Drew McIntyre stands on the cusp of legendary status as he prepares to face WWE Champion Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36.
If the big Scotsman is victorious in the main event of the 'Show of Shows' next weekend, he will become the first British WWE Champion in history.
Standing at 6ft 5in, he earned the opportunity by winning the Royal Rumble in Texas in January – eliminating Lesnar along the way – before a crowd in excess of 40,000.
But due to restrictions put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, WrestleMania 36 will go ahead without a live audience.
The show will now be held over two nights, on Saturday and Sunday, April 4 and 5, and pre-recorded at the WWE Performance Center in Florida.
Although the experience will be bitter-sweet because of worldwide events out of his control, McIntyre, real name Andrew Galloway, 34, from Ayr, is still focused on achieving his long-time dream of facing Lesnar.
He spoke to Mirror Sport's Scott Felstead about the unique circumstances and the way he intends to hopefully share celebrations with his British fans.
There is no other way of looking at it, but to say this will be a history making WrestleMania – there may never be another like this one. WWE has been determined to make it happen. What can you tell us about your feelings towards the whole WWE team at this point?
I have all the respect in the world for all of our team, especially the unsung heroes, that you don't hear about working tirelessly to put the arenas together and make us look like superstars. We [pro wrestlers] just go out and do the job in the ring, but it's everyone around us that makes us into superstars.
Like you say, and I'm glad you put it that way, no one is going to forget this WrestleMania. People have been sending me messages of commiserations like 'I'm sorry this isn't going to be the moment you imagined', and no, it's not, but right now if you look at the bigger picture, for one thing we are going to give the world something to look forward to and bring them some unique content.
We are bringing WrestleMania at a time where it almost seems impossible. I'm very proud that WWE are pushing ahead, and following the guidelines, and keeping everybody safe. I'm very excited about it.
There may not be a live audience on this occasion, but you've wrestled all over the world. What are some of the crowd reactions that you remember most?
Yeah, there has been a few! Eliminating Brock Lesnar from the Royal Rumble was the biggest positive reaction I've ever heard, by far. Also, returning to ICW in Scotland in 2014 as a surprise… the lights went out and I showed up in the ring three weeks after I had left WWE. There might only have been 1,500 people there but it sounded like about 30,000. And a funny chant I remember, in Liverpool one time, the crowd sang 'Hey Drew' to me, to the sound of 'Hey Jude' [laughs].
That's genius! Getting yourself to the main event of WrestleMania has been such a personal journey for you that in some ways, I imagine it doesn't matter where or how it takes place? As much as you love your fans, this is also an individual milestone?
Yeah, it's obviously very different to how I could have ever imagined it, but I am sitting down and reflecting and it is very close to WrestleMania now, and it is becoming kind of real, that 'wow' factor. All those goals I set myself when I was outside of WWE, one of those fantasy goals in my head was to wrestle Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. That was an actual goal that I had in my head, it was something I used as motivation to push me to the gym, to be big enough to fight Brock. It pushed me to be intense enough in the ring to fight Brock. And also, to be good enough. I've tried to get better on the microphone to keep up with Paul Heyman. All these things, I have used as motivation outside the company.
Outside of WWE, it got to the point where I thought that maybe I would not go back, because [my career] was going so well, then suddenly things took a turn, as they always do in the career of Drew, and suddenly I was back in the company, and now to be in this position is just crazy. I sit down and think about the journey, and also the fact that my journey has become part of the story going into the match.
It's fascinating to hear that the dream of wrestling Lesnar has been a source of motivation for you, for longer than most people probably realise. What would you say are some of his best qualities?
Inside the ring, there's nobody like him… that sense of danger and unpredictability. When Brock's out there, you just don't know what’s going to happen. Like everybody knows, he's a very dangerous man, and we've seen some of the things he's done in matches like picking people up with one arm and throwing people around like a sack of potatoes. Look, anything can happen when Brock's out there in the ring and I love that sense of danger because it is my style.
You know, being so aggressive, and hard-hitting, which some people don't like, but that's Brock's style too. Brock as a person, outside of the ring, I was very blown away. Clearly, he's a very smart businessman, just because of the way his career has panned out, but just hearing him talk, you know? And his IQ for wrestling, and for how to portray yourself as a top draw performer, is just through the roof. I've been learning a lot just being around Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman.
One thing that you have often spoken about is becoming a leader. You are now in a position where this is becoming a reality. How important is it for you to lead team WWE at a challenging time like this?
It's important in general, you know? For me to be a leader and pull the wagon and represent [the brand of WWE], that's what I've been training for. From winning championships in multiple companies, through to NXT, the goal was to eventually be 'the guy' of this entire industry. I always said, all the ups and downs in the ring, and outside the ring, of this 19-year career, have paved the way for any situation.
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Then this [coronavirus] comes along, which the world has never experienced before, but I still feel the exact same way. I want to be the guy, and this is not a downtime for the company, this is a downtime for the world, and I want to be the guy who's pulling the wagon and giving people a positive message that, just like my story, things will always work out in the end. Hopefully I can put some smiles on a few peoples faces, and inspire a few people along the way.
That's such a positive, and much-needed message right now. Just finally, is there anything you want to say to your fans that can't be at WrestleMania?
I just want to thank everyone all over the world, and in the UK for supporting me back home. I know, if I pull this off, I'll be the first British WWE Champion. I know that everyone was looking forward to coming over to WrestleMania and supporting me, and I really appreciate that.
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