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Bobby Lashley reaches NYC as TNA Impact champion

TNA's Bobby Lashley.

TNA's Bobby Lashley. Credit: TNA

He's won national amateur wrestling titles, mixed martial arts championships, and even shaved Vince McMahon's head at WrestleMania. 

But throughout his athletic career, two accomplishments have eluded Bobby Lashley: winning a pro wrestling heavyweight title, and wrestling in New York City.

Last week, Lashley crossed off one of those feats from his bucket list. On Wednesday night, the newly crowned TNA world champion crosses off the other.

"I'm excited about it -- TNA coming back to New York. That's the mecca of wrestling," said Lashley, 37, who is primed for three consecutive nights of TNA Impact television tapings from the Manhattan Center's Grand Ballroom from Wednesday through Friday. "The one thing about New York and the Northeast is that they are big on wrestling. They kind of shun the guys who do the showmanship and entertain."

After disappearing from the national wrestling scene for close to four years, Lashley made his surprise return to TNA in March. Three months later, he defeated Eric Young on last week's Impact to win the TNA world heavyweight championship.

"I've been in this for a while now, going through the trenches. Finally, the pay off was last night," Lashley said last Friday. "I think we have a great thing going on in TNA right now . . . The title is fitting. I'm the right person at the right time in the right place."

Lashley said he's looking forward to defending his championship against a slew of top contenders in TNA, including the man who introduced him to the pro wrestling business, Kurt Angle. Although his career has followed Angle's closely, Lashley said he never crossed paths with the former Olympic gold medalist inside a wrestling ring.

"This is kind of the first time we're both settled in the same place together," Lashley said. "You just put us together and I think we'd have just an incredible matchup."

Lashley says he hopes his latest stint in TNA will lead to fight opportunities in the MMA cage as well. Bellator, which airs on TNA's cable network, Spike, and is owned by Spike's parent company, Viacom, has already crafted talent-sharing agreements with TNA. Lashley said he expects the working arrangement will allow him to try his hand in Bellator's heavyweight division.

"With both being on the same network, it was just a perfect combination to work together," said Lashley, who boasts a 10-2 MMA record with wins in Strikeforce, Titan Fighting Championship and Shark Fights. "Hopefully this time we can put it all together. I can fight any time. If they called me to fight today, I'd fight today."

Despite his accomplishments elsewhere, Lashley is probably still best known for his WWE run, which saw him rise quickly through the ranks and even be featured in one of WWE's biggest-hyped matches in history: WrestleMania 23's "Battle of the Billionaires" in which Lashley represented Donald Trump against Vince McMahon's henchman, Umaga.

"You can always say that it could have been too much, but if I wasn't succeeding, they could have pulled me at any time," Lashley said of his WWE push. "They give a lot of people that opportunity.  . . . When they gave me the opportunity, they'd put me in different roles, and each time, I was scoring."

Lashley's run at the top of WWE included a memorable match against then-world champion John Cena in the main event of 2007's Great American Bash. Lashley credited Cena with being the architect of their storyline, which turned out differently than originally intended.

"When we started our angle, we had nothing planned. It was just something that was natural and was created by him," said Lashley, who recalled teaming with Cena on an episode of Monday Night Raw.  "It was a loud and intense match. We ended up winning in the end. After the match, he just kind of under his breath said, 'Spear me and then hold the title up.' I was like, 'Are you serious? This guy is trying to get me to lose my job.'"

Lashley obliged.

"The crowd went insane," Lashley said. "You've got to give credit where credit is due."

New York Sports