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Drew McIntyre: ‘The times I was knocked down prepared me for any situation’

Britain’s first WWE world champion Drew McIntyre tells The Big Issue about choosing his own destiny, wrestling with the pandemic and his Scottish roots

Drew McIntyre is ‘The Scottish Warrior’, a giant among the giants of the WWE.

From his humble roots growing up in Ayr, McIntyre rose through the ranks of one of the world’s biggest entertainment brands – then was fired and had to start all over again.

He charts his rise, fall and resurrection in his autobiography, A Chosen Destiny, and spoke to The Big Issue from his home in Florida about becoming a champion at the height of the pandemic, dream matches and plans for the future.

The Big Issue: Your new book is called A Chosen Destiny. How much of your destiny did you actually choose and how much of it is down to luck – whether that’s good luck or sometimes bad luck?

Drew McIntyre: In my mind, I chose my destiny when I was a kid. At a very young age I said: “I’m going to be in WWE, I’m going to make it happen”. And somehow I managed to pull it off.

When I was 24 years old, Vince McMahon himself said: “This is the future, right here”. At the time it seemed like ok, this is not just chosen by me, it’s chosen by the man himself, this is clearly going to happen. My journey didn’t quite work out. I ended up fired. I had to start not just from not rock bottom, but 10 feet below rock bottom.

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Through a lot of support, a lot of self-belief, I worked my way back to my original destiny. When I came back to the company, the fans started rallying behind me. I was no longer the chosen one of Vince McMahon – obviously he has a big say in who becomes champion – but I was the chosen one of the fans.

To fulfil your destiny did you have to fail before you could succeed?

One hundred per cent. I had to learn a lot of lessons about myself. Things came easy initially, but once things started to go bad in my personal and professional life, I had to fall so many times in so many different ways.

The big thing for me about this book is inspiring people, especially during these times we’re living in now. Things are gonna get dark. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to seem like there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel sometimes. I want people to read my story about how far I fell, especially when I lost my mother and I started drinking all the time. Even though I was physically wrestling, I was not there mentally.

It took a long time for me to start coming from the darkness into the light again. Then I get back to WWE and eventually win the title – in a worldwide pandemic. I’m so glad for my journey right now, all the times I’ve been knocked down prepared me for literally any situation.

Wrestling depends on reacting to a crowd – so how did you adapt to performing when the pandemic prevented an audience being there?

We had a few like seasoned talents that weren’t sure what to do. I missed the first two weeks of no fans being there. Watching the show I saw that people were playing to an imaginary audience – literally turning and talking to nobody.

As soon as I walked out, I embraced the environment. I said hi to the commentators because they’re the only guys there, I’d shake the cameraman’s hips. But the big thing for me was looking down the lens and making that connection with people at home since I couldn’t make it in the arena.

We had the opportunity to educate our fans about who our characters were on a deeper level. People were getting to know me and I wasn’t playing a character. That’s why I’ve been able to succeed finally as I stopped pretending I was something I wasn’t and I started finally being the real Drew and telling my real story.

In the book you talk about psyching yourself up with music before winning the title at WrestleMania last year. What did you listen to?

I listen to everything. I remember driving down to Orlando to record Mania, you would have heard Oasis, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Waylon Jennings, Hank Jr. There would have been some dance tunes. I bet Call on Me was probably in there. Glasvegas would have popped up as well. Then there’d be heavy gym songs like Slipknot when I got closer to match time, but yeah, I have such a wide variety of music.

Any bagpipes?

I’m so proud to be from Scotland and I do listen to Scottish music. It’s just I don’t tend to do it before big matches because it gets me homesick. I’ve not been home in a long time. I’ll put the Braveheart soundtrack on. Caledonia, if I’m really missing home, I’ll fire that on.

Were you happier when you won at WrestleMania last year or when Rangers won the league this year? [McIntyre has been a lifelong Rangers fan, and it’s been a few years since they won the league…]

I was happy for both! WrestleMania was a lifelong dream. I was happy, not just for myself, but for everyone that supported me the whole way and sacrificed so much. Not my sacrifice. For me, it’s my family’s sacrifice. Understanding I was gonna go chase this dream, missing weddings, missing birthdays, missing hard times like when my mum was sick back in Scotland. And, of course, my wife. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her support.

How do you describe your home town of Ayr to people who have never been fortunate enough to visit themselves?

Ayr is home, for one. For those who have not been there, I’m gonna make it sound glamorous: it’s the beach town. It’s where people come from far and wide to go to the beach. I used to sit and watch them get in the water and go: “Why are they going in the water mum? What is wrong with those people?”

I love being from Ayr, everyone’s so friendly. I miss the banter, my family and friends. There’s so much history there as well. William Wallace is, as far as we know, from the Kilmarnock area, Robert the Bruce had his first castle down Turnberry way. I never appreciated the history of Scotland until I moved away.

As well as wrestling, since you were young you’ve been into UFOs and the paranormal. You grew up close to Prestwick Airport, where plenty of shady activity has taken place. Ever see anything strange things yourself?

Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen a lot of unexplained phenomenon. It wasn’t flying in the sky, it was mostly the people in Prestwick! I got into it because my dad’s mum and my mum’s mum were both into in some capacity. My grans would read tea leaves, tarot cards. I guess that put it in me at a young age.

I loved The X Files as a kid and sent away to the FBI in America for documents under the Freedom of Information Act. One day when I was 10 or 11, my dad was waiting for me, which was unusual. He was like, son, I got to talk to you, holding a big dossier about five inches thick. “Why is the FBI in America sending you these documents? You’re 10! Go outside and play football, stop being such a weirdo.”

Eventually I realised that there is a lot more than meets the eye. And if you find out too much, you probably disappear. So I decided to focus on this wrestling dream and it worked out!

After a few years some wrestlers move into other industries like acting or politics. There’s plenty of politics in Scotland to get stuck into…

Absolutely not. Politics is not something I would ever be involved in or would want to be involved in. Regarding acting, movies or TV, I don’t know. This was always the dream my whole life. If eventually the right thing comes up, maybe I’ll do it. Obviously I love Braveheart so if we have a zombie Braveheart. Braveheart 2 – they get his body parts, put them back together and he returns as some kind of zombie Braveheart wreaking havoc, I’ll be your William Wallace.

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You’ve fought with many great superstars, who would your dream match be with?

My favourite was Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart growing up. When my friends all loved Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, all the larger than life muscled-up guys, I was always drawn to Bret. And I never knew why. He looked like a rock star but he wasn’t the most colourful, he didn’t do big over the top interviews.

As I got older and I started wrestling myself I was able to understand. He was such a compelling storyteller with his actions in the ring. Storytelling is what this industry is all about.

The other matches would be John Cena and the Undertaker. I’ve not had significant singles matches with them. I’ll make it happen.

When are you going to get together with Tyson Fury?

It is gonna happen. The UK deserves a significant WWE pay-per-view. There hasn’t been a huge show since 1992 when we sold out Wembley Stadium with over 80,000 people. I want to make that happen again, be it in Hampden, Ibrox, wherever it may be. Maybe Wembley again. If it takes myself and Tyson Fury to draw some eyeballs besides WWE fans, I want to make that big show happen.

He’s such a natural showman. Is he wasted in the boxing ring?

He’s alright. I mean, he’s done well for himself so I can’t say he’s wasted. The thing is he has a genuine love and passion for wrestling and he’s such an entertainer, He gets it so I know we could do some fun business together. Probably some kind of the Battle of Britain theme.

Not long after this interview was published in The Big Issue, Tyson Fury responded to Drew McIntyre’s challenge…

A Chosen Destiny by Drew McIntyre is published by Ebury Press. RRP £20.00.

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