“Drew McIntyre’s going to WrestleMania!”, screamed Michael Cole at the conclusion of WWE’s 2020 Royal Rumble event.
‘The Scottish Psychopath’ had outlasted 29 other competitors to become the first British-born winner of WWE’s annual multi-person extravaganza. Along the way, he ousted Ricochet, The Miz, King Corbin, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and, quite surprisingly, Brock Lesnar. The Lesnar elimination came after ‘The Beast Incarnate’ had tossed out every single entrant from entrant number two right through to number fourteen, and so Houston’s Minute Maid Park erupted when Drew prevented the then-WWE Champion from winning the bout.
But that night wasn’t just about Drew McIntyre winning the 2020 men’s Royal Rumble Match. It was the night he changed the perspective of British professional wrestling forever.
You see, the main view of British pro wrestling was that of the World of Sport style of wrestling. The likes of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Kendo Nagasaki, Mick McManus, and numerous other familiar faces were showcased on our television screens every Saturday afternoon for two decades. While it may not have seemed so obvious at the time, the stars of World of Sport were laying the foundations for what was to become a breakout land for the sport of professional wrestling.
In a way, though, you could see glimpses of how influential World of Sport would later be. Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks proved that larger-than-life performers can make it. Adrian Street proved that the characters played by male performers can portray less masculine mannerisms, and still get over. Had it not been for these legends of the business, the sport as we know it today would have been totally different. Big Daddy, in particular, technically played a hand in helping form the early careers of future British wrestling icons, such as Davey Boy Smith, The Dynamite Kid, and Steven Regal. Daddy was placed in tag team matches (which, at the time, were classed as specialty bouts), but due to his lack of conditioning, these soon-to-be stalwarts of the scene carried the match for the World of Sport legend.
Even when World of Sport was taken off our televisions in September 1985, the boom of pro wrestling in the United Kingdom was only just beginning in terms of a wider perspective. The then-World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling capitalised on the impact the sport was having across the nation, hosting several tours throughout the UK, hosting weekly televised shows on Sky and ITV, respectively, and, in the most important of these moments, WWF’s 1992 SummerSlam pay-per-view took place at Wembley Stadium. This event, headlined by Davey Boy Smith’s emotional victory of the Intercontinental Championship over Bret Hart, is often a match hailed as one of the greatest of all time. For many British wrestlers, it’s what led them to want to step in the ring themselves. Seeing one of their own holding WWF gold made them realise that it was possible.
As the decades passed, and more and more British names were plying their trade overseas, the conversation about who would be the first British-born WWE Champion reached its peak in 2010 when Wade Barrett burst onto the scene as the winner of NXT season one. While Sheamus did win his first WWE Championship at the previous year’s Tables, Ladders, and Chairs pay-per-view, his Irish heritage (as opposed to Northern Irish) prevents him from being the first. Thus, Barrett was the first real option to come along since the aforementioned British Bulldog. Of course, we all know how his main roster tenure went (#CenaWinsLOL), and so the conversation didn’t take long to turn away from the current NXT commentator.
It should, however, be noted that several other British stars did win major American championships. Paige became WWE Divas Champion. Doug Williams held many titles in the then-Total Nonstop Action, the same place that saw Rockstar Spud become X Division Champion. Wade Barrett, despite never becoming WWE Champion, did manage to secure a few runs as Intercontinental Champion, alongside being in the final four of the 2011 Royal Rumble Match.
However, it’s Drew McIntyre who achieved the highest level of greatness in North America. He became a WWE Intercontinental Champion and a WWE Tag Team Champion with Cody Rhodes in his first run with the promotion, while then becoming an Impact World Champion, Impact Grand Champion, EVOLVE Champion, EVOLVE Tag Team Champion with Johnny Gargano, and Open The Freedom Gate Champion after being released from the company. Little did we know, all of these championship victories for McIntyre would be foreshadowing what was to come upon his return to Stamford in April 2017.
Drew’s surprise appearance during NXT TakeOver: Orlando sent shockwaves throughout the wrestling industry. Just a few months later, though, he again shocked the world by dethroning Bobby Roode of his NXT Championship. It’s a shame that his win was overshadowed by the impactful debut of Adam Cole and subsequent formation of The Undisputed Era, however, Drew’s win over ‘The Glorious One’ was the title win he needed to put himself on the map on the biggest stage possible. Once again, the wrestling world was buzzing because of ‘The Scottish Psychopath’.
His title run isn’t regarded as one of the best NXT Championship reigns, which isn’t really a bad thing considering some of the runs that title has seen (cc: Adam Cole, Tommaso Ciampa, Finn Bálor). When he went down with an injury at the first NXT TakeOver: War Games that November, it still couldn’t derail his second WWE run. He was coming off the back of a run as NXT Champion, and had just wrestled a classic match with the new champion, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.
Now, truth be told, your writer would rather forget about the alliances he had with Dolph Ziggler, and then with Shane ‘Best In The World’ McMahon, but at least he could a run as Raw Tag Team Champion, and WrestleMania bout vs. Roman Reigns out of those runs. As 2019 neared its conclusion, Drew was closing in as one of the favourites to win the 2020 Royal Rumble Match, easily demolishing Curt Hawkins, Zack Ryder, Matt Hardy, Akira Tozawa, and more along the way to the January 26th pay-per-view.
It happened. It actually happened.
Drew McIntyre became the first British-born winner of the Royal Rumble Match.
Lastly eliminating Roman Reigns, McIntyre’s victory cemented his name in the history books. He had made history. No-one else had done what he had done. Again, Sheamus is a former winner of the Rumble, but he’s from Dublin rather than Northern Ireland. He doesn’t count as a British-born Royal Rumble winner. Drew McIntyre became the first (of hopefully many) Royal Rumble winners to hail from the United Kingdom.
He did what Wade Barrett never did. What Davey Boy Smith never did. What William Regal never did. Because of Drew’s win in last year’s men’s Royal Rumble Match, he’s opened the door for many others to do the same. We can see Nikki Cross win a Rumble. We can see Pete Dunne win a Rumble.
Realistically, this goes further than the Royal Rumble. We can see Noam Dar become the NXT Cruiserweight Champion. We can see Piper Niven become the NXT UK Women’s Champion. We can see Killian Dain and Drake Maverick become the NXT Tag Team Champions. All because of one moment achieved by Drew McIntyre.
Single-handedly, Drew McIntyre has changed the perspective of British professional wrestling.
WWE Royal Rumble 2021 goes down tonight, LIVE on the WWE Network. The announced card is as follows;
- WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Goldberg
- WWE Universal Championship – Last Man Standing Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
- WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella
- WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships: Asuka & Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
- 2021 Men’s Royal Rumble Match: Randy Orton (at #1), Edge (at #2), AJ Styles, Big E, Bobby Lashley, Braun Strowman, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Dominik Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, Jey Uso, John Morrison, King Corbin, The Miz, Mustafa Ali, Otis, Rey Mysterio, Sami Zayn, Sheamus, and Shinsuke Nakamura confirmed to enter (nine unannounced entrants)
- 2021 Women’s Royal Rumble Match: Alexa Bliss, Bayley, Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair, Dana Brooke, Liv Morgan, Mandy Rose, Nia Jax, Peyton Royce, Ruby Riott, Shayna Baszler, Tamina, and Natalya (at #30) confirmed to enter (seventeen unannounced entrants)