Last night on Raw, Bobby Lashley won the WWE Championship for the first time in his career, becoming the third African-American wrestler to hold the title. Lashley defeated The Miz in the main event, culminating in a show-long storyline where Miz desperately tried to get out of the match.
Before the scheduled Miz vs. Lashley match at 9:00 pm, Miz tried convincing Drew McIntyre to help him but was rejected. At 9:00 pm, Miz claimed he had stomach cramps, and the match was delayed until 10:00 pm. The match occurred at 10:00 pm, and Miz immediately ran out of the arena and purposely got counted out, losing the match but retaining the title.
Shane McMahon threatened to strip Miz of the title and award it to Lashley if he didn’t come back to legitimately defend the title. Miz reluctantly came back at 10:45 pm to defend the title. Right before the bell ring, McMahon made it a lumberjack match to ensure Miz couldn’t escape.
Lashley dominated the short affair. Lashley drilled Miz with a spinebuster and then submitted him with The Hurt Lock (Full Nelson). After the match, Lashley celebrated with the championship belt and put Miz in The Hurt Lock again for good measure.
Legend has it Bobby Lashley was promoted to the main roster in 2005 after only 4 weeks of professional wrestling training in Ohio Valley Wrestling. Vince McMahon was so impressed with Lashley’s physique, looking on from afar as the unsuspecting rookie was getting a soda at a vending machine. McMahon told the writers, “I want him on TV tonight!”
That story holds up as if you’ve watched wrestling for an extended period; it becomes easy to tell who getting pushed for stardom. From the moment Lashley did a chin-up to pull himself to the ring in his debut, it was apparent he would be WWE Championship someday.
He learned on the job as he won the U.S. Title, feuded with Vince McMahon over the ECW Championship, and essentially main evented WrestleMania 23 in the highly publicized ‘Battle of the Billionaires.’ After a main event match with John Cena at The Great American Bash (2007), injury followed by an unamicable exit from WWE seemingly killed the dream.
A 10-year odyssey turned Lashley into a well-traveled veteran of the squared circle while competing in MMA and amassing a record of 15-2. This journey’s crowning achievement occurred in 2014 when Lashley won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, which he held four times before leaving the promotion in 2018.
Bobby Lashley as world champion during that time made sense. He worked hard to improve as a wrestler and was a credible champion. However, despite the excellent work produced, Lashley as TNA Champion was a reminder of what should have been in the big company.
Lashley returned to WWE in 2018 as a post WrestleMania surprise and won several titles while dabbling in the main event scene. Lashley and Lana’s storyline wedding was panned by critics so heavily, many believed his chances to become a top guy were bleak.
What few noticed is whether he liked the angle or not; Lashley worked hard to make it work. Big angles with lots of promo time and multiple plot points is a type of role wrestlers strive for. While the angle is better left forgotten, Lashley proved he could be trusted in a featured spot.
Enter The Hurt Business, lead by MVP and anchored by Lashley. WWE booked Lashley correctly by heating him up as a dominant force who didn’t lose. It’s one thing to write such an idea. It’s another for the wrestler to pull it off. Lashley pulled it off to such a degree that fans anticipated the world title win of a heel.
The Miz deserves a lot of credit for how well it all came off. He faked stomach cramps to the point where he held his butt as if he was about to have an accident. He channeled his inner Usain Bolt and ran out of the arena, blatantly exploiting the count-out rule. When the bell finally rang, he got one punch, which did nothing, and was destroyed by the “All Mighty.”
There are a lot of cowardly heels, from over the years, who would have balked at going as far as Miz did to put over his fear and avoidance of Lashley. Miz was a pro and deserves another run with the title someday.
Bobby Lashley joins The Rock and Kofi Kingston as the third Black wrestler to win the WWE Championship. Most wrestlers of color have portrayed loud negative stereotypes. However, Lashley checks all of the boxes in a fashion that makes it difficult to typecast him. The former Army Ranger is smart, articulate, athletic, and looks like a comic book character come to life.
Speaking as a person of color, its refreshing to see someone who represents the best of us at the top of the mountain instead of being marginalized due to their race. While Lashley’s win is a great example of Black Excellence in entertainment, race had nothing to do with it. He was positioned to be the champion 14 years before our current climate of acceptance.
As Lashley climbed the ropes and hoisted the title over his head in celebration, my initial thoughts were, “Yeah, this fits like a glove, and I knew it would.”