MANILA, Philippines -- For Scottish WWE superstar Drew McIntyre, WrestleMania 37 was "such a tease."
The event, held at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida, marked the return of live fans to a WWE show since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. McIntyre was the first Superstar to make his way out, as he challenged Bobby Lashley for the WWE championship.
"It was emotional. I was the very first entrance, the first Superstar out. One year, one month, and one day, at the time," recalled McIntyre during a recent media roundtable.
"There's a picture where I looked like I was about to break down, because I am. I could see people in the crowd, crying. The feeling of, 'Oh my goodness, we're getting back to normal, this is what it's all about,'" he added.
But it was short-lived. The next day, the WWE returned to the "ThunderDome," a biosecure bubble that has served as their de-facto venue since August 2020.
"The next day, we're back in the Thunderdome, and it was such a tease. I was like, at least we got to see them briefly," said McIntyre, who lost to Lashley at WrestleMania.
"But now," he added, "things are getting back to normal."
The WWE is preparing to welcome back its fans on a full-time basis, starting on the next episode of Friday Night SmackDown on July 16 at the Toyota Center in Houston. The Money in the Bank pay-per-view, set for July 18 at the Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, will also have fans in attendance.
For McIntyre, their return can't come soon enough.
"The thing we've been missing most… is the fans, the interaction," he said. "They're our number one superstar, they're our secret sauce. They create that unique atmosphere of WWE."
"Other sports have kinda missed their fans, but we've missed our fans more than anybody else," he added. "For everybody out there, we're gonna see the fans back, and it's gonna bring the show quality so dramatically up."
After Money in the Bank, Monday Night RAW will be held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on July 19, and WWE is set to go back on the road soon after. They have already announced a 25-city tour, as well as a return to the United Kingdom in September.
"Every single night is gonna be like a mini-WrestleMania," says McIntyre.
McIntyre, 36, will compete in the Money in the Bank ladder match where the winner -- the first Superstar to climb the ladder and secure the briefcase -- will be guaranteed a title match against any champion of their choice.
Having held the WWE championship for a huge part of 2020, McIntyre is looking forward to getting the opportunity to challenge for the title again -- and this time, to be in front of fans when he does so.
"I have to win Money in the Bank, it's my first thing," said McIntyre. "I just don't imagine and can't imagine what I will do, character-wise, if I'm not able to compete for the title."
"Considering I won the title with no fans, I won the title again in the Thunderdome, it would suck to not be able to be champion in front of fans after all this time, so I need to win that match," he added.
Presented as a "face" -- a good guy -- McIntyre admits he's not entirely sure how fans will react to him once the bell rings. Nonetheless, what's important for him is to hear their reactions all over again, after several months of just seeing them through the LED screens of the Thunderdome.
"When it comes to the live crowd, the thing is you can never know what to expect. Expect the unexpected, that's what I'm excited about," he said.
"People that are supposed to be good will be getting booed, people who are supposed to be bad will be getting cheered. I might come out there and get mixed reactions, might get booed, might get cheered. I don't know, but I'm excited about it."