Recent events involving high-profile signings by AEW and the ratings losses in key demos that followed have sent WWE into a flurry of activity. Last week’s RAW saw their Extreme Rules pay-per-view main event moved to Monday’s show, and the promise of a Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in. All that led to a new WWE Champion in Big E. But none of these big changes or events had much to do with former champion Drew McIntyre, one of the brand’s top stars, and who was one of the key wrestlers to carry the company through the pandemic. Where does McIntyre currently fit in?
Recent results, such as last week’s clean loss to Sheamus and McIntyre’s heel-ish actions after, seemed to point toward two possible directions. The first is a possible heel turn to change his direction on the RAW roster and pit him against that brand’s babyfaces. The other is a roster change and a move to Smackdown.
The heel turn seems less likely after last week’s RAW, as McIntyre teamed with the Viking Raiders to rip through Jinder Mahal, Veer and Shanky in under three minutes with little resistance. McIntyre was clearly positioned as a babyface here, so his actions after the Sheamus match seemed to be more of a common theme these days with WWE; the inability to book strong babyfaces.
If there’s no heel turn coming, this leaves McIntyre out of any of the current title pictures. The brand has babyfaces as the WWE Champion, U.S. Champion and the RAW Tag Team Champions. Where does that leave McIntyre, and how did he get here?
McIntyre seemed to be a chosen one, set up to be a strong babyface champion coming out of the no-fans era, but then something changed. McIntyre had started his run on top just before the crowds were forced out. He was the big hero of the Royal Rumble in 2020, eliminating hated babyface Roman Reigns to win it.
He went on to parlay that win into challenging Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36 for the WWE title and winning it. The only problem was there were no fans. Yes, he’d received a huge pop for winning the Rumble, but was that because Drew won? Or was it because Roman – whose aggressive push had driven the fans to a state of open rebellion – had lost? No one could be sure, although it was likely a mix of each.
WWE plowed ahead with McIntyre as champion, having him run through contenders such as Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton (whom McIntyre beat twice before doing a back-and-forth with the title at Hell In a Cell and a subsequent episode of RAW).
After that, he was still booked strong, losing to Reigns at Survivor Series but beating A.J. Styles and The Miz at TLC. He had been positioned as a dominant star. It felt like he was over, but the fans were watching remotely and coached on their reactions. They might have cheered big for him anyway, but you can’t be one-hundred-percent sure.
He defeated Goldberg at the Royal Rumble then won the Elimination Chamber match in 2021. After that match, The Miz cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to beat a weakened champion.
There seemed little doubt about the story they were trying to tell with that switch. Fans were going to be at WrestleMania after a year of empty arena shows. The idea seemed to be to give the fans who had been cheering for McIntyre a chance to do what they couldn’t the year before – pop for their man getting a big title win. Miz lost to Lashley to set up a better match for McIntyre’s triumphant moment.
But it didn’t happen. McIntyre lost clean to Lashley at WrestleMania, deflating a lot of the live crowd. It was almost certainly a change of direction. Had the plan been to have Lashley beat McIntyre all along, there would be no reason to do the Miz-to-Lashley switch. That way, the WrestleMania match would have been a key title change on the biggest stage. Sure, they would have had to get rid of Miz’s briefcase in storyline, but Miz is exactly the kind of character who could have cashed in his briefcase and lost without it damaging him.
Just as it seemed that McIntyre’s hard work to be the top man was about to pay off with live crowd reactions, it all went away. He beat Sheamus at Fastlane, but then embarked on a big match losing streak to Lashley. Now he’s a man without a program.
Best Path Forward
Given the landscape, it seems the best course for him would be a change of scenery.
Should he be headed to Smackdown as part of the draft or in a storyline trade, he could be used as a name with equity in the fans’ eyes as a possible threat to Reigns, keeping him busy until they can do the big matches with Lesnar or – as WWE hopes someday – the Rock. It is interesting to note that fans are so into the Brock-Reigns matchup when they refused to cooperate with that very same match at WrestleMania 34, but Reigns’ heel run has been effective, and the match feels fresh again.
Reigns could use a new babyface to feud with. With the exception of Royal Rumbles, he is undefeated big shows since his loss to Baron Corbin in December of 2019 at TLC, and it’s highly unlikely anyone aside from Lesnar or Rock will be the one to hand him his next loss.
He’s worked his way through Corbin, The Fiend, Braun Strowman, Jey Uso (twice), Kevin Owens, Edge (twice), Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, John Cena and will more than likely beat The Demon version of Finn Balor soon. It would make sense for McIntyre to come to Friday nights and keep Reigns busy for a while, working his way through the Usos first and then battling Reigns. If done correctly, perhaps a screwjob finish involving an Uso or two in the first match could lead to a stipulation the following month.
The fans would see McIntyre as a real threat, enough time having passed since the Survivor Series match, and the two superstars could have strong matches as the company waits for the right time to strike with bigger things for Roman.
Time will tell and minds can always change, but a move to Friday and a fresh main event matchup seems to be the best solution for a man who never quite got the chance to prove he’d won the fans over.