Eli Drake's four-year run with Impact Wrestling came to an end recently with he and Impact decided to move on from each other. Drake is now a free agent for the first time in years and he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast today about moving on from Impact.
"It was a decision I made earlier this year and I talked to them about the idea that I was probably gonna move on. Credit to Ed Nordholm as we hashed everything out and figured out how I could move on without a 12-month non-compete. As of Monday or Tuesday of this week, I am officially good to move on," said Drake.
It's no secret that Drake and Impact didn't always see eye-to-eye when it comes to creative. Drake says his unsure status about his future played a part in what was booked for him.
"My contract was up. They didn't know if I was leaving and I didn't know if I was leaving. So of course, you're gonna be written a particular way if it's believed that you're gonna be leaving," Drake said before adding that he actually liked some of the material Impact gave him to work with such as working with Abyss.
"As far as creatively, here is one of the most repeated phrases I would hear backstage, 'You made my job so much easier' because I could do a take one time and be done with it. Because they would let me do my own thing, they had an idea of where they wanted to go, but it was like, 'Here's what we want. You know how to do it. Let's make it happen.'"
Drake didn't want to take part in an intergender match with Tessa Blanchard at United We Stand which further drove a wedge between he and the promotion. He was asked if he regretted not taking the match vs. Blanchard.
"I don't regret it. I don't apologize. I don't feel any of that," stated Drake. "I feel a particular way about the wrestling business, and there's a lot of parody or play wrestling, if you will. Comedy and silliness has a place in wrestling, but there's still gotta be some level of believability.
Drake said the height and weight difference he has over Tessa made the match unrealistic. He also said that he didn't want to do the match because he knew he was leaving the company and knew what the outcome would be.
"It was not a knock against anyone other than me just trying to protect my own brand," said Drake before adding a match against a larger women's wrestler like Awesome Kong or Chyna would have been more believable.
"Absolutely. Much more believable to me. You look at Chyna for instance – more believable. The size does make a difference."
Despite Drake refusing to do the job, he says that there wasn't much of a reaction backstage to his decision to not go through with the match.
"I got a lot of text messages from guys saying, 'Thank you for not taking that.' But to me it wasn't a political stance, but a lot of people took it that way," said Drake. "I don't think most of the people in the locker room care. Some people saw my side of it and some saw the side of why I should do it. But no one in the locker room was that vocal about anything."
Drake also mentioned that he showed up to TV a few weeks after the match was supposed to happen and everyone, including Blanchard, was cool with him.
Drake won three championships during his time in Impact and said those were the highlights of his tenure there.
"If you're talking about on-screen [highlights], basically becoming champion: King of the Mountain champion, Tag Team champion with Scott Steiner. Just the fact that I got to go places I've never been before like India and the UK," said Drake.
"I think I won the Feast or Fired briefcase every time I was in the match," Drake said before adding he also won Race for the Case in 2017. "…Backstage, it was an amazing atmosphere and lots of good friends there. I was considered "party dad" because I was the guy who would get the party buses set up."
You can follow Eli Drake on Twitter @TheEliDrake. Drake's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included in a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it Drake discusses why he decided to leave Impact Wrestling, turning down a match with Tessa Blanchard, a possible leap to AEW, differences in the Impact regimes, a pre-Jericho interview conversation he had with Jon Moxley and more