Since its inevitable return a number of weeks ago, my weekly episodic series WWE's Pushed to Punished analyzes the controversial careers of past and present WWE Superstars—specifically their rise and eventual downfall.
However, this week we take a trip down memory lane, to a time where size certainly mattered. This former Superstar's pure dominance was nothing short of impressive, and his list of accolades while competing for WWE certainly supported that statement.
This aforementioned freak of nature is none other than current Strikeforce fighter, Bobby Lashley.
Making his World Wrestling Entertainment debut in late 2005, Bobby Lashley was hyped to be a two-time Armed Forces Champion, as well as being a four-time All-American. Following an impressive string of victories at the dawn of his career, and even competing in that year's traditional Survivor Series tag team match in November, his natural abilities in the ring would certainly not go unnoticed.
By the start of 2006, Lashley was able to take part in the annual Royal Rumble match in January, going on to engage in a rivalry with former WWE Champion John Bradshaw Layfield. Although the feud culminated with Lashley's first loss at the No Way Out pay-per-view, Lashley went on to successfully qualify for the second annual Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 22, with the contest being his premiere appearance on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Soon afterward, the rising Bobby Lashley captured his first championship title in WWE by defeating former foe and then-United States Champion JBL that May. Despite coming up short in the prestigious 2006 King of the Ring tournament against the newly-packaged King Booker, Lashley ignited a rivalry between himself and the interfering members of King's Court for the remainder of the summer.
After dropping the star-spangled prize, Lashley would soon set his sights on King Booker's World Heavyweight Championship in the fall of 2006. He would be granted his first ever shot at the Holy Grail known as the World Championship, but the contest itself was later tweaked to a Fatal Four Way which also included Batista and Finlay, where Lashley would come up short yet again.
However, Bobby Lashley's hunger for the World Championship was not yet over, as he eventually made his presence known on the ECW brand at the conclusion of the year. Following a shocking debut at the hands of Paul Heyman in November, Lashley went on to defeat five other fighting extremists in the brutal Elimination Chamber at December to Dismember, emerging victorious as the newly crowned ECW World Champion.
While remaining supreme in the Land of Extreme for the first half of 2007, the former Armed-Forces Champion was on the winning side of the Battle of the Billionaires bout against Umaga at WrestleMania 23. Due to embarrassing Vince McMahon in the process, Lashley would controversially lose his ECW title belt at Backlash in a three-on-one handicap match, but recaptured the strap in a Street Fight against the Chairman at ECW: One Night Stand.
In June, Lashley was a victim of the shocking 2007 WWE Draft, that saw him move over to Monday nights and subsequently be forced to relinquish his ECW Championship in the process. Nonetheless, Lashley was given a rematch of sorts at Vengeance: Night of Champions in a five-man challenge match for the WWE Championship, and looked extremely strong in defeat.
Following the event, it was heavily rumored that Lashley was in for an apparent push with his drafting to the flagship show, as he was able to successfully become the new number one contender to John Cena's WWE Championship at the Great American Bash shortly after. The build-up to their epic confrontation had many anticipating that Lashley could indeed be the next WWE Champion.
Although Lashley provided the WWE Universe with a chemistry-filled classic at the event, it was Superman Cena who once again pulled the victory right out of his outdated jean shorts. Ironically, this contest would be one of Lashley's final bouts as part of the company, as he would subsequently suffer a severe injury in a match against Mr. Kennedy days later.
Many speculated an inevitable return to the ring in early 2008, but Bobby Lashley was shockingly released from his WWE contract in February without even being able to return to television. Details behind his departure were never disclosed, but it was painfully obvious that he was never used to his full potential.
Nearly a year later, Lashley signed a contract with TNA Wrestling, officially making his debut in the fall of 2009. After only a handful of matches under his belt while in the company, Lashley was quietly released from his contract in early 2010 due to putting his full focus towards his mixed martial arts career.
Just recently, the former ECW Champion signed a lengthy contract that will have him more than likely occupied in MMA for years to come. It's truly shameful that neither company realized that they acquired the full package in the young, athletic behemoth at the time, and that not giving him the chance to shine as World Champion during his three-year stint was more or less a mistake.
Unlike Matt Hardy and Mr. Kennedy's constant sidelining injuries that prevented their respective pushes from coming to fruition, it was never quite clear as to why Lashley was never brought back to wrestling in 2008, where numerous potential rivalries were waiting for him upon his eventual return.
Nowadays, it seems to be that Lashley's lookalike, Ezekiel Jackson, is now receiving the apparent push that the former US Champ may have gotten had he stayed with the company. It still baffles me as to why Vince pushes Big Zeke for his lack of wrestling skills, while Lashley's ability to produce an exciting contest were underrated for a good portion of his WWE tenure.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and be sure to drop a comment regarding your thoughts on the brief yet impressive career of Bobby Lashley, as well as any suggestions for any past or present WWE Superstars you would like to see featured in my on-going series. As always, your 'likes,' fan adds and feedback are greatly appreciated.