Next week on Raw, Roman Reigns will clash with Bobby Lashley to determine who will challenge for the Universal championship at Summer Slam. Both competitors won triple threat matches to advance to the number one contender bout next week. In theory, Roman will win the match to set up a contest against Lesnar to finally get the win WWE built to for months. Keep in mind, Reigns supposedly has the unresolved finish from the cage match at the Greatest Royal Rumble as a justification for yet another shot at the championship. Plus, with as much as WWE invested into “Big Dawg” Roman, he will undoubtedly get a victory over Brock before the part-time champion leaves sports entertainment to cash-in again with a UFC fight.
But, is Bobby Lashley the better choice to challenge for the title?
After a notable amateur career, the former ECW champion debuted in the OVW developmental system in 2004 and made his debut on WWE TV less than a year later. In truth, his original run in the WWE was relatively brief, as he worked less than three years on the roster, which included a six month period when he was on the sidelines with an injury. Some cite his role in the “battle of the billionaires” at Wrestlemania 23 as a major highlight, but let’s be honest here, that much was more about Vince McMahon getting his head shaved than either of the talented athletes that were booked for the match. So, when Bobby was released from his contract in early 2008, he didn’t necessarily have major star power or name value because he wasn’t really in WWE long enough to truly build himself to a top level.
Still, the athletic ability and potential were there so when mixed martial arts was surging in popularity, he made his MMA debut toward the end of 2008, winning via TKO at a regional event. He fought again a few months later and won. The totality of Bobby Lashley’s eight-year career as an MMA fighter saw him garner a record of 15-2, mostly notably with wins in Strike Force and Bellator. Interestingly, Bobby had various stints with TNA (Impact) while he still fought regularly, and even did so when he was the TNA heavyweight champion. The taping scheduled allowed him to work in pro wrestling and still train for fights. Granted, Bobby didn’t fight the level of competition that Brock did in the UFC, but the 15-2 MMA record is certainly a useful marketing tool for Lashley.
At 42, Bobby’s most recent fight was a win via choke for Bellator in October of 2016 so it seems as though he might be unofficially retired from MMA competition. However, the MMA-inspired persona that he used during his time as Impact champion allowed him to establish a character that was used to build storylines. Prior to that, he was presented as a tremendous athlete, but had a very generic on-screen persona.
Lashley’s time in Impact generated mostly favorable reviews and while the company was still finding a new direction, his exit earlier this year set the stage for a return to the WWE with renewed hype around him. Bobby reemerged on WWE TV the night after WM 34, and his run thus far has yielded various results. In many ways, it was simply a matter of presentation and the writing team failed to utilize aspects that made Lashley successful in Impact. He wasn’t pushed as a monster athlete, but rather, “hey, Bobby Lashley from 2007 is back” and it almost hindered the progress he made on the mic as a performer in TNA. The Sami Zayn feud was cringe worthy, which was completely because of the sub par scripting and did nothing to introduce Lashley to a new generation of fans. Keep in mind, Bobby was gone for over a decade so there was a chance to present him as a much more effective persona to the newer group of fans.
Does Bobby have the ability to be a main event star?
In theory, yes, but again it will be a matter of presentation. If he’s presented as a generic big man, he will essentially be in the same spot he was prior to his WWE departure. It’s surprising that his MMA accomplishments were barely mentioned, especially with the possibilities it sets up for a match against Lesnar. Considering his age, Bobby is in unbelievable shape, and if he’s not put in ridiculous segments, he could undoubtedly be a successful Universal champion. Granted, the 42-year-old isn’t the future of the industry, but anything that gets WWE out of the Lesnar/Reigns debacle would be a solid solution. The former MMA fighter that will compete against all challengers could provide some intriguing TV, similar to the US open challenge that John Cena did a few years ago. Obviously, Bobby wouldn’t drop the belt to Chad Gable or another mid-carder on TV, but a competitive bout against the Universal champion elevates their status.
Aside from the fact that Roman Reigns is still the top priority, it seems like WWE brass almost rushed Bobby into the main event scene simply as a way to keep some structure on Raw to build to Summer Slam. Lashley went from the cringe worthy segments with Zayn to the feud against Reigns in the span of just a few weeks so he’s not necessarily being built for a main event run, but rather a way to push Roman toward another title shot. The problem with that is, since Bobby was rushed toward the title picture without much character development, what’s next if he loses to Reigns on Raw?
Either Bobby will get lost in the shuffle of a mid-card feud or he will challenge Roman for the title after Brock leaves, which will lead to him being lost in the shuffle of a mid-card feud after that. If management wants Lashley’s current run to be more than just a nostalgic run then they must present him as a top-tier star, not just an opponent for Roman Reigns until Lesnar is booked for a pay-per-view. A title victory against Brock is certainly a way to solidify Lashley, and the writing team booked themselves into a corner because either Lashley will be seen as a legitimate title challenger or they will miss the chance to make him a bigger star. The bottom line is, the writing team wants to get Roman over, not Lashley so Reigns will defeat Lesnar to win the title, but Lashley would be an interesting option for the stable Lesnar/Reigns feud.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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