Fifteen years ago, Bobby Lashley promised himself he would become WWE champion.
Now 44, and in the best shape of his career, Lashley is on the precipice of accomplishing that goal.
Lashley returned to WWE in 2018 after a 10-year absence. He then carefully laid the foundation and subsequently restarted his climb to the top of the pro wrestling industry. There is no one in the entire industry who carries the same physique and skillset as Lashley, and he is ready for the long-awaited chance to carry the company on his broad shoulders.
“The world title, that’s been my priority since I came back,” says Lashley, who is the reigning United States champion. “That hasn’t changed. When I returned to WWE, I came in and paid respect to the guys who were here. Ever since, I’ve been focused on I taking steps to show I am the guy.”
Lashley is not currently involved in a program for Drew McIntyre’s WWE championship, but that could change within the next week. McIntyre defends his belt in the Elimination Chamber on Sunday, while Lashley is in a U.S. title triple-threat match against Keith Lee and Matt Riddle. If McIntyre retains, and Lashley loses (potentially without even being pinned), then that opens the possibility for a McIntyre-Lashley match at WrestleMania 37.
“I want that fight, I want that title,” Lashley says. “Drew is old-school. He fits into any era. He’s tough, he’s real. We have a lot of unfinished business.
“We have history. We’ve met in the ring before, we were tag partners, and we know each other real well. Drew is ‘The Chosen One.’ That’s not me, I’m someone that fought for it. There is so much potential for our fights.”
If Brock Lesnar returns in time for WrestleMania, Lashley is also eager to square off with the former UFC heavyweight champion, even if it means a triple-threat match.
“Adding Brock always adds a lot,” Lashley says. “He’s as real as it gets, and he’s someone I want in the ring. So I’m open to that, but me and Drew can do it on our own, too. There are a lot of options, which is great for everyone.”
On the subject of triple threats, Lashley is ready for a battle with two emerging stars in Lee and Riddle at this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view.
“I think both Lee and Riddle are phenomenal,” Lashley says. “That doesn’t change that I’m going to whoop both their asses, but I think having them come after me adds a lot of clout to the United States title.”
Lashley is so much bigger and stronger than the majority of his peers, so it is especially important for him to be presented in a realistic manner for his work to be viewed as authentic. Working with Lee and Riddle is a tremendous benefit to Lashley, who are both genuine threats toward him in the ring.
“I thought the United States title was perceived for a long time as just another title, but it has so many great names behind it,” Lashley says. “I’m legit as it gets, and I take a lot of pride in defending this title, especially against guys like Riddle and Lee. I saw Riddle’s idea for a Fight Pit, and I’d love to do something like that for the U.S. title. It won’t change the outcome, but it would be a lot of fun.”
Lashley has been given some solid booking over the past year, and he has relished the opportunity to once again be a major factor in WWE. He is also enjoying the chance to work with younger stars, and he offered a unique perspective when asked about The Undertaker calling today’s product “a little soft”—and how that also connects to the origin of the Hurt Business.
“Ten, fifteen years ago when I was on the roster and we were on the road, if you ran into trouble, you knew that the people with you would scrap and fight for you,” Lashley says. “This roster, you don’t know. We hardly even travel anymore. Back in the day, we used to always get tested on the road. It was so different back then. If you didn’t toughen up, you were out. I don’t think this roster would allow that to happen. It’s a different time now.
“That’s why what we’re doing with the Hurt Business is so unique. We wanted to be different, and we were determined to capture that ground-and-pound, old-school fight style. There is no one else like us.”
The Hurt Business consists of Lashley, MVP, Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander, and the faction has breathed life into the WWE product. A critical piece of that success is MVP, who has been extraordinary as the group’s mouthpiece, and works extraordinarily well with Lashley.
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Lashley says. “That extends beyond wrestling. We worked together outside of WWE, and he would come to some of my fights in Bellator. That’s the kind of friend he is. It was great that he came back to WWE, and he wanted to do a one-off at the Rumble so his son could see him wrestle. After that, we started talking. I thought he had so much more left. I said to him, ‘Let’s do something together,’ and that’s how it all started.”
In addition to MVP, the talented Benjamin is on the short list of most underrated wrestlers in the world, and Alexander has the chance to one day be the face of the company as its top champion. Lashley shared that this current run is rapidly becoming the proudest stretch of his career.
“We are proud of what we do, and we are professionals at the highest level,” Lashley says. “It’s great working with friends. MVP and Shelton live in Houston, and Cedric lives in Tampa, but they just flew out to Colorado to work out with me and my boxing coach. I introduced them to my suit guy, and it was so much fun spending time together. And all of us, we still have so much more to give.”
Lashley’s in-ring performances are more compelling now than ever, and his work is becoming even more precise with age. However, that does not change the fact that he is far closer to the end of his career than the beginning. And that is why this current year is so important, as Lashley is looking to capitalize upon years of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication to his nonstop pursuit of greatness.
“This is going to be my year,” Lashley says. “I have a different level of confidence. Even at my age, I don’t think there is anyone working harder than me.
“I know that my finish line is soon. I won’t be here for another 10 or 15 years like Ricochet or Cedric. I’m running to the finish line, and I’m hitting it hard. This is the year for me.”