The Drew McIntyre Story
By, Sergio Burns
Sweat sprays out from his long dark hair as he takes the other wrestler to the floor. A few moments later he is flying through the air to connect with his signature move ‘The Claymore’. Fans call out as he pins his opponent for the mandatory three second count. In recent months Ayr-born wrestler Drew McIntyre has put big names Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor and Braun Strowman to the sword with his specialist moves.
Now living in St Petersburg, Florida, and a leading light of WWE, America’s top wrestling brand, he is a long way from his early life in that small, Scottish seaside town. But, the American wrestling scene was where it was always at for Drew.
“It has always been part of the culture over here (USA),” He told Ayrshire Magazine. “Always been like big business, so to come over here and just be part of like something so huge you can’t comprehend. The crowds are the size of the biggest football matches back home. I am wrestling in front of…100,000 people. To go from wrestling in front of 100 to 200 people, that’s when the British wrestling scene was getting going and thinking wow this is pretty cool I’ve got 200 people tonight, to looking at stadiums, ‘Oh My God there are 80,000 people out there’.”
Enthusiastic and really big (McIntyre stands a towering six foot five) he has come up the hard way. His journey to top flight American wrestling is an inspirational, Boy’s own adventure story. Starting out the only place he could find to train was Portsmouth, England, 12 hours and nearly 452 miles from his home in Ayr.
“I loved football,” he explained. “But at the back of my mind the dream was always wrestling, and how on earth can I go about getting this American thing? There was nothing. There was literally no training when I first started in Scotland. When I was 15 my mother spoke to the trainer at the FWA (Frontier Wrestling Alliance) on the phone. She felt comfortable with him and that’s why I was allowed to go there (Portsmouth). A year into my training is when we kind of started the modern day wrestling scene (In Scotland). We had an adult who rented a facility in East Kilbride and I, basically, was teaching everybody what I was learning in Portsmouth, like the Jesters, The Lionhearts, The Wolfgang, the modern day veterans I guess. We were just working together in terms of the modern day Scottish wrestling, that is basically the genesis of what you see today.”
Brought up in Ayr, Drew, whose birth name is Galloway, attended Heathfield Primary and then Prestwick Academy. Drew did well at school and at the insistence of his dad, completed a degree course at Glasgow Caledonian University. Despite concentrating on his education, he was already gaining valuable experience in the wrestling game having debuted as a teenager.
“I was 16,” he said casually about his first appearance. “It was around 2001…with a company called SWA, Scottish Wrestling Alliance in Paisley. I was very nervous. I remember being in the locker room and some older guys playing with a staple gun and one of them said : ‘Hey kid!’ and stapled a piece of paper to his arm just to try and intimidate me. I acted like I wasn’t intimidated but yes I was very intimidated. I was 16, skinny, six foot five kid, ‘What on earth is this wrestling?’ Is this what I have been dreaming of? I got a concussion within about ten seconds, and don’t remember the match either. That was my first experience in wrestling.”
He sounded like he was back in Paisley, reliving the fight in a hall full of drafts and an enthusiastic, albeit small, crowd.
“I had footprints all over my back,” he informed me. “Which, I am sure my dad has pictures of. I got roughed up pretty good in that first match, it didn’t deter me it just encouraged me. My whole life I’ve heard that’s that American thing, and things like that even when I started travelling to England, how far it was and how difficult it was, but it didn’t deter me. Getting beat up in my first match didn’t deter me. I was the first ever Scottish guy to go to WWE, even though I am technically six five and I am a big guy, and look like William Wallace, I’ll still always be fighting the odds.”
A second trial, this time in London, convinced John Laurinaitus to sign Drew for WWE. Now at the top of his career, with a fan-base on both sides of the Atlantic, the life of a professional wrestling is as tough as the fights he encounters in the ring.
“I am not going to lie, it’s 24/7,” he says of the work he has had to put in to achieve his ambitions. “Obviously, I had to leave my family, which is very difficult. I am very close with my family and these days I’ve got my wife who is American, and you know it is very hard to find someone who is understanding of the schedule. You’re gone basically four days a week, not including tours which are weeks at a time. I’ve just been all over the world with a two week European tour and I am about to leave for Mexico. Then we are going straight from Mexico to Chile and on to Argentina then straight into taping our RAW event. There will be zero time home.”
It is the life of a pro wrestler tied to a top American brand, and I am quickly realising the sacrifices Drew has made to make it all happen.
“You have to understand,” he starts up again. “When you choose this life, it’s going to be 24/7. You really have to have a passion for it and you really have to love it, and have to be willing to give it everything. Eventually you will find someone who is understanding. This is the most rewarding thing in the world, and I am literally living my dream.”
From Ayrshire to Florida via Paisley, Drew speaks about the opportunities wrestling has brought him. He speaks of travelling while working at his passion and being paid to do it. He also speaks of his delight in visiting sick kids and seeing how positive and happy they are when he meets them.
“That’s probably the most rewarding part of the job,” he says quietly.
It is a long away from the blood and thunder, noise and fury of the WWE wrestling show. But so typical of Drew McIntyre. A determined, hard-working, committed pro wrestler who despite the odds has taken his own brand of Scottish doggedness across the pond and found success in the States.
He misses Ayrshire, his family and friends, and… Irn Bru, he tells me in an aside. He is a man who has had to graft for the chances he has got in life and grasped them with both hands. He more than deserves his moment in the American sun.