If you’re sleeping on Eli Drake, it’s time to wake up. Only dummies wouldn’t pay attention to one of IMPACT Wrestling’s hottest stars.
Drake, the 36-year-old athlete, is ready to make 2019 his biggest year yet. Going toe-to-toe with some serious competition, the former Global Champion spoke to Still Real To Us about living up to expectations, his match with James Ellsworth at Bound for Glory, and what he learned from working with the recently departed IMPACT Wrestling Hall of Famer Abyss.
“It’s always about trying to be better,” Drake tells Still Real To Us in an exclusive interview. “I’m always trying to keep fresh, in a certain sense. If I can keep the audience interested in what I’m doing–that’s what’s paying the bills at the end of the day.”
The wrestling star has held his own in IMPACT Wrestling. The promotion has gone through multiple changes over the last few years. Names have entered and left the company. The one thing thats been constant is Drake’s determination to succeed. Using the microphone to his advantage, Drake knows there is major power in his voice. By talking–a lot, Drake utilizes his skill whenever he sees an opportunity in front of him.
“It’s interesting when you consider the past year, and what I’ve done. There’s been a bit of uncertainty with what direction I was going in, and what I was going to do. For a long time, I felt like I was floundering,” Drake confesses. “At the same time, I was able to keep myself relevant with the microphone, and keep myself up.”
Fans of professional wrestling love a good smack talker. Drake is one of the best in the business when it comes to putting a verbal beatdown on whoever his unlucky opponent is for the evening. Drake recalls a hilarious moment that he shared with James Ellsworth on October 14, 2018.
“It was really funny going into that,” laughs Drake. “I remember the idea was this. ‘Oh, you’re going to go out there and talk. James Ellsworth is going to come out, and people are going to love it.’ I was just like, ‘Uhh…I don’t know about this.'”
It would be an understatement to say that the crowd in attendance for Bound for Glory was rowdy. The New York City fans made their boisterous voices heard, and Drake noticed. They were firmly in his corner, even though he was supposed to be the heel on IMPACT Wrestling’s biggest night of the year.
“The second my music hit, you heard this roar from the crowd. In my head, I was thinking, ‘Oh, okay. We’re in a different place right now. This is Queens.’ It was kind of wild. It was fighting an uphill battle, as far as making me look like the bad guy. It didn’t read that way until [the segment] got cleaned up with Abyss. Abyss helped move everything in the direction it was supposed to go.”
Abyss has seen it all when it comes to IMPACT Wrestling. Among fans, he was known as one of the hardest working employees since the inception of the company. Before leaving IMPACT Wrestling for another opportunity, he fought Drake on January 6, at The Asylum in Nashville, Tennessee for IMPACT’s pay-per-view, Homecoming. It was the first time that the two grapplers met in the ring, other than the one time that Drake was put through a table at Bound for Glory. At Homecoming, the wrestlers left it all out there with Drake coming out on top, solidifying himself as a top star in the promotion. Defeating the IMPACT Wrestling Hall of Famer proved that Drake could hang with some of the toughest names in the sport.
“That’s a big body in that ring,” Drake recalls of Abyss. “I’m no slouch, but here is a guy that’s a mammoth of a man. Then, you throw in all the weapons, and the tacks. Janice. Everything that goes into that. It’s a sight to behold, that’s for sure.”
Challenging Abyss was a tough task for the former King of the Mountain Champion. He had to develop a different strategy before taking the ring that night.
“You have to play the game differently. A lot of the guys aren’t built like Abyss. You really do have to change your game plan up a little bit,” Drake says.
During his bloody feud with Abyss, Drake also had the opportunity to work with hardcore legends Tommy Dreamer and Raven. Being able to share the ring with the veterans has blessed Drake’s life in ways he never thought were possible.
“You learn to enjoy those moments. At the same time, you take away what you can as far as learning experiences go,” Drake tells Still Real To Us. “I’m just enjoying it, learning it, and using those moments to feed my own legacy, and feed my own trajectory in my career.”
The future of IMPACT is bright. With the announcement of IMPACT Wrestling airing on the Pursuit channel, fans who use Twitch are able to keep up with IMPACT’s content. The fact that the Internet is a driving force in the industry doesn’t get lost on Drake.
“I think everyone can see the power of streaming,” Drake tells Still Real To Us. “It’s so huge.”
As major as Twitch is, television is still the king at the moment. The advertising dollars are there. At the end of the day, wrestling is a business. If someone wants to run a business, that person has got to make money. The best way to make money is being on television, according to Drake.
“On Pursuit, there’s a lot of hunting. A lot of fishing. We’re almost kind of a sore thumb. That’s the cool thing, though,” says Drake. “A lot of people might be watching their Pursuit shows, and all of the sudden, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute. What’s this IMPACT Wrestling thing?’ Now, your eyes are on the product. That’s a big deal.”
For fans who don’t have the Pursuit channel, there’s a plethora of options for fans to watch IMPACT Wrestling. From the Global Wrestling Network app to Twitch, fanatics are able to view IMPACT’s programming on multiple outlets. Drake assures the audience that it’s a good time to be a fan of the company.
“With Pursuit being an Anthem owned station, that gives us the ability to do things like simulcast and Twitch, which is great if you don’t happen to have Pursuit. If you don’t have the channel, you have the option to go to Twitch, which is amazing.”
In February, Drake plans on escaping the brisk, winter cold by taking part of IMPACT Wrestling’s television tapings in Las Vegas. It won’t be a surprise when Drake heats up the ring with the other stars of IMPACT Wrestling. Drake tells Still Real To Us that he has been working in the area since 2011, and that the crowds are “always reactive.”
“I live in LA, man. I get to come out here every month,” states Drake. “The squad that we have; the crew that we have, as far as the talent goes, we’re a pretty good locker room. We are a tight-knit group. We like to have a lot of fun. We’ll pick a night to go out, and have a good time. We’re looking forward to that, and getting everybody together.”
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas for the stars of IMPACT Wrestling. Beyond preparing for the next round of shows in sin city, Drake’s goal is to become World Champion once more. If he has it his way, there will be no stopping him.
“The only dream I have at this point is getting back to that world title,” confirms Drake. “I’m looking to make the Eli Drake name bigger than it’s ever been. I want to cement my legacy. I want to leave people with moments that they can remember for a long time to come.”
IMPACT Wrestling airs its weekly two-hour Impact! flagship television show on Fridays at 10 PM ET on the Pursuit Channel across the United States, and also on IMPACT Wrestling’s official Twitch channel. IMPACT Wrestling returns to Las Vegas on February 15-17 for three consecutive nights. Wrestling fans can still purchase VIP packages to see Eli Drake, and all of the other stars of IMPACT Wrestling.