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Why did Bobby Lashley leave WWE?

Why did Bobby Lashley leave WWE despite his great relationship with Vince McMahon?

Feature 15 Oct 2017, 16:06 IST

Lashley parted ways with WWE in 2007
Lashley parted ways with WWE after experiencing some success

The idiosyncratic tale of one Bobby Lashley has consistently served to remind us of the highly volatile nature that characterizes the sport of professional wrestling.

Standing at an intimidating 6’2” and weighing in at no less than 245 pounds of pure muscle, the newfangled and mystifying departure of ‘The Walking Armageddon’ from WWE is one of the hottest topics of debate & discussion.

Ever since smoke emerged as rumours of his departure spread in late-2007, with both the man in question as well as the promotion ultimately revealing there was indeed a smouldering fire which bolstered said smoke. 

The professional wrestling fraternity bombinated with canard of Lashley taking his ball and going home, due to overestimating his backstage clout in the WWE, before receiving the dreaded pink slip from Mr McMahon. Meanwhile, contradictory reports emerged insinuating Michael Hayes and his backstage issues with Lashley were the real reason behind the Dominator quitting the company.

As per our tradition, being hardcore pro-wrestling maniacs, today, you and I go back in time in our attempt to unravel this multi-layered dramatic change of fortunes that saw one of the business’ brightest young stars evanesce without a plausible explanation. In order to do so, we must reexamine the beginnings of Lashley’s term with WWE:

Vince McMahon prototype

Vince McMahon has never been one to deny his favouritism towards wrestlers of highly-defined musculature. In simple terms, the WWE boss has always preferred—and still does, to this date—hiring and promoting wrestlers who look the part—be it a prime Hulk Hogan, ‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Batista, John Cena…well, you get the idea.

Nevertheless, McMahon’s rubric—irrespective of what his critics may have you believe—worked wonders for the WWE and helped it achieve its current prestige of being a highly-regarded global entity.

Speaking of which, it was around 2004 when the promotion roped in a man known as Franklin Robert Lashley. Then in his late-twenties, the lad was fresh off an unfortunate knee injury, which he had sustained in a bank; one of many victimized by a group of robbers. The hurt knee effectively ended his plans to pursue his dream of competing in the Olympics, following which he’d turn to professional wrestling as an assuaging alternative.

After spending a year in OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling), he would go on to capture the United States title and ECW World Championship, following which he earned the number-1 contender spot for John Cena’s WWE Championship by winning a ‘Beat The Clock Challenge’iIn July of 2007.

Lashley faced him with the title on the line at The Great American Bash on the 22nd of the same month, coming up short but putting on a great showing nonetheless. With Brock Lesnar out of the company in 2004, Bobby was primed to take over the role of the top explosive monster heel in the WWE ranks. The New ‘Next Big Thing’ until…

Of Kristal Marshall and political clout

Kristal Marshall is perhaps best remembered for her kayfabe wedding with Teddy Long in the WWE
Kristal Marshall is perhaps best remembered for her kayfabe wedding with Teddy Long in the WWE

Bobby Lashley was beyond the shadow of a doubt one of the WWE’s top stars before his unceremonious exit following his last appearance in 2007. It was that very year when he began dating WWE Diva Kristal Marshall who worked with the company from 2005-07.

That brings us to one of the key factors from which his problems with management emanated. This particular theory emphasizes that Marshall was forced to work in a sexually imbued storyline in ‘07— something she refused to be part of. Only 23 at the time, the Diva sought the assistance of her then-beau Lashley, with the latter obliging and flexing his backstage sway in WWE.

Legend has it that Vince McMahon got wind of the same, and terminated Marshall’s Divas contract, effective immediately. Lashley was out of action at the time of her firing, rehabilitating a shoulder injury; however, he would go on to follow suit and part ways with WWE—the official announcement of his exit coming in early 2008. Expounding on injuries…

WWE, Vince McMahon and pique for injured Superstars

Bobby Lashley, despite his knee and shoulder injuries competes successfully both in pro-wrestling and MMA today
Bobby Lashley, despite his knee and shoulder injuries, competes successfully both in pro-wrestling and MMA today

It’s safe to say that Vince McMahon, or any other sagacious combat sports/pro-wrestling promoter, is usually wary of bestowing his blessings upon a fighter who’s prone to injuries. On that note, the WWE boss is known to have halted the push of several such talented performers with the most recent victim being Finn Balor.

However, Lashley’s case seems to be a tad more stifling than that, so to speak. He suffered a legitimate shoulder injury during his aforementioned WWE Championship matchup against Cena, and would eventually get written off the storylines after being kicked shoulder-first into the steel steps by Mr Kennedy. He was out for more than six months—a duration that saw rumours of his exit, with said hearsay later being validated by official PR statements addressing the same.

Keep in mind, that Lashley was in no way injury-prone, no Ma’am! However, this version of the Lashley vs WWE saga establishes that Vince McMahon was unhappy with the former ECW Champion taking an extended break from the company despite having fully-healed his bad shoulder.

In other words, Bobby was cleared by WWE doctors for an in-ring return but chose to voluntarily bench himself so as to ensure that a hasty return doesn’t cause the torn rotator cuff to rupture again. Both men were discordant and the rest, as they say, is history…

John Cena, Bobby Lashley and ‘burying’ contemporaries

John Cena was accorded a greater push than his contemporary Bobby Lashley, by WWE
John Cena was accorded a greater push than his contemporary Bobby Lashley, by WWE

Ah, the dreaded Grim Reaper of WWE! No, I’m not referring to the Undertaker, here. Nor am I dragging ‘The Eater of Worlds’ Bray Wyatt into the discussion.

The mortician in question is John Cena.

In order to understand the following theory, we ought to note a couple of injuries to the people involved—Bobby Lashley’s shoulder injury in his match against Cena (July 22nd); whereas the latter’s torn pectoral muscle sustained, ironically, in a match against Mr Kennedy (October 1st)—resulting in both Superstars being out hurt for the remainder of 2007. This is where things get interesting…

The 2008 Royal Rumble PPV went down on January 27th and saw the return of John Cena who entered last (number-30) and won the match. Meanwhile, Lashley was granted his release from WWE on February 4th of the same year. The Leader of the Cenation would be accorded a more significant push, and eventually, go on to capture the WWE Championship again.

Coming back to these phenomena and how they relate to the Dominator’s fallout with the company—Lashley was unhappy with Cena being booked to win the Royal Rumble. Given that both Superstars completed rehabbing their respective injuries around the same time, Bobby expected to come back and win the Rumble, however, owing to a combination of the points we discussed earlier ergo Marshall’s firing, Vince’s dissent over the Dominator’s injury-rehab and the sort.

WWE chose to give Cena the victory at the Jan 27th pay-per-view. Lashley and the WWE would then announce his departure from the company, presenting it as a mutual decision.

Michael Hayes vs Bobby Lashley

Bobby Lashley competed at Wrestlemania 23--participating in the 'Battle of the Billionaires', only to quit WWE shortly thereafter
Bobby Lashley competed at Wrestlemania 23--participating in the 'Battle of the Billionaires', only to quit WWE shortly thereafter

Micahel Hayes’ infamous fallout with Bobby Lashley--one of the ugliest backstage battles in the sport's history--with both sides narrating different versions of the incident, is said to have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

I’d like to ask you, the reader, to remember the rather over-utilized saying in our business—Never say never in wrestling. There’s a considerably realistic possibility that we may get to see Lashley inside a WWE ring in the years to come. After all, if Bret Hart could return after the Montreal Screwjob, why can’t Bobby?

Nevertheless, what we cannot possibly get to experience is how much both the WWE and Lashley could’ve benefitted by having him perform under the big ‘E umbrella throughout his athletic prime. We may have gotten a modicum of clarity as to why he left WWE, but what could’ve been had he stayed on will always remain a mystery. 

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