When it comes to returns and debuts, WWE’s track record is somewhat checkered. Things don’t always go as smoothly as fans would like but thankfully, that doesn't have to be the end. Genuine assets to the promotion usually prove their worth before long, and even if not in the form you’d expect, soon find their path one way or another. With that being said, I’d be lying if I said that my confidence in Bobby Lashley didn’t waver at times. After returning to great hype and fanfare in April of this year, Lashley’s momentum sadly stalled in an instant.
That domineering destroyer we’d seen in IMPACT was seemingly absent, with Lashley’s old WWE presentation returning instead. It was a portrayal completely lacking in personality, one without anything other than lackluster crowd pandering and a forced smile. Another body within multi-man matches, Lashley’s character wasn't given any initial focus upon returning. You always must be careful what you wish for though and eventually, the cries for some promo time would backfire quite spectacularly. Lashley’s delivery is polarizing to put it mildly, but that was the least of this particular segment’s issues.
In fairness, it began ideally, with a neat video package spotlighting Lashley’s immense athletic background. That’s always a key to his appeal in my view, a rare talent immediately credible on resume alone. Having a major player with that level of legitimacy is a nice addition to the RAW variety show, especially when an eventual Lesnar clash is always a possibility. However, things soon took a turn for the worse when in a follow up sit-down interview with Renee Young, Lashley’s focus bizarrely shifted to the relationship he has with his sisters.
In theory, I understand what I can only assume was an attempt to humanize the hulking figure but in reality, it only overcomplicated an issue that was actually rather simple. Suddenly entrenched with an at times painful programme opposite Sami Zayn, Lashley’s appeal was seemingly being stripped away with each week. He’d reverted back to such a bland portrayal that the initial intrigue of his return seemed almost quizzical. To those that had seen Lashley’s strides elsewhere, it was frustrating but to the general WWE viewer, this simply served as a confirmation of all their negative perceptions.
Bobby Lashley will never be some kind of iconic promo guy. He’s probably not a man that’s likely to incite immense energy just with his words, I’m not going to argue that. However, Lashley is a much better talker than most of his WWE appearances have shown. As a centerpiece in IMPACT, Lashley’s simple character was a constant highlight. He spoke like an athlete at the absolute top of his game and even better, he was booked like one. With a prideful swagger, Lashley’s confidence felt sincere, almost grounded in an intimidating reality.
There was just something inherently believable about his conduct, an absolute giant in both size and stature. To reiterate, I’m certainly not proclaiming Lashley as some kind of intensely captivating character. However, he’s certainly more than the robotic figure that stood opposite Zayn in that feud and I think he’s shown that since being matched Roman Reigns. Whenever Lashley’s WWE return was mentioned, this potential programme with Roman always stood out to me as being particularly intriguing. There’s the perfect blend of similarities and contrasts between them and in-ring, I’ve always expected excitement.
That was another key to Lashley’s success before returning, his genuine ability to deliver bell to bell. Still as explosive and physical as ever, Lashley’s experience gave him a polish that allowed for some quite dramatic in-ring affairs, even in front of the rarely invested Impact Zone crowd. Considering some of his work in that unenviable scenario, it’s hard to have anything but faith in Lashley’s ability to perform when matched with a guy of Reigns’ caliber. This Sunday at Extreme Rules, he’ll hopefully do just that too, especially considering the match’s rather engaging build.
Whilst I don’t think Lashley is quite in his finest form yet, he’s certainly made some strides in that direction as of late. He may not have hit the ground running but after some struggles early, Lashley is beginning to thrive as his presentation edges towards his strong suit: a serious character that’s not overtly good or bad, but one focused on proving himself nonetheless. A proud athlete searching for success, a character almost refreshing in its simplicity. This return hasn't been without moments of concern but as Bobby Lashley heads into Extreme Rules, there can be optimism about his future.
Lashley isn’t a long-term choice for WWE but if he can maintain his recent intensity, his place at the top of the card seems relatively secured. That may not mean a reign of dominance or even any kind of title reign at all but it should mean that at long last, Lashley will finally be able to prove his worth on pro wrestling’s biggest stage. All things considered, that feels like a worthwhile endeavor and with the ship seemingly steadied, Lashley’s chances of achieving it have never been higher. First though, Lashley needs to deliver on Sunday, that’s the most important thing for now.