Bobby Lashley’s 15-Year Journey To The WWE Championship (1/2)

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Hi everyone. Today, we are looking at a 15-year career retrospective of Bobby Lashley, This is the first part, complete with his time in WWE, TNA Impact Wrestling, and MMA. It’s my goal to share with you the steps he took to become the third African-American WWE Champion.

To not bloat this up, I’ll be only highlighting key moments. This includes his biggest successes and failings. I’ll be honest though, I’ve never been a big Bobby Lashley fan, but I’m happy to see him reach the top. He worked so hard to get to where he is. While he may not be super charismatic, he has improved in all areas of his game since his initial WWE run.

WWE (2005-2008)

Touted as the next big thing after Brock Lesnar, WWE hyped him so hard. Many fans felt he was all physique with no substance. And they were right, because Lashley was a blank canvas. Aside from his figure, he had no character or gimmicks. As a babyface, it was tough for fans to support him. Many believed he needed a manager to sell him. He had an impressive amateur wrestling career though, which WWE were keen to share upon his introduction:

  • 3 time National Amateur Wrestling Champion
  • 4 time All-American
  • 2 time Armed Forces Champion
  • 2002 Silver Medalist at the Military World Championship

After a run of wins, Bobby Lashley suffered a setback when Kane eliminated him at Survivor Series 2005. This trend continued, as the Big Show and Kane worked together to eliminate him from the Royal Rumble. JBL was his first rivalry, but interference from Finlay lead to his first singles match loss and feud.


He almost won King of the Ring by reaching the final against Booker T. Finlay made sure he wouldn’t be victorious. From this, WWE saw potential in Lashley taking on King Booker’s Court. He soon defeated JBL for the United States title, but his nemesis Finlay took it away two months later. Lashley fought and was unsuccessful in his first World title match, a four way at No Mercy 2006.


Bobby Lashley


RVD Kills WWECW

When WWE revived the ECW brand, there was much doubt over them producing anything like the original promotion. Considering how brutal the land of extreme was, it didn’t fit the family friendly product they went back to five years after the Attitude Era. The One Night Stand 2005 PPV was a resounding success, but the 2006 PPV showed cracks in the way ECW was booked. Diehard ECW fans hated the fact that WWE superstars were used on the show, including the main event when John Cena faced Rob Van Dam for the WWE Championship. Luckily, RVD won that night and stopped a riot.

After just 21 days of being the WWE & ECW Champion, Rob Van Dam had already screwed up by being found (with Sabu) by police to be possessing 18 grams of Cannabis, five Vicodin pills and nine tablets of Testolactone. WWE suspending him for this. Heyman ditched RVD on TV and sided with The Big Show, helping him to win the ECW title. Much like myself, it outraged many that Big Show was the new ECW Champion with Heyman’s backing.


It made little sense because it wasn’t explained why RVD was suspended. From the outside, it looked like another crazy creative decision from Vince McMahon. Still, they could’ve just passed it on to another ECW Original. When the brand started, it was painful to watch it be nothing more than another WWE program. There was no hope it would be like the original ECW.



December To Dismember

Often cited as one of the worst shows WWE has ever produced, the ECW December to Dismember PPV was not one to remember. Tensions were rising in the roster. Paul Heyman had an altercation with Vince McMahon. Creative decisions were anything but creative. After five short months, WWE’s ECW was so far gone from what anyone had hoped for. Tommy Dreamer & Stevie Richards were declined their releases after the show.

Paul Heyman was blamed for the poor ratings and morale. But everyone knew it was Vince McMahon passing on the blame. Heyman was escorted out of the building, but remained under contract. The only ECW Original to win anything on the main show was Balls Mahoney when he defeated Matt Striker. Tommy Dreamer lost to Daivari in 7 minutes. FBI lost out to Elijah Burke & Sylvester Terkay. The best match on the card saw The Hardys beat MNM. No one from the original ECW did anything noteworthy. Only Rob Van Dam represented in the Extreme Elimination Chamber main event.

The reason behind Heyman falling out with McMahon was because he wanted CM Punk to win the ECW title. McMahon wanted Bobby Lashley to win. And to the dismay of anyone hoping for a bright light to move the brand forward, Lashley becoming the ECW Champion killed it. ECW belonged to McMahon and nothing was changing. Lashley was doing as told, but his position made it difficult to garner fan support. He embodied Vince McMahon’s poor decisions.



ECW Champion & Departure

WWE did everything to make Bobby Lashley a credible champion. He defeated Big Show, Rob Van Dam (3 times), Test, Hardcore Holly, Kenny Dykstra, and Mr. Kennedy to retain. He became the first to break Chris Masters’ Masterlock Full Nelson challenge (probably why he uses it now). To get more exposure for the ECW brand, Donald Trump chose Lashley as his representative in “Battle Of The Billionaires” at WrestleMania. He defeated Umaga on Trump’s behalf.

Per stipulation, Lashley helped Steve Austin & Donald Trump to shave Vince McMahon’s head bald. This led to Vince & Shane feuding with him on ECW programming. Vince threw everything but the kitchen sink to get Lashley over. With Shane & Umaga’s help, Vince defeated him for the ECW Championship. It was laughable that ECW had stooped so low to have Mr. McMahon as its champion. Lashley won it back in a street fight before being drafted to Raw. Despite all the effort, he remained the same blank slate of a character.

It’s likely that Lashley would’ve factored in to McMahon’s main event scene with John Cena, Batista, Triple H, Randy Orton, Edge and others. But a gradually worsening left shoulder injury sustained at Backlash needed surgery, and WWE released him in early 2008. I’m sure many expected Lashley to return, but his release marked the beginning of a ten-year journey with many twists and turns. A journey combining the worlds of professional wrestling and MMA fighting.



Fighting + TNA

During 2008, Bobby Lashley recovered from his injury and trained for MMA. He won four fights in seven months from December 2008 to June 2009, including wins over Jason Guida and Bob Sapp. Lashley appeared on TNA programming in April, but didn’t officially sign a contract til July.

He took a brief break from fighting to get his wrestling career back on track. Lashley spent his early days in TNA feuding with Mick Foley against Kurt Angle’s Main Event Mafia. In August, Dixie Carter & Lashley sat down with Jeremy Borash for an interview. Carter’s aim was to make Lashley a World Champion in wrestling and MMA.


One benefit of working in TNA was Lashley being able to be himself. The company wasn’t afraid to give him a microphone now and then. He remained committed to working 100% for wrestling and training 100% for fighting, without doing either half-assed. His first rivalry came against Samoa Joe, with whom he cost the X-Division Championship.

At Bound For Glory 2009, Lashley defeated the former undefeated Samoan Submission Machine in a submission match. It looked promising for him, but the dramatic changes in TNA come early 2010 changed the game. After Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan and others signed contracts, Lashley left the company because he wanted a complete focus on fighting. He went in to his fifth fight making his Strikeforce debut. After two scheduled opponents pulled out, he defeated Wes Sims with a first round TKO in late-January 2010.


First Loss

Despite taking time to focus on fighting, his next bout was unlucky and a little controversial. He faced Chad Griggs at Strikeforce: Houston on August 21, 2010 in the heavyweight main event. Lashley went in as the clear favorite, but an uppercut near the end of the first round gave him a cut under his eye. He used too much energy in the first round with his takedowns. The second round was more about trying to ground and pound Griggs in to a loss.

Commentators Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock suggested now he was cut, he needed to go for a submission instead. While Lashley had him mounted, the referee pulled them apart for what he saw as inactivity. Griggs later said he was surprised that they took considerable time to inspect his cut and give him time to recover; as he was clearly tired. Controversy struck because the referee didn’t put Lashley in the mounted position.

Given his tired state, he couldn’t get Griggs on the mat again. Griggs was handed an opportunity to pound on the cut. Because of Lashley’s unresponsiveness, the match was stopped at the end of the second round. He was dehydrated and needed to be taken out via stretcher. It was later revealed that he was suffering from mono, also known as glandular fever. In adults, tiredness is a symptom of the infection. The doctor told him he could not train for four months. Lashley tells us how he felt in a video with AXS TV. Here is a link to the fight itself: Lashley vs. Griggs


End Of Part 1

Bobby Lashley moved on to fighting, but he was still in love with pro wrestling. He hadn’t given up on it entirely. You could say he still had a lot to prove. Lashley had only been a titleholder of the third brand in WWE. He still had many fighting critics writing him off because he was a professional wrestler. Sure, he wouldn’t be another Brock Lesnar, but he needed to show he wasn’t in MMA to be a flash in the pan. He wanted to learn and bounce back stronger than ever.

While Lashley had suffered a setback, the pressure of losing was gone. He could change up his game and enjoy the competition. We’ll look in to the rest of his MMA career, along with his return to Impact Wrestling and WWE in the second part of this career retrospective. I’ll do my best to post the second part soon. As always, see you next time and thanks for reading!

Also Read: Bobby Lashley’s 15-Year Journey To The WWE Championship (1/2)

Bobby Lashley

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