Rise of the Almighty: Bobby Lashley

Bobby Lashley WWE Championship

Bobby Lashley is a phenomenal, one of a kind talent.  A freak of nature with size, strength, agility and athleticism in abundance, his run to the WWE Championship should have been straight-forward.  It is a noted accusation that Vince McMahon and the WWE want to push guys like Lashley; larger-than-life athletes who look like they could legitimately hurt you.  Guys whose business it is to hurt.  Lashley is one of these rarities in present day wrestling and it should come as no surprise he won the WWE Championship last week on Monday Night RAW.  Despite being the total package, Lashley’s climb to the top has been more difficult and far lengthier than it needed to be.  Perhaps most comparable to former WWE Champion, Drew McIntyre, Lashley had to hone his talents elsewhere before coming back to claim what should have been his almost two decades ago.  Let us take a look at the Rise of the WWE’s “All Mighty”.

Bobby Lashley Signs With the WWE (2004)

Lashley signed a developmental deal with the WWE in 2004.  A top prospect who had been on WWE’s radar for years, Lashley had been vying for a spot on the US Olympic wrestling team heading into Athens 2004.  Unfortunately for Lashley, his amateur career was cruelly ended when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Lashley, on a trip to his local bank in Colorado Springs, was shot in the leg during a bank heist – causing the injury that would end his amateur and prospective Olympic career.  This is what led to his ultimate signing with the WWE in 2004, where he would recover and train for a year before being sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling and debuting as Blaster Lashley in January of 2005.  In short, Lashley was a heavily sought after prospect in the world of professional wrestling and the WWE had big plans for him on the main roster.

Bobby Lashley in OVW

Shortly after debuting for OVW, Lashley would begin working on the WWE’s house show circuit.  He would beat the likes of Spike Dudley, Val Venis and other mid-card names of the time before debuting on SmackDown on the September 23, 2005 edition of the show.  He would be announced as a three-time National Amateur Wrestling Champion, a four-time All-American, a two-time Armed Forces Champion and a 2002 Silver Medalist at the Military World Championship.  Right off the bat, the WWE wanted to ensure fans that Lashley was just as legit as he looked.  A dominant and lengthy undefeated streak and feuds with the likes of King Booker and Finlay would eventually follow on SmackDown, before his eventual drafting to the revived ECW brand in late 2006.

Bobby Lashley and Batista

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Battle of the Billionaires and Release From the WWE (February 4, 2008)

He would claim the ECW Championship at the now infamous ECW December to Dismember pay-per-view in an Elimination Chamber match featuring Test, Big Show, CM Punk, Rob Van Dam, and Hardcore Holly.  The biggest moment of his first WWE run when he would feature at WrestleMania XXIII as Donald Trump‘s representative in the Battle of the Billionaires.  He would defeat Umaga, representing Mr McMahon, before sharing a drink with  Stone Cold Steve Austin and shaving Vince’s head with Trump.  An event more difficult to explain post-2016.  Soon, he would disappear from WWE television; an absence lasting six months before the announcement of his release in February of 2008.  There has been much speculation as to the details behind the release.  Lashley was one of the company’s top stars and had just been involved in a high profile feud including Donald Trump and Vince McMahon, so the decision to release him was mysterious.  Accusations of racism against Michael Hayes were one of the main reasons cited but we will never know for sure.

Bobby Lashley Joins the Independent Circuit, Featuring Stints in AAA and TNA Wrestling (2009)

After his WWE release, Bobby Lashley quickly found work again.  Now something of a household name, he was never going to be out of a job for long.  Post-release in 2008, he worked for the likes of AAA – appearing in a winning effort at Triplemania XVI; World League Wrestling, World Wrestling Council, the NWA, Pro Wrestling Alliance, and more.  On July 15 2009, after having made a couple of appearances already, Lashley would announce his signing with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (now IMPACT).  This was an important step on his eventual rise to the WWE Championship over a decade later.

He would debut to assist Mick Foley in his war against the Main Event Mafia (Kurt Angle and Kevin Nash).  They would win the match, kicking off Lashley’s TNA run with a big victory.  In fact, Bobby Lashley would win a lot in this TNA run – he lost just two matches.  One a Falls Count Anywhere match with Scott Steiner at TNA Turning Point 2009 and the other a tag team match, alongside then-girlfriend, Kristal, against Scott Steiner and Awesome Kong.  Lashley’s final match for the company (for now) would come at TNA Final Resolution 2009, where he would get the big victory over Scott Steiner in a Last Man Standing match.  Not long after, Lashley would turn heel on an episode of Impact – the first heel run of his career.  His gimmick was of a man frustrated by professional wrestling and wishing for his release, so he could concentrate on an MMA career he began in 2008.  This was more than just a gimmick, of course, as this was indeed Lashley’s desire – he has said in the past that to become a world champion in mixed martial arts is his “dream”.  Soon after, he would be granted his release from TNA.

Time in the Pro Wrestling Wilderness (2010-2014)

After being granted his release from TNA, Lashley’s pro wrestling career would enter a downward spiral.  He would wrestle just eight matches between 2010 and the beginning of 2012 – with the majority of these taking place in Inoki Genome Federation.  At a time when professional wrestling was shifting to wrestlers more akin to CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in size, Bobby Lashley was looking increasingly outdated.  This probably didn’t affect him too much, however, as his main focus by this point was certainly his MMA career.  Runs in the likes of Strikeforce and Bellator would keep Lashley busy in his time away from full-time professional wrestling and he would notch up an impressive fifteen wins in seventeen fights, with two defeats.  If he had maybe been a bit younger and Dana White hadn’t already had one former pro wrestler capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship, maybe Lashley, like Brock Lesnar – a man who Lashley has been compared to throughout his entire career – might have ended up in the UFC.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.  An impressive MMA career would become something of a side venture as Lashley gradually crept back into pro-wrestling from 2013 onward.

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A Return to TNA/IMPACT Wrestling (2014-2017)

Bobby Lashley returned to TNA Wrestling at Lockdown 2014, answering an open challenge from Ethan Carter III (ECIII).  This match and the eventual rematch would go to a no contest but there was no denying that Lashley was motivated and that big things were in store for the one-day WWE Champion.  Just one week after his return, Lashley would become a heel once more – just as he was in his final TNA appearances – and would attack then-TNA World Heavyweight Champion, Eric Young – the sympathetic babyface of TNA at the time.  In doing so, Lashley would align with the man who would become a crucial part of his career.  Lashley, as mentioned earlier, has been compared to Brock Lesnar throughout his entire career.  The size; the stature; the MMA and amateur wrestling background; their deceptively soft-spoken speaking voices and even their initials, B and L, mean these comparisons will forever take place.  Well, in TNA, Lashley finally gained his Paul Heyman, in MVP.  MVP would guide Lashley to the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on crutches, just as he would in Lashley’s WWE Championship capture seven years later.

This Impact run would prove to be one of the most exciting and dominant runs of Lashley’s career.  Not only would he capture the TNA World Heavyweight Championship (later the Impact World Championship) four times, but also the Impact X-Division and King of the Mountain Championships – at one stage, he had them all at the same time.  This was a dominant and unprecedented run which got Lashley’s professional wrestling career back on track.  Once more, pro wrestling fans were talking about Lashley with excitement and a return to the WWE looked more and more inevitable with each passing week.  Upon eventually losing his championships and dropping out of the title picture, Lashley would again announce his intention to leave Impact Wrestling.  Though he cited his MMA career as his reason for doing so, it became increasingly obvious where he was heading.  This is, of course, leads us back to the present day.

Bobby Lashley: Rise of the Almighty (2018-Present)

The night after WrestleMania XXXIV in 2018, Bobby Lashley would make his return to RAW – ten years after his departure from the company where he initially made his name.  He would attack Elias and compete in a series of tag team matches in the following weeks.  Right off the bat, many fans believed Lashley was being mishandled by WWE management – and they weren’t wrong.  Lashley was hot property coming off his Impact run and his momentum was clearly stalled.  A feud with Sami Zayn – including the terrible “Bobby’s Sisters” segment – gave way to what was an initially popular duo with Lio Rush.  This, of course, would be used to make a mockery of Lashley, as he was made to perform a series of awkward poses in-ring, not to mention what was referred to as “Lashley’s favorite pose” – where he bent over at the waist, in front of thousands.  Then came a bizarre on-screen relationship (and marriage) with Lana and a feud with her real-life husband, Rusev.  A feud so bad it was dropped entirely from the show and never mentioned again.  Lashley’s return to the WWE had been a bust.

Lashley was doomed to mid-card obscurity – a disgusting misuse of someone with Lashley’s ability and look.  In 2020, after two years of comically bad mishandling, Lashley’s savior came in the form of his former Impact Wrestling manager, MVP.  Shelton Benjamin – another freak athlete with a case of mishandling dating back two decades – would become the third member of the group.  The trio would feud with Ricochet, Apollo Crews, and Cedric Alexander, with the latter turning heel and aligning with the group now referred to as “The Hurt Business“.  The Hurt Business can be summed up in one word: “cool”.  They wear fancy suits; they have attitude and despite being heels, they are not cowardly heels – they are dominant bad****s who take all the gold.  Cedric and Shelton went on to become WWE RAW Tag Team Champions, whilst Lashley embarked on a dominant run as WWE United States Champion – a run lasting 175 days before he dropped the title to Riddle in a triple threat match, where Lashley was never pinned (John Morrison took the fall).  This proved to be a temporary setback as, just two weeks later, the “Almighty” would live up to his billing.

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Bobby Lashley As WWE Champion

Bobby Lashley would finally – almost sixteen years after his original WWE debut – capture the WWE Championship on the March 1, 2021 episode of Monday Night RAW.  He would win in dominant fashion, with The Miz being unable to match the velocity of the Almighty.   Lashley would win with his relatively new finishing move, The Hurt Lock – a little known reference to Chris Masters‘ Master Lock, a move which Lashley holds the distinction for being the first person to break out of on a segment of Masters’ “Master Lock Challenge” on RAW in the mid-2000s.  It is now, of course, Lashley’s move and a reminder to all that he is the dominant force of The Hurt Business, who look set to have a big year ahead in 2021.  It has been a long and difficult road for Lashley to live up to his original billing as the future of the industry but in 2021, he looks set to do so.  Even at 44 years of age, Lashley remains a beast and whereas he has recently claimed he only has a few more years left, for now, the WWE locker room must acknowledge the All Mighty.

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