PHOTO CREDIT: WWFOldSchool.com
In a podcast coming out soon on HardwayHQ.com, Ed Scanlon and myself went over Ed’s WrestleMania Weekend...2 Months Later. During the podcast, I had an epiphany during the discussion over the WWE Universal Championship match. It hit me like a bolt of lightning to my miniscule brain. I couldn’t believe it took me that long to take it in.
GOLDBERG WAS THE ABSOLUTE BEST DURING HIS RUN IN THE WWE FROM OCTOBER 2016 TO APRIL 3, 2017.
For those that have not followed my writing pieces, I am a huge proponent of World Championship Wrestling. The industry has not been the same since March 26, 2001, when the World Wrestling Federation purchased the assets of the company. The industry has never been the same. I can honestly say that with the Death of WCW, no other company has been able to be on the same global level as WWE.
For some reason, even though the WWE owned their competition, there was still a WCW stigma regarding the majority of performers that ultimately affected their characters. Starting with the Invasion during the 2nd half of 2001 (and even before in some respects prior to being bought), WCW performers went through trials and tribulations. Booker T, DDP, Eric Bischoff, the Cruiserweights, Sean O’Haire, Scott Steiner, the NWO brand, Ultimo Dragon, and even STING went through the ringer and had a bit of a downfall creatively.
Goldberg was, originally, no different.
Bill Goldberg, quite possibly, had one of the greatest single years in pro wrestling history, single-handedly keeping WCW in the game during the Monday Night Wars. Goldberg had a 173 match winning streak, won the WCW World Championship in front of 41,412 fans in the Georgia Dome on July 6, 1998, and looked legitimate as a monster bad-ass with a Spear and Jackhammer combination. Although “da Man” definitely cooled off a little during 1999-2000, Goldberg still was the face of the company when WCW was bought in 2001.
Goldberg debuted in WWE the night after WrestleMania 19 on March 31, 2003 and absolutely speared the Rock out of his boots on the final segment of the night. Instantly, as a fan, I felt Goldberg was going straight to the top and would be the same “no frill, all kill” destruction device en route to the World Heavyweight Championship.
I was wrong. Within a 3 week span prior to the Backlash pay-per-view, Goldberg was forced to speak verbatim from scripts, was forced to wear Goldust’s wig in a backstage segment, was beat up by Rock, Christian, and GILLBERG during Rock Concert II, and was made to look like an absolute fool with his Plymouth Barracuda stalling out in the parking lot of the Phillips Arena in HIS HOMETOWN OF ATLANTA.
The long uphill climb was on for Goldberg to redeem himself. However, the fans, due to the beginning of his run, were not completely on board. The closest Goldberg would get to the WWE Universe behind him during his first run would be inside the Elimination Chamber at SummerSlam 2003 for the World Heavyweight Championship. The final entrant, Goldberg ran absolutely roughshod over all of his opponents. He quickly eliminated Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, and Randy Orton. The fans in Phoenix, AZ were going crazy. They wanted a title change so bad and for Goldberg to thrash champion Triple H. However, “the Game”, with help from a sledgehammer, pinned Goldberg to retain and the fans deflated. Goldberg wound up winning the championship one month later at Unforgiven, but the crowd in Pennsylvania wasn’t as upbeat, and Goldberg didn’t do anything of note.
His last match with the company was at WrestleMania 20 at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2014 against Brock Lesnar. The fans, knowing both men were leaving the company, absolutely took a dump on the match, and both men, at “Where It All Begins...AGAIN”, phoned it in. Goldberg won his last match; however, he received a Stone Cold Stunner from Steve Austin during a beer bash, and was gone from the company. It was figured that Goldberg would never step inside of a wrestling ring again.
That was until WWE 2K17.
It’s funny. It really is, considering that a video game was the planting of a seed that brought Goldberg back into the WWE fold. On May 31, 2016, it was announced that he would be an unlockable character in the video game, which coincidentally, would have Brock Lesnar on the cover. After months on verbal barbs on social media and in interviews, Goldberg did an interview on ESPN on October 5, 2016. Without outright saying he was returning, “da Man” implied he had something left in the tank. The following Monday, October 10, Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar’s advocate, challenged Goldberg, on behalf of Brock, to go one-on-one, any place, any time.
The next week, Bill Goldberg entered a WWE ring for the first time in a dozen years on Monday Night Raw in Denver, CO. He was AUTHENTIC in his approach. This truly kickstarted his run. Goldberg was different unlike every other performer on the show. Especially in comparison to his 2003-2004 run, Goldberg felt real. The emotion and passion that came from his body was legitimate. His promo revolved around if he had anything left in the tank. It didn’t seem like he did...until Heyman, on behalf of Lesnar, challenged him. Goldberg felt INSULTED that Lesnar’s minion did it, NOT HIM. Once Goldberg got rolling, YOU KNEW IT WAS ON. Goldberg accepted and the date was set: Survivor Series on November 20, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
In the ring, Goldberg was DOMINANT. His offense was exactly what it needed to be. At Survivor Series, it took 2 Spears and a Jackhammer to annihilate the ultra confident and cocky Lesnar in 96 seconds. At the Royal Rumble 2017, it took a clothesline to simply eliminate “the Beast Incarnate”. At Fastlane in February, it took one spear and a Jackhammer to destroy Kevin Owens and to win the WWE Universal Championship. By the time WrestleMania 33 rolled around for the rematch with Brock Lesnar, you knew that Goldberg’s intense strikes and power with his two moves could instantly devastate Lesnar and ultimately culminate in the biggest victory of his career.
For a lot of the wrestling fan base, especially the die-hard audience, people HATED that Owens was absolutely decimated by Goldberg. I also know that several fans felt Goldberg winning a match in 96 seconds was bad for wrestling. I 100% disagree. Many old-school fans like myself LOVED Goldberg’s quick victories. It made for unpredictable television and gave a throwback to his legendary 1998 run. It was quick and vicious and gave off the vibe of a Mike Tyson knockout during the 1980s. To put Goldberg on the same level as Lesnar going towards WrestleMania, you had to do it. It worked perfectly and really emphasized what’s missing in the current wrestling product: real unpredictability and dominance inside of the wrestling ring. Goldberg brought it.
PHOTO CREDIT: WWE.com
The final piece of the puzzle was that Goldberg was MOTIVATED. The man was 49 years old and had spent 12 years out of the ring. Goldberg got into sick shape and really showcased his physique and power as his 6 months went on. Even as fans were getting on him because of his frustrations of trying to get into ring and body shape, Goldberg came to play at WrestleMania 33 and really redeemed himself, along with Lesnar, for the WrestleMania 20 debacle. To me, they had match of the night in which “the Beast Incarnate” went back to the throne as WWE Universal Champion.
I also personally loved Goldberg’s character motivation. Throughout the six months on WWE television, Goldberg made sure to say that he was doing it for his family. During his 10/17/16 promo, he noted that this night was the first time his wife and son was watching him live. The entire run was dedicated to that fact. To me, as a fan, there is nothing more inspirational than doing it for those that are important for you. The final promo on Raw Talk on April 3, 2017 really touched me from the emotional bond between father and his son Gage. In truth, that’s all that matters when it comes to inspiration.
In 2004, I truly felt Goldberg would never come back to wrestling after his lackluster year with WWE. I thought he was just another WCW castoff chewed up and spit out by the WWE machine. October 2016-April 2017 really changed my perspective. WWE did it RIGHT. Goldberg was protected and rejuvenated his career as a wrestler in the eyes of the casual and hardcore fan. I’m proud to say that WWE did it right, and that in the end, Goldberg went in and out under his terms.
Goldberg, Thank You.