On June 17th, one of Scotland’s most unique wrestlers, Drew McDonald, became the fifth member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame for Scotland.
The civic ceremony for the late grappler received national media attention and was hosted by Lord Provost Dennis Melloy at the council offices of Perth and Kinross.
McDonald joins George Kidd, Andy Robin, Frank ‘Chic’ Cullen and Bill Ross as one of the few athletes to receive this civic award.
A veteran of Stampede Wrestling, McDonald is one of three Scottish Hall inductees to have had ties to the wrestling industry in Canada. The 2016 entrant, Andy Robin, achieved success working for the Tunney family as a headlining fixture, even winning the Oshawa Tournament of Champions trophy on July 20, 1965, over stars such as ‘Seaman’ Art Thomas, The Destroyer, Duke Noble, Jerry London, Mike Valentino, The Beast and Paul DeMarco. Similarly, the Hall of Fame career of Frank Cullen included a stint in Stampede under the name Robbie Stewart. Cullen still resides in Canada, and maintains an involvement in pro wrestling as a trainer.
Although modern readers might be somewhat unfamiliar with the life and times of Drew McDonald, his career proved that reinvention could lead to longevity and success within the industry. He excelled in a variety of gimmicks, as diverse as the persona of a comedic male stripper to the role of a feared Highland menace, before recasting himself as a trainer of up and coming talent when his in-ring days were starting to come to an end.
The youngest of five children, Charles Edward Wylie Shaw was born June 17, 1955, and grew up in a small apartment in Pomarium Street, Perth. In early adulthood, he enlisted as a member of the Scots Guards, but after his service ended, Shaw had an opportunity to pursue a different venture which could fully capitalize on his physical gifts.
In 1980, one of his friends was working with veteran wrestler Ian Law to promote a professional wrestling show that would raise money for a school in Perth. In the weeks leading to the event, one of the scheduled performers suffered an injury and a replacement was required to fill the void. Agreeing to help, Charles received a two-week crash course before making his debut on the show in a bout against the feared Wild Angus. Although he failed to win the contest, Charles impressed the crowd with his large, imposing frame and natural strength. Shaw also adopted a different name, and the legend of Drew McDonald was born.
For the next four years, Drew McDonald would continue to wrestle sporadically on the local circuit, before signing with Joint Promotions. It was this organization which would quickly thrust him into the spotlight, as he became a key featured performer on its televised wrestling coverage.
His first televised battle, against Irish grappler Jack ‘Flash’ Shirlow, was featured on the April 28, 1984, edition of World of Sport, a variety programme broadcast each Saturday afternoon on ITV. In his second appearance a few weeks later, he teamed with Big Daddy against Giant Haystacks and Dave ‘Fit’ Finlay in a tag team contest shown on May 19th. The match, broadcast on the same day as the FA Cup Final in soccer, secured the standing of Drew McDonald as a headlining act. He had excelled alongside other heavyweights on the annual date which traditionally attracted the largest television audience to professional wrestling.
Due to his growing reputation, McDonald became a performer in demand and started to wrestle on an international stage. On September 22, 1984, whilst on a tour of Germany, he met Monika Markwart. The pair developed a romance, and Markwart was eventually introduced as his manager, the villainous Dr Monika Kaiser. Drew would later compete in India, South Africa and in Canada, working for the legendary Hart family under the name Ben Doon McDonald. He would later perform as ‘The Ultimate Chippendale’ before unleashing his most famous persona, ‘The Highlander from Hell.’
Despite a decline in the popularity of British professional wrestling in the 1990s, Drew McDonald was one of the key figures who created the foundations for an eventual domestic resurgence of the industry. Alongside Jeff Kaye, he established a gym to scout talent and train the next generation of wrestling stars. WWE’s Paige and Drew McIntyre are amongst the talent he developed as a trainer.
Meanwhile, McDonald’s own in-ring career had frequently lead to championship success.
Amongst several regional accolades, Drew McDonald would become the Scottish Heavyweight Champion. He also secured two versions of the British Heavyweight Championship between 2001 and 2006, and teamed with Ulf Herman to win the FWA Tag Team Championship in 2002. In 2005, he won two major European tournaments, capturing the Pat Roach Memorial Trophy for All-Star Wrestling in England and the EPW Iron Man championship in Germany.
Drew McDonald quietly retired from active competition in 2012, but remained involved in the mentoring of young talent. He passed away on February 9, 2015, yet his many contributions to the professional wrestling industry have left an enduring legacy, on both sides of the Atlantic. He is survived by his daughter Debbie, grandson Robbie, and partner Monika, who were on hand to accept his induction as a Hall of Famer in his home country.
Bradley Craig is a wrestling historian and founder of The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame for Scotland. He also worked with Jeanie ‘Lady Blossom’ Clarke on her autobiography, Through the Shattered Glass.