WWE is looking to lock down LA Knight for the long haul, but Drew McIntyre’s contract situation is an entirely different story.
PWInsider reports that WWE is either in the finals stage of signing Knight to a “long-term contract” or already has inked the rising star to a new deal that could keep him with the company for another five years.
McIntyre, on the other hand, still has yet to re-sign with WWE, according to pro wrestling insider BWE (h/t Comic Book) while other high-profile stars, including Seth Rollins and The Miz, are also nearing the end of their contracts:
Just as Knight’s popularity—and merchandise sales—continue to skyrocket, McIntyre’s stock keeps trending downward.
At WrestleMania 39, the former two-time WWE Championship was pinned by Gunther in a triple threat match for the International Championship. He would then be off TV for several months, reportedly for multiple reasons, including a minor contract dispute, his desire to return with a strong storyline and a needed break to heal from injuries.
Since returning to WWE programming, McIntyre has put over Gunther at SummerSlam and then taken a step down the card into a midcard tag team with Matt Riddle. If McIntyre was hoping to get some quality storytelling upon his return, he hasn’t gotten much, instead being used to help elevate other talents on Raw.
Whenever WWE uses high-profile wrestlers in such a role, that typically implies that said wrestler could be on their way out of the company or, at the very least, is on shaky ground. There is nothing definitive regarding McIntyre’s future, however, and his contract doesn’t officially expire until early 2024 at the earliest.
But the real question here is whether McIntyre be a priority for WWE, which is expected to make as much as $50 million in cost-cutting moves upon the completion of its merger with UFC under Endeavor next week. Shedding McIntyre’s salary could certainly go a long way toward WWE reaching that goal—that is, if the company doesn’t view him as someone who should be paid among its highest stars.
It’s probably a fair comparison to say that McIntyre is in that same ballpark as Edge, who was recently making $3 million per year and could be on his way out of WWE and into AEW himself. Another star in a comparable spot on the card would be Kevin Owens, who is reportedly earning $2-3 million and is, like McIntyre, a top star on Raw.
However, McIntyre has cooled off a bit as a character, which might explain why he appears to be in the early stages of a heel turn that could refresh his gimmick. The issue here is, McIntyre recently said he only wants to turn heel if it makes “perfect sense” and turning on Riddle feels far from perfect.
While WWE has plenty of time to right the ship with McIntyre, the company is instead focusing on pushing rising stars like Knight, who is older than McIntyre but is arguably WWE’s top fan favorite right now and is now listed as SmackDown’s No. 1 babyface. It’s wise of WWE to lock up Knight even though he’s 40 because he can still performer at a high level for several more years—plus, his best skill is his promo ability, which isn’t going to fade away with age.
Though Knight may not be a top star for the next decade, he’s peaking at the right time. The opposite is true of McIntyre, and now, his WWE future is up in the air.