WWE's Bobby Lashley hopes United States title leads to main event run - Sports Illustrated

Bobby Lashley Hopes to Use United States Title as Springboard to WWE Championship

44-year-old Bobby Lashley is still chasing an elusive top-tier championship in WWE.
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The biggest babyface in WWE does not receive a hero’s welcome each week on Raw.

Rarely will viewers hear the full list of accolades that define Bobby Lashley, ones that far exceed his impressive physique and ability to suspend disbelief in the ring.

The proud father of three children, Lashley is also a veteran of the United States Army. He graduated college with honors and possesses an athletic background that rivals any of his colleagues on the WWE roster, with three consecutive amateur wrestling national titles in the NAIA. Lashley captured those national titles in 1996, ’97, and ’98, yet he has not been slowed down by age. The 44-year-old, who is WWE’s reigning United States champion, is in the midst of his most meaningful run in the company.

“I’ve got the United States title, and that’s an amazing accomplishment, but I need a stamp on my career,” said Lashley. “That’s the WWE Championship, and the opportunity is there for me. I’m the ‘Black Superman,’ and that world title is what I need. I just need to stay healthy, keep kicking ass, and continue moving forward.

“If I win that world title, I’ll always be known as a former world champion. I want to do that for myself, I want to do that for my children, and I also want to do it for the kids that look like me.”

Surrounded by MVP and Shelton Benjamin, WWE has found a compelling on-screen fit for Lashley as CEO of the Hurt Business. The search for Lashley’s perfect on-screen partner had proven difficult for WWE. He had success with Lio Rush and never found that elusive next level with Lana, but he has genuine chemistry with MVP. They have known each other for close to two decades and worked closely together six years ago in TNA as part of the Beat Down Clan, which unknowingly served as a precursor to the Hurt Business.

“This is a rebirth for us together,” said Lashley. “MVP can work and he talk. People saw us together all the time, and someone asked, ‘What if they worked together?’ Everything he brings to the table, combine that with everything I bring, and it’s the complete package.”

There was internal discussion within WWE about adding another member to The Hurt Business but for Lashley and MVP, there was no debate. The only choice was the perfect fit, with that being Shelton Benjamin.

“There were a couple of names that were thrown around to be part of this, but we wanted Shelton,” said Lashley. “Shelton is so good and he wants more. We have so much fun working together, and that includes after the show having steaks and burgers. That translates on TV. We all started around the same time, and we were all friends back then, and we all understand how the business has changed.

“Back then, we had Booker T, JBL, Fit Finlay, [William] Regal, Umaga, Hardcore Holly—those are the guys we faced and battled on a regular basis. We talked about bringing back that old school style, the way we were brought up. That’s the style that beats you up and beats you down, and that’s what we’re doing with The Hurt Business.”

The battle between perception and reality has been a constant struggle for Lashley, beginning with the fact he is the youngest child with three older sisters. Standing 6’ 3” and looking like an action figure come to life, Lashley surprises people with a thoughtful perspective on life. While he looks like a monster in the ring against his opponents, he is one of wrestling’s proudest ambassadors.

“That’s another reason that I love being part of he Hurt Business,” said Lashley. “We’re not thugs, we’re dressed clean. We’re businessmen, Black businessmen. We’ve been in this business a long time, and that’s how we conduct ourselves. We have put in the work and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Lashley’s ambition is apparent outside of wrestling, too. He and his son are developing a physical fitness program to help families connect during the pandemic.

“The program is called Coach Your Kids,” said Lashley. “Kids are not getting that social aspect or physical aspect of going to school, so we’re going to put videos on YouTube for parents to connect with their kids. It’s going to be a great way for people to connect with their family.”

The chance to be off the road and home more often amid the pandemic has provided Lashley with even more of a chance to be present with his children. And he is grateful for the opportunity to show them, on a daily basis, the meaning of hard work.

“I want my kids to learn about grind,” said Lashley. “If you work your ass off, you’re get everything you want. That’s why, every morning before they’re up, I put my headphones on and listen to something motivational. I make my bed, then I go right outside and do jump rope and sprints for 30 minutes. When my kids are getting out of bed, that’s when they see me walk in full of sweat. I want them to see that you need to put in the work to get what you want.”

Working with MVP and Benjamin has placed Lashley in the right position in WWE. Not many people should be able to defeat him in a straight-up contest, though part of Lashley’s struggles over the course of his career connect to his unwillingness to play behind-the-scenes politics.

“I’m not a guy that is going to politic or badmouth someone in this company,” said Lashley. “I don’t do it. Ever. I’ve had people I was wrestling go to Vince and say, ‘I think it would be a good idea if I beat Bobby.’ And it was completely ignorant for someone to ever say that if you saw the two of us. I’ve always done what the company thought was best, but I’ve also always known what I was capable of doing. I know that I’m valuable and I know what I can accomplish.”

The last significant world title program for Lashley ended in June, and WWE champion Drew McIntyre is now occupied with Randy Orton and emerging star Keith Lee. But Lashley is a student of the game and knows his wrestling history, and he is fully aware that the traditional route to the world title once started with a run as U.S. champion.

“I am putting in the work to be world champion,” said Lashley. “Even if it takes years, I’ll stay in this business as long as it takes for me to get there.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.