Wrestlemania 36 was the culmination of a career's work for Drew McIntyre, when he pinned Brock Lesnar to capture his first WWE championship.
But for the native of Scotland, he didn't get the usual giant roar of the crowd when a wrestler wins the main event of WWE's premiere event due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused no fans to be in attendance at the WWE Performance Center.
One year later, McIntyre will get the chance to win the big one in front of a crowd as he'll face WWE champion Bobby Lashley in night one of Wrestlemania 37 on Saturday from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will be an expected crowd of 25,000 people.
"This year, I'm looking for that adrenaline-filled moment, looking for those people screaming and holding that title and having that moment that I dreamt about since I was a kid." - @DMcIntyreWWE #WrestleMania pic.twitter.com/ZmuRnHVDYz— WWE (@WWE) April 6, 2021
(Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
DAZN: We talked one year ago, and you were in the challenger position heading into Wrestlemania 36 and now once again heading into WrestleMania 37 on Saturday night. How can you compare Wrestlemania last year to this current WrestleMania week?
Drew McIntyre: The obvious of having fans back for me, personally. A year ago, I was really on the upswing. The final pieces of Drew's puzzle were coming together. I was finally being myself from a personality standpoint and finding exactly who I was going to be to make it to that top, top-level and making that connection with the fans and getting some incredible responses until obviously, we lost them for the past year and a WrestleMania itself. The ultimate challenge to put myself on top of the mountain was defeating one of the most unique and biggest superstars we've ever had in this industry, Brock Lesnar, and that journey beating Brock and put me on top within the past year.
It was up to me to stay on top. It's one thing to get to the top, and to stay on top of the mountain is a whole other ballgame. Throughout the past year, I've just been really building that confidence in myself and being not just one of the superstars but the top superstar inside the ring, outside the ring, representing the company doing media. This year I feel very, very confident in my ability. I feel so fortunate that I'm able to represent WWE in so many ways. I'm excited that I get the opportunity once again going in as a challenger at WrestleMania in my American hometown at Raymond James Stadium with fans returning as against someone like Lashley, who much like myself last year, is putting those final pieces together to reach his full potential.
DAZN: How do you view the last year for yourself because you look at 2020, and it wasn't the greatest year for the world?
DM: Very proud of the last year. Obviously, I dreamed of winning the title at WrestleMania and getting that big reaction from 80,000 people, family, friends, and my wife all there. That moment being in every highlight video for the rest of time and getting those reactions at every show afterwards and enjoying that period. But realistically, we're in a time that nobody could possibly have predicted, and I was able to win the WWE Championship right at the height of everything going down when every other sport shut down, and WWE decided we were going to push ahead and keep everyone entertained and give everyone a constant. I was going to be the guy that represents the company. I was so grateful at that moment. Everything happens for a reason. My journey and all the lessons I learned prepared me.
I’m so proud of everyone on our roster for busting their butts last year, finding new ways to connect with the fans, be on social media, looking down the camera trying to make that eye contact with everyone at home until we got to Thunderdome that we could bring our fans back virtually. I was so proud of everything I've been able to do as a champion and stepping up for WWE, and the fans, but also what all of our different rosters are different shows have been able to do just to keep everyone entertained.
DAZN: I look at the last year, and you have been on top of the mountain. Some champions in the past hadn't been able to handle the pressure of being the world champion and being the top guy in the business. Through all these times of the last year, how were you able to stay so positive, not get dejected because, like you said, you didn't get that moment of 80,000 people and that roar from the crowd of you winning the title?
DM: It was a big adjustment for me. We had to figure out different ways to do things, specifically when we had no fans in the Performance Center. I looked at it as ‘Okay, it's a challenge. How can we reach everyone?’ I watched a couple of shows that I hadn't been on and how people were approaching it. I could see they were struggling. They were doing promos and talking to imaginary people. I was like, ‘No, this is not how we go to do it.’
You mentioned the pressure, and some people have not been able to handle it in the past that being champion, all the eyeballs on you, and all the responsibility is on you. Everything I've been through prepared me for everything. Nothing gets my eye off the prize. I've done this for a very long time. I know how to do my job. I do it to the best of my ability. If the fans are digging it, that’s cool. If they don't like it, that's cool, too. Eventually, big Drew's going to have a big heel turn. I can’t wait for it.
DAZN: The UK scene in pro wrestling is cooking a little bit. You look at yourself, and then Will Ospreay just won the one IWGP World Heavyweight title. He mentioned your name and said he’d like a match with you down the line. How familiar are you with Will's work?
DM: Very familiar. He's a very, very talented individual, and I'm very proud to see how far he's come and how far British wrestling has come. From the day I was released from WWE and gone back to the UK, I started seeing the level of talent we produced and how much things have changed since I was last there. I was blown away, and that's when we started getting the British invasion all across the different independent companies, and Will was one of them, myself and few other Brits started traveling the world doing the PWG’s. Myself and Will had a great match at What Culture Pro Wrestling. I'm very happy to see his success. I spoke to him privately. I saw him calling me out. I will not reply publicly (laughs). I'll just say I'm very happy for him. If we had that match, he knows I would take the back of my hand and smack him if it was in real life (laughs).
DAZN: I watched the match right when WWE announced you and Bobby would be facing off at WrestleMania that you guys had at Impact Wrestling. I thought that match was fantastic. How do you feel like the both of you have grown from that point when you're fighting for the world title there to now fighting in one of the biggest matches of WrestleMania 37?
DM: That’s wild to watch how far we've come. I hadn’t watched the match in a while. I need to watch it back to get any ideas of how to mess up Bobby at WrestleMania. I think for both of us at that point, if you asked us, we'd be like yeah, this is as good as we're going to get. We've totally reached our potential. Then to watch the journeys we went on. They know how I feel these days, and I'm sure in a few years from now, we'll be able to say that I look back at 2021 and realize I had so much further to go. Right now, I feel like I'm where I need to be. I'm fully confident in my ability in every single way, looking the part, feeling the part, being the part.
For Lashley, I feel like that's the case for himself as well. Like for Lashley, something wasn't quite there, much like myself last year at WrestleMania. You put MVP and Lashley together, ‘Boom, oh my goodness. Why don't we do this sooner? You got badass Don King and Mike Tyson combination going on.’ Lashley saying what he has to say but keeping it to a minimum. MVP, unbelievable spokesperson for him. Lashley is just the absolute killer that he is now. To get both of us on our unique journeys, to be in the WWE title match at WrestleMania, and to have a throwback to the heavyweight clash over the past few years all across every sport, be it UFC, boxing. WWE, we see a lot of cruiserweights on top because they're so talented, and they drive in such large numbers they deserve to be. So this is a bit of a throwback to two heavyweights in the title match. They're not just plodding around, like putting on a not highly physical athletic contest.
Lashley-McIntyre will be highly physical and be highly athletic. It'll be like a modern-day heavyweight classic, and I guarantee you that people were talking about it for a very long time.