It’s WrestleMania season and that means it is time for WWE to start taking things seriously. At the same time though, we are also getting ready for Super ShowDown and Elimination Chamber because of course we need to have a few shows between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. That being said, there are a few reasons to get excited for these shows and one of them is an old bald man whose career had already peaked twenty years ago. It sounds odd, but that’s where the magic comes in.
Last week on SmackDown, Goldberg made his return to WWE for the first time in several months and challenged Bray Wyatt to a match for the Universal Title. Wyatt, speaking on behalf of the Fiend, accepted and the match was made for Super ShowDown on February 27. It is reasonable to believe that the winner of this match will go on to defend the title at WrestleMania 36 on April 5. Now normally this would be a quick stopover title defense for Wyatt, but this is Goldberg. As Paul Heyman said about Hulk Hogan back in 2002: “He’s different!”
Goldberg really is one of the most fascinating case studies in the history of wrestling. He showed up in 1997, didn’t mean anything until 1998, rose to near the top of the wrestling world by the end of the year, stayed in the main event in 1999, was hurt for the first half of 2000 and didn’t do much until WCW folded. Then he popped up again in 2003, had a lackluster run in WWE (though he did win the World Title again), left for about twelve years, came back and feuded with Brock Lesnar, including winning the Universal Title, left again, came back for two matches in 2019, and is now the #1 contender.
That sums up just about Goldberg’s entire North American career in one paragraph. Brad Armstrong could get a more detailed biography (his list of gimmicks alone is worth a few of lines) but Goldberg is right back, at 53 years old, getting another World Title shot on a big show. That isn’t the case for someone who probably didn’t even wrestle 400 matches in his career and whose full time in-ring career doesn’t even add up to five years (nor did his entire 2016-2017 run add up to ten total minutes of in-ring time).
It was a fast paced run
What’s what makes the whole thing interesting. When I heard that Goldberg would be facing the Fiend at Super ShowDown, I paused for a second. While it is pretty clear that we are heading for Fiend vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, the fact that it is Goldberg made me believe that there is the slightest chance that we could be in for a huge surprise. That is the kind of thing that should not be happening on paper, but Goldberg is the kind of person that could pull off the upset miracle. I know it isn’t likely and has about a 1% chance of happening, but is it that far out of the realm of possibility? It wasn’t in 2017 when he was champion.
The other important thing is that Fiend beating Goldberg would mean a lot for Fiend’s career. The idea of Fiend shrugging off a spear and Jackhammer and finishing Goldberg with the Mandible Claw is almost hard to imagine because no one does something like that to Goldberg. It’s the kind of thing that would make for a big deal and it is possible that WWE could actually go there. That would be a coup for Fiend and if WWE can make it happen, it is going to mean a lot more than whatever else Fiend does anytime soon. Goldberg has a big rub to offer and that is because of how he has been treated for years.
So what is it about Goldberg? Well there are a few things, and they add up to make him the star that he is today and likely could be for several years to come. First of all, Goldberg is rather similar to what he was back in WCW. Other than talking more, you get a lot of the same with Goldberg: he’s big, he’s intimidating, and he hits people really hard. There’s no time wasted in his matches (the longest match of his post 2004 career is less than nine minutes) as he often hits two moves (sometimes he’ll stretch and go to three) and win. That’s as efficient as you’re going to see in wrestling and it helps.
The speed with which he does everything is a such a big part of what makes Goldberg work. It’s a similar aspect of what made Ronda Rousey such a huge star in the UFC: how fast is this one going to go? Goldberg worked because it was pure excitement most of the time as he was going to no sell just about everything, run through someone, and then hit a Jackhammer for the pin. It’s fast, it’s painful, and you get the idea in a serious hurry. What more could you want?
Then we get to the other thing that matters, contrary to what WWE would have you believe: it matters that Goldberg almost never lost. His Streak became one of the biggest things in wrestling for a while and it was an event when he finally lost to Kevin Nash at Starrcade 1998 (I still go back and forth on that one). It was such a big deal that they even made a storyline out of the idea of Goldberg being able to repeat the same thing less than two years later. The idea of just repeating the same story (and SAYING you’re doing the same story) isn’t something you see so often but it worked so well before that it was still a big enough deal.
Goldberg wasn’t exactly someone who lost often and that’s what made it a big story. It would usually be months, if not closer to years at times, between losses and as a result, they were events. You never saw Goldberg lose and that made him seem so much more important. It’s a simple concept and the same thing holds true elsewhere in wrestling. Yes Undertaker losing to Brock Lesnar was a huge deal and ended the momentum, but him losing to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33 three years later was a big deal as well (and should have been bigger as he should have been done after that awesome sendoff).
Finally, there is the infrequency of Goldberg’s appearances. While his time in WCW is what matters most, he is treated as a legend in WWE. That’s pretty impressive given that, including house show matches, he hasn’t even wrestled sixty matches for the company. There are a lot of fans today who probably weren’t alive for his WCW run (no one under 25 was alive for it) and if you are under fifteen years old, you weren’t around for his first WWE run.
With Goldberg, as with so many other wrestlers (or almost anything else), it’s all about the presentation. Goldberg is treated as a legend who could still be a threat at any given time. It’s a little different than say, Sgt. Slaughter or Jim Duggan coming out for the 4th of July or a token Royal Rumble appearance when it’s the calendar bringing them in instead of anything they could do. Goldberg comes back and you believe that he could actually pull off an upset with one more spear and Jackhammer to anyone from Heath Slater all the way up the ladder, including the Fiend.
This is an impressive list:
All of this adds up to a formula that has made Goldberg the legend that he is today. Goldberg is 53 years old, had his heyday over twenty years ago and has wrestled fewer matches in his career than some people wrestle in two years. When you put all that together though, you get one of the few legends that WWE has to offer who still has a lot of shine on him. Goldberg has been smart enough to keep himself away from the spotlight a lot of the time, meaning that the spotlight is still waiting for him. Not many people can get away with that, and as a result, WHO’S NEXT is still a question worth answering.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. His latest book is KB’s Complete 2004 Monday Night Raw Reviews.
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