This Sunday at Backlash, Bobby Lashley returns to the stage that for as long as fans can remember, he’s seemed destined for. Challenging Drew McIntyre in his first WWE Title match in thirteen years, Lashley will look to finally cement himself in this elusive role. It’s been over two years since Lashley’s return to WWE and with MVP now by his side, he’s never felt better suited to title contention. However, it’s hard to silence the doubt that this is yet another false dawn, an outcome that this deep in his career, Lashley simply can’t afford to overcome.
If the current WWE landscape shows anything, it’s that in this era, almost anyone can be rebuilt. Backlash encapsulates that rather well, an event hosting multiple champions that not long ago, appeared aimless. This is not a desperate scenario for Lashley, not a matter of win or bust. Drew McIntyre was only recently coronated himself and frankly, appears at home with the WWE Title around his waist. As a result, it feels unrealistic to expect a title win for Lashley but that doesn’t make his presentation here any less significant.
As the dust settles after Sunday’s event, Lashley may not be WWE Champion but after thirteen years of waiting, it’s pivotal that this doesn’t feel like his final shot either. Regardless of the result, Lashley must leave as strong as he’s entering, plain and simple. After all, Lashley appears to have found his sweet spot as of late, steadily rebuilding the domineering image that was so rich elsewhere. In Impact, Lashley was a destroyer, a cool and calm conqueror with gold almost always around his waist. The best description is simpler than that though, that version of Lashley was the perfect opponent for Brock Lesnar.
Upon his 2018 return, that fantasy matchup was suddenly possible too but two years later, we’re still waiting. It’s difficult to ignore what could’ve been in that sense, the magic that was missed as Lashley’s initial invincibility was slowly taken from him. Lashley has been featured over these last two years but naturally, his ceiling has been defined too. The fresh slate that Lashley returned with is now gone and so, that opportunity will be left as a ‘what if?’ Even still, there’s a marquee match to be recouped here, a clash of the titans that remains available.
MVP is pivotal in that regard, the ingredient that allows Lashley this new chapter. In terms of performance, I’d argue that in WWE at least, Lashley has never been better. He appears more confident, carrying himself with an assured conviction. Lashley is at his best as the poised annihilator, portraying an understated arrogance rather than the usual overt aggression tied with a man his size. There’s no lack of intensity in Lashley’s physicality, it simply speaks to his athleticism more than some unexplainable rage. Lashley may be enhanced by a manager but he’s not a wild mute, far from it in fact.
Inside the ropes, Lashley has very much found his rhythm too, becoming increasingly comfortable with the WWE roster. Those that have seen years of Lashley’s work will appreciate his continued progression but to the general viewer, it’s impact can only be so pronounced. That’s what makes MVP the difference maker though, he’s the clear shift in terms of trajectory. MVP’s presence provides the bridge from Lashley’s prior ceiling towards the hopes of greater heights. It doesn’t hurt that they have history either, with the pair standing alongside and opposite each other during Lashley’s aforementioned Impact run.
Better yet, MVP was there for Lashley’s initial WWE stint too, adding extra weight to the truths he’s stated in recent weeks. MVP is more than just a confident talker, he’s a character that right now, simply belongs at Lashley’s side. This direction has allowed them to tackle the high expectations surrounding Lashley without resigning him to defeat. Instead, Lashley now has a perfect pathway to reaching those projections after all. MVP has added a previously absent context to Lashley’s career, an on-screen reason for his seemingly never-ending climb to the main event.
At times, Bobby Lashley has been a headline act in WWE, but he’s seldom sustained that role. Now more than ever though, he appears set to finally make that position his own. Armed with MVP and a palpable sense of both who he is and what he can be, Lashley belongs in one of Backlash’s headline bouts. Beyond that though, this is an act that can play a major part in RAW’s 2020, a potential centerpiece for the program even. Timing is everything though and at this level, it really does feel like now or never for Bobby Lashley.
If thirteen years ago, Lashley wasn’t deemed ready, that’s one thing. If just eighteen months ago, that remained the case, even when Lashley was armed with Lio Rush’s dynamic personality, that’s another, even if it’s tougher to swallow. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to explain Lashley’s use if at every turn, a new reason is found to limit his ascension. Outside of WWE, Lashley showed that he could speak for himself but if that were an issue, they’ve now tried multiple solutions and if MVP isn’t the answer, it seems this mystery will go unsolved.
Regardless of prior criticisms, Lashley remains one of the most visually striking performers in the industry, a man mountain that with his confidence unlocked, fits the bill as an absolute top guy. That physical description doesn’t often align with Lashley’s athletic ability either, a talent genuinely capable of delivering against a range of opponents. He’s not alone in that regard, especially on the current WWE roster but when you combine that trait with Lashley’s raw ingredients, he still makes for a can’t miss candidate. The issue is that Lashley is no longer a prospect and frankly, hasn’t been one for many years.
Steady improvement aside, Bobby Lashley is who he is and presents a simple scenario for WWE. This isn’t a talent that can remain effective on undercards, he’s not the standard in-ring mechanic that can float up and down any roster. If necessary, he can be that guy but in truth, there are probably better options for the role. Those options can’t be what Lashley can though, an act that with the machine behind him, I still firmly see as a potential game changer. If that feeling isn’t shared internally by WWE themselves, then it’s hard to understand why this project remains in motion.
If Bobby Lashley can’t be a major player in this environment, I’m unsure why he remains on the field at all. This Sunday feels pivotal in that sense, as even though the result may be set in stone, they simply can’t undo the hard work they’ve recently done. Lashley’s return was squandered, and a couple reset buttons have been lost along the way too but that’s all gone now and yet still, an opportunity stays standing. This mission can continue for years to come but at some point, it feels as though a decision must be made.
If after all that’s happened, Lashley still commands creative focus then perhaps it’s time to finally commit to taking that next step. If so, I’m not sure there will ever be a better chance to do so than right now, capitalizing on Lashley’s chemistry with MVP and the apparent confidence that comes with it. A glance at the RAW landscape suggests that if the timing still isn’t right for Lashley, it’s hard to imagine it ever will be. Clearly, we know where Lashley stands this Sunday at Backlash but it’s the picture beyond that which looms.
In simpler terms, Lashley could have many major matches in his future, including that much anticipated meeting with Lesnar. In the same way though, it could just as likely be another tale of what could’ve been. Right now, it’s impossible to gauge whether or not Lashley is being prepared to finally fulfill his potential in WWE or on the contrary, he’s being positioned as nothing more than another successful title defense on McIntyre’s resume. That should become clear in the coming weeks but first, Lashley must maximize his minutes against McIntyre.
On paper, this appears to be a promising title match and if it indeed delivers, could provide the perfect start for Lashley’s latest chapter. If not, Lashley seems set to stay firmly categorized as a missed opportunity in WWE history. Considering all that he’s done though, that perception only speaks to Lashley’s potential, the only piece of this puzzle that no one disputes. In WWE’s mind, it appears that Lashley remains a challenge worth completing and if that’s the case, it’s hard to see what hurdles are left standing.
Perhaps it should’ve happened in 2007, maybe 2018 or even some time in-between. None of that matters now though as somehow, Bobby Lashley can still become the main event figure that he once seemed destined to be. That isn’t about titles, it’s about presentation and it’s about placement. It’s been thirteen years since Lashley last stood on this stage, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still make it his new home. Quite simply, if Bobby Lashley belongs at this level, it’s a matter of now or never and at Backlash, we'll finally find out which path they'll take.