Wrestling fans have been dreaming of a match between Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley from the moment Lashley made his WWE debut on September 23, 2005. Now, the dream is a reality. Lesnar will defend the WWE Championship against Lashley at the Royal Rumble on January 29 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Lashley emerged victorious in a Fatal Four Way Match on Raw to earn a title shot against Lesnar. It’s fitting that such a match should occur in a city so rich in wrestling history as St. Louis due to the striking similarities between the two in size, skill and pedigree.
Brock Lesnar won the NCAA Division 1 National Championship on the amateur wrestling front in wrestling 2000, while Bobby Lashley is a three-time NAIA National Wrestling Champion.
Lesnar left a big hole in WWE’s roster when he abruptly quit the company in March 2004 due to burnout and aspirations of playing football. 18-months later, Lashley made his unannounced debut and left a lasting impression.
While Lashley was his own wrestler, the physical parallels between the two could not be ignored. WWE even bestowed Lesnar’s pyro-filled apron jump entrance upon Lashley.
Like Lesnar; Lashley was pushed to the moon. All was well until an injury sidelined Lashley in July 2007, then released in February 2008. Reportedly, his release stemmed from racial tensions with producer Michael Hayes, who is allegedly no stranger to such controversy.
Seemingly, WWE lost the opportunity to feature two can’t miss long-term superstars due to unexpected issues. While the old adage in wrestling is “never say never,” Lesnar and Lashley’s exits seemed permanent.
The two turned their talents to the cage and became MMA heavyweights. Lesnar captured UFC gold while Lashley garnered a 15-2 record, winning his last five fights in Bellator MMA.
In a 2009 interview, Bob Sapp offered some “unique” remarks before his MMA bout with Lashley when asked about a potential fight with Lesnar. “Well, once I’m done with the black version you tell me.” Again, the comparisons between the two were too hard to ignore .
All roads eventually lead back to WWE when both returned on the annual episode of Monday Night Raw dubbed “the night after WrestleMania.’ Lesnar remerged in 2012 following a 7-year absence, while Lashley came back in 2018 after 10-years away.
Lashley’s return meant for the first time, he and Lesnar were under the same roof, in the same promotion, at the same time.
The match seemed inevitable, but 3 ½ years later, the prospect of such a match seemed further away than ever. It was almost as if they were kept away from each other by design.
Then, WWE’s creative plans were shook up on New Year’s Day. Universal Champion Roman Reigns tested positive for COVID-19 and withdrew from his title defense against Lesnar. A narrative stipulation of “free agency” allowed Lesner to vie for and win the WWE Title at Day 1.
With WrestleMania season in full gear, WWE needed to call an audible, and it had to be significant. The first time encounter between Lesnar and Lashley is a trunk novel dusted off and thrust front and center on the marquee.
If the term “The irresistible force meets the immovable object” was in the dictionary, the promotional graphic for the upcoming WWE Title Match at the Royal Rumble would undoubtedly share the same page.