With the expectation of Goldberg showing up on Raw tonight and declining Brock Lesnar’s challenge (which I believe would be a first in sports entertainment), it looks like we’re going to get the most teased matchup of the year. The problem is, it’s unlikely that it will meet expectations. Don’t get me wrong, Bill Goldberg is a legend. He was one of the few stars that WCW actually created from scratch. The Goldberg streak was iconic in the wrestling industry and stands as an example that fundamental promotion and character building will work in any era of wrestling. Boiled down, Goldberg was pro wrestling promotion 101.
With one of the most intense entrances of all time, Goldberg had to be escorted from the locker room by security personnel. Immediately, the audience knows that this is a dangerous man. As if that didn’t establish him as a critical threat, then his stoic stance as he’s showered with pyrotechnic sparks without flinching, and breathing smoke as if he were imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien surely will.
Then there’s the streak. An effortless streak at that. Usually within three moves, Goldberg defeated jobber after jobber. With a side kick, a spear, and the jackhammer; which is still one of the most impactful and impressive looking finishers in history, Goldberg would enter and exit the ring with one more notch in his belt. This kind of squash match is being utilized once again with Braun Strowman and Nia Jax. Sure, the number of victories by Goldberg were inflated week to week under the assumption that Goldberg was fighting in dozens of matches in his free time. And sure, the oddly positive mocking “Goldberg” chant may have been artificially piped into some arenas to sound good on TV. But it doesn’t change the fact that Goldberg was a late 90s phenomenon in the midst of the Monday Night War.
But here’s where the pros turn to cons. Goldberg is a dated character. Having left the wrestling industry, he never gave himself a chance to evolve. He’s still branded with being a late 90s success, and nothing more, much like his signature tribal tattoo. His appeal lies only in his nostalgia, and maybe in redemption.
It’s a bit strange to want to relive a match that was one of the worst matches in WrestleMania history. Lesnar vs. Goldberg at WM 20 was notable for the fact that really nobody won. Lesnar was leaving to pursue an NFL career. Goldberg was leaving, presumably, to get into the film industry. And in the middle of it all was special guest referee, Stone Cold Steve Austin. The end of this match saw Goldberg getting his arm raised. But it also saw both Lesnar and Goldberg getting a stunner from Austin. It was a match where the crowd wasn’t invested in either competitor due to their mutual departures. So, the only person who needed to look good was Austin. The crowd turned on the match, as they should have. Neither Lesnar nor Goldberg’s heart was in it, resulting in Lesnar flat-out flipping off the crowd.
If the rematch is a chance at redeeming themselves, that’s all well and good. But what’s the end-game? The only outcome I can see is Lesnar picking apart yet another victim, only this time it’s an older, smaller, rustier Bill Goldberg. Yes, Goldberg has lost quite a bit of his formerly intimidating muscle mass and resembles his WWE counterpart, Gillberg, more and more. He still looks to be in great shape. Just not on par with that classic Goldberg look.
But the real question is, will THIS be a good match? I would be amazed if somehow Goldberg pulled out a great performance with another stiff and sloppy worker like Lesnar. I like to think there’s a method to Brock’s chaotic style, whereas Goldberg never had much in-ring acumen at all. He was good at walking into the ring, doing his three cool moves, and walking out. When put to the test of having a regular length match, Goldberg failed time and time again. He just couldn’t keep up. Unfortunately, one of the most successful characters of all time was given to a man who simply didn’t know how to work. He was so unpolished, in fact, that one of his patented side kicks to Bret Hart’s temple meant the end of the Excellence of Execution’s career. A poorly placed kick led to Bret’s first stroke. It was the worst kick there is, was, and ever will be.
While I’m not concerned for the former UFC Heavyweight Champ's safety, there is a risk that this match will be hard to watch. But it will draw some new WWE Network subscriptions, and I’ll be excited to watch it, if only for the buildup. I’m a sucker for some good storytelling, and these two have some solid history together. Maybe they have something different in store for us, but on paper, Goldberg will need Lesnar to make him look good, and Lesnar is much more proficient in making himself look like The Beast.
I hope to be pleasantly surprised, so I’m setting the bar low. This still counts as a dream match and I intend on enjoying the hype. But much like Goldberg himself, don’t expect the match to live up to it.