The centerpiece for Saturday’s SummerSlam is the return of John Cena, who will meet Roman Reigns in a clash of titans for the universal title.
But that is only one of four world title matches on the card, all of which stand out. The other top men’s title match is WWE champion Bobby Lashley’s defense against Bill Goldberg, an icon from the “Monday Night War” in the 1990s as a premier star for WCW. Goldberg’s return has brought a brighter spotlight on Lashley, as the two prepare to meet in a short-but-powerful match this Saturday.
“[Ric] Flair said it best: To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man,” Lashley says. “Goldberg is one of the men. Everybody knows what he stands for in the ring, and he brings so much energy when he is back. I have endless respect for what he’s accomplished, but I will say this: He can’t beat me.”
Lashley’s most recent pay-per-view title defense took place last month at Money in the Bank, where he decimated Kofi Kingston. Even though the match was one-sided, it played an important role in Lashley’s arc as champion, as it took place right after a heated exchange on Raw where he told MVP that they had grown soft and needed to be meaner and more vicious to hold on to the title.
Lashley was honored to share the ring with Kingston during the build and their Money in the Bank match. WWE has struggled with diverse on-screen representation, so it was especially meaningful to see two Black men to wrestle in a world title match for WWE.
“100%, that meant a great deal to me,” Lashley says. “To share the ring with Kofi in that setting, it was an honor. And I need to say this—The New Day is incredible. Kofi, Xavier Woods, Big E, they are going to have jobs as top guys for life. Me and Big E have barely even touched. He’s not as strong as me, but that’s something that could be special down the road.”
Speaking over the phone on a summer morning last week, Lashley had already finished his cardio. Cooking his egg whites during the call, preparing for his late-morning lift, Lashley discussed his upcoming match with Goldberg.
“Guys of that caliber like Goldberg, they’re stars, and they get their pick of who they want to work,” Lashley says. “So it means a lot that he wanted this match with me. Hopefully I can do the same thing years from now with our future, guys like Ricochet, Ali and Drew Gulak.”
An overwhelming amount of the focus heading into SummerSlam is on Reigns-Cena. Far less attention has been given to Lashley and Goldberg, which Lashley believes is the perfect recipe to surprise people with a match better than they are anticipating.
“I welcome this challenge,” Lashley says. “I feel confident getting in the ring with Goldberg, and I think we can do more than people expect. I want us to be the match that people are still talking about after the show is over.”
Lashley should be the prototype for all WWE champions. His motivation for greatness is unparalleled. The routine-oriented star—every day starts with making his bed, then cardio, then his egg whites and oatmeal, which includes his blueberries and a scoop of protein—credits his structure and discipline with lighting his motivation each day.
“I listen to [motivational speaker] Les Brown, and it hit me when he said that the cemetery is filled with wasted possibility,” Lashley says. “I never want to leave this earth and see that I didn’t go after what I wanted. I stay motivated with everything I do. Otherwise, when this is done, you’re going to be buried with possibility. I never want that. I want to exhaust every possibility I can do.”
SummerSlam is an opportunity for Lashley, one he cannot wait to seize. Lashley hasn’t worked a match against an opponent with Goldberg’s legacy during his title reign, and he wants to leave a permanent impression in people’s minds with his dominance.
“I’m a champion that puts in the work,” Lashley says. “People are going to see my aggression at SummerSlam. There is nothing else like it. When I get in the ring against Goldberg, I’m going to do what I love to do, and that’s beat Goldberg up and kick his ass.”
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.