Bobby Lashley Should Have a Long Title Reign and the WWE Should Get Behind HimMarch 3, 2021
Bobby Lashley defeated The Miz to win the WWE Championship in the closing moments of Monday's Raw, the culmination of a 16-year journey to the top of Vince McMahon's company.
Social media celebrated the win, some simply applauding The All Mighty's victory, while others celebrated just the fourth Black world champion in WWE history.
Kenny Majid - A Kenny For Your Thoughts Podcast @akfytwrestling
I remember MVP and Shad watched Kofi Kingston win the WWE title and how proud they both looked. Tonight @The305MVP got to be in the ring with Bobby Lashley for his title win while Shad was watching from the best seat in the house #WWERaw https://t.co/hNk9mlEhLS
Fans in the all-important 18-49 demographic flocked to the show, making it the No. 1 show on cable television Monday night.
Brandon Thurston @BrandonThurston
WWE Raw last night on USA Network was watched by 1,884,000 viewers. It did a P18-49 rating of 0.58 (757,000 viewers). It ranked #1 on the day on cable. P18-34 was up an astounding 49% from last week. Additionally, this is a rare occasion where Raw exceeded Smackdown in P18-49. https://t.co/wTGErfuNwa
The overwhelmingly positive reaction to Lashley's title victory, the uptick in a key audience indicator and history suggest the new WWE champion should be anything but a transitional champion.
History Favors the Chase
WWE is synonymous with larger-than-life babyface champions like Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, The Rock and John Cena, but its long and illustrious history suggests the company has been at its most entertaining and interesting when its lead hero chases the top prize in the industry.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin is the most popular and successful star the company ever produced. He was a pop culture phenomenon at the height of the Attitude Era. Yet, during his time as the company's top babyface, he never held the WWE Championship longer than 91 days.
Why? Because fans invested in the chase. Once he captured his prize, what was there left to do? So the booking team cycled him in and out of reigns to keep things interesting. Austin himself admitted to preferring the chase to the title reign on The Undertaker: One More Round episode of WWE Network's Steve Austin's Broken Skull Sessions.
Drew McIntyre, for all that he has done to carry the Raw brand through an unprecedented time as its champion, could absolutely benefit from such a chase.
The Scottish Warrior being forced to refocus himself, train harder and rediscover a sense of urgency as he chases a title that was essentially stolen from him is an interesting story. McIntyre rolling into WrestleMania 37 and defeating Lashley is not.
Television Ratings Demand It
Fans grew tired of McIntyre as the dominant babyface as 2020, and his title reign, stretched on.
Television ratings dipped significantly throughout the year, including more than a 0.2 drop in the all-important 18-49 demographic from the start of 2020 to its conclusion, per data compiled by WrestleTalk. The December 14 episode of Raw, headlined by McIntyre confronting top contender AJ Styles in a main event promo segment, drew a record-low rating, per Dave Meltzer of F4WOnline.com.
No, it is not fair to hang that strictly on McIntyre, especially as WWE Creative struggled mightily to deliver a consistently compelling product. As the champion and face of the product, though, he will always shoulder some blame.
Had he been put on the defensive, forced to face an uphill climb against an interesting heel champion, perhaps Raw would be a stronger product. Maybe fans would be more invested in McIntyre. Instead, management attempted to "John Cena" him, building a babyface character that won all the time and overcame the odds in the process.
Lashley is that interesting, dominant, badass heel champion fans can sink their teeth into. He can present that opposition McIntyre needs to find his momentum again. He is, after all, equally as strong as Lashley and possesses a killer Claymore finisher that can be hit from out of nowhere. He is a constant threat, but that does not mean he needs to win every match and reign over the Raw brand to be effective in his role.
Throw in the added element of The Hurt Business, a group of heels for any prospective challenger to beat before making it to Lashley, and you have further reason to buy into a heel entity that can oppose McIntyre both in the short and long term.
For proof of how effective a strong heel champion can be, look no further than Raw's sister program, SmackDown, which has seen a creative renaissance thanks to the performance of Roman Reigns. Lashley is every bit as imposing as Reigns, with a more smash-mouth approach to his in-ring game and less talking.
He can be the catalyst for McIntyre to be a great babyface again, the likes of which fans are eager to throw their support behind.
And WWE Should Be, Too
Lashley is a fresh, new character around whom WWE can build stories and elevate babyfaces.
He has earned his way to the top, leaving the company in 2007 as one of its brightest young stars and forging his own path back. He overcame uneven booking, a horrendous storyline with Rusev and Lana and now finds himself thriving at the top of the card.
His is an inspirational story, and his success has been met with enthusiasm.
His reign should develop and evolve, not conclude in the blink of an eye at WrestleMania.
In an era where WWE has repeatedly favored its heroes at the expense of compelling villains, it has on its hands the first real Superstar with the opportunity to be a year-round Brock Lesnar type. He can smash, destroy and submit his opponents in a way fans are not familiar with outside of The Beast Incarnate.
And the company will not be limited by schedules or contracted dates.
Lashley can be a conqueror who elevates any babyface he works with, all while developing a legacy as a consistent top star.
Beating him and taking that title away too early hampers any chance the company has of ever establishing him at that level on a regular basis.