love to do that kind of match in WWE. It was one of the most physical matches of this generation.

This Sunday, however, he ends the year with a TLC match against AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Styles is considered by many to be the best in ring performer of the last twenty years not named Kurt Angle. 2020 also saw Drew McIntyre get his own podcast on the WWE Network, which has had guests such as Matt McConaughey (Dazed and Confused, Failure to Launch, The Gentlemen).

For many, 2020 has been trying. For Drew McIntyre, he carried an empire on his back during a global pandemic and was the absolute standard for professional wrestling across the world in 2020. Not only is he the wrestler of the year, but he had a run where so many things went against him, yet it’s irrelevant because the run was second to none. Many scoffed or questioned as to whether or not Drew McIntyre was the correct choice when he won the Royal Rumble, yet nobody else would’ve been able to pick up the pieces to the extent that he did when the world unexpectedly crumbled down. Drew McIntyre is legit and Drew McIntyre is here to stay. He no longer dreams “broken dreams” but he has made all of his lifelong dreams come true.

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