WWE Is Setting Up Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre for Failure at WrestleMania 37

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2021

Credit: WWE.com

The Road to WrestleMania is the most important time of the year for WWE. Usually, it involves the biggest names on the roster, the most interesting storylines and the best overall product the company can offer.

This is often because WWE has at least a few matches in mind a year out from the marquee pay-per-view, which allows time to slowly advance characters toward the endgame, let storylines breathe and build fans' anticipation to a fever pitch.

That doesn't appear to be the case this year, though, particularly where the WWE Championship is concerned.

WWE is going about the storyline with Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre entirely wrong, and things need to change swiftly to avoid disaster.


What WWE Wants to Happen

Last year, McIntyre had a perfect setup for WrestleMania 36. He took out Brock Lesnar and saved the Royal Rumble, winning it for a right to challenge The Beast Incarnate.

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not struck, the Scot would have won the WWE title from Lesnar in front of thousands of cheering fans at Raymond James Stadium and placed himself at the top of the industry.

Instead, he won the belt in front of an empty Performance Center to stony silence. In fact, he's never defended the title in front of a live crowd, so he's yet to receive a single proper cheer as champion.

WWE most likely wants to replicate that feeling as closely as possible with this year's WrestleMania to compensate for those unfortunate circumstances.

Since Lesnar isn't available, WWE probably looked at the roster at some point in February, determined Lashley was the most dominant physical threat and put him in that monster heel spot as the backup plan.

McIntyre won a grueling Elimination Chamber and only dropped the championship because The All Mighty attacked him afterward and The Miz cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. It took five other men, a steel cage, a blindside beating and a weasel stealing the title to get the belt off McIntyre.

The idea in mind must be that this kept McIntyre looking strong and The Miz being a transitional champion kept him away from Lashley.

Eventually, The Scottish Warrior will get his revenge, dethrone the CEO of The Hurt Business and reclaim the WWE Championship in front of the fans and get that moment he was denied last year.

Credit: WWE.com


Where WWE Went Wrong

Unfortunately, WWE is setting itself, Lashley and McIntyre up for failure with the way this feud has played out.

Something the company cannot ignore is that fans are not actually unhappy with The All Mighty as champion. In fact, the WWE Universe seems largely content with the situation.

It took Lashley 17 years to become world champion. Many wanted him to win the title back in his first run in WWE, so it feels like an "it's about time" scenario to celebrate rather than be mad about.

It doesn't help WWE's case that other Superstars continue to praise The Hurt Business CEO for his win and were jumping with joy ringside when he captured the title.

Kevin @FightOwensFight

Nobody tries to put you right THROUGH the ring quite like Bobby Lashley. Congrats, @fightbobby! Now, get a cat already and you’ll be on the absolute top of the world.

Lashley is doing the best work of his career at the moment and has earned the right to be champion. He didn't steal it through nefarious means that require karma to take the title from him.

That's because WWE made the mistake of giving all the heat to The Miz as the snake who cheated. Worse, The All Mighty then quickly beat The A-Lister and put the manipulator back in his place.

This is a running theme with Lashley as of late, where WWE has positioned him as too cool and likable to want to boo. He's confident, dominant, a snazzy dresser, better on the mic than ever before and even has new entrance music that makes him appear more special.

Not enough has been done to paint him as the bad guy so that when McIntyre comes for revenge, fans don't view him as the villain.


What Is Actually Going to Happen

Many fans inside Raymond James Stadium on April 10-11 will boo McIntyre, while Lashley will be cheered. It will be the complete opposite of WWE's desired effect.

This is a lesson the company should have learned ages ago. Be it "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13 or Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair in 2018, a babyface who complains is often booed over a heel who is presented as the more cool, calm and collected of the two.

Given a choice, fans will almost always opt for something different. Putting the title back on McIntyre represents a return to last year, while keeping it on Lashley opens new possibilities and directions for the WWE Championship.

Unless there is a serious change in character prior to The Show of Shows, McIntyre as champion will be much the same as we've all already seen.

There will definitely be backlash if the event after WrestleMania is this match again with Lashley trying to win back the title.
There will definitely be backlash if the event after WrestleMania is this match again with Lashley trying to win back the title.Credit: WWE.com

In other circumstances, that wouldn't be a bad thing, as the Scot was an excellent champion. But when WWE gives fans a taste of something new and yanks it away to go back to what's already been done, it can feel like a loss.

Critics will also point out how WWE has played hot potato with the title, giving it to The Miz, then Lashley days later, just so he could quickly drop it back to McIntyre. That can also draw complaints about how the Scot never should have lost it anyway.

Stan Fisher @StanFisher16

@WWE @fightbobby It was about damn time 💯 the guy is dominating after dominating

It's also worth noting that there haven't been many Black world champions in WWE history. Kofi Kingston's win over Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35 was a landmark moment and the last time this has happened.

Many fans will be disappointed if it took this long for another Black WWE champion, only for the run to end on the same night as fans return to the ringside.

Assuredly, WWE has no ill-intent in that regard and is not booking this with that in mind, but that won't make the company immune to those potential accusations.


How WWE Can Correct This

Time is running out for any solutions to this problem to be effective. It may even be a lost cause at this point.

One way WWE could try to circumvent this outcome is to invest the next few weeks doing everything possible to make Lashley a true villain.

The All Mighty would need to attack beloved characters, besmirch the good name of legends, insult the fans in unique ways and strip away everything that makes him admirable and cool.

Likewise, McIntyre would have to be positioned as the ultimate 1990s action hero on a quest for vengeance and the type of person you want to see get the bad guy and take him down.

WWE would also have to let fans know the Scot's next reign will be different so they can look forward to it, as opposed to thinking the company will just rehash 2020.

McIntyre can cut some great, fired-up promos, but he can't just shout the same things and expect people to want another year of that.
McIntyre can cut some great, fired-up promos, but he can't just shout the same things and expect people to want another year of that.Credit: WWE.com

The Miz has to be far away from this feud, too. He's too good of a heel not to draw the heat back to himself all the time. His talents should be moved elsewhere.

Alternatively, WWE could accept defeat and change the outcome of WrestleMania 37. Instead of McIntyre winning the title and being booed, Lashley could retain, be cheered and a double turn could switch their roles as heel and face going forward.

WWE can't judge fans' reactions properly because of the lack of a live audience, but common sense, learning from history and paying attention to social media appear to indicate this current idea will backfire.

The company can't stubbornly tell the story it wants to tell and then be upset if the crowd doesn't go with Vince McMahon's wishes.

The last thing WWE needs is for its biggest show of the year to be viewed as a downer by returning fans left disappointed by the choice of WWE champion at the end of the night.


Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.