Bobby Lashley is still only 35-years-old and relatively young for a professional wrestler, that however hasn’t prevented achieving more than most who enter the squared circle.
Lashley was a top amateur wrestler and was training for the 2004 Athens Olympics but after suffering an injury entered the world of professional wrestling with WWE where he became a two-time ECW champion, two-time World champion and a one-time United States Champion.
We caught up with Bobby to find out about his time as an amateur wrestler, working with Vince McMahon in and out of the ring and his MMA career.
As an amateur wrestler, and even training for the 2004 Olympics was it always an aim of yours to become a pro wrestler?
Yeah, I was a big pro wrestling fan when growing up. I didn’t ever think there would be an actual opportunity to get into professional wrestling until one day Kurt Angle came down to the Olympic training centre when I was down there. He started talking to me about coming in and trying out, then the next thing I know I was getting calls from Jerry Briscoe. One thing led to another and when I got that opportunity I jumped on the back of it.
Who were some of the wrestlers that inspired you when you were growing up?
I pretty much watch anyone and everyone that I could, I was watching three different wrestling programmes with guys like Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, The Four Horsemen and of course Hulk Hogan, but the likes of Mr. Perfect, Ravishing Rick Rude, Jake the Snake, Jimmy Snuka, I use to love Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, but there are so many guys I loved watching.
When you first stepped inside a WWE ring in 2005, what was it like following in the footsteps of the wrestlers you used to watch on television?
It was great, it was great to see what those guys actually went through to get where they were. No one ever knows, it just a bunch of speculation and there are people out there trying to mimic and recreate their own WWE’s.
When I got in there it was an opportunity to see why, they started out at these small arena’s and learned their craft before jumping onto the main stage and being in the bright lights and travelling and just performing in front of these amazing crowds.
I was fortunate enough to main event in front of the largest Wrestlemania in history – and the whole experience was just a great opportunity and I really appreciate the opportunity that I had with WWE.
During your time with WWE, you were a two-time World Champion, and held the ECW title and United States title, what was the highlight for you?
To be honest, there are so many highlights from my time with WWE it’s so hard to just pick one, but I must say having the opportunity to go out there a feud against Vince McMahon is up there. Vince doesn’t go out there and do too much with too many people, so when that opportunity arose that was just incredible. There was so much heat, and so much emotion and the crowd really bought into it and it was an amazing time.
But then like I said to wrestle in a main event of Wrestlemania, the Super Bowl of wrestling and a great moment that I’ll never forget, but there are so many other ones like wrestling the likes of JBL, Booker T, Fit Finlay there were times when I was in the ring and I would look around and just think wow.
I’m very much a people person, just to be able to go an perform in front of so many crowds and get a chance to touch so many people that’s what it was all about. The Make a Wish Foundation, I was a part of WWE’s reading programme etc.
You also had a stint in the army, so it must have been great to perform for the troops with WWE.
There was no question when we went to perform for the troops, they would ask some of the wrestlers if they would do it, but they just never needed to ask me, they could go straight ahead and put my name on the list.
Having mentioned it was one of your highlights working in the ring with Vince but what was Vince like as a boss?
I think Vince is an incredible person; he’s one of those guys that no matter who talks about him, they either talk really highly about him or really negatively about him. He has so much passion and emotion about the business; he works harder than anyone else to make sure his business is going the way it’s supposed to.
So when I went out there to wrestle with him it was no-holds bared, there was no holding back even though I was wrestling with a 60-year-old man – I think he would have tried to rip my head off if I did hold back, it was a fight out there the entire time.
After your time in WWE, you went on to TNA, what was that like?
It was like my wrestling wanting to come out, I got out of WWE but to be honest I didn’t really want to break away from wrestling. There was a little bit of time where I had to stop for a little while but wrestling has always been my passion and has always been in my blood. I was going back and forth between lots of different organisations and I then told myself if I get offered a contract I’ll take it.
TNA then offered me a deal, which I accepted, and it was a great bunch of guys I worked with over there. With a company like that, they have to make lots of adjustments before they get it right and I still think they’re making some adjustments now but they’re getting better. When I was with the company there were pros and cons but over time I think they’re going to do a great job.
Having worked in both WWE and TNA, what were the similarities and differences between Vince McMahon and Dixie Carter?
The difference is just the type of person they both are, I think with Dixie she likes to step back a little bit and let the people who are working for her do their job and put on a good show. Vince on the other hand likes to me in the middle of things more, he’ll give you an opportunity to do your job however if you’re not doing your job right Vince will come up to you and let you know where you have to make corrections.
Neither approach is right or wrong, I think they both have passion for the business but they deal with it in a different way.
You’ve had spells wrestling in Japan and Mexico, what were those experiences like?
Japan is incredible, I love Japan, I go over to Japan probably every month and a half, and I’ll carry on going out there and performing for as long as they continue to have me. Japan is never going to be something I turn away from.
Mexico was just a one-off deal for me, their style of wrestling is a little bit different to the American and Japanese styles but they have some great organisations and some great guys.
When you get to the very top level in all of these countries they are all a bit different but they all have the same feel to it where the guys in the locker-room just want to go out there and put on a good show.
Of course none of them have the opportunity to compete on the same level as WWE, but WWE has been around so long and they have just made a name for themselves, I don’t think anybody is really trying to compete with WWE, they are all trying to do their own thing.
Your currently an MMA fighter for the Shark Fights organisation, who is your MMA career going?
It’s going well, I’m supposed to have a fight coming up in November but two or three of my opponents have pulled out and to be honest, that’s the story of my MMA career. It’s been pretty tough in terms of preparation, I have been told I’ve got three months to train for this guy, there have always been some complications. I’ve just had to keep my head up and get on with it, I train hard and just hope for the best, and hopefully, it won’t be too long before I have a heavyweight title around my waist.
Another former professional wrestler who’s gone into MMA is Brock Lesner. What have you made of his career in MMA?
Brock just jumped into it full force, sure four or five fight into his MMA career he held the UFC title. Brock is the big thing and he does big things, he’s not going to take the low road or the easy path he’s going to take the hardest and most direct path.
Olympic gold medallist Kurt Angle is currently trying out for a place at the Olympics in London next year, how do you think Kurt will do?
I hope he does great, you always want to see an Olympic champion come back and make the team and it will be great for him to reach his goal again. Kurt is a great guy, I think he’s a great dude and he trains really hard.
There are a lot of naysayers but I’m hoping he makes it a shuts a lot of people up, and show everybody what Kurt Angle is capable of doing. I use to watch Kurt when I was growing up – I think he was in college and I was in high school so I used to watch him and he is an amazing athlete, he is a machine and if he gets anywhere close to what he was like before, he’ll be at the Olympics next year.
Would you ever consider going back to either WWE or TNA?
I’m at the point right now in my life where I am happy with everything going on. I’ve been out of wrestling for four years now, but I still get lots of people come up to me and talk about matches they remember me in, like it was only yesterday. I do have unsettled business in wrestling, and I feel I brought something to the show, so if the opportunity came up I would definitely consider it.
You can follow Bobby Lashley on Twitter @fightbobby