In June 2019, I purchased the cheapest tickets I could find to attend WWE’s Extreme Rules. Much of the show was mediocre, although I do have fond memories of Becky Lynch selling the End of Days harder than anyone else has ever dared to. For me, the highlight of the night was two guys I hadn’t previously given much thought: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley.
Let’s put Strowman aside, because my kind things to say about him start an end with this match. As someone who is a fairly recent wrestling convert, I never experienced Lashley in the mid-aughts. Instead, my first impression was the very unfortunate sisters segment with Sami Zayn, and the repeated chanting from Lio Rush. Lashley was impressive to look at on all accounts, and he could certainly kick somebody’s ass in the ring, but he didn’t seem to bring much else. In all honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of—as our new WWE champion so wonderfully puts it—“big men slapping meat.”
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I get the appeal of big dudes in wrestling, I understand why they’ll always have a spot, but I tend to favor the flippy business over the monster heels. To my surprise, two big boys throwing each other around outside the Chickie and Pete’s stand managed to captivate me more than anything else. I can’t remember what else happened in this feud, but I distinctly remember how genuinely cool it was to see Lashley go through barricades and spear Braun into the 76ers logo. It wasn’t clean, it wasn’t technical, but it was damn fun.
Of course, that was June of 2019, so we had a lot of other wrestling business and global pandemic to slog through before we reached the pinnacle of Lashley. There was a match at Mania 36 against… Aleister Black? WWE.com is telling me this happened, but I have absolutely no memory of it. There was the Lana drama, which showed off some excellent acting from absolutely everyone involved. I have zero complaints about that wedding segment. Regardless, it wasn’t until May 2020, almost three years after returning to WWE, that Lashley found something that would take him all the way to the top—Montel Vontavious Porter.
It’s hard to remember that before Lashley was dominating the main event, he first teamed up with MVP on the short lived and much missed Raw Underground. Aside from the background dancers, The Hurt Business was the most memorable thing to come out of Shane McMahon’s trip underground. MVP took two severely underutilized talents and demanded that we, the audience, see them for the gifts they are. Prior to his return at the Royal Rumble in 2020, MVP was another former WWE talent I had definitely heard about, but never seen in a match.
While it was fun to see him step between the ropes sporadically over the past year and a half, it seems very clear that the man has found a second career as the best manager in WWE today. Alongside the ability to cut a promo for and on anyone, MVP was able to engineer the greatest success story of the ThunderDome era: The Hurt Business. Soon after they teamed up, Lashley and MVP brought in Shelton Benjamin, who has deserved so much more than anything WWE’s given him over the past few years. When the trio recruited Cedric Alexander, a personal favorite from my 205 fan days, I couldn’t wait to see what the former Cruiserweight champ could accomplish withn this stable.
For a few months, the group held the majority of the gold on Raw, with Lashley as US champ and Benjamin and Alexander as tag champions. And MVP stood alongside them as the much needed mouthpiece, the one who took much deserved credit for crafting such a dominant group. After losing the US belt, Lashley immediately entered a WWE title feud with Drew McIntyre, and it felt like the most logical step in the world for a man who, just a year prior, had bent over and slapped his ass to get heat. And while I’m all for ass-slapping, let me be clear, it just wasn’t the right gimmick for a guy like Lashley. That man looks like he could snap me in half just by coughing in my general direction. I already know he’s got a good butt, we don’t need to make a whole thing of it.
Talent and Personality
With the perfect manager, Lashley was able to lean into something WWE often forgets to give their big boy talents; a personality. Whether he was the clean cut ladies man in the sweet three piece suit, or the disheveled guy swearing off alcohol and women to retain his title, he was far more compelling than the dude who wore funny hats and smiled at the camera. MVP gave Lashley an edge, and the champ ran with it. All he needed to do was glare behind those $300 sunglasses while MVP ran down Drew McIntyre for owning a sword or Kofi Kingston for being good at dancing, and the damage was done.
And yet, as time went on, it became clear who ran the show in THB. MVP’s promos, interference, and ability to take several Claymores helped Lashley, but the greatest part of their relationship was that when it came down to it, Lashley didn’t need him. The champ could get the job done in the ring without somebody swinging a cane on the outside. Lashley’s meltdown before MitB proved this even more: he was willing to push MVP (and some very hot ladies) aside, so confident that he could get the job done himself. It was MVP who needed the Almighty, and not the other way around.
When Alexander and Benjamin were ousted from the group over the summer, Lashley and MVP continued to rule Raw. A lengthy feud with Drew McIntyre may have outstayed its welcome post-Mania, but the two still managed to have plenty of hits together. The match with Kofi Kingston at Money in the Bank displayed Lashley at his absolute finest; the hands-down dominator, pure and simple, dishing out beatings to Kingston and Woods for daring to even think about stepping into his very shiny loafers. The Hurt Business carried that cool heel vibe that WWE frequently struggles to pull off; yes, MVP was obnoxious, and yes, you hated Lashley for doing Kofi like that. But, at the same time, you kind of wanted to party in the VIP lounge too. This was most evident up against Goldberg, who received more boos than anyone attempting to save their teenage son from being beaten up on live television ever should. Goldberg might have been a legend, but it was Lashley who commanded the audience’s respect, who’d earned their devotion of the past year. And if he wanted to put a child in The Hurt Lock, then he was going to have their full support.
Still, all good things come to an end, especially in wrestling. Big E’s victory on Monday was heartwarming on all counts, and I can’t imagine anyone who’d have a bad thing to say about it. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I’ll truly miss the Almighty Era, more than I ever would have expected. If I can make one plea to WWE, it would be this: don’t split up Lashley and MVP. The duo is more than the sum of its parts, and there’s plenty of gas left in that tank.