Bobby Lashley Shoots on WWE Title Opportunity, Hurt Business, Best Matches, More
In a little less than one year, Bobby Lashley has transformed from an underdeveloped, lower-level villain to one of the most believable bad guys on the WWE roster.
Fans who followed the career of The All Mighty prior to his return to the company in 2018 are well aware he's always had that mean streak in him. It was more a matter of when and not if he would take his rightful place among the elite in the main event scene and whether the opportunity would come his way.
Lashley is on the cusp of living up to his potential when he challenges The Miz for the WWE Championship on Monday's edition of Raw. He's had a few cracks at the title over the years, but never before has he been this ready for the spotlight.
Based on how he was booked throughout his recent run as United States champion and the fact that he wasn't pinned for the belt at Elimination Chamber, it's apparent WWE is prepared to pull the trigger on a title win for Lashley sooner rather than later.
However, there's no better time than Monday night for that moment to become a reality.
Ahead of his WWE Championship clash with The Miz, Lashley spoke to Bleacher Report about his long road to the top, how The Hurt Business has been integral to his success, his favorite matches, why his time is now and more. Check out the complete audio of the interview on the next slide, and read on for the highlights.
When He Found Out About His Upcoming WWE Championship Opportunity
Heading into the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Lashley was WWE's longest-reigning United States champion in more than six years. After losing the title earlier in the evening, he resurfaced at the end of the event to attack Drew McIntyre and pave the way for The Miz to cash in his Money in the Bank contract and become WWE champion.
There had been rumblings among fans for months that Lashley was headed toward WWE Championship contention because of how dominant he was while in possession of the star-spangled prize. However, nothing was set in stone until he confronted Miz on the next night's Raw and demanded a shot at the WWE title.
Even The All Mighty revealed that other than feeling he was on the verge of something special, he was never promised a world title opportunity before finding out with the rest of the world.
"MVP's been yelling in my ear for the last year that this is where I need to be," he said. "The beauty of the wrestling business is, I knew when everyone else knew. I knew I had my opportunity when everybody else found out. I knew I was headed in the right direction, I knew I had people running for me, I knew I was defending my title to the best of my ability and I didn't think I was ever going to lose that United States title. I knew at some point in time I was going to have that opportunity for that world title. I didn't know when it was going to be, like I said, but I knew it had to be soon."
With the roll Lashley has been on in recent months, there was no way he could have gone anywhere but up after dropping the United States Championship. The Hurt Business has been running rampant on Raw since coming together last year, but the WWE Championship has eluded them up to this point.
"I'm just knocking guys down left and right," Lashley said. "As I started looking at the landscape of WWE, I was like, 'Who is my competition here?' That's a good point in your career when you look left and you look right and you don't see any competition. The only competition that you see are the ones that are standing above you.
"That's when you know that's the only direction you can go. Drew was there, Bray was there, Randy is still one of the top guys, Roman's over there at the head of the table, Brock is just running doing whatever he's doing. I knew my only opportunity to have one of those big matches had to be [by going] up, so I knew the world title was right around the corner."
Overcoming Obstacles Since Returning to WWE and Retirement Being on the Horizon
It can be argued that Lashley should have contended for a top title the day he returned to WWE in 2018, but the creative hurdles he's had to conquer since then have made him appreciate his journey that much more.
Within months of returning to the company, he was relegated to an undercard rivalry with Sami Zayn that saw the former NXT champion poke fun at Lashley's sisters. His alliance with Lio Rush was also bungled, and his wedding with Lana was among the worst Raw segments in years.
Despite the many awful angles he endured, Lashley withstood it all and is now closer than he's ever been to becoming WWE champion. Countless Superstars have fallen victim to bad booking over the years and weren't able to recover, but his ability to adapt and overcome has gotten him to where he is today.
"The wrestling business is a mental game on top of being a physical game," he said. "When I came back, I was like, 'There's going to be some things thrown my way. If I'm able to stand strong and keep fighting, then I can make it. When I came back, there were a lot of things I had to navigate around, kind of grit my teeth at and move forward. I knew at those times that when you pay enough dues, then you start swimming right and you start moving right."
For the COO of The Hurt Business, it's now or never. He's much closer to the end of his career than he is the beginning, and he realizes that this could be his last opportunity at cementing himself as a main event player in WWE.
Knowing retirement is on the horizon has made him more motivated to grab that proverbial brass ring and take what should have been his a long time ago.
"I know with my career that's it's not going to be a thing where I have 10, 15, 20 more years," Lashley said. "Some of these guys do, so mine is kind of a sprint right now. I don't mind that. I don't mind ramping it up a little bit because, like I said, I don't have 10 to 15 more years. I have a few more years left. There's a lot of goals I want to accomplish, so I have to go hard. My body's been able to take the abuse I've given it, and I knew I could keep going, so I knew it was my time."
How MVP and Hurt Business Have Been an Integral Part of His Recent Success
Needless to say, The Hurt Business was the best thing that could have happened to Lashley when it did.
Before linking up with MVP in May, he was stuck in what felt like a never-ending angle with Lana and Rusev. Although he was typically protected and won more matches than he lost, fans had zero reason to take him seriously as a contender.
Lashley and MVP spent a considerable amount of time together from 2006 to 2008. In fact, it was MVP who guided Lashley to the Impact World Championship some years later, and now he wants nothing more than to see Lashley wearing world title gold in WWE.
"One of my favorite quotes, and I'll keeping saying it and have said it on TV also, is that sometimes you have to believe in somebody else's belief in you," Lashley said. "Even though I believed in myself, you always have the devil on your shoulder and the angel on the other telling you to keep working and keep working. The harder you work, the luckier you'll get. You'll get there.
"You also have that little voice in the back of your head saying, 'Is this it? You're done, man. You've been doing this too long. You're never going to get there. There's always going to be another obstacle.' You always have that voice. As much as we try to submerge that voice, that voice is always there. I didn't listen to that voice for many years, but we had to get that voice completely out of there. When MVP came in, MVP was yelling so loud that I couldn't even hear that voice."
Soon after convincing Lashley to be the monster heel he was destined to be, MVP recruited Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander and The Hurt Business was born. MVP's in-ring days may be behind him, but his influence is responsible for all three men experiencing career resurgences.
"He was yelling at me, he was yelling at Cedric, he was yelling at Shelton and he gets in your face," Lashley said. "That's a real friend, man, because real friends can be real about what I'm doing wrong and how I'm not where I need to be. When I wasn't where I needed to be last year around this time, he looked at me and said, 'What are you doing?' Booker [T] came on an interview one time, and he said the same thing. He said, 'What is he doing?' A lot of people were telling me that, but I wasn't making any moves toward it."
How His Impact Run Prepared Him for a Main Event Run in WWE
Lashley was originally with WWE from 2005 to 2008 and was fairly successful in that time. He captured the United States Championship, held the ECW Championship on two occasions and even shaved Mr. McMahon bald at WrestleMania 23.
After leaving on his own terms, he tried his hand at mixed martial arts while also competing for Impact Wrestling. It was there where he reinvented himself, destroyed the competition and won the world title four times over.
All in all, he had a remarkable run that set the stage for him to return to WWE in 2018. It's possible that WWE may not have come calling had Impact not first utilized him at the level he belonged at.
"I think [that Impact run] helped out tremendously because once you come into WWE and they say you're going to be a champion, there's going to be some uncertainties and insecurities," Lashley said about his time in Impact. "'Am I able to carry that ball? Am I able to do it? Am I able to have those big matches with everyone?' Because that's what you need to do as a champion, and when I was in Impact, I had those opportunities."
Within months of arriving in Impact, he knocked off Eric Young for the the promotion's top title. In the following years, he had great matches with everyone from Robert Roode to The Hardy Boyz to Drew McIntyre and had great matches with all of them.
It was those breakout performances that gave him the confidence he needed to thrive at the main event level.
"There's no question in my mind whether I should be on top or not," Lashley said. "Some people already know it. You see Roman [Reigns] walk out there as the head of the table. He can't even look down his chin is so high up. He has that confidence because he's been in those matches with The Undertaker and Brock and all these different people. Same with Drew. Drew's the same way. Drew can't even see people that are under 6'5" because he's so high up right now, and he knows what he's capable of doing. Not everybody has that."
His Favorite Matches
Lashley may not be known for being the most technical wrestler in the world, but he's had his fair share of memorable matches over the course of his career, both in WWE and Impact.
Although they never had the chance to mix it up in WWE, Kurt Angle and Lashley had a stellar series of matches while Impact, at times for the top title. The All Mighty beat the WWE Hall of Famer in his last match for the company in January 2016, a moment that meant the world to Lashley because of their history.
"Kurt Angle was someone I admired because of his amateur wrestling career and his professional wrestling career as well, and he was the one who got me into wrestling," he said. "I had an opportunity to have a few matches with Kurt, so those are at the top of the list. Another one: Umaga, WrestleMania 23. I had the opportunity to main-event WrestleMania, the greatest show in the world. Having that opportunity, too, I could put that up there.
"Booker T, someone that basically held my hand when I came up and showed me the business as a whole. Even some of the people today. Getting the opportunity to be in the ring with Roman. He's a star, man, and everyone knows that. The match with [John] Cena, and I could keep going on. Finn Balor was just incredible. There's just way too many matches."
Interestingly enough, one match that stands out as one of Lashley's favorites didn't even air on television. Rather, it was at a house show during his original run with the company when he got to stand across the ring from one of his favorites as a kid, Kane.
"There was a live event that we had in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it was an over-the-top-rope Battle Royal," he recalled. "After I threw out the last person, I turned around and standing across the ring from me was The Big Red Machine, Kane. You brought the little kid Bobby out. I was like, 'Oh my god! This is Kane!' That's a match nobody's even seen. It was very insignificant, but for me, that was enormous to turn around and see that guy because I was a huge Kane fan forever and even to this day."
Why He Checks All the Boxes of a WWE Champion and It's His Time to Shine
Of the 15-plus years Lashley has spent in the wrestling business, never at any point has he had the support of the fans quite like he does right now.
After laying out both Braun Strowman and The Miz to close out the February 22 edition of Raw, he stood tall on the turnbuckle holding the WWE Championship high above his head. The image hit social media immediately afterward and was met with critical acclaim from the WWE Universe members who will be hoping he takes the title this coming Monday night.
Lashley was blown away by the positive feedback he saw on his timeline and aims to make those people proud.
"When you open up Twitter and start seeing that stuff, when the match was announced, it's one of those things where you get your phone and you're like, 'Let's see what they say about this.' And you click on it," he said. "Of course, you're going to have your naysayers because the naysayers are always there. That's why the business stays around and that what keeps you working and working hard and keeps you humble because of the people who go, 'You suck!' 'All right, I do kind of suck a little bit, whatever.' You just have to play with them."
From looking like a million bucks to holding his own in the ring, Lashley feels he fits the bill when it comes to what WWE wants out of its world champions and that the time is right for him to hold that prestigious prize.
"Ultimately, with the support, I think a lot of people know that I have paid my dues, and when you talk about a WWE champion and everything you put in there, I think I check all the boxes," he said with confidence. "Can you send this guy around the world and have him represent your company in a very professional manner? If you watch Raw, we come in looking clean. The suits I throw together and the way that I walk—we're trying to steal the show without even wrestling.
"Even what I bring to the table: a military background, I graduated college with honors, single father doing my thing and still being able to train and fight. Every aspect of a champion. I check every one of those boxes, and I think everyone understands that. Even though I walk around and do bad things, people know I'm the man, and I have the opportunity to do some big things in this company."
Finally, there a number of exciting matches Lashley could have at WrestleMania 37 if he were to walk in as WWE champion. Regardless of his opponent, he wants to take on all comers and continue to prove why he's the hot ticket at the moment.
"They want to see it, and when I win that title, look at all the fantasy matches you can have for that title," he said. "Me and Drew, me and Brock, title for title against Roman, The Fiend's there, Randy's there. People look at all those matches and say, 'Woah! That seems kind of interesting.' I think everything's right right now, and I think people want to see it. I want to see it. I want to hold that title up and bring it home to my kids. It's time."
Don't miss Bobby Lashley challenge WWE champion The Miz on Monday on WWE Raw at 8/7c on USA Network.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.