TNA heavyweight champion talks about life after the WWE, and a crucial piece of advice given to him by Brock Lesnar.
Drew Galloway immediately dropped to his knees as soon as he was handed the TNA world championship.
Galloway has fought through a lifetime’s worth of adversity in wrestling, and no one would have knocked the proud native of Scotland for cutting a bitter promo toward Vince McMahon and Paul Levesque after reaching the highest point of success in TNA.
But the thoughts of redemption and retribution were of no interest at that particular moment. As Galloway’s knees hit the canvas, the only thought running through his mind was the memory of his mother, the late Angela Galloway.
“She’s still the most important person in my life,” said Galloway. “I’m not much of a religious person, but I feel her all the time. Losing her was the most difficult period of my life.”
Angela Galloway died on November 3, 2012 at the age of 51. Unbeknownst to Galloway until he grew older, his mother fought a nearly 30-year battle yet still raised a family and lived an incredible life.
“She grew up as a normal girl, but when she was in her early 20’s, she had a rare condition that killed the balance portion of her brain,” explained Galloway. “That happened as she was coming home from work, and she had to crawl home. She was told she’d never have kids, never live a normal life, but my nana took her to all the different specialists around the U.K. She got to the point where she could balance herself, and then her and my dad got together. When she got pregnant, people thought it wasn’t a good idea, but she still had me. Then she had my brother as well, and we never thought anything was unusual, even though she had an issue with her balance. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized I had superwoman for a mom.
“If she can do that, then I do f------ anything. I thought about her a lot when I got engaged and in the ring when I won the title.”
Her sickness coincided with Galloway’s lowest points in the WWE.
“When I lost her, I stopped caring,” admitted Galloway. “It was probably another reason that didn’t help in WWE with my downward spiral.”
Originally proclaimed by none other than Vince McMahon as a future world champion, Galloway–who wrestled in the WWE as “The Chosen One” Drew McIntyre–never fit into the WWE’s corporate structure from the moment he arrived as a 24-year-old.
“That was the biggest endorsement in the history of wrestling,” said Galloway. “The man who created the modern day wrestling scene endorsed me. I thrive under pressure and love a challenge, but even though I had wrestled for nine years, I was a bit naïve to the inner-workings of wrestling.
“There was a lot of jealousy and resentment. Perhaps I was a little naïve for thinking everyone was my friend.”
Galloway frustrated a handful of the wrong people in the WWE, allegedly due to a perceived arrogance and stubbornness.
“In WWE, a lot of people took my passion as me thinking I was better or knew more,” explained Galloway. “I am very passionate about this business, and I always have been. I’m not a ‘Yes Man,’ and I’ve always preferred to go back-and-forth and find something we both agree on so I can do it to the best of my ability. That was taken in WWE as trying to do what was best for me. In reality, I was trying to be different.”
Galloway’s goal was to provide a different caliber of match than the ones that main eventers like John Cena and Randy Orton were delivering.
“I was trying to stand out,” said Galloway. “I was trying to do spots and bring matches that were only seen in the independents, and a lot of people I was working with did not like that. It’s the norm in WWE now, but that got me a bit of a ‘rep,’ and then I spoke out a few times.”
The punishment for Galloway was WWE purgatory. He was taken off-camera and had no storyline, which typically signifies the end of the road for a wrestler.
“I hadn’t done anything for a while, so I felt like if they gave me anything, I’d make it work,” said Galloway. “I just didn’t want to be there, I wanted to do something.”
The idea WWE presented to him was to join Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal in the comedic heel trio known as “Three Man Band.” Certain WWE producers were thrilled to have Galloway taste some humble pie, but he put his ego aside and made the most he could of the limited role in 3MB.
“I remember Brock Lesnar walked up and said to me, ‘Why are you doing this?’” recalled Galloway. “At that point, I hadn’t done anything for a long time. When they presented it to me, I didn’t want it. But the guys were my buddies, so I said, ‘Let’s put one-hundred percent into this and make it work.’ As ridiculous as it was at times, the crowd started getting behind us.”
Amidst zero fanfare, the WWE dismissed Galloway on June 12, 2014. Despite enduring the most terrible professional and personal stretch of his life, Galloway made a defining decision–he refused to become bitter.
“Why would I ever be bitter and negative and focus on the past?” asked Galloway. “If you’re going to be negative, then negative crap is going to happen to you, so I needed to look to the future and make things happen. I know this business better than most people, and I’m extremely passionate about it. I knew that I could make this work. I decided to put myself out there as a person, and this time–rather than playing somebody–I was going to succeed on my own merit or fail on my merit, and that was on me. That’s all I ever wanted–to go out as myself and have the success or failure fall on me.”
Galloway settled on using his own name and chose to develop a new character, which went against what many of his colleagues recommended.
“I was getting all sorts of advice when I left WWE,” said Galloway. “A couple guys told me to play the character I was in WWE for six months [on the independents] and then, when the money started going down, find a way for it to level out by working with a bunch of companies just to make a living.
“I was talking with my girlfriend at the time, who is now my fiancée, and I said I cannot possibly imagine thinking that way. So I thought about how to boost myself and spark the wrestling scene, and I came up with a game plan.”
After a seven-year hiatus, Galloway made a powerful return to Scotland’s Insane Championship Wrestling. He also shared his side of the story on the Chris Jericho podcast, and then impressed Evolve co-founder and booker Gabe Sapolsky, who–unlike the WWE–loved Galloway’s Scottish accent. Sapolsky heard Galloway, and believed his words were overflowing with passion. Sapolsky took a chance and put the Evolve title on Galloway, and he remains the company’s longest reigning champion.
“It snowballed from there, but it was all about people believing in me,” said Galloway. “And it was good for me, too, because the best wrestlers aren’t always on TV, they are also wrestling on the independents.”
Despite the prototypical look of a pro wrestler at 6’6” and 240 pounds, Galloway actually developed his deepest connection with wrestling fans in the role of the underdog. This was not by design, as the WWE has forcefully tried to manufacture with Roman Reigns, but out of necessity. Galloway struggled–and failed–in the WWE, and the ensuing journey has been inspirational.
“I wasn’t willing to give up,” said Galloway. “I may look like the stereotypical, prototypical wrestler, but I’ve always wanted this my whole life. Even though I got into the WWE so young, I’m really just getting started. I’m setting new goals and trying to raise the profile of everywhere I go.”
Galloway and Reigns make for an interesting comparison. The two men are roughly the same size–Galloway is three inches taller at 6’6” and Reigns is twenty pounds heavier at 265–and both are only 30 years old. While he was careful not to call out Reigns, Galloway’s philosophy on wrestling is a stark contrast from the one the WWE is feeding fans in the Reigns storyline.
“Wrestling comes down to your heart,” said Galloway. “How hard you are willing to push and drive to succeed? That’s why guys like Daniel Bryan succeeded. Fans connected after seeing how much he went through and seeing how hard he worked. It doesn’t matter what you look like, it matters how you work.
“Fans aren’t stupid, and you can’t insult their intelligence. Even in-ring, I try to make sure my style is believable. I always tell wrestlers in seminars that the fans are the ones who give you the answers. Some guys are too stubborn and don’t want to listen the fans. Our fans are just as sophisticated as MMA fans, and we should not insult their intelligence in any way. The vocal minority of true wrestling fans speak up and deserve to have their voices heard.”
Modern day wrestling is more focused on instant gratification than it is with prolonged storylines. The feud between Galloway and Matt Hardy, however, originally dates back to the WWE in 2009. The storyline was reignited last July and culminated two weeks ago when Galloway defeated Hardy on a live Impact for the world title.
“Matt Hardy and I have crossed paths throughout my entire career,” said Galloway. “He has been a mentor, then a foe, and now I have taken the world title from him. Creative stuck to the storyline instead of jumping all over the place, which is ideal for everybody to follow.”
The circumstances behind Galloway’s world title victory were nothing short of hectic.
“I wrestled in Germany on [the prior] Friday, then flew to Scotland,” said Galloway. “I went straight back to Germany after the show for a fan fest, and then left Monday for TNA’s live taping on Tuesday. The travel got screwed up, so I had to buy a new flight for $2,000 to make the taping in Orlando.
“I drove from Orlando to Tampa to get my things, then drive back to Orlando for TV. I was there by 4pm for the 7pm show, and that is when I found out about winning the title. And my first thought was, ‘What can I do to separate myself as champion?’”
Galloway has set his goals high. He is determined to become the first traveling world champion since the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
“I want to have this title recognized around the world and I want to have killer matches everywhere I go,” said Galloway. “I understand why people weren’t watching TNA during its dark ages, but I believe in our talent and the matches are phenomenal. If you look at the old stuff, you had a lot of great characters but so much of the work in-ring was crap. Now, there are cool characters and the in-ring product is the highest it’s ever been.”
Galloway is also excited to defend the title each week on Impact, especially with a host of challengers including Jeff and Matt Hardy, EC3, Mike Bennett, and Bobby Lashley.
“I’ve been watching both the Hardy’s since I was thirteen, so I’m really excited to work with them, especially Jeff,” said Galloway. “He was the most over guy ever. I always say to the guys backstage, ‘You may be over, but you’ll never be Jeff Hardy over.’
“Lashley is such a machine. He’s got that legitimacy, Lesnar-style. I can’t wait to work a physical match with him. EC3 is a good guy now, but he cuts great promos and we’ll work well together in the ring. Bennett and I have had a few interactions, and I’d love to have a singles match with Eddie Edwards and Tyrus. I pride myself in putting out the top match on every card. I’m willing to put myself on the line.”
Galloway has refused to ever allow doubt to cripple his ability.
“I’m finally ready to be a world champion and take the TNA title across the world, defend it in different countries, and build the image back up,” he explained. “TNA has had a negative impression over the past couple years, and I see it as my responsibility to fix that. We have a hell of a show now, and–just like I’ve been trying with Evolve and ICW–if there is anything I can do to improve pro wrestling, I’m going to do it. I’m just going to keep working to get more eyes on the product.”
Galloway remains grateful for the overwhelming, unconditional support he has received from his fellow wrestling fans.
“I can’t thank people enough for getting behind me, believing in me, and appreciating the work I put in,” said Galloway. “It’s so hard to put my thanks into words. I’m willing to sacrifice my life and my body for the fans, and I love this to the point that I’m willing to give up my personal life and my physical health for the fans. I’m a genuine fan, and I love interacting with the people. I love ‘‘Mania Week,’ even though I’m not with the company. Last year, I started calling it ‘Wrestling Week,’ because people go for much more than just WrestleMania. Real wrestling fans go to all the other shows–Ring of Honor, NXT, Evolve, CZW, Shimmer–and those are the people I want to meet. They are the ones who love wrestling, even when a company tries to shove crap down their face, and they throw it right back.
“So I just want to say thank you. We did it. We won the world title. Thank you for sticking with me, and we’re not done by a long shot.”