HOTSEAT: DREW GALLOWAY

IN WRESTLING, THERE are pushes, and then there are monsters pushes. And then there’s Drew Galloway’s WWE push.

Just three weeks after setting foot in the United States for the very first time, the 22-year-old Scotsman found himself on WWE television, as Drew McIntyre, and on the road working with some of the most experienced veterans in the sport. At the age of 24, he was publicly anointed “The Chosen One” by none other than Vince McMahon himself. It was a case of art imitating life, as backstage McMahon and other key decision-makers truly were impressed by Galloway’s size, look, and natural aptitude.

But Galloway’s high-pressure position ultimately resulted in a high fall from grace. By 2012, he had been relegated to a lower-card comedy act. Then, in 2014, he was released.

With the same determination that led him to regularly travel 12 hours to attend wrestling school at the age of 15, McIntyre set out to prove that McMahon was right about him the first time around—that he really was something special. Through impressive wrestling performances around the globe, Galloway quickly earned a reputation as one of the sport’s hottest free agents. In January 2015, he returned to American television as part of TNA, and immediately became a weekly highlight of Impact. Then, on March 15 of this year, he captured his first major heavyweight championship in the U.S., scoring a surprise victory against TNA champion Matt Hardy.

But, far from a career pinnacle, the international wrestling sensation insists he still has a long way to go in his career ascent. And whatever path he takes will be his chosen one. He talked about it recently with PWI Senior Writer Al Castle.

Castle: You’ve become the TNA heavyweight champion at kind of a unique time for the company. It had just landed on its latest TV home, Pop TV, just a few weeks before. It’s no secret that there’s been a lot of uncertainty about the company’s future. It’s lost a lot of viewers just from that shift from Spike, where there was a much broader audience, to Destination America and now to Pop—a cable network that just doesn’t have the viewership, the history, or the brand penetration of Spike. What do you see as your role as the champion of TNA at this particular time? Do you hope to be on the ground floor of something?

Galloway: Yes. That’s the way I looked at it when I first came in. I’d been doing my thing for about nine months. When I got the call from TNA, I was in Scotland, and I had made my name somewhat on the independents. I was making a bit of a splash. They were looking to bring me in. I spoke to “Big” (John Gaburick), who I had a relationship with in WWE from when I was a kid. And I told him, straight up, “I don’t want to be back on TV right now. I’ve got a good thing going, and I just don’t want to be in that environment right now.” I still wanted to get all this wrestling out of my system. And he promised me they’d let me come in as Drew Galloway, talk as Drew Galloway, and wrestle as Drew Galloway. And, true to his word, they’ve let me do that. It was when the Destination America run had just started, and I felt like I was on the ground floor of something right there. I saw how fired up everybody was. Everybody was just busting their asses. And when we moved to Pop, I saw a dramatic improvement. I know there were things that happened in the past that soured everybody on the product. But I’ve seen a dramatic difference—just everybody working together, getting their characters, and everything just coming together. I think the television show is excellent right now. The viewership is what it is, but you compare it to anything else—I mean, don’t compare it to WWE. They’re just a monster. You’re never going to win. But you compare it to anything else, and we’re doing just fine. And we’re on the way up. I just encourage everybody to watch the show.

As soon as I got the world championship, I wasn’t thinking, Let’s jump for joy. Let’s have a party or go out drinking. My first reaction was: What’s going to separate me? What’s going to make Drew Galloway a different world champion than everybody else? And, more importantly, the same as I did with EVOLVE, when I won their world title and defended it all across the world and had it recognized all across the world, and just as I did in WWE and with ICW [U.K.’s Insane Championship Wrestling], I see it as a responsibility to better the brand, better the title and raise the prestige. And, if I have that ability, I’m going to do it. I see it as my responsibility to travel around the world, defend it around the world, as I have been doing, and, hopefully, get a buzz going and get people to just try the show. I guarantee if they just try the show, they’ll see something they like.

Castle: Let’s backtrack a bit. You started your career as young as anybody I can think of. Did you ever feel like you missed out on part of your childhood entering this business, with all of its demands and pressures, so young in your life?

Galloway: Absolutely not. My childhood was wrestling. It was a dream that I’d be able to do it as a job. And I was lucky enough that I was able to do it as a part-time job and later as a full-time job. That was always the goal, from the time I was 10 years old and I sent away for a book by Dennis Brent and Percy Pringle on how to get into wrestling. I kept it in a briefcase and went to school and spoke to my buddies. They were talking about the results. And I knew how it worked, but I played along with them, because I was keeping kayfabe. That’s when I was 10 years old. I was obsessed with finding a wrestling school, and I finally found one when I was 12 or 13. But my mom wasn’t keen on me going to the bottom of England, because there was nothing in Scotland. Finally, when I was 15, I convinced her to let my friend and I go, after she spoke to the trainer from a company called FWA in England. That was 12 hours away. I started traveling the 12 hours as often as I could. I was 14, just turning 15 at the time. And every bit of money I had was spent on training. I started shows when I was 16. And I haven’t stopped since. Thankfully, I didn’t sign with a university, because I had zero plan to go. It was always, “I’m going to America.” And if you believe in yourself enough, and have tunnel vision, you can literally do anything. You just have to believe in yourself.

Castle: So when you got signed by WWE and brought into OVW, what were you, like 20?

Galloway: I had just turned 22. The writers were there on the first week I was in America. I didn’t realize this was like a once-every-six-months thing. I assumed this was like a weekly thing, the writers being there. And they didn’t have an opponent for somebody, so they said they needed someone to be a babyface—“New kid, jump in the ring.” So I got in, just as a body. We did the match, and I cut a promo afterward in my thick Scottish accent. It was 10 times thicker than it is now. And the following week I got called by Howard Finkel telling me I was going to be on the road, which, again, I thought was normal. It turns out it wasn’t, and I got a little bit of resentment. I think it was the quickest path from developmental to TV that’s ever happened. I remember my first match on TV, I was wrestling Bryan Myers, one of the Major Brothers. They told me, “Don’t forget to work the hard cam.” And I was like, “What the hell is a hard cam? I work all four sides, brother.” But I hadn’t had the chance to learn the American TV style yet. I was literally off the boat.

I remember being in Florida over WrestleMania 24 weekend. I think that Tuesday FCW had a show at some dive bar in a strip mall near Tampa. I think it was a regular stop. I remember seeing you there walking around in a kilt. And it was just as unglamorous a job as I could think of.

Galloway: Was that Bourbon Street Bar by any chance?

Castle: Yeah, that was it.

Galloway: That was our TV! You can’t rip on our TV, brother! (Laughs) We considered it our TV because there was a handheld camera in the smokiest, dirtiest bar in New Port Richey—a place everybody tried to avoid as much as they possibly can. I remember Steve Keirn would just film fighting in the crowd. There would be a guy with an oxygen tank smoking. There’d be people in the background, not knowing what was going on. They just came in and there are guys in their underpants jumping around. It was interesting. But it gave us an opportunity in front of a crowd, even if it potentially gave us lung damage. That’s how it began. It’s wild to see what it’s become at the Performance Center. It’s like NCAA level.

Castle: Then, within months of that, you’re back on WWE in as enviable a position as anybody could be in, as “The Chosen One.” You had Vince McMahon personally endorsing you. In retrospect, could that have set you back some? Could it have been too much for the time?

Galloway: You can look at it that way. But the way I looked at it was, it had never been done before. It will never be done again. I’m always someone who thrives under pressure. How would you feel if the head of PWI—I don’t know if that’s yourself…

Castle: [Laughs] No.

Galloway: Everybody is in the office and he walks in and points right at you and says, “Everybody else, look. Al Castle here, he’s my man. If he can’t do it, no one can,” and then walked out of the room. How would you feel? Personally, I love that. That motivates me. But, unfortunately, it pissed other people off. And I didn’t realize that. I had never experienced the backstage stuff in wrestling. I didn’t realize that If I spoke my mind and offered things that I believed in that I would be perceived, perhaps, as having an attitude problem. It was always passion. Everything I ever did came from passion, and wanting to do the best job possible. But it did ruffle a lot of feathers at the time. I love being given the ball. But, perhaps, I wasn’t ready mentally. I was always playing a character. These days, I’m ready for everything. I’m 30 years old. I’ve worked for 15 years. I’ve had experiences that nobody else has been through. And I’m 100 percent ready to take on the entire world as world champion

Castle: Understanding that it was a character, how much of the “Chosen One” character did you sense was based on Vince McMahon really seeing something special in you?

Galloway: We had a lot of meetings where a lot of things were being said. Undertaker was designated as my mentor. At the time it was myself and Sheamus. And he was put under Triple-H on Raw and I was put under The Undertaker on Smackdown. So, yeah, Vince was very hands-on with everything, from the way I walked to the way my eyes moved, to my promos. It was 100 percent his direction that I was taking at the time, which was pretty crazy. He’s a busy man, and not that accessible unless you’re willing to wait three hours at his office for five minutes of his time. That’s how busy a man he is. So that was a pretty wild time. I know it caused a lot of resentment. And perhaps I wasn’t ready, backstage-wise. But it was an experience I’d never want to lose.

Castle: So what goes wrong? I remember back around 2009, 2010, you were on the short list of future world champions. And just a few years later you’re part of 3MB, which was a fun act and did some good work, but was slotted very low on the WWE roster. I imagine that kind of fall could almost be shocking.

Galloway: Yeah, I guess it was. But, in reality, I really wasn’t doing much for a long time, a year-and-a-half, before the 3MB thing started. I think the last thing I did was an Elimination Chamber match that I remember went really well. It was the only one I was ever in, I think in 2011. I remember the way the audience responded it was like, “Well, you’ve got to do something with him now.” I was on Superstars, trying to kill it every single week, and nothing was happening. And finally, they came to me with this 3MB idea. And all I heard was an idea, and I was like, “Okay, let’s do it. I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities and make sure it works.” And that’s the way I’ve always looked at everything. You can walk around with a poo-poo face, or you can just give it everything you’ve got. I’ve heard that passion can be a detriment if people take it the wrong way. But things work out the way they work out, and I’m in the position I’m in now, as the busiest guy in the world, and thankfully, making the same money.

Castle: When you left WWE, I remember hearing you on Chris Jericho’s podcast. And I really got the sense that you were out to prove that you were better than they thought you were, and really hit the ground running. You almost immediately won the EVOLVE title and cemented yourself as one of the top free agents in the country, if not the world. Did you have kind of a chip on your shoulder?

Galloway: I can say no, but than answer is yes. Of course. I wanted to go out and more so prove it to myself rather than to them. I really hadn’t done much in a while on their show, and I really just wanted to go out and show the world who Drew Galloway is and what Drew Galloway could do. And thankfully, Chris Jericho, a friend of mine, had me on the show. And the things that really kick-started me were my ICW return, Chris Jericho’s show, and the EVOLVE title win. I was going to make sure I was the standout performer—not just looking the part. That’s something that people would always talk about—“Well, he looks like a guy who would be in the main event.” I was going to show everybody it doesn’t matter what you look like. The fans see through all that crap. The response you see from fans these days is because they see the passion. They see the work, just like with Daniel Bryan or CM Punk. It doesn’t matter what you look like. People see heart and passion.

Castle: We touched on this, but was part of your motivation, when you arrived in TNA, not just to elevate yourself, but elevate the whole company?

Galloway: Yes. When I came in, I just wanted to be myself. And they said, “We’re going to give you a microphone and just say what you want. We’re going to debut you in Manchester.” I said “no” initially. I said, “If you really want to listen to my opinion, we have a show in Glasgow. If you’re going to debut me, you should debut me there.” They agreed to debut me in my home country. I got a great response, and then they gave me a microphone and let me say whatever I wanted. And I just said how I felt. It was just my views on wrestling and how I wanted to wrestle. And it really caught on and got some people’s attention. Since that day, they’ve really stuck by their word. It’s not a case of, “You have to say this.” They really do let me change it around, as long as I get the basic premise and storyline across. I really am allowed to say what I want. That really makes such a difference. Now, when I have an opportunity to talk, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Castle: Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you hope to still be in TNA—and that there is a TNA and it’s thriving?

Galloway: I really can’t predict what’s going to happen in five years. But if I look at how the past year and nine months have gone, it’s just been up and up and up. I know how hard I’ve been working, and I’m going to keep doing my part. Everyone else will keep doing their part. On Jericho’s podcast, I said I was going to be back in WWE, no matter what. The logical storyline for me has always been going back as the former “Chosen One” who was thrown to the side and abandoned. But, now, I really don’t know, because I’m having so much fun. WWE is going to survive. It doesn’t really need anybody. Well, maybe John Cena. But to be somebody who can really make a difference is so important to me. I’m just going to keep raising my profile. I’m not tied to any one company. So, whoever I work for, I’m going to better them.

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