Drew McIntyre's latest stint on WWE Raw has been brief, but he has shown enough promise to the point where he should be fast-tracked to the Universal Championship picture as soon as possible.
When Vince McMahon labeled McIntyre "The Chosen One" upon the Scottish Superstar's WWE debut in late 2009, it was clear he was destined for big things in the company. Of course, it took a little longer than expected, but he has since come into his own as the complete package and everything WWE would want out of a top-tier talent.
McIntyre first turned heads with his work on the independent scene following his WWE departure in 2014 and continued to wow the wrestling world when he returned to NXT just last year. It wasn't long before he was positioned as the lead face on the brand and had captured the prestigious NXT Championship.
Although an injury temporarily halted his momentum at the tail-end of 2017, his time away from NXT TV proved to be a blessing in disguise. The next time fans saw McIntyre standing inside the squared circle, it was alongside Dolph Ziggler on the April 16 edition of Raw.
After so many years, he had finally made it back to the big time, but his newfound alliance with Ziggler took some viewers by surprise. As nicely as they complement each other in the ring, Ziggler has been floundering for years and has shown no signs of being featured prominently on programming ever again.
As such, it was an odd choice for McIntyre to be slotted in the tag team ranks when he very easily could have been successful in singles competition. That isn't to say his time won't come eventually, but the longer he is paired off with Ziggler, the less likely it is he will get his due on his own.
The recent Raw match pitting McIntyre and Ziggler against Finn Balor and Braun Strowman exposed how much more of a star McIntyre is than his tag partner. In addition to having the height and look that officials tend to like, he is an extremely skilled competitor between the ropes and his promos have improved as well.
At one point during that outing, McIntyre and Strowman teased going at it, only to briefly do battle on the outside of the ring. The raucous reaction to their faceoff should have reminded management what they have in McIntyre and that he shouldn't be relegated to tag team matches for much longer.
A feud with "Woken" Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt over the Raw Tag Team Championship is only inevitable, but beyond that, McIntyre should be fighting for the Universal title by the end of the year.
Looking at the current lay of the land in the world title picture on Raw, there aren't many men who can feasibly pose a threat to Brock Lesnar. Strowman and Samoa Joe could have and should have been the ones to dethrone him as champion last year, but WWE dropped the ball on both occasions.
Of course, there is still Roman Reigns, who appeared to be on the verge of slaying The Beast Incarnate at WrestleMania 34 and Greatest Royal Rumble before being beaten. It's quite possible WWE is planning on giving him another shot at the strap sometime soon based off the "controversial" finish to their last match, but McIntyre would be a far better choice to run with as Lesnar's next feud.
Although the former NXT and Intercontinental champion hasn't done much of note since returning to Raw, he can build up to Universal Championship contention quite quickly and be the breakout star the show desperately needs at the moment.
First and foremost, he should split from Ziggler sooner rather than later so his ascent toward the top of the card can begin. A one-on-one feud between them wouldn't even be necessary, though McIntyre scoring a victory over the former world champion would only help boost his stock.
From there, McIntyre entering a program with Reigns, Seth Rollins or another notable name on the Raw brand would allow him to cement his singles status as a star on the rise. If WWE was truly serious about focusing on the future, then it shouldn't be difficult for Vince McMahon to realize that he has his next Universal champion waiting in the wings in the form of McIntyre.
It isn't imperative for him to be holding Universal title gold before 2018 is over, but there is no reason he should be held back any longer, especially at a time where Raw could use all the credible heels it can get.