Sixteen years after he first signed with the company, Bobby Lashley has become WWE Champion. Lashley returned to WWE in 2018 after ten years away from the promotion; during his absence he built up an impressive MMA record and had a dominant run in Impact Wrestling, at one point holding all the singles titles in the promotion.
Despite his amazing physique, MMA credibility, and the fact that he has proved himself a believable world champion, Lashley has only just been used to his full potential in his current WWE run for about nine months. ‘The Destroyer’ is on fire right now and has been looking good since first forming The Hurt Business with MVP in mid-2020. This led to a US Title run and, now, the WWE Championship. But it has been a long three years to get here.
When ‘The Almighty’ first returned after WrestleMania 34, many fans expected WWE to pick up where they left off with Lashley in the late 2000s and start featuring him in high profile matches, and possibly even prepare him for a world title run. Unlike his first run, however, hopefully fans would respond positively to his push this time around due to him improving greatly during his time away from the company (see also recent champion Drew McIntyre).
Unfortunately, Lashley wasn’t really given much to do for the first couple of years of his second run. He engaged in a horrible feud with Sami Zayn featuring the infamously awful Lashley sisters ‘comedy’ bit. He teamed up with Lio Rush which led him to two Intercontinental Championship reigns, but they were both short and unremarkable, and involved the two men breaking up and making up every other week.
Then came the feud with poor handsome Rusev in which Lana left the likeable loser for the lustful Lashley. As a bizarre aside, this actually wasn’t the worst cuckold storyline on WWE television at the time, with Maria Kanellis reminding her husband every week that the baby she was carrying wasn’t his.
Finally, Bobby Lashley aligned with the recently returned MVP, who promised to carry ‘The Almighty’ to championship gold. Backlash 2020 is where the first glimmers of greatness from Lashley were evident as he took WWE Champion Drew McIntyre to the limit in their title match. Both men looked fantastic and so this would be the point that those who didn’t experience Lashley’s former greatness would start to pay attention to the man. Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander later joined the duo to fully form The Hurt Business.
With MVP to do his talking and a new submission finisher in his arsenal dubbed ‘The Hurt Lock’ (only a full nelson, but somehow infinitely more interesting than a delayed vertical suplex which he had been using as a finisher beforehand), he soon found himself as US Champion. The title had recently received a makeover and it looked like it belonged over the shoulder of ‘The Destroyer’ and his suited-up friends.
At this point, Lashley was starting to appear like he should have from the get-go; with someone talking for him and him just looking dominant in matches as an insanely quick and strong, superior athlete. This also drew parallels to Brock Lesnar, who hadn’t been seen since WrestleMania 36 (just before Lashley started a winning streak). Similarly dominant big man Braun Strowman was a heel, and The Hurt Business had all somewhat turned face around this time by taking on Retribution, so the fans had a big guy who was fun to watch that they could cheer, aiding Lashley’s popularity.
With the US Title in his hands, Lashley went on a run of title defenses for the rest of the year. Then, to kick off 2021, he had a fantastic series of matches against Riddle on RAW. I think these bouts really showed off the ability of ‘The Almighty’. He threw his opponent around with ease, matched him in terms of hard-hitting strikes and quickness, and allowed him to show the only emotion he should be showing – rage – whenever the smaller man would somehow one-up him. Plus, RAW is often rightfully criticised for having the same people fight every week, but in this case we saw the two men tell a story by learning from their previous mistakes and therefore producing better matches.
It was at this point that I, and evidently WWE as well, thought Lashley would make a great WWE Champion. I don’t think many expected Miz to remain champion for long (although I maintain he could’ve carried it into ‘Mania), and sure enough it was revealed that Lashley would be receiving a title shot, and the rest is history.
Five years ago, McIntyre and Bobby had a good match for the (then called) TNA World Heavyweight Title, but the idea that they would one day have a match for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania was unlikely, to say the least. The fact that both men have been crowned world champion by the promotion in the past year goes to show that WWE do, sometimes, recognise and reward hard work.
Lashley especially over the last nine months has made the most of his time on TV and has looked good doing it, and I think you would be hard pressed to find someone that does not want to see McIntyre vs Lashley for the title, maybe even headlining one of WrestleMania 37’s two nights.
Unlike Drew, who plateaued for a while after his return and then reached the top, Lashley returned, plateaued, hit the depths with the Lana storyline, and has now risen back up and established himself once again. The Hurt Business are now a dominant presence on RAW and a lot of that is down to the CEO looking good, squashing fools, and – most importantly – not talking. Props to the man.
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