A great man once said, “Your reign on the top was short like leprechauns,” as a diss to his competition.
That line is in no way meant to offend leprechauns, but it does indicate the fleeting nature of success in any business. Big E is officially WWE Champion, something long advocated on this site and any other place where wrestling fans shoot the breeze about this thing we love. But before the man could pop a single bottle of champagne in celebration, our thoughts of joy turned worrisome.
“What if they don’t give E a serious reign?” we asked. “What if WWE does him dirty like they did Kofi?”
I’m not here to tell you those thoughts aren’t justified because, well, I exist in 2021. And as a human being in this year of our Lord, I’m well aware of WWE’s penchant for Twilight Zone-level trickery when it comes to not only giving the fans what they want but specifically as it relates to their Black male wrestlers. Elephants, Pepperidge Farm, and the rest of us remember what happened to the last member of the New Day to hold that WWE Championship, even if WWE kinda wants us to forget.
With all that said and all of that very recent history in mind, there’s reason to believe E’s reign on top will last longer than a lot of us think, and be a successful one at that. While WWE fell ass-backward into Kofimania and all it wrought, it looks like there’s an actual honest-to-God plan for the artist formerly known as Langston. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Bobby Lashley was dominant. Seriously, the man was pretty unbeatable for a year and change. Even when we all figured his time was up at this year’s WrestleMania, he prevailed. And he didn’t just eek by Drew McIntyre in Tampa Bay; he crushed him. WWE put their Black champion on par with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar in sheer skill and overpowering his opponents. Even his recent losses were never when the title was on the line.
I wrote in this space before that it sometimes feels like there’s a ceiling for how far a Black man can go in professional wrestling, minus a few exceptions. While Lashley’s run doesn’t completely change that narrative, it adds another chapter to the book. Funny enough, it was the New Day, another group of Black men, who put chinks in the All Mighty’s seemingly impenetrable armor.
Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods proved Lashley was beatable on a good night with the moon in the perfect position. The less said about Kofi and Bobby’s Money in the Bank “match” the better. Still, even that served as a necessary element to Big E’s briefcase win and eventual WWE Champion coronation. Robert Lashley was embarrassed that Kofi and Xavier dared to pin his shoulders to the mat for three seconds and then brag about it. He was angry because they proved a God-King can bleed. Finding a weakness meant the “All Mighty” moniker might just be that.
On the same night that Big E secures his shot at the big belt, a motivated Lashley proved Kofi was no match for him. But that was never the point. Kofi wasn’t beating Lashley; he just needed to show how easy it was to get Lashley off of his game. With comparable strength and a lot more focus, the right person could do what Kofi couldn’t.
This brings us to the most recent edition of Monday Night Raw. Told you we’d get there. E was always the guy to do what he did. With the other two members of the New Day doing their best to chop the big tree that is Lashley down, it was only a matter of time before the third member got his chance to yell “Timber!” at the top of his lungs.
Mr. Langston is more in the mold of what Vince McMahon traditionally loves in his champions. His muscles have muscles, he’s vicious in the ring and charismatic outside of it, and he looks like a guy who would be the best at this thing if it weren’t choreographed.
To say nothing of the fact he proved he can go solo with his Intercontinental title run, and you could see little hearts floating around Paul Heyman’s head whenever he spoke to E or talked about him. None of this is accidental; WWE was setting him up to be The Man—no offense Becky.
Part of that work meant slowly revealing Lashley’s flaws—lack of focus, greediness, arrogance—and instilling E with strength no benchpress could give. That he was the one to dethrone a guy as hot as Bobby means everything in the world. The better the villain, the better the hero, and you don’t create a heel champion of that ilk if not to make his eventual fall meaningful.
I can’t swear on a stack of Bibles that Big E will reign long and prosper. I wish I could, but clairvoyance isn’t a gift I was blessed with. However, I can tell you this isn’t a happy accident or haphazard on the part of Vince and friends. WWE wanted The Notorious Big E—from henceforth he shall be known—in this position for a while.
They didn’t go about it in their usual way, if only because Big E is an unusual cat. This is the same guy who was discarded as a member of a group of outcasts and became one of the company’s biggest stars. If we have no faith in WWE, at least have faith in him and what he’s capable of.
Way back when, as a way to promote his unconventional rap prodigy, Sean Combs put up signs all around New York City telling everyone to “think BIG.”
I suggest we all do the same.