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USA Insider WWE Monday Night Raw

The Pressure of WrestleMania: Why the Gloves Are Off For Many WWE Superstars

Drew McIntyre and The Rock are taking advantage of WrestleMania season in the most unexpected ways!

By Chris Phelan
Drew Mcintyre stands on the top of the ropes

The WWE Universe has been buzzing all week. Countless fans are calling the March 25 episode of Monday Night Raw arguably the greatest three-hour edition of Raw they've ever seen. And it's all building up hype to WrestleMania 40.

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If there was any doubt before, WWE made a bold proclamation on Monday: Raw is officially hotter than ever! With WrestleMania 40 just around the corner, many of our favorite WWE Superstars have leveled up their game. Every move in the ring seems more impactful, and every word on the microphone appears to have about fifty tons of metaphorical dynamite attached to it. It's a great time to be a fan – Superstars like Drew McIntyre and The Rock clearly have a fire raging inside them, and it's coming across with some of the most captivating television in a long time.  

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It's clear that the pressure of WrestleMania hasn't hamstrung certain Superstars. McIntyre and The Rock have risen to the occasion and harnessed that intense pressure to give them the confidence they need to let loose like never before. In other words, fans shouldn't expect anything less than greatness when April 6 and 7 roll around.

Let's examine how a few Superstars have stepped up recently – and explain why Monday Night Raw felt like an absolute powder keg this week.

CM Punk's (Cult of) Personality Has Been Rubbing Off on Drew McIntyre

Wwe Drew Mcintyre

Since arriving in WWE in the late 2000s, CM Punk has been unmatched on the microphone. For decades, the former multi-time WWE Champion has said whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. And now, some of this bravado is rubbing off on Drew McIntyre – the man who will challenge Seth Rollins for the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania. It's rare for a WWE Superstar to stand toe-to-toe with CM Punk on the microphone, but McIntyre held his own, showing a fire that the WWE Universe has rarely seen.

Based on this interaction, it's clear that Drew McIntyre is not the same WWE Superstar he was even a few months ago. Jabs like, "You never drink, you never do drugs, yet you spend all your time in rehab" would've never been uttered by McIntyre before – CM Punk used to be the sole person responsible for gut-punch comments like that. But not anymore. Not these days.

In a recent interview with CBS Sports, Drew McIntyre revealed that he hasn't felt this good in a long time – and he credits it to the new Triple H-led era of WWE.

"Over the last few years, I was a smiling sword man," he explained. "I'm very proud of the work I did, but there was also a line I couldn't cross – there were certain things, a way things have always been done. So I had to stay within those limitations. Right now, it feels like there's no limitations, there's no right or wrong answers. There's everything outside the box."

McIntyre isn't wrong. Everything about him feels authentic and unscripted. It's like he's finally had a chance to be himself – and it shows. 

Clearly, Drew McIntyre has found his groove – all thanks to a newfound CM Punk-like proficiency on a live microphone. It couldn't have come at a better time. The WWE Universe truly has no idea who will walk out of Philadelphia as the World Heavyweight Champion, and that means both Superstars have done their jobs on television extremely well.

But Drew McIntyre isn't the only WWE Superstar who caught fire right as WrestleMania is about to happen. 

The Rock Has Finally Fully Embraced His Villain Side

Close up of The Rock as he stands in the ring

We'll come out and say it: the "Final Boss" version of The Rock is Dwayne Johnson at his most terrifying best. Cody Rhodes found this out the hard way on this week's episode of Raw:

The pressure of his shocking return to WWE and heavy involvement in The Bloodline's storyline leading into WrestleMania has apparently had intense psychological effects on The Rock. He is no longer the beloved fan favorite who occasionally shows up to deliver Rock Bottoms to some of the most despised villains in the locker room. In 2024, The Rock has delivered to the WWE Universe the most evil side of him the world's ever seen – and we have a feeling the bloody beatdown he gave Cody Rhodes on March 25 is just the tip of the iceberg.

In a way, we don't blame The Rock for allowing the intense pressure of WrestleMania to get to him – it would do the same to us. There's just too much on the line in Philadelphia for The Rock to operate in such a maniacal, violent fashion lately – WrestleMania Night One's main event will see him and Roman Reigns team up against Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins in a tag match with significant stakes. If Cody wins, The Bloodline will be barred from ringside the following night during the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match between Reigns and Cody.

However, if The Bloodline wins, the title match will be contested under Bloodline Rules – meaning anything goes. The Rock is embracing the dark side like never before, and we have a feeling that what we saw on Monday Night is a small preview of the hell he intends to unleash throughout WWE if WrestleMania doesn't go as planned for The Bloodline.

In other words, if you think you've seen the worst of The Rock already – you haven't seen anything yet.

The leadup to WrestleMania hasn't been this engrossing in years – possibly ever – and it's all building up to an all-time great event. We can't wait to see all our favorite WWE Superstars pushing the envelope even further!

You can tune in to Peacock to watch WrestleMania on April 6 and 7. In the meantime, catch up on all things WWE Universe on Peacock.