On Saturday, December 17th, Bobby Lashley faces Rob Terry in New York. The promotion, Family Wrestling Entertainment., is not the sort of widely-known company you might expect to see Lashley in. What they offer is the ability for him to do what he loves without sacrificing his ongoing MMA career. Because, as he told me, â€œI love pro wrestling.â€
I was contacted last week and offered an interview with Bobby. That was a pleasant surprise, and the interview itself went smoothly. For a man as intelligent, professional and physically gifted as he is, I had one question above all else: why was he released by WWE in 2008? For those of you who donâ€™t remember, Lashley was part of the very successful Vince vs Trump feud at Wrestlemania in 2007. That was followed by an extended Lashley vs Vince feud. Later in the year Lashley got some long-delayed surgery. When it was time for a return, he mentioned being told a very familiar line: â€œwe have nothing for youâ€. Itâ€™s one thing if a midcarder or developmental wrestler is told that, but for a headliner it means something very bad. In this case, someone in a position of power had a grudge.
As he tried to figure out what was going on, he heard rumors. â€œOne of the guys said I was going through Titan Towers yelling and dropping the f-bomb. Anyone who knows me knows thatâ€™s not the kind of person I am.â€ That wouldnâ€™t be credible if said by a large number of wrestlers, but coming from a man known for being soft-spoken and disciplined itâ€™s certainly believable. More so because such an incident would be hard to keep secret, and nothing of the sort has ever been reported. Another rumor was that he asked for a bigger Wrestlemania bonus, even though at that point it was over 6 months later.
Even though the departure from WWE was an unhappy one, Bobby is happy with what he managed to accomplish in a short timeframe. â€œThe only reason Bobby Lashley is doing what heâ€™s doing now is because they gave me the opportunity to be a big star in WWE.â€ That said, he knows he was on the verge of more if heâ€™d gotten the chance to return, and heâ€™s frustrated to not reach his full potential there. In regards to his two main storylines, one against Vince and the other against King Booker and his â€˜Courtâ€™, he said they were equally enjoyable. While the Vince feud was more high-profile, going against Booker, Regal and Finlay was â€œjust a good time.â€ Even though there was a royalty gimmick at play, the three of them had the real life toughness to be a serious threat to the massive Lashley.
Bobby had only positive things to say about his short stint in TNA. Because of the career shift to MMA, he only signed a short-term deal and left upon its completion. Both sides tried to work with his schedule but there was no way to make it work long-term. Regarding rumors that heâ€™s part of a TNA project in India, he said heâ€™s not involved with it at this point. If they end up doing a brief tour he might be able to join it, but thatâ€™s the extent.
Over the last year his most consistent gig has been with Inoki Genome Federation in Japan. Because their shows are sporadic, with four events last year and eight this year, itâ€™s a perfect fit for MMA fighters. Lashley feels comfortable in the ring with both full-time wrestlers and full-time fighters, making him a perfect fit for IGF. Bobby had been to Japan with WWE, and found a big difference in the crowds that come to IGF compared to WWE. â€œItâ€™s less show, and more fightingâ€, and IGF fans expect hard-hitting action. All the more so because of IGFâ€™s preference for those with MMA experience. The last show Lashley was on included Bob Sapp, Josh Barnett, Jerome LeBanner, Peter Aerts, Kazuyuki Fujita, and a legitimate kickboxing match on the undercard. Though the rest of the show is worked, itâ€™s considerably more concerned with realism than the already-serious norm in Japan. Of the Japanese opponents, Fujita got the most praise from Lashley.
The initial contact came from promoter Rick Bassman, who asked if he was interested. His first show was last September, and heâ€™s been on every significant IGF event since. As it turns out, IGF has actually helped his MMA career rather than hindered, because it enabled him to meet Josh Barnett, who has aided in Bobbyâ€™s training. Because things have gone so well, Bobby expects to continue working with IGF indefinitely. Even though heâ€™s gotten feelers from other Japanese promotions, he will remain loyal to Inoki.
Prior to leaving WWE, Lashley had considered competing in MMA. At one point there was preliminary discussion about WWE becoming involved with fights, and Bobby told Vince heâ€™d be interested. Considering his build and amateur credentials there was little doubt that he had a lot of potential in MMA, and now heâ€™s committed to seeing how far he can go. Presently heâ€™s the heavyweight champion of Shark Fights., based out of Texas, and is signed to do two more fights with them. Wikipedia refers to it as a â€˜three yearâ€™ deal, but in fact heâ€™s able to fight elsewhere depending on whoever makes the best offer.
As far as his MMA ability, Bobby is confident that heâ€™s improved significantly after losing to Chad Griggs last August. â€œI changed up my whole fighting regimen. I was just going out there and fighting before, no plan, no nothing.â€ Now heâ€™s not only working on overall training, but also has a specific strategy for fights. In his Shark Fights title win he wanted to get a submission, and did so in under four minutes with a keylock. Now he feels heâ€™s ready for top-tier competition, though there are some elite fighters heâ€™d rather not face due to having trained with them.
Lashley feels that pro wrestling has been good and bad for his ability to perform in fights. â€œI donâ€™t feel nervousness getting in front of big crowdsâ€, which is vital for any fighter. However, there is a greater expectation on him to do well based on his stardom.
With a 7-1 record so far heâ€™s doing reasonably well, but has yet to defeat a â€˜nameâ€™ opponent. With better training and a continued commitment to improving his game, Bobby Lashley is poised for a breakout year if heâ€™s given the opportunity.
I donâ€™t know what the future holds for Bobby Lashley, but I do know one thing: Rob Terry is lucky that heâ€™s going into a wrestling ring on Saturday rather than a cage.