Bobby Lashley and Alberto El Patron have one goal for Slammiversary: deliver an even better match than Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe have in store the following week at WWE’s Great Balls of Fire.
“Our match is going to be a thousand times better,” said Patron, who was known during his time in WWE as Alberto Del Rio. “I have deep respect for Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe, and I know they’ll give the fans an amazing match, but they’ll be limited by the politics in that company. That company won’t let one of them give one-hundred percent to the audience, they’re going to hold them back. Impact Wrestling says, ‘Here is the ring, go do your thing.’”
Impact Wrestling returns to pay per view on Sunday, July 2 for Slammiversary. The show’s main event is a world title unification match between Impact Wrestling champion Lashley and Global Force champ Patron. Lashley, who, like Patron, also starred in WWE, is up for the challenge of delivering the most compelling main event of the summer, which includes outshining Lesnar and Joe.
“They’ll have a good match, but it won’t be anything like ours,” said Lashley. “It just can’t be. Alberto and I are going to have an incredible match.”
The newest era of Impact Wrestling, led by new ownership in Canadian-based Anthem Sports and Entertainment and returning president Jeff Jarrett, is gambling on the Lashley-Patron affair to entice fans to purchase Slammiversary. The smart money rests on a very physical match, which, Lashley explained, is the only way he works.
“I tell guys that if they can’t keep up with me, then I’m just going to run through them,” said Lashley, who helped headlined WrestleMania 23 but has also produced some of the most compelling work of his career over the past 24 months. “I’m not going to make guys look bad, but I’m going to keep going. It’s Alberto’s responsibility to keep up, and he knows that.”
Patron noted that he appreciates Lashley’s physical style, which is rarely found in today’s world of wrestling. Wrestlers often compare wrestling to dancing, as the wrestling itself is akin to making music. If that is the case, then the melody that Lashley creates is a hard-hitting, classic rock ballad.
“When you’re in the ring with Bobby, you feel it,” said Patron. “You know you’re competing and performing with a guy that is not just a sports entertainer. He’s a real athlete and a real wrestler. When you combine two wrestlers with the same background and similar styles, you’re going to get magic. That’s what is going to happen at Slammiversary.
“We’re going to go the extra mile. We’re not afraid, and that’s just the way we were brought up in the business. If I punch him extra hard, and he kicks me extremely hard, then we’re OK with that–that’s part of what we want to offer to the audience.”
Lashley, like Lesnar, is also a mixed martial artist. He has a 15-2 MMA record, which includes an eight-fight win streak with five consecutive wins in Bellator. Lashley refuses to alter or lighten the physical style he brings to wrestling.
“Everybody tries to do the same thing,” said Lashley. “I’m different. Most guys watch the same thing, they do the same thing, and there is always the move of the week or move of the month that everybody is doing. I’ve seen enough to know most people do the same thing over and over again in their matches, so you actually see them move a guy to a different position so they can attack. I don’t do that.”
Lashley adds a great deal of legitimacy to the business by treating his pro wrestling matches as fights.
“If a guy is on the ground, I’ll beat him up down there,” Lashley explained. “If he’s standing, I’ll beat him up on his feet. I mix from wrestling to pro wrestling to MMA, and I throw guys all over in the fight. That’s what makes me different.”
Patron, who refused to state the initials WWE in the interview, believes his exit from Vince McMahon’s company was necessary in order to regain his passion for pro wrestling. Self-doubt can cripple ability, and Patron revealed that he nearly lost faith in his ability–and the love for this business–during his most recent run with WWE.
“I was in a place where I was not happy,” said Patron. “I was waking up every morning and really struggling to go to work. I got to the point where I asked myself if I wanted to continue in the pro wrestling business.
“I said to myself, ‘I’ve lost the passion and love for the business.’ But I was wrong. I never lost passion for the pro wrestling business. I lost respect for that other company.”
Patron’s father is José Luis Rodríguez Arellano, who is the legendary luchador Dos Caras, and the son sought advice from his father over his unhappiness in WWE.
“My dad told me what I needed to hear,” said Patron. “He said, ‘Since I can remember, you’ve been wearing pro wrestling masks. Since I can remember, you’ve always wanted to be a pro wrestler. You never wanted to be anything else, and I know you still love the business. Maybe you’re just not happy in your current place, and you need to go somewhere else.’”
After the conversation with his father, Patron then called McMahon to tender his resignation.
“I realized that it was not the business, it was the place where I was working,” said Patron. “So I decided to call the one that matters in that company and said, ‘I’m sorry, sir. Thank you for the opportunity, and thank you for everything, but I’m not happy in this place and I need to move on.’ I am blessed and lucky to find a place like Impact Wrestling. They needed someone like me, and I needed a company like Impact Wrestling. It was perfect timing to start doing business together.
“Here in Impact, they say, ‘The ring is out there, you two are the best in the business, do what you need to do.’ We have nothing to stop us, and we are going to give people a hell of a match at this pay per view.”
Lashley and Patron are inherently competitive, and that drive is pushing them to give wrestling fans a better show at Slammiversary than they will find anywhere else.
“We’re going to throw everything out there,” said Lashley. “Alberto’s been around, and he has a whole bunch of different styles that he throws into his work. With me, my style is going to be a fight. Some people don’t embrace that fight, but Alberto is ready to go.”
The respect between the two fighters is mutual, and both are looking to use all of their physical and mental acumen to help re-establish Impact as a legitimate player in pro wrestling. Far away from the grandeur of WWE, Lashley and Patron are also out to prove their own worth to the business.
“I spent 20 of the 27 hours on my flight back from the Impact trip to India thinking about fresh ideas for the match, and I want to give the fans something to remember,” said Patron. “I promise that we are going to give one of the best matches in history.”
Lashley offers the most sculpted body in the business, and people have come to expect a level of otherworldly excellence and fitness from “The Destroyer”.
“I’m doing a lot of agility workouts now,” explained Lashley, who prefers the early gym session because he finishes before his children arise from their slumber. “I start my ladder drills at 4:30 in the morning, then add in box jumps and a few other agility drills, and then I hit squats. Then I teach a class at my gym, and then I come home and eat my breakfast of oatmeal and eggs. I’ll do some striking during the day with my boxing coach, then I get my real workout in in the early evening. Depending on what I’m doing with my kids, this might not be until 9 or 10 at night. I like to have two or three workouts a day.”
Misconceptions and misinformation continue to surround Patron, and that includes personal information regarding his family and his relationship with WWE star Paige, who is fiancée. Yet he has remained in the good graces of wrestling fans because of his roots.
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“The reason I became a pro wrestler is because I was a fan,” said Patron. “I was a fan of my uncle Mil Mascaras, I was a fan of my dad, and I fell in love with the business when I saw all of those legendary luchadores in Mexico. I wanted to be like them. I was born into the wrestling business, and I was raised at those arenas in Mexico City with my dad week after week and year after year. That’s where I developed my love for wrestling, and that is why I respect wrestling fans. It doesn’t matter what is going on in my life, even if I’m happy, sad, or hurt. Every time I’m in the ring, I give people my best.”
Patron shared a story from his final days with WWE. Wrestling great Dean Malenko, who is an agent in WWE and also the son of a legendary pro wrestler, offered some sage advice to Patron.
“The great Dean Malenko approached me during my last days in the other company asking if I was OK,” recalled Patron. “He could tell my mind was somewhere else and I was not at peace. I didn’t need to stay in that place and eat any more crap, and Dean reminded me, ‘Don’t forget. Once you are out there in the spotlight, with the fans surrounding the ring, you are the king. For that time in the ring, you are the one in control. You’re the one taking the fans on a roller coaster of emotions.’
“So it doesn’t matter what is going on in my life, I feel happy and in love with the business and my fans when I am in the ring. I will be here as long as the fans want me here, and I will never stop showing them the respect they deserve.”
Win, lose, or draw, Lashley promised that Patron will be in pain after the match
“Alberto is going to get beat up,” said Lashley. “I’m going to be unified champion, and after that, I’m going to change my look and my image. The Bobby Lashley character needs a valet, and maybe even a publicist to help my image go a little more mainstream. I’ll scan the fitness model world, and see what I can find out there.”
In addition to attempting to outwork Lashley, which is akin to the task of taking Zeus’ thunderbolt, Patron is wrestling for far more than title unification. His struggle, like the uphill battle facing Impact, is to stay relevant. Fortunately for him, he will do so in his haven; the wrestling ring.
“For me, regardless of knowing who wins and who loses, pro wrestling is all about competing,” said Patron. “I’m a competitive human being. Every time I’m in the ring, I want to have the best match. You’ll see a lot of psychology in our match at Slammiversary, as well as a physical match, and most importantly, you’ll see a very entertaining match.”