By Zakkary Brog

Drew McIntyre sat down during a family meeting when he was 6 and announced he was going to be the next WWE Superstar.

“They shrugged it off,” says McIntyre, born Andrew McLean Galloway IV. “I stuck to the plan and never deviated from the plan. I just knew I was born to do it, even from a young age.”

Since his 2003 debut, he has become one of the WWE’s biggest stars. He’s vanquished foes with his signature strike, the “Claymore Kick”; won multiple titles; and become a fan favorite.

He’ll come to town for “WWE Friday Night SmackDown” on Friday, July 1, at the Footprint Center.

McIntyre was lauded early on by WWE Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Vince McMahon, who called the Scot a “future world heavyweight champion.”

However, he never reached those heights. In 2014, he was released from WWE. It wasn’t what McIntyre wanted, but it was what he needed.

“I needed that time away, 100%, to define myself not just as a performer but as a man and grow up,” McIntyre says.

“I came straight from school, straight to WWE. I was living with my parents at school telling me what to do. I’d never had a chance to really mature and grow up. I was still very much in the student mindset and very immature in a lot of ways. I had to step outside the bubble to really get perspective.”

He addressed his personal issues with the help of his wife, Kaitlyn Frohnapfel, while performing with other companies. McIntyre’s look evolved, and his microphone prowess and ring skills improved.

He returned to the WWE in 2017 as part of NXT. McIntyre finally reached the upper echelon of WWE talent by defeating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 36 — at an empty WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Usually, the event is held in a stadium.

“It felt incredible,’’ McIntyre says. “It wasn’t obviously how I had imagined when I was a kid. I had always imagined main-eventing WrestleMania, winning the WWE Championship, and tens of thousands of people screaming,” he says.

“We were living in the pandemic, and there was literally nobody there. But at the same time, I was so proud to become champion, finally fulfill the prophecy of the ‘chosen one’ and be the one to step up during such unknown times for the company, and for the world, to be that leader.”

Larger than life

McIntyre has become one of the “larger-than-life characters” he admired at age 6. Armed with a master’s degree in criminology from Glasgow Caledonian University, he still never lost sight of his real dream.

“I literally gave all my free time to the dream,” McIntyre says.

“Even just to learn to wrestle was a 24-hour round trip I used to take when I was 15 years old. In my school holidays, I got three days off for Easter, I was away learning to wrestle. If I got the summer holiday off, I was away learning how to wrestle. As often as I could afford it, and as often as my mom would give me the money.

“As a part-time job, I was always a wrestler from age 16 all the way until I was signed by WWE at age 21, all while I was pursuing my education at the same time. It was very busy and very challenging, but I wanted it that bad. That’s what I tell everybody. If you put the work in, you’ll get the results.”

Now a WWE top star, McIntyre is excited to be at the forefront of its upcoming first major U.K. show since 2003 and the country’s first stadium event since 1992. “Clash at the Castle” is Saturday, September 3, at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

“I’ve been shouting about it for years,” McIntyre says. “The U.K. deserves this show. There’s no reason why we can’t do it. In the beginning I was told, ‘logistics and time difference.’ Eventually with the WWE Network, which evolved into Peacock now, we have super shows across the world, especially the big Australia show. I remember going to management after that show, going, ‘You’re trying to tell me about the time difference? Compared to the U.K., it’s like another day over here.’ People started listening, and eventually it happened.”

Leading up to “Clash at the Castle” is the Footprint Center show. McIntyre is looking forward to returning to the Valley. His first WrestleMania was in 2010 in Glendale.

“I love Phoenix in general,” McIntyre says. “The weather is great, the people are great, the fans are great. In Phoenix, I always get my In-N-Out Burger which is always exciting. … Phoenix has always been great to me.”

He also encourages those in the city to come to the show and see what WWE has to offer.

“For those that don’t know, this is the show to check out,” McIntyre says. “There’s something for literally everybody in WWE. It’s such a spectacle. Our motto is to put smiles on faces. It’s not just a catchy slogan. Let’s put a smile on your face no matter who you are or what age group you are. We’re a PG-rated show. There’s something for the youngest kid to the oldest adult or young at heart. As I like to say, there’s something to captivate everybody. It’s not just for guys: 40% of our audience is female. Our females are represented so well on the show because they’re literally some of the best on our roster.

“If you get yourself along to a WWE show, something is going to catch your attention: the superstars, the spectacle, the pyro, the storytelling, as over the top as it can be at times. It’s so much fun. You just have to see it live to get sold. So, get yourself along, because Drew McIntyre guarantees you’re going to love it.”

“WWE Friday Night SmackDown”

WHEN: 4:45 p.m. Friday, July 1

WHERE: Footprint Center, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix

COST: Tickets start at $20

INFO: 602.379.2000, footprintcenter.com