Eli Drake is on the rise and you can’t deny it. Since breaking out of “The Rising”, a trio that included Drew Galloway and Micah, Drake has become one of the most engaging characters in the Impact universe. 2016 proved to be a breakout year with for Eli on a personal and professional level as he became King of the Mountain champion, wrestled in the first cage match of his 12-year career, and had several high-profile feuds on Impact Wrestling. With Anthem looking to take Impact on the road and create revenue for the brand, Eli Drake could be the most important character on the roster.
On Impact, Eli Drake portrays a brash, know-it-all character with a pension for talking smack directly to your face. Drake’s mic skills are some of the best in the business with fans comparing him to the likes of Chris Jericho and The Rock. The comparisons aren’t unwarranted either. With WWE micromanaging so much of what their performers say, Impact takes a more do-it-yourself approach to promo work. Along with his trademark “Dummy Button” and “Yeah” catchphrases, fans have slowly started to make Drake a fan favorite. Impact’s creative team has managed to slow down the inevitable turn in order to tell a story which is something that would not have happened just a few short years ago.
“I’m very versatile…that versatility you can use in any situation. That can be a main event world champion persona or a comedy guy. It makes me a guy that can be used in many different facets. That’s the beauty of having the freedom to just be me.” — Eli Drake as told to Channel Guide Magazine
A few months ago, Drake and Ethan Carter III would become embattled in a war of words on Eli’s “Fact of Life” talk show. The result would be one of most entertaining and well executed segments on Impact Wrestling in years as Drake proclaimed that Carter “choked” at the opportunity of retaining the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Eli would then explain that EC3 had been handed all of his success by being the on-screen nephew of Dixie Carter, while Drake had to work and even cheat to get to his current position. The segment was simple yet complex and helped catapult Eli into a new tier within the Impact Wrestling hierarchy. The aspects of Drake’s argument aren’t too far fetched from his real life struggle of becoming a major player in the pro wrestling landscape.
Eli Drake would spend the beginning of his career in Ohio’s Heartland Wrestling Association surrounded by guys like Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose) and future Impact Wrestling star Pepper Parks (Braxton Sutter). Eli would then move on to NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and be under the tutelage of the great Percy “Paul Bearer” Pringle. Drake and Pringle formed a close friendship until the WWE Hall of Famer passed away in March 2013. Shortly thereafter, Eli would join WWE’s Performance Center and become a part of NXT, but after a year in developmental he would be released from his contract and back on the indie circuit. Much like EC3, Eli Drake’s prior work and relationship with Impact’s Executive Vice President of Creative and Talent Relations, John Gaburick, proved to be the driving force for getting him to TNA.
“I trusted [Percy] because he’s done so much in his career…he seemed so touched and happy at the fact that I was asking him these questions. To take that one step further, when Percy passed away, he made a specific point to leave a message for me and a package of some things to give me. He just wanted to say that he loved me and that I was going to do big things, and don’t give up.” — Eli Drake describing his relationship with Percy Pringle on the Pancakes and Powerslams podcast
EC3 joined TNA in 2013 and made an immediate impact as the heel nephew of President Dixie Carter. After winning then losing the TNA World Heavyweight Championship within a two-week span in January 2016, Carter spent most of the year trying to get back the title, but adversaries like “The Miracle” Mike Bennett, Drew Galloway, and Lashley kept him away distracted. While EC3’s face run has been refreshing for the Impact brand, by default, he is a much more effective character as a heel. Furthermore, now that Dixie Carter is no longer in the equation in real life, Impact can essentially tell the story of EC3 returning to his heel ways why proving Eli Drake’s claim that his success has all been fabricated.
On the first episode of Impact this year, Drake claimed that he would not stop coming for EC3, which suggests that the feud will continue in some capacity. Character positioning has always been an issue for TNA, but with Eli Drake they can create a real, revenue making talent for the fans to get behind. As our very own Jim LaMotta pointed out in his very detailed evaluation of the new Anthem and TNA partnership, its extremely important for Impact to become stable and profitable, but they have to give fans a reason, a cast of characters, engaging storylines and great wrestling. It starts with the face turn for Eli Drake. The guy has the total package and if Impact can develop the story correctly, fans will be chanting the name of “E-LI DRAKE” in no time. That’s just a fact of life.
image credit – Impact Wrestling