WWE wrestler Drew McIntyre.  

WWE wrestler Drew McIntyre.   Credit: WWE

If the simmering rivalry between Drew McIntyre and CM Punk feels more real than most of what you see in pro wrestling, that’s because it is, McIntyre insists.

And, McIntyre suggested, that could result in a very real fight between the two WWE stars, too.

“My thing is, if I really don't like you, I shouldn't be there, because I might punch you in the face,” said McIntyre, who has made his disdain for Punk well known since the “Straight Edge Superstar” returned to WWE following a decade-long absence in November.

“I don't want to give away too much right now. But the story isn't really a story. It’s real,” McIntyre said in a recent Newsday interview. “And people are feeling it's real. And they can see how much fun I'm having at his expense. And . . . there is a really good reason for that. And maybe we'll get to tell that story, eventually. We just need Punk to not injure himself in rehab and make it back to WWE, or not injure himself driving to the show or walking to the show, since he’s made of glass.”

The last time McIntyre squared off with Punk, in the 30-Man Royal Rumble match, it ended with Punk sidelined by a torn triceps and being pulled from his main event match against world heavyweight champion Seth Rollins at WrestleMania XL next week in Philadelphia.

McIntyre seized the opportunity and stepped in to challenge Rollins, and Punk has promised to be ringside. The star-studded contest is among several marquee bouts slated for WrestleMania, including the in-ring return of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Days before the big show, McIntyre, Johnson and other top WWE stars will take part in the final Monday Night Raw before WrestleMania, coming on April 1 at Barclays Center.

“At this point, if you get a ticket, you’re very, very lucky,” said McIntyre, who believes WWE’s popularity is at the highest point it's been since the 1990s. 

“This is the most exciting time in wrestling, since probably the Attitude Era. Not probably, 100%. Things are hotter than ever. The industry is healthier than ever . . . We’re breaking records left and right.”

WWE’s shift in business coincides with a shift in the on-screen demeanor of McIntyre. During his previous run as a main event star— at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when WWE was playing before empty arenas — McIntyre was very much the wrestling good guy. Lately, he’s displayed a more sarcastic and sharp-tongued side of his personality that has garnered a lot of attention.

“As a smiley, sword wielding Scotsman . . . there were limitations and a wall I would hit. Right now there’ absolutely no limits. I can use all my creativity,” McIntyre said. “A lot of people say, Wow, you know, the new Drew is great.’ But if you ever check out my independent work when I was gone from WWE from 2014 to 2017, you'll see, ‘Wait actually, that's just kind of the real Drew, with the volume turned up at times.”

At the same time McIntyre appears to be hitting his peak popularity in WWE, there’s been plenty of speculation about his future in the company. Reports have surfaced about his contract expiring soon and McIntyre considering playing the field as a free agent.

Asked about McIntyre’s future in the company last July, WWE chief content officer Paul “Triple-H” Levesque dismissed any notion of discontentment.

“If Drew had an issue, it's news to me,” Levesque said of McIntyre. ”He’s an amazing performer. He is one of the highlight superstars in this timeframe in this era . . . Hopefully he's here for the rest of his career. “

McIntyre said there was “not much” he could say about his contract situation, but signaled that he’s happy where he is.

“I can say I'm having fun. And I hope to continue to have fun, no matter what. I'm still young, I'm in my prime. I'm gonna be wrestling,” said McIntyre, who made it clear that his satisfaction in WWE has a lot to do with his placement on the card. “If I'm not, you know, one of the featured players, if I'm not making a significant difference to the show, and the business as a whole, then quite frankly, I don't want to be there.”

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