WrestleMania 36 will mark the first time WWE has no live crowd for its signature show, and it will also be a two-night event. The company has decided the show has to go on, and so did we. WWE offered to media the interviews they couldn’t have done, and we will share them with you all week long. Legends, main roster, and NXT wrestlers, this week is all for them.
Two years ago, on WrestleMania Monday, Bobby Lashley made an unexpected return to WWE. Since he left the company in 2008, Lashley has wrestled around the world, competed in MMA, but he ultimately came back home with one goal in mind, the World Championship he has not been able to win during his first run.
This weekend at WrestleMania, he will face Aleister Black, RAW’s silent Devil. SteelChair took part in a media call with Bobby Lashley on Thursday. He talked about his Mania match, his path, becoming World Champion, and the unforgettable WrestleMania 23.
On having a MMA background in wrestling, like Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Brock Lesnar, Matt Riddle, and him:
“For me, personally, I think we’re showing that there’s so many different avenues that professional wrestlers come from. I had a little stint in there when the people that you’re talking about were actually fighting, they were out to beat people up and down, and it just kind of sounds a different element of our profession. I think MMA is a great background because the people that can show they can win in a cage are the same people that are showing they can win in a WWE ring. Fighting styles are crossing borders.”
On a no-crowd WrestleMania:
“At first, when I heard it was going to be a closed-door event, I kind of questioned it a little bit, but as I went into it, it was exactly the same. We go out there and perform, we go out there and fight, we go out there and wrestle. It doesn’t matter if there’s nobody in the crowd or if there’s a million. There was quite a few people there with the production, announcers, and everything like that. There’s people that are watching your match. I think every one of us being professionals understood that out there is a time to shine. I think everybody will agree that when they went out there, they felt like it was exactly the same. You’ll see when you watch the match this weekend that the same energy is given to those matches than to the matches in front of millions of people. The announcers were there, and the cameraman said, ‘Wow, I’ve seen something like that before, that match excited me’. You have the fog factor in a gorilla position. There was a lot of people there wanting to go out there and show what they have, show that they want to impress because WrestleMania is the end of the year for us. You end a lot of feuds, and it’s an opportunity for us to go out there and shine.”
On the new talents from NXT, including Aleister Black:
“I don’t care about them. Everybody came from different areas and backgrounds. I’m so focused on what I need to accomplish and what I need to accomplish is winning the world title. That’s what I came back for, that’s what I’m doing. Aleister Black is just another guy on my way. There’s all these guys that are going to be on the way. I think Aleister Black is doing great. He’s at the top of the game. I’m not going to take anything away from him because I’m a competitor, but I know Aleister Black is not Bobby Lashley. We have two different paths. My path is straight up to the top. His path is right around where he is right now, trying to prove himself.”
On who he would have a bare-knuckle boxing fight with:
“This will surprise a lot of people, but Baron Corbin and I have worked out before, he has legit boxing skills, and we talked about that a lot when we were overseas in the last tour. We were tagging all throughout the tour. We went out to the gym down to boxing gloves down to bed. I was surprised, he hit hard, and he can swing, so I’m going to give that to him. I would say, of course, Brock Lesnar because he has proven fighting skills, he’s been in the cage, he knocks people out. Braun Strowman has this natural agility in boxing. He can rip somebody apart. Another awesome opponent that a lot of people don’t really know too much about is Roman Reigns. I think fighting has to do with athleticism, and Roman is an incredible athlete. He’s a big guy, and he’s aggressive.”
On being close to getting an opportunity of being World Champion:
“Even if I will hassle myself, I’m not very close at all. I think I have the ability, and I am one match away from it. When I say I’m not that close right now, it is because I’ve lost some key matches throughout the year. I’ve been through some crazy storylines during my time back. The one thing that no one can take away from me is what I’ve done in the past between fighting, and winning different other world titles. If you put the belt on me, walk me around any country, any town, and say that’s a champion, everybody will say I understand that because I look like a champion, and I have all these abilities. When I say that, that’s where I believe that I’m very close to the title. Whoever wants it, Brock or Drew, whoever comes out at the end, both of those guys know what I’m capable of doing.”
On his recent “soap opera” storylines:
“You have to be more than just one-dimensional, and I’m just trying to show different sides of me and have fun. Ultimately, it’s always going back to your roots, regardless of whatever storyline I’m going through.
I come from a different kind of background. I come from a military background. I came from a background when I was wrestling. I was training at the greatest MMA gyms around, and in those places, you don’t go out and run your mouth. I’ve never been that person. I’ve always been a person who shut up and trained to show my abilities to going out there and fighting. That’s how it’s always been for me every single day, from wrestling through college. Winning national championships, world medals, and training with some of the best athletes in the world. Every single day, shut up and train, that’s something that I love, that’s something that made me. That’s why I’m comfortable with whoever wins a title at WrestleMania. There’s a lot of good guys that represent the company, from my old tag team partner Drew, Brock, Braun, Goldberg, Roman. All those different guys are the guys that I look at. I could defend the title against one of those guys. I like both styles, MMA and wrestling, but my preference would be that hardcore head down focused rocky fighter going for the title.”
On WrestleMania 23 and working with Donald Trump:
“I loved it, even to this day when I’d roll back to some of those matches that I am in and just kind of like. At the time when I was doing it, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of it. When I found out it, we came back from the tour or something, and then I was told, “You’re going to be in this position, and we need you to come hit Donald Trump.” I was just like, all right, everything is happening in WWE. There’s so many people that we do business with that you never know who you could be working with the next day. I’ve met so many athletes, actors, singers, or musicians all the way across the board at the highest level. When it started kind of like unfolding a little bit more, as we went on when we were doing press conferences, we were going around, I was like, “Wow this thing is enormous and interesting.” Working with Trump was actually really cool because it wasn’t one of those things where he wanted to take over, he actually came into the position like “Look, man, I want to make this as great as possible, so tell me what I can do.” He didn’t tell me how to do my match, didn’t telephone call the ref, didn’t tell Vince how to run WWE. He came in and said, “Man, this is awesome, tell me what I can do on my part to make this the best,” and he did his part. It was a cool experience working with him.”
On working with Paul Heyman, as RAW’s executive director:
“Paul is great, and he has always been. I’ve known Paul from the start in OVW. I was down there working with him. He’s very creative. He has all kinds of different ideas that kind of make you scratch your head at first, but he has like the final destination for everything. Paul has his vision, different writers have a vision, and sometimes you can understand his vision because his vision is a little more complex than most people would think. So if sometimes I came in a little hot and want to talk, he’s always cool and says, “Let me tell you why it happens.” He brings you all the way back down. He doesn’t necessarily show you the final destination. I believe that there is a reason for everything, and just as long as I can do my part, staying prepared, staying ready, I don’t care who’s standing next or what storyline I’m in. If I stay prepared, stay ready, there’s a lot of things that can’t be denied. When you look at me and the things that I do, it’s like that guy should be on top, no matter what. Working with Paul’s been cool, and I think that as we go forward, you’re going to see a lot more unique ideas, but that’s what wrestling’s about.”
On WrestleMania remaining a two-night event in the future:
“I would say yes across the board, and I would say yes because we have so much talent that is available. There’s a lot of guys sitting at home right now that are hugely talented, not even being able to get a match on RAW. So yes, if we have an opportunity to bring everyone out and do more storylines and see it for two days, that would be incredible. But if you think about it, we kind of do it right now because we have the NXT show, and the NXT show right before WrestleMania is kind of like another WrestleMania in itself. So maybe integrate some more people here and there, or maybe make RAW and SmackDown be the focus of WrestleMania, I don’t know. They could do four days, and I don’t think the fans would lose anything with four days. They could do it Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and mix everything up like they’re doing now, and if they did that I think it would be a great show. I think there is so much talent and so much entertainment that I think they could do it.”
On the other matches of WrestleMania he’s looking forward to watching:
“I’m looking at the Drew vs. Brock match because I have a history with Drew. We were tag partners for half a year. We trained together, we had matches before coming back to WWE, and we have a lot of history together. With that history, I’d like to see how he pairs up against Brock because, in history, it’s always been, Bobby and Brock. Everybody’s wanted that from the beginning of when I came into wrestling when I was in OVW. People were talking about that like 15 years ago. I’d like to see somebody that I trained with, partnered with, and watched grow go against somebody that kind of was like my silent nemesis the entire time. I think the UK fans will go crazy if Drew wins, but then they’ll go crazy in another way if Drew loses. Cena and The Fiend. Randy and Edge. I think Randy and Edge will be awesome. I think, with the amount of wrestling experience those guys have, that thing is going to be incredible. There’s going to be things people have never seen before. They’re going to try to tear down the house for sure. It’s WrestleMania, and those guys have been doing it for a long time, so I know those guys are ready to try to win it.
Taker and AJ. AJ has been regarded as one of the best in the business for so long, and then the actual best in the wrestling business is The Undertaker, man, it’s hard to beat. It’s hard to beat. I think being in the empty stadium it’s kind of one of those things that’s like, ‘Man, I wish I could just walk through this tipi and get in there and sit in the stands and be a part of this,’ but you can. You can, because I think one thing people are going to not understand is that our production, how they capture the match, the energy of the match, is all going to be there still this weekend. That’s what’s going to make it more exciting. It’s something that’s never been done before. So if it’s never been done before man, I want to at least see, because everything else that’s been going on as far as everything else like the RAW and some of the other shows that they’re doing in front of empty arenas. You still have fun with the match, but this is WrestleMania, and WrestleMania is different.”
WrestleMania airs live on the WWE Network on Saturday, April 4th, and Sunday, April 5th. Check your local listings to see if PPV coverage is available in your area.
Special thanks to DS Communication – All pics and videos courtesy of WWE