Since the pandemic era of pro wrestling began in March, Drew McIntyre has emerged as one of the standout performers. Before he dropped his WWE Championship to Randy Orton at WWE Hell in a Cell, McIntyre spoke with In The Kliq about performing inside the WWE ThunderDome. According to McIntyre, the new arena gives WWE that larger-than-life experience fans had been missing for months.
"The ThunderDome has been great," McIntyre said. "I'm proud of everything we did in the Performance Center, you know, keeping the world entertained for the months we were in there. But when people turn on WWE, they expect a larger-than-life show, a larger-than-life experience, and that's what the ThunderDome is. You turn on WWE in the ThunderDome, you're going to see all the pyro, the smoke, the lasers, the larger-than-life feel you expect from the WWE, but at the same time, you're going to have the fans there virtually. They can't be there in person right now, but there are over a thousand fans at a time in the ThunderDome reacting in real time."
The 'Chosen One' enjoyed a 203-day reign as WWE Champion from April's WrestleMania to October's Hell in a Cell. During his run, McIntyre defended his title in empty Performance Centers, a crowd of NXT stars, and in the virtual ThunderDome. McIntyre says the latter gives him the closest feel to a having real fans in a packed arena, and he appreciates that he can once again interact with the WWE Universe.
"For us as performers, we're back in an arena," McIntyre said. "We're walking out [and] it feels like a big fight feel, and you can see and hear the fans, which is such a difference-maker. Like, I wasn't sure if it was real-time the first week we had the ThunderDome. So I asked the gentleman in charge as I was about to walk out, you know, 'Is this real time?' All he told me was, 'Yes.' I didn't tell him what I was planning to do during my interview in the ring. I asked everyone to give me a thumbs up, and I look behind me, and they're not doing it. And all of a sudden, all the thumbs go up at the same time. Oh, thank God. I thought he lied to me and it wasn't real-time for a second. Because I didn't clear it with anybody, I just went out there and did it. I tend to when I feel something, I just do it. The ThunderDome is such a difference-maker. "
While the now-former WWE Champion has enjoyed the ThunderDome experience, he says he's looking forward to having a live audience once again.
"For the future, I'd be so grateful to finally have fans back in the arena," McIntyre said. "If anything, I want to keep my really bada-- entrance I got right now with all the fire and stuff."
It's no secret that McIntyre has elevated his star-status to astronomic heights this year, and people are noticing. WWE Executive Vice President Triple H has had high-praise for McIntyre, and has even compared a clash between RAW's The Scottish Psychopath and SmackDown's Tribal Chief Roman Reigns as on the level of a Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair match.
"[Hearing that] was a surprise, but I was very appreciative on such a high compliment," McIntyre said. "Hunter - he's the one who brought me back to WWE. He's watched my entire career evolve and then devolve, and then re-evolve in front of his eyes. So it's cool now, at this stage, that they can see me at such a level."
McIntyre and Reigns have squared off before, most notably at WrestleMania 35. Since then, both have assumed new identities, as evident by McIntyre's beast-conquering babyface run and Reigns' ruthless 'Tribal Chief' heel persona. McIntyre says a rematch between the two would feel fresh considering they've both been allowed to be themselves.
"I think the thing is to keep us on the path we're currently on," McIntyre said. "Roman, keep doing what he's doing with his new character, and me finally being myself. Actually, I think it's more Roman being himself. Both of us are being ourselves now and keep developing these characters to get to the point where everybody knows them inside and out, and we take them as far as we can possibly take them. And eventually, when we have that big match down the line, it can be at that high, high level. Even if we did it sooner, it would still be a big match because, you know, Roman's been the standard-bearer for the longest time. The past seven, eight years, he's been the top dog, big dog, main-eventing four WrestleManias in a row. But now he's taken this turn where he's basically saying, 'Hey, I did all this stuff, look at me.' Rather than the humble Roman we knew from the past, he's saying, 'I did it. No one else could do it.' I think on the flip side, the way I've been going, I'm proving I can do it. I am doing it, and I'm going to continue to do it. I think it's going to be an interesting clash of some 'Chosen Ones' when it finally comes."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit In The Kliq with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.