A year ago, Drew McIntyre became the first WWE champion to have the first silent "WrestleMania moment." As the sport prepares to welcome fans back at next month's WrestleMania 37, McIntyre and the entire WWE locker room are champing at the bit to hear the roar of the crowd.
"It means the world," McIntyre told Bleacher Report of fans returning. "Last year, I'm so proud of. What we did, bringing the world an escape with WrestleMania, brought a lot of smiles on a lot of faces during a difficult time...but we've all been buzzing for the idea of the fans coming back. The fans are unreal, so passionate in general. They've been starved of WWE for a long time, and they're ready to make some noise, and it's so cool the first time they're gonna be there is at WrestleMania.
"I'm just gonna try to not get overwhelmed. That's gonna be the biggest challenge for me, walking out for the first time in a stadium with that many people at WrestleMania trying to compose myself. I can't wait."
WrestleMania will be the first WWE pay-per-view to air exclusively on Peacock as part of the five-year, $1 billion exclusive rights deal the company signed with NBCUniversal earlier this year. Sunday's Fastlane event will air on Peacock and WWE Network.
While the relationship between WWE and NBCUniversal will lead to some opportunities outside the ring for talent—Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss appeared in Peacock's Punky Brewster revival—McIntyre doesn't see much of a future for himself on camera.
"Not right now, but you never know what the future holds," McIntyre said. "I'm all about getting more eyeballs on WWE. That's the biggest thing to me, and moving to Peacock, that's going to be a whole lot of eyeballs on WWE. But if there's an opportunity that would put more eyes on the product, I'm all about it."
If McIntyre finds his way to the silver screen, he does already have a script in mind: Zombie Braveheart.
"If somebody makes Braveheart 2: The Rise of Wallace, we take all the body parts of Wallace, put them back together, he comes back as Zombie Wallace and he wreaks havoc on the English, but until that day comes [acting] is not something on my radar," McIntyre said.
McIntyre is more intent on regaining his WWE championship, which he lost to The Miz at Elimination Chamber after being attacked by Bobby Lashley, who defeated Miz for the title a week later on Raw. WWE announced McIntyre will go head-to-head with Lashley for the championship at WrestleMania 37 in what should be a classic heavyweight brawl.
The Scottish Warrior credited Lashley as being "on a roll," highlighting the work The Almighty put into returning to the main event scene. McIntyre and Lashley have similar stories, being built up at a young age by WWE as the next big thing before needing to leave the company to realize their full potential. Both men returned to WWE motivated, emerging quickly as the type of stars Vince McMahon envisioned when they were in their 20s.
"It's two classic heavyweights going to have a classic heavyweight contest in the main event of WrestleMania...WWE was built on two heavyweights going out. Just slugging it out and sitting in holds a lot of the time. We're two guys that are gonna go out there and lay it in, but we're gonna have an entertaining, athletic contest at the same time. It's so cool we have a modern heavyweight contest in the main event of WrestleMania," McIntyre said.
McIntyre admits he sees fan chatter about him being an "underdog" against Lashley, who has been booked as a monster heel heading into their matchup. However, the same could have been said about his main event last year against Brock Lesnar. The Beast was the strongest-booked athlete on WWE television for the last half-decade, with even those who were able to beat him typically needing to do so through nefarious reasons.
McIntyre needed no such help, going over Lesnar clean to capture his first WWE championship. While McIntyre admitted there was part of him that wished his moment would have come in front of fans, he said he took pride in the subtlety and nuance of his unique WrestleMania moment.
"I'd be lying if I said part of me wasn't a little disappointed I didn't have 70,000 people and my family and wife in the crowd going crazy, being able to jump into the crowd and all that stuff. I sat down and talked about it with the wife, and saw how serious the COVID situation was and I realized how big [WrestleMania 36] was for the world, for an escape for everybody, and the fact my story was a feel-good story.
"I was like, 'You know what, this is bigger than my selfish moment.' And I did have my moment, that's the thing as well. I won the title, and even though it was silent, I had a really private moment the crowd got to watch at home with the title. Instead of the adrenaline being off the charts, raising my hand and jumping in the crowd, I had a really private moment looking at the title and a montage went through my head of everything I've been through to get to that moment. When I realized what was happening, I was like, 'oop, there's Brock Lesnar lying there. Oop, we're live at WrestleMania, I need to do something.'
"To me, that was my WrestleMania moment right there—it will be remembered forever as the WrestleMania the time stood still. At the same time, I'd still love to have a moment with the fans this year."
McIntyre's desire to connect with fans and his pride in promoting the WWE product to a wider audience is apparent. He has an affinity for the entire sport, knowing fan connectivity is a vital part of telling the perfect wrestling story. When asked to discuss his "perfect" wrestling match, McIntyre highlighted Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25 as a moment when the build and the match came together seamlessly.
"Because I love the match so much, it's hard not to say Shawn [Michaels] and Taker, their first match at WrestleMania 25," McIntyre said. "It was the perfect match to me—where they were at in their careers, there's so much equity that they could have just went out there and had that match without any build. But I do remember the match being so cool, and the match itself was so freakin' unbelievable. The fans were so hooked the whole time."
McIntyre went on to compliment The Rock and Hulk Hogan's ability to respond to the crowd at WrestleMania 18, switching their heel and babyface roles on the fly. Hogan, leading the NWO, was built as the heel throughout the feud, but the Toronto crowd overwhelmingly cheered for him in the match—to the surprise of both Hogan and Rock.
"The way they built that, you'd expect the crowd to react more favorably to The Rock. But they didn't. They saw Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania, nostalgia kicked in and they went crazy for Hogan but at the same time were still reacting for The Rock. They were just loud, to a level I've never really seen before. It was just absolutely unreal. That match was so cool how they switched roles out there," McIntyre said.
Undertaker, Michaels and The Rock were among the names McIntyre quickly rattled off when asked to build his wrestling Mount Rushmore.
"Flair, Taker, Cena, Austin, Rock, Michaels, Hunter. I'm missing people and this is already too many. I don't know...I'll say I'm foreign, I'm not from here, I don't know how many [presidents on Mount Rushmore] and I'll have 10," McIntyre said, laughing.
While McIntyre couldn't quite stick to the traditional four on Mount Rushmore, he had an instant response when asked about what fellow Superstar he'd like see pushed to the main event scene next.
"We're watching it right now. I think everyone and their dog have been saying Cesaro [is due for a push] for about five years, and it's true," McIntyre said. "The fact of the matter is I've never been in the ring and had a match with him. I can just tell watching him. Usually, you can only tell how good someone is when you get in with them. If I got in with him, that would be so much fun. But to see him getting an opportunity to work with someone as good as Seth—and Seth is incredible—I'm excited to see where they're going to go. If they give this the right build, present Cesaro in a way that highlights his strengths and get to that match, it'd be cool to see Cesaro break into the next level and finally have a match with Drew McIntyre."
While a McIntyre-Cesaro feud is the type of worker's dream match that should pop into the mind of anyone fantasy-booking their own WrestleMania, McIntyre's focus is on Lashley and his WWE championship. Whether his hand is raised for a second straight year is anyone's guess, but McIntyre is looking forward to it either way.
"Whatever happens in the end, I'm looking for that big moment with the fans," McIntyre said.