LIke so many others, he was a WWE castaway, a developmental that stumbled and got his release, only to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves on the independents whence they came, only to catch on somewhere else and get themselves over. And tonight, Eli Drake went from the “underutilized” hand to the new Global Force Wrestling Unified World Heavyweight Champion, defeating 19 other men in a Gauntlet match on GFW’s Impact Wrestling tonight to win the recently vacated title. Not only did he win it, he ran the gauntlet, starting at #1 and defeating Eddie Edwards at the end to secure the win.
Eli Drake’s story began 15 years ago, when a young man from Hagerstown, Maryland began wrestling in Ohio with Les Thatcher‘s Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA). He earned his stripes in Cincinnati (first as Deuce, then as Dick Rick) and during his HWA days, he worked with such future stars as Dean Ambrose and Braxton Sutter (who worked together in the stable, The Crew) and against Jake Crist and Sami Callihan. In 2006, he and Ambrose (then known as Jon Moxley) were used by the WWE in a Sunday Night Heat match in a losing 2-on-1 effort against The Big Show.
In 2010, he began to work the West Coast, primarily with California’s Empire Wrestling Federation (EWF), where he won the company’s championship, and Championship Wrestling of Hollywood (where he was managed by WWE Hall of Famer Percy Pringle (aka Paul Bearer). In 2013, the WWE came knocking with more interest, and he was signed to a developmental deal, and began working in NXT under the new name, Slate Randall, facing off against the likes of Baron Corbin, Juice Robinson, Mojo Rawley and Jason Jordan. But within a year, he was released from his contract and returned to the indies.
It wasn’t long before he emerged in TNA on Impact Wrestling, making his debut in 2015 when he joined Drew McIntyre (then Drew Galloway)’s new faction, The Rising. It didn’t take long before Drake turned on Drew and became one of Impact Wrestling’s best talkers and workers, like a lethal combination of Tye Dillinger and The Miz. He won the now defunct TNA King of the Mountain title in just over a year and became one of the emerging new stars with Impact Wrestling. His skills on the mic lead to his own “talk show”, The Fact of Life, and he was soon paired with former WWE Superstar Brodus Clay (Tyrus in GFW) as his bodyguard, and the Mouth That Roared became a staple in TNA’s mid-card. When Anthem took over this year, Drake continued his mid-card rise as a frequent challenger for both Impact Grand Champion Moose as well as having matches against the likes of Alberto El Patron and Ethan Carter III.
But tonight Eli Drake emerged from the mid-card and became the top of the marquee sign, the main event, when he defeated 20 other men to become the new GFW Unified World Heavyweight Champion. While many were expecting a return to the old guard of either Bobby Lashley or EC3, it was a refreshing change at the top and an indication that GFW is looking to build it’s own stars stronger and brighter than they have in past years, when a reliance on more well known former WWE employees.
Whether Drake makes it to November’s Bound For Glory to defend his new World title is another story indeed…