It isn’t often that a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania already took place on another card for a different promotion. Yet that is the case in the WWE title match at WrestleMania 37, and it is a testament to the two performers involved.
“This is a clash of titans,” said Bobby Lashley, the reigning WWE Champion. “It’s also two people intent on proving hard work pays off.”
Lashley meets Drew McIntyre Saturday evening at WrestleMania in a match to determine the fate of the WWE Championship. This was also the main event five years ago at TNA’s Slammiversary show, back at a point when both performers were no longer part of WWE.
“I got even hungrier when I was away,” said Lashley, 44, who is now in the most pristine shape of his career. “I always strived to come back and be at the top. I wasn’t content to make some money and fizzle away. So if people thought I worked hard before, I began working even harder.
“When I came back in 2018, I did everything asked of me, and with a smile on my face. And I kept pushing. Now I am very proud to be where I am as champion.”
McIntyre also always envisioned himself in his current spot, wrestling for WWE’s most prestigious title for a second consecutive year at WrestleMania. Yet despite his current wealth of success, the mere notion of him playing a critical role at WWE’s signature event seemed ludicrous when he was given his pink slip by the company in 2014.
“I never once doubted myself, I just knew I needed to completely overhaul and improve every facet of my look and performance,” said McIntyre, who is 35-year-old Drew Galloway. “So that’s what I did. I re-dedicated my life to this, and that brought me to where I stand today.”
Lashley and McIntyre have shared the pursuit of excellence, making sacrifices at every step of the way to glory. In an industry often viewed as predetermined, or even perceived as fake, their struggle has been very real. Marriages have ended, time away from loved ones nearly crushed their determined spirits, yet both individuals found solace in resilience and perseverance.
“There’s no point in hiding the respect I have for Bobby Lashley,” said McIntyre. “We developed a friendship during our time away from WWE, and we worked extremely hard to get back here. We’ve been in the weight room together at 3 a.m. when everyone else was fast asleep, and we both came to the realization that there is no stopping you when you leave no stone unturned.”
Traditionally at a WrestleMania, the WWE Championship match runs last. That is no longer case, as Sasha Banks is currently atop the wrestling world and will defend her title against emerging star Bianca Belair in the main event of the first night of WrestleMania 37. That places Lashley and McIntyre in line to open the show, especially when considering this will be the first live crowd for WWE in over a year.
“Normally I would say the WWE Championship match belongs on last, but this year is different,” said McIntyre. “I want nothing more than to be the first person to walk out and see the fans. They’re the reason I am here. So no pre-show match, no promo opening. I want to be first, then it’s time to set the standard.
“My first title at WrestleMania last year was for everyone at home watching. My second title was winning it off Randy Orton on Raw was with my wife watching in the ThunderDome, and she is my strength and my heart. Now I want to win the title in front of the fans.”
Another important detail of the title match is the background of the man currently in possession of the belt. Lashley is one of the better villains in wrestling, showing the versatility and depth of one of the most respected performers throughout the industry.
“It’s a huge honor to hold the WWE Championship,” said Lashley, speaking of a title that, historically, has an alarming lack of diversity among its title holders. “And I’m bringing something unique to it. I’m proud to say I do it all. Wrestling, fighting, real estate. I’m a father. I’m a businessman.
“I’ve put in the effort, setting an example for anyone watching. I know what it takes to be a champion. You get up early, you put in the extra work, you take care of your kids. So put it on me. I’ll be that guy, I’ll be the Black Superman. I’ll show that again at WrestleMania.”
Lashley and McIntyre are being asked to set the pace at WWE’s most important show of the year, a task they relish. And for two men who know firsthand that these types of opportunities are few and far between in the cutthroat world of an unforgiving industry, they plan on delivering.
“This is going to be a true heavyweight clash, a throwback that leaves its mark in WrestleMania history,” said McIntyre. “It’s going to be for everyone who believes. I can’t wait to have that moment with everyone in the building, and everyone watching around the world.”
In addition to defending the title, Lashley is also embracing the opportunity to secure his status as a WWE legend at WrestleMania.
“This is my moment, my time,” said Lashley. “It took a while to get here. I can’t wait to hear the fans, I want to feel that energy, and everyone is going to be hit by this intensity.
“I can’t wait to hold that title up before the match, reminding people it isn’t going anywhere. It all feels right. I can’t wait to get started.”