There is no lack of elite talent in the wrestling industry today, but one of the brightest stars more fans need to be talking about is Impact Wrestling's Eli Drake.
While Impact Wrestling has been undergoing major changes behind the scenes and on camera, one of the consistently great parts of the show each week has been the performance of Drake on the mic and in the ring.
In a recent interview promoting Impact Wrestling Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Pop TV, Drake spoke to Ring Rust Radio about his perception of the changes to the company, the departure of the Hardy Boyz and the origin story surrounding the popular "Dummy, Yeah!" saying.
In January, Anthem Sports & Entertainment announced an agreement to acquire a majority interest in TNA Impact Wrestling. Following the change in ownership, several on-screen talents departed from the company and new faces were brought in to replace them.
While an infusion of new talent was good for the product, there were legitimate concerns that the talent who stayed loyal to the brand would be cast aside. Drake spoke honestly about the changes and how he is using them to motivate himself.
"It's different for sure because you got a lot of guys who have kind of established themselves over the last few years under a different regime. No matter what regime, there is undeniable talent there," Drake said. "The fact is now you got a bunch of new faces coming in, and it's a mixed reaction because you look at that and you're like these guys are coming to try to take my spot? Nah. That's a problem. So, I look at it like that, but I enjoy that competition. All that does is light a fire under me, and once that happens I start to get hot, whether it's verbally or physically, but it's actually good fuel."
Drake is one of the most talented performers on the Impact Wrestling roster, and he deserves credit for his loyalty to the brand. Instead of handing opportunities to Superstars from other brands, officials should be rewarding relatively homegrown talent like Drake and Ethan Carter III.
One of the biggest losses for Impact Wrestling was the combination of "Broken" Matt Hardy and "Brother Nero" Jeff Hardy. When asked about their departure, Drake spoke about what it means for the brand and the opportunities it affords wrestlers like him.
"Personally, I love the Hardys, and I wish they hadn't gone, on a personal and professional level. I just think they are incredible," Drake said. "Especially for the fact you can take guys that had an established thing for over 20 years and be able to reinvent themselves that way is amazing. That's a huge talent to lose, but at the same time it's the wrestling business. People are going to come and go, and you got to keep churning and keep pushing, and that's an opportunity I salivate at."
Losing big names is never a good thing for a company, but Drake's loyalty to the brand should be the silver lining. Drake has been one of the top heels in the wrestling business over the last year, and he is as good on the mic as almost anyone in the world.
With the ability to get any crowd hot against his character, he is then able to transfer that heat to whatever babyface he is working against. As seen in his battles with ECIII, Drake knows how to make hardcore and casual fans alike care about a storyline.
One reason fans have enjoyed Drake so much are his witty comebacks and memorable sayings, including, "Dummy, Yeah." As for how something so entertaining came to fruition, it was just a happy accident.
"I've been saying ‘Dummy' for probably five or six years on the independents. I just thought it was a funny word that nobody seemed to use. It's childish I guess, but if you say with the right demeanor it still has some heat behind it," Drake said. "What ended up happening was for whatever reason, whenever somebody would ask me a yes or no question I would just go ‘Yeah.' So, when we went in to record the sound for the dummy button, I was just saying different dummies, and one time I just threw out ‘Dummy, Yeah.' Just out of pure habit. It was kind of an accident, but a very fortunate accident."
At 34 years old and with 15 years of experience in the wresting business, Drake has the maturity behind the scenes to warrant trust from management. Add in his ability to turn the crowd against him with just a few words or actions, and he has proved himself to be worthy of carrying the company as a main event level heel.
Impact Wrestling should be building the brand around performers who have made their name with the company, and Drake is the perfect person to help carry the brand into the future. Every top babyface in the business needs an elite heel to work against, and Drake is everything Impact could want and more.
The hope now is that the new management sees him as the star that he is and lets him put the company on his shoulders. As one of the cornerstones of the brand moving forward, Impact's future would be bright with Drake as a major player.
For more wrestling talk, listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot topics or catch the latest episode in the player above (some language NSFW).