Bobby Lashley is just the third-ever Black WWE Champion, following in the footsteps of Kofi Kingston and The Rock, whose father Rocky Johnson was Black. That history is not lost on Lashley, but he’s still “learning more and more about how huge it is” each week since winning the pro-wrestling company’s main title belt, he told TheWrap.
Days into his reign, TheWrap asked Lashley about the importance of representation, that Lana-Rusev-Lashley love triangle storyline and the Brock Lesnar dream match that never seems to be coming. We also asked the former mixed martial arts fighter and military veteran how he finds clothes to fit his comic-book superhero body. Spoiler alert: it’s not easy.
Read our Q&A below.
What does winning the title mean to you from a representation standpoint? It’s history.
Yeah, it is. It is. And I’ve been learning more and more about how huge it is the last few days. Just my son also, my son looks to me, my son sees me. And my son is really big into football. And kids like my son, they look around at somebody to emulate in idols, and everything like that. And it kind of makes him feel really good, too, not just being Black, but being Black and being my son. So it’s huge for me. And when I was growing up too — and it doesn’t really matter what race you are, because you always look at somebody as a person first — but when I was growing up, there were different people that I would take a little special liking to, of course, just growing up. Just because they are Black, they are like you, and you can see yourself in them. So I think it’s very important that I won it.
Do you think given the historical nature of this win you should turn babyface?
Let me tell you like this, I never put myself in that babyface-or-heel [polarity]. You lean to the heel side a little bit more because you guys just do what you want to do. But we’re not doing anything bad. I go out there and rough people up, so I guess I should be. But I think my character, who I am, kind of transcends that babyface-heel thing. I think it really depends on who I go against. I mean, if somebody else can bring your level up to being just a nasty heel that just does some very nasty stuff, then you know what… Look, even with The Miz, when I went against The Miz last Monday, people were kind of cheering for me and they were booing for Miz. So it was kind of like I was leaning toward the babyface side and Miz was almost the heel side, but he played the heel perfect.
The Miz does that so well.
That’s what I told everybody. I was like, Miz is phenomenal, he is great. And if you don’t believe that, then you are missing the point. Because there are people who say, ‘I can’t stand him because he does this and this.’ Yeah, that’s what he’s supposed to do, and he gets you to hate him. Miz is phenomenal. He was the perfect person for me to take the title from at that time.
I want to talk about the Lana storyline a little. Did it ultimately help or hurt your run?
Look, I’ve been in the business for about 17 years. And there’s a lot of people that watch the business for years. But there’s only a few people that have been like a crucial figure in the business for a long time…I talked to people about it when I came back into wrestling and everybody knows my character. They know Bobby is tough, Bobby was in the military, Bobby has that wrestling national champion place in the world. So I’m a machine in that sense. But the one thing that I’ve never been able to do is just relax. And I think a lot of those storylines I did at the beginning was to really make me chill out and relax. This is a different day and age. Even though my character is rough, still I’m able to enjoy it a lot more. Before I was so machine, so locked in. It’s like, ‘Here, let’s throw in some storylines over here to make him feel completely uncomfortable and to be able to relax and then be able to come into something.’ And when I say that, I say that because a lot of the people looking at it got pissed off about it. I was going into it and I was a little taken back. But then when I sat back and I actually realized, because I had a talk with Vince, and he told me, ‘Man, I want you to just go out there and have fun.’ And that was one thing that you have to do. And a lot of times when you tell somebody to go out there and have fun, that’s not going to resonate, that’s not going to sink in. Then you have a bunch of us just beating people up even more. But to be able to loosen up, this is entertainment. We’re fighting, but it’s entertainment. So in order to have entertainment, you have got to be able to loosen up. Because the crowd can feel where you’re coming from. And even though I went into this real dastardly, mean character, people could feel it because I’m able to get in more touch with — I don’t want to say emotions and go straight into acting — but into that, just relaxing and having fun with the character. So I think everything that I did led me up to where I am now. So I think everything helped.
“The Hurt Business” is one of my favorite faction names in recent years. It feels so simplistic that I can’t believe it hasn’t been used before, but it’s perfect for you guys. I know you and MVP had the Beat Down Clan in the indies, was it a WWE writer or one of you who came up with the name?
It was me. I was thinking about this before, I was thinking about the whole thing before. Originally, a boxing coach that I had down in Coconut Creek at American Top Team. He used to always wear this T-shirt and I was like, man, that is incredible man, that needs to be in WWE because that’s my character. I just need a group. So I just loved it forever. And this was several years back, several, several years back, and I held onto it. And when we came, I was still holding onto it. And I was like man, I wanted to do something like that, but I need the right people involved. And then when MVP had that Royal Rumble, he was only going to do that, but when he was there, we had worked before and I told him, ‘Man, you know what character you are… you are kind of a mix between Suge Knight, and Don King.’ I said, ‘If you mix all those up that is you.’ And I told him about this and then me and him got together and he was like, ‘We can make a real little faction out of this.’ And of course we thought about Shelton (Benjamin), because Shelton wasn’t really doing anything, everybody knows how good Shelton is but everything really depends on timing and finding the right role for you. I was like, man we got to bring Shelton, because Shelton gets it. And then we needed a young boy to come up, and Cedric (Alexander) is phenomenal. But when we went to go look for The Hurt Business at that time, I was like, man, let’s try The Hurt Business, and we sent it in and then when it came back it shocked us. Like, what? Nobody has it? Nobody copyrighted it or nothing… And the merch guy came up to me and was like, ‘Bro, you’ll never believe it, it is open.’ I said let’s go, let’s start printing. And as soon as we put it out, the T-shirts went like crazy at the beginning. Black and gold, The Hurt Business, it was beautiful. And then our group just kind of formed from there.
And then before I ran with it, I called my boxing coach down there at Coconut Creek and I asked for his blessing and he was like, ‘Use the name, just send me a few T-shirts.’ I said cool.
Why, in your estimation, is the Brock Lesnar match not happening?
I have no idea… The thing with Brock is everybody has been saying that basically from the day that I came into wrestling. They were like, ‘Oh man, there’s Brock! Him and Brock. Brock! Brock! Brock!’ The whole entire time. And I really do not know. I know I spoke with somebody that I was really close to him and they just said, no, it’s just not the time. The only one I can really ask in that manner is (Paul) Heyman, because no one else really talks to Brock, that I know of, I don’t talk to Brock, I really don’t even know Brock that much. If he were to come back and had a match, I think it would be phenomenal, I think it would be great. But I think even a bigger match, because you can’t just overstep Drew (McIntyre), Drew beat him last year at WrestleMania. Drew is, if you wanted to paint a picture of a champion, that’s what they look like. So beating Drew is the one. So I think a triple threat with the two of those guys would be an incredible thing. It would be crazy. Normally, I wouldn’t go for a triple threat, but something like that is, hm, who wins that? And what does that lead to afterward. So that’s always a huge deal also, But then me and Drew still have some business left unattended, because I kind of beat him the other day, so I’m sure he’s going to want to deal with that… The one thing that I think is cool is that the match that everybody thinks Brock and I will have, Drew and I will have.
Or if he came back, I would love to take both of them. One and then the other. I love it. How I like it is, I know what kind of person Drew is… Drew loves to fight, so I know that’s going to be an amazing match once we have it. But the thing with Brock, I think, there’s just a lot of similarities. There’s only a few people that have come into wrestling that look like I do or look like Brock does but then has that realism of actually having a background in amateur wrestling. So it’s like, man, this is what wrestling is, a competition between two Goliaths like this. And I know everybody wants to see it happen and I’m sure it will happen sooner or later. I just don’t know. I think that’s a question to ask Heyman.
I want to ask about your physique. The way it tapers in at the waist, broad up top and ripped all over. You always look great on camera, but does everything automatically look like a million bucks on you because you’re built like a superhero, or does everything have to be custom tailored?
You know what the hard thing is, with my physique, it’s more of a personal thing, so I’m not a person to wear a lot of tight stuff. I’m not a person that pulls off his shirt and wants to walk around with his shirt off all the time; it’s basically when I’m just wrestling. So as far as buying clothes… if I buy like big, big clothes, they’re going to look like a tent on me. So I usually have to buy larger sizes and then really get them tapered down just so they can be able to fit. My pants, I try on pants and my pants are like a 40 or 38, but my waist is like a 30, so I’ve got to buy the pants to fit my butt and my thighs, but then I’ve got to take them in like crazy. So to make a long story short, I love to wear sweats and workout gear.