John Cena and Bobby Lashley locked eyes on each other and nodded as our fans at the HP Pavilion stood and applauded. The Great American Bash provided the stage for one of the most anticipated WWE Championship matches in a long time, and our fans knew they had witnessed a special moment in sports-entertainment history.
And so did Cena and Lashley. Though thousands and thousands of eyes were upon them, Cena and Lashley were alone in their moment. Both were exhausted and clutching their ribs. But the only difference was that Cena still had the WWE Championship to comfort his wounds, while Lashley was empty-handed.
Not much was said between the two champions; for the most part, they communicated in a language that only two warriors could understand. Lashley gazed at the WWE Championship that was still in the sweaty hands of Cena and nodded knowingly. Before The Great American Bash, he and his loyal fans believed he was an uncrowned champion. But on this night, the better man had won and he knew it – and extended his hand.
John Cena, the WWE Champion for more than 10 months – 308 days and counting – hesitated at first, but then looked in the eyes of his opponent. Unlike other challengers to his title, Cena had no personal conflict with Lashley. They both prided themselves on fighting with honor and respect; they were both courageous and resilient. Their rivalry revolved solely around the WWE Championship. Cena looked in Lashley's eyes and saw a mirror image of himself – and shook his hand. As our fans erupted, Cena hoisted his championship up high, showing the world that The Champ was still here.
"I think what everybody saw - competitors and our fans - was the dawning of a new era in sports-entertainment," said Cena after his victory. "What you saw was onee guy with incredible athletic ability and strength and the other guy who, for lack of a better term, is the Larry Bird of the organization. He's not the prettiest shooter, but he always finds a way to win the big games. At any given point tonight, the match could have gone either way. We proved something tonight, not just to those out there watching, but hopefully to the competitors in the back. We both walked out champions."
Our fans were divided during the heated battle. Lashley’s fans, who believed he was an uncrowned champion because he never lost the ECW Championship and was stripped of that gold when he was drafted to Raw last month, chanted his name through the match. But Cena’s fans would not be outdone, as “Cena! Cena!” rumbled throughout the arena. Lashley overwhelmed Cena early in the match with his amateur wrestling skills and sheer power.
But Cena would not be denied, and showed the former Army sergeant why he has been able to hold onto the WWE Championship for 24 of the last 27 months. When Lashley charged at him in an attempt at a spear, Cena sidestepped and trapped him in an STFU. Lashley’s face turned purple as he scratched and clawed his way to get to the bottom rope. When Lashley refused to tap out, Cena slumped in amazement and held his head, wondering to himself, “What do I have to do to beat this guy?”
Moments later, that same look washed across Lashley’s face when he successfully speared Cena in his second attempt. Just before the referee was about to slap the mat for the third time, Cena was able to slip his shoulder off the mat. As our fans roared, Lashley tried to position The Champ on the top rope in an attempted superplex. But Cena surprised the former ECW Champion – and made the jaws of the crowd in the HP Pavilion drop – when he delivered a fateful FU from the top rope and fell on Lashley for the victory.
Cena hugged his WWE Championship, saluted our fans and pointed to the sky, thanking the good Lord above. Lashley walked slowly up the ramp and let Cena bask in his victory. He did not leave The Great American Bash with the WWE Championship, but he was still a champion
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