Drew McIntyre’s celebration after winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 36 was unlike any other.
After pinning Brock Lesnar to claim the title on a closed set at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, McIntyre returned to his home and stashed the title in his office.
“I hid it upstairs,” McIntyre said of the WWE Championship, “and I wasn’t allowed to touch it until the 1-2-3 happened. I watched WrestleMania on the couch downstairs, I ran upstairs, I got the title, and that’s the only time I was allowed to have it, when it was official.”
Only McIntyre’s wife knew he had won the WWE Championship before WrestleMania aired. McIntyre remained tight-lipped around inquisitive family members, asking his father: “When you’re watching the frickin’ Avengers do you ask people what the finish is? Just watch the damn thing and we’ll talk afterwards”.
While the coronavirus denied McIntyre the chance to celebrate his win in front of the WWE Universe, the new champ has been adapting to working in the WWE Performance Center without a live audience.
“I’m trying to figure out – like the other Superstars – how to best embrace this environment,” he said. “You can’t just go out there and pretend there’s 20,000 people there because there’s not 20,000 people there.
“I go out the best I can and embrace it. I walk out, there’s no one there but a cameraman and three commentators, I’m probably gonna go, ‘Hi guys, how ya doing?’ because there’s nobody else there and it feels natural to do. If it feels natural, I’m gonna do it because if I’m relaxed and having a good time the fans at home are like, ‘Okay, I can watch this, this is easy to watch, it doesn’t look like he’s very uncomfortable the whole time’.”
With Brock Lesnar and Big Show left in his wake, McIntyre’s next challenge comes from Seth Rollins. The Monday Night Messiah faces McIntyre for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank.
“I guarantee that match will be talked about for a long time,” McIntyre said, “because when Seth and I get the opportunity to get in the ring together, especially at a pay-per-view, especially during these times, we’re going to go all-out to make sure everyone has a great viewing experience.”
While not looking past Rollins – who become WWE Champion for a third time with a win over McIntyre – McIntyre is aware of the depth of talent in WWE, and potential future challengers to his title.
Edge and Randy Orton both appeal to McIntyre, as do potential clashes with former 3MB stablemate Jinder Mahal (if he can put together a winning streak) or even lineal heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. But the opponent McIntyre is perhaps most interested in is AJ Styles.
“AJ Styles is somebody that’s certainly up there,” McIntyre said. “He’s one of the greatest in-ring performers of all time. When I first started training when I was 15 he was on top of the independent world and I used to study his tapes like crazy. I was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna be like AJ Styles’ and then I kept getting taller and kept getting bigger, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to be like AJ Styles, but he’s really cool to watch’.
“Then I was in WWE for years and he was obviously outside the company. He came to WWE but then I was outside the company with the same company he was with. Then I came back to WWE – we’re both on different shows. We kept being like passing ships in the night, we never really had that opportunity to have a singles match. We had a triple threat one time with himself, myself, and Randy Orton, which the match was awesome, and I know if myself and AJ got the chance to go out there not only would it be awesome story-wise but also the match would be phenomenal.”
Styles made his return to Raw this week and qualified for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. It’s one of many reasons McIntyre will be keeping a close eye on the match this Monday.
“I reckon at some point there’s a possibility [the men’s and women’s matches are] going to cross paths with each other and then somebody like Shayna Baszler might break a Baron Corbin’s arm,” McIntyre said.
“These are the things I’m picturing in my head of how crazy this match is going to get, so I think that match alone is worth tuning in for. During these times we’re trying to innovate, we’re trying to think outside the box. There’s nothing more outside the box and innovative than this frickin’ Money in the Bank Ladder Match, so I’ll be sitting as a fan watching it and I hope you will too.”
WWE Money in the Bank airs Monday, May 11, from 11am (NZST) on Sky Arena and WWE Network