At this time last year, Bobby Lashley was howling at an angle that put him in a romantic situation with Rusev’s wife Lana. Many collectively groaned over something we considered the unusual use of the WWE Superstar which has always been considered a top-notch destruction machine. However, the ease of that angle has ultimately helped push Lashley to the position he currently holds as the United States champion and is part of one of the most established factions of recent times, along with MVP, Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander – collectively known as The Hurt Business.
As Lashley prepares to defend his U.S. title in the Elimination Chamber (Sunday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. ET, WWE Network) against Keith Lee and Riddle in a triple-threat match, Muscle The Hurt Business spoke to Sporting News to explain why his faction is nothing like The Nation of Domination, which is like re-working with the MVP and the idea of a title match at all or nothing at WrestleMania where The Hurt Business would place its “Raw” tag team titles and the United States Championship at stake against New Day with intercontinental champion Big E.
SPORTS NEWS: You and the MVP have a common history outside the WWE. What is it like to be together again at this stage of your career as The Hurt Business?
BOBBY LASHLEY: It’s an explosion, man. Probably one of my favorite times of my entire career because this is real. There have been corners before that people don’t believe in, but this one is authentic. MVP, Shelton and Cedric stormed into Denver, where I am, just to see the guy from the suit. It’s freezing here! But they wanted to go out here and hang out. Wrestlers don’t usually do this. These are my friends. I have known the MVP for about 18 years. I knew Sheldon in college when we wrestled against each other. We all see each other in Cedric and we have a lot of knowledge that we pass on to him.
Once Cedric entered the building and had his suit on a hanger. The MVP stopped him and asked why his suit was on the hanger. He had to wear it because the suit is what it is about. It’s not a character we just work on TV. That’s us. We are professionals.
SN: When the faction first came together, people immediately thought this was the second coming of the nation of domination. What did you mean when you heard that?
BL: My first thought was, “Thank you!” But it wasn’t us. Because you see a group of blacks, some immediately associate them with another group of blacks. I love what The Nation did, but that’s not at all what we’re talking about. But we are completely different. It’s not a black and white thing; it is about green and gold. We’re thugs in suits because we have a hardcore style, but we want to look good doing it. We wanted to show a different view of Blacks because we didn’t see it. We are four professional black people who can screw you over. That is what we are talking about.
SN: When you mention amateur wrestling, what happened where you had to change careers?
BL: I was in a bank that was robbed and I had to dive to cover up to avoid a shooting and split my knee.
Wrestling is crazy after college, because what are you going to do next? Even if you go to the Olympics, you are looking at a great commitment without money. That injury made me try at all. And since the Olympics are every four years, do I put myself on the shelf for another four years? That was a key decision for me. Did I want to go through it all? At some point, you have to start life. I was lucky that I didn’t even have to make that decision because I got an offer that was a lot bigger than anything else when WWE called me. When one door closed, the other opened. This was anything I could train for my Olympic gold medal by performing every day.
SN: Do you believe that your destiny as a professional wrestler was predetermined?
BL: Absolutely. And so, when you see me outside the ring – where I’m always in “Kill Mode” – I’m never in a bad mood. I enjoy everything. There were some really embarrassing things happening to me on television, but I could laugh at myself. Critics say what they say, and I laugh with them because I would laugh at them too. I am too positive to think about the negatives.
SN: When you talk about embarrassment, you’re certainly talking about your love triangle with Lana and Rusev. What were your thoughts on being in that corner?
BL: It happened so fast. When they met me, I was told what to do and … (groans). I didn’t understand the size. But the only thing I knew was that I was doing something different. You can say whatever you want about Lana, but she was 100 percent committed and invested in that character. I was embarrassed doing that. I’m always in combat mode, but it was good to get me out of that way. But I needed to relax and just have fun with it. I relaxed because I knew we were trying to entertain people. I figured it out, even though I didn’t like the idea at first and ended up being cool with it. I’m not comfortable, but I understood the lesson they taught me.
SN: After this angle, The Hurt Business starts to form when the MVP appears at the Royal Rumble. Did you know when he returned to WWE that you two would be working again?
BL: Yes, because I told him we would be. At first it entered one ear and the other, but he listened. He’s like a mix between The Rock, Don King and Suga Knight. I wanted him back here so we could run together, and then we started putting it together. I’ve been mentally thinking for years about if and when he retreated through that WWE door again. It eventually turned into The Hurt Business and we had components with Shelton and Cedric. Sometimes you have to believe someone else’s belief in you and that’s where the MVP as a mouthpiece comes into play. He is our advocate, because there is no doubt that any of us could run this company. We just needed someone to tell everyone else.
SN: You have a match in the Elimination Chamber against Riddle and Keith Lee, who are two Superstars who can be considered the future of WWE. They also have your leftovers in their own style. How exciting is it for you to be a part of this match?
BL: The future is bright. They both have the potential to do some great things in this business. But that is after retirement, of course. They have great matches, but I don’t try to have a great match. I’m trying to beat them. I’ll catch Riddle and beat Keith Lee with him.
SN: WrestleMania is coming. Is there a game with someone you haven’t had yet – against whom and why?
BL: That would be my clone (laughs). There are so many different people. It really depends on what the fans want. If you want a fight, give me Brock Lesnar. If it’s a street fight, I’ll face Drew McIntyre. If you want to find out who the biggest dog on the block is, I’ll take Roman Reigns. If you want a train wreck, let’s go with Brown Strowman. And if you want a technical match, I’ll make an appointment with AJ Styles and Seth Rollins. I can’t pick one person. It just depends on what kind of match is needed at that moment.
SN: At Royal Rumble, you and Big E had a moment. People realized that you two never communicated in the ring. Social media was buzzing about the possibility. Obviously you two are champions in two different shows, but would you be interested in a title match against a title at WrestleMania?
BL: You know, it would be great to have two titles. Big E and I have been deliberately staying away for so long, but I don’t think we can do this for long. One of the reasons is that we have Raw tag team titles and I know The New Day wants them back. So if Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods follow us and Big E finds a way to get involved on his own, now it’s The Hurt Business Vs. New Day. We never saw that match.
SN: You’re in great shape as a 44-year-old, but do you set a time limit when you decide to call it a career?
BL: I still have a lot of years left on the contract, but that’s one of the things when you see guys who have struggled for too long and started falling. But I tell my loved ones that if you see me slowing down and gathering extra puff on my body, pull me aside and tell me. Sometimes we don’t want to be honest with ourselves. I feel invincible right now. But if someone tells me I’m slowing down, I’ll take a look at myself. But if I had to guess, I had five years left.