Bobby Lashley was set to have his very own Road To WrestleMania storyline in WWE SmackDown Vs. RAW 2009 before it was scrapped, according to former WWE games writer Justin Leeper!
At the time of the game’s development, Lashley was an upper-midcarder on RAW after being drafted to the red brand during the 2007 WWE draft. Leading up to that point, Lashley had been a major player in WWE ECW during which he became a two-time ECW Champion after defeating Vince McMahon in a Street Fight – the brand’s first two-time champion since WWE’s reactivation of the belt.
Speaking to Inside The Ropes‘ own Innes McVey, Leeper was asked if he had a soft spot for any story in particular that he produced. The writer, designer and director of Road To WrestleMania in SmackDown Vs. RAW 2009, ’10 and ’11 responded that Chris Jericho’s Road To WrestleMania – the first story he produced for the mode – is one he remains proud of today.
“In game development, we have something called a vertical slice and it’s kind of the first thing that you do that’s supposed to be representative of what the entire vision is going to be. So for us, it was the Chris Jericho storyline.
He gets attacked by a masked man using the kind of code system that he came back to in WWE programming, so I did a storyline with that and I wanted to have a masked man character. […] It was a very ambitious first story to the first time of that mode.”
Leeper went on to reveal that the masked man concept was originally going to be used for a Road To WrestleMania story centred around Bobby Lashley before the idea was scrapped due to the impending return of Chris Jericho!
“Originally it was gonna be Bobby Lashley because we had a military background in mind, Bobby Lashley was military. Randy Orton and Mr Kennedy were both military-experienced. Then we found out Jericho was coming back and we fine-tuned it to work with Jericho and I think it worked really well with him so I was very happy about that.”
Leeper worked with several WWE and independent talents whilst producing Road To WrestleMania – particularly in motion capture – and one name he was always impressed by was Cesaro, who had yet to sign with the company at that point!
“Cesaro could do anything on motion capture just like he can in the wrestling ring so no matter what we needed to do, you know, he was doing Jack Swagger’s Gutwrench Powerbomb to a big Aaron Aguilera, who was Jesus with Carlito back in the day, who’s legit 6’9 and 300 something pounds and he picked him up like nothing. He was doing Punk’s springboard clothesline like it was nothing, that guy’s such a talent so I’m really glad we got him to do it.”
Road To WrestleMania would feature across four WWE games between 2008 and 2011, allowing players to experience ‘what if’ scenarios like the reunion of Edge & Christian and Rey Mysterio turning heel! The mode would eventually be replaced by Attitude Era mode in WWE ’13 which recreated the biggest moments of the Monday Night Wars in video game form.