Although I have long been aware of the fact that matches in pro wrestling have all been “scripted”, or prearranged in the offices and locker rooms prior to the events held in arenas around the world, I have always been intrigued by the twists and turns of the superstars who have been performing night in and night out for almost 300 days per year. Yet, with all the video collection that I have accumulated in the past decade related to this version of sports entertainment, as well as many hours I have spent watching pro wrestling programming on television, I have noticed that the absolute majority of the superstars that have performed over the years had to earn their stripes and respects in the locker rooms – even if a certain few who just didn’t appreciate what that industry had done for him – for an extended period of time before getting the recognition by the peers within the locker rooms, the promoters who helped developing the characters of those who performed, and the fans around the world, like myself, whether it’s on television, video collections, or watching the events live in person. However, when this individual came on board back on September 22, 1997 on WCW Monday Nitro during the height of the “Monday Night Wars”, there wasn’t anyone who has been able to repeat the feats that were accomplished in such a short period of time as he essentially pulverized every opponents who faced him, barring from “screw jobs” from a certain individuals, and I doubt there would be anyone who would be able to replicate that feat ever again. Who is that individual I am referring? Let me just say that just by merely mentioning his last name, there was an ore that instantly brought instant excitement and exhilaration, as well as the dread that resembled the tag team known as the Road Warriors, whenever he wrestled with the biggest names in the industry. During his career with both World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), he was crowned the World Heavyweight Champion with both promotions once each, while also crowned as the United States Heavyweight Champion twice and as Tag Team Champion once with the former. He was an All-American with the University of Georgia Bulldogs American football team, played for the former Los Angeles Rams & Atlanta Falcons in the National Football League, and an aficionado of the Mixed Martial Arts, and has become an actor throughout his wrestling career, as well as an occasional host with various shows with various networks. He is Bill Goldberg.
Before I begin with this topic on Goldberg, let me just say that I followed Goldberg’s career via WCW Pro Wrestling/WCW Worldwide Wrestling virtually from the beginning, and since I’m also watching “Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection” Blu-Ray release, in addition, I also have a set of collections from some of 2003’s WWE PPVs on DVD in my video vault that I fully remembered many of the details as I am writing, alongside research on various sources, makes this writing much easier. So without further adue, here we go.
Goldberg, in spite of not known for being a fan of pro wrestling, was introduced into the industry by the legendary Sting (Steve Borden) and Lex Luger as he was rehab from NFL injury during one of his trips to the local gym, and since both Goldberg and WCW were located in Atlanta, this chanced encounter became an opportunity of a lifetime as none of the NFL teams wanted to risk taking him in due to a tear in the lower abdomen area. Soon he found himself in a warehouse known as WCW Power Plant in Atlanta, Georgia, which was opened in the 1990s by Jody Hamilton, the father of former WCW & WWE referee Nick Patrick (Nick Hamilton), who got hurt within months after his debut in the Mid-South Wrestling some time in 1987/88 (if my assumption was correct as I noticed something off about his match while watching “Legends of Mid-South Wrestling” Blu-Ray release), and DeWayne Bruce, who had wrestled under the persona Buddy Lee Parker during his career in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was the head trainer of the training camp when Goldberg entered. WCW Power Plant had a reputation of claiming a number of wrestlers would not be able to become a superstar in the future that ironically did become ones upon joining WWE, and ironically, not known for teaching safety for wrestlers along with actual wrestling skills that, tragically, led to Bret Hart’s untimely retirement by Goldberg’s stiff kick to the former’s head – just within 2 years of Hart joining WCW – with post-concussion syndrome. Goldberg was joined by the late Chris Kanyon and Ron Reis, whose height and size resembles those of Paul Wight, who was performed under the name “The Giant” in WCW and “The Big Show” in WWE and was put into a maneuver known as the Jackhammer suplex, which coincidentally that move was used on Reis as well.
After months of training, Goldberg wrestled in 3 dark matches before Nitro began its broadcasting. First was against the head trainer himself, DeWayne Bruce, then he squared off against a member of the legendary Guerrero family, Hector Guerrero, before he squashed a jobber by the name of John Betcha. Two months later, Goldberg finally made his debut facing Hugh Morrus (Bill DeMott), who was trained by WWE Hall of Famer Johnny Rodz (Johnny Rodriguez), on September 22, 1997. At that time, Morrus has had a decent win-loss record going into the match, and Goldberg was a total unknown even to the Nitro broadcast team consisted of current writer for the Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network Tony Schiavone, TNA Wrestling play-by-play announcer Mike Tenay, and the legendary manager & a member of WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2004 Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and the mystery of how the fresh face in Goldberg would fare against Morrus intrigued many in the audience and those who watched that match on television. Morrus took the fight to Goldberg earlier on, the former even performed a top-rope moonsault on latter, who kicked out after two-count, then Goldberg countered with spear and ended it with a Jackhammer. The next week it was The Barbarian who fell victim of spear & Jackhammer, soon it was a “who’s who” on the victim list with the likes of Meng/Haku, Glacier, Barry Darsow, Lodi, Scott Riggs, Steve McMichael, Vincent/Virgil, Yuji Nagaita, Brad Armstrong, Fit Finlay, and a few others. Soon, he captured his first title belt – WCW United States Heavyweight Championship – and took down Raven (Scott Levy) along with The Flock under No DQ stipulation. Afterwards, the victims (among them with the likes of Reis, Chavo Guerrero Jr., La Parka, and Konnan) kept piling on before heading to the Georgia Dome, the home stadium of NFL’s Atlanta Falcons (Goldberg’s former team), and defeated n.W.o. (New World Order)’s Scott Hall (Razor Ramon during his run in WWE) on July 6, 1998 edition of Nitro before he defeated another WWE Hall of Famer (2005) in “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship later that evening.
Once he became the WCW heavyweight champion and won on behalf of WCW, he took on all challengers including members of n.W.o. (Hollywood & Wolfpac) and even some members within WCW roster. Names like the late Curt Hennig, Wight, Brian Adams, Sting, Raven, Disco Inferno (Glenn Gilbertti) – whom Dusty Rhodes would rather skip over in discussing the split within n.W.o. in WWE video “n.W.o.: The Revolution” primarily due to his unworthiness with his involvement of the faction, Diamond Dallas Page, & Bam Bam Bigelow before heading into Starrcade 1998 against Kevin Nash, who booked himself into the match after he was named as the lead booking agent after Eric Bischoff began losing his control behind the scene. The match itself between Nash & Goldberg was very even in power & skills, however, Nash’s own decision to end Goldberg’s streak which had reached 173-match winning streak going into that night, was quite controversial as the concern of power abuse from Nash, who was a wrestler AND an agent by then could cloud judgment in creating new storyline. Well, the unthinkable occurred when Nash pinned Goldberg with a powerbomb after the latter was tased by Scott Hall, who was dressed as a security and held a taser, during a melee that involved Disco and Bam Bam and ended the winning streak at 173-1. That was just the beginning of the controversy, the apex of that occurred 8 days later during the last segment of the first Nitro show of 1999. While Goldberg was the official #1 Contender for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, Nash instead opted to “wrestle” the supposedly-retired Hogan. Of course, that night was also the catalyst of the tide-turning of the Monday Night Wars as a slighted comment made by Tony Schiavone via someone from backstage area after what would happened: “The Finger-poke of Doom”. What happened was after Goldberg was framed by the late Miss Elizabeth (died in 2003), and Hogan got bumped into the #1 Contender spot since he lost to Goldberg back in July 1998, so Nash faced Hogan instead while Goldberg was on his way back. Then, Hogan decided to place a finger in which Nash intentionally laid down in orchestration to reunite the n.W.o. with its core, and when Schiavone said some snide remarks about Foley’s title soon after Goldberg was ganged up. Why was it controversial? Hogan won the match with a finger, and then the n.W.o. went into the ring and had a laugh at the audience for being duped, that along with a percentage of audience switched to Monday Night Raw that night, and Bischoff lost control of WCW since late 1998, resulting into WCW lagging behind WWE Raw in ratings since.
Meanwhile, Goldberg spent the entire year of 1999 chasing his second reign as WCW World Heavyweight Championship; however, in spite of resuming his hunt by defeating the likes of Bam Bam, Sid Vicious (Sid Eudy), Ric Flair, Hall & Nash, and Scott Steiner, there was no will from the agents to give him another shot for the belt. Then he was hurt by getting cut with shattered windows of a limousine after Bret Hart attempted to escape from his wrath for screwing him out of the title picture, and had to recuperate from that injury for the first 6 months of 2000 before destroying former UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter Tank Abbott on June 6, 2000. Then he had a string of matches against Vince Russo’s cohorts in Nash, Steiner, and a few others before being forced out of WCW entirely after a tag-team loss with Bruce against Lex Luger and “Buff” Bagwell on January 14, 2001 in WCW pay-per-view Sin. He then took an extensive hiatus from pro wrestling while WCW was sold to WWE on March 23, 2001 (closed 3 days later on March 26, 2001) before making a comeback by wrestling in All Japan Pro Wrestling & Wrestle-1 promotions for a short-term deal in which he fought a total of 4 matches (won them all). Then finally, he signed with WWE in a one-year contract in March 2003, and he made his debut the evening after WrestleMania XIX on March 31, 2003 by declaring soon-to-be-departing for shooting/promoting of movie “Walking Tall”, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as his next victim (first victim in WWE) by spearing outright. They would wrestle at Backlash 2003 after weeks of build-up, which including The Rock taunting Goldberg alongside Duane “Gillberg” Gill, who was originally conceived by WWE as a parady during the apex of the Monday Night War when Goldberg reached his popularity. The match itself was a proving ground for Goldberg in the WWE as certain section of fans who were in the arena booed him rather loudly, along with chants of “Goldberg sucks!” throughout the match. Despite of that, along with the fact that Johnson had scouted him beforehand from the archival footage of WCW matches ( I suspect), and placed Goldberg in a compromising position throughout the match after his initial spear failed. However, Goldberg showed resilience despite of favoring his right shoulder much of the match, and eventually earned his first win in the WWE.
Soon, he annihilated Christian (William Jason Reso), Rosie, Lance Storm – who told Goldberg of a hit orchestrated by Chris Jericho and thereby set up the next feud, in which Goldberg settled the score, winning a hard-earned battle at Bad Blood 2003. Once personal rivalry were set aside, he resumed his quest to become the World Heavyweight Champion – this time with the WWE. After two-month rampage against Storm, Rodney Mack, Stevie Richards, and two members of Evolution in Flair and Randy Orton, he entered his first and only Elimination Chamber match to face Orton, “HBK” Shawn Michaels, Jericho, Nash, and Triple H (Paul Levesque) – the current WWE Chief Operating Officer, husband of Stephanie McMahon, and son-in-law of WWE Chairman & Owner Vincent Kennedy McMahon, for the title. After his squashing elimination of Jericho, HBK, and Orton in succession, Goldberg turned his attention to HHH by taking him down by cracking the glass-shield of HHH’s pod. Unfortunately, HHH had also scouted him rather thoroughly and defeated Goldberg with the use of a sledgehammer. Goldberg, who came back more vicious than before – except HHH decided to “up the ante” by putting Goldberg’s career on the line in order to challenge for the title, accepted the challenge and won the title from Triple H a few weeks later at Unforgiven to become World Heavyweight Champion. Goldberg became the hunted once again, only this time it has a bounty attached to the hunt, and one superstar in particular – Batista – decided to take on the challenge during a World title defense against Shawn Michaels on Raw, as he interfered in that match resulting a no-contest and proceeded to shatter Goldberg’s ankle by stomping from the middle rope onto a folding chair that trapped the ankle – after being put into a sitdown powerbomb moments before, and subsequently collected the bounty from his leader, Triple H, thus setting up a re-match at Survivor Series 2003 with the former champion, of which Goldberg survived the onslaught from Evolution as he laid out every one of them with a sledgehammer when the referee was knocked down moments before the onslaught and won the battle. But even Goldberg was not immuned in losing as a wild card in the form of Kane (Glenn Jacobs) in a loss during a triple threat match between HHH, Kane, and Goldberg, and HHH got his championship belt back.
Goldberg took some time off and returned to Japan once more, this time he was wrestling in the main event for the now-defuncted HUSTLE promotion, which was a spin-off-esque from MMA’s PRIDE Fighting Championship as Dream Stage Entertainment ran both fighting promotions before the infamous “Yakusa incident” that led to the collapse of the parent company. His opponent for that main event was former 2-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and PRIDE MMA fighter Naoya Ogawa, who was recruited by Antonio Inoki in 1997 after winning s Silver medal in Judo at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and 5th place at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Ogawa took the early lead with kicks, but Goldberg countered with his customary power moves and attempted an ankle lock submission, something which Ogawa also did so. Then they each traded moves and jabs before a failed spear attempt as referee Yuji Shimada took the heat instead of Ogawa, however, due to an interference by another former WWE superstar & MMA fighter Giant Silva, Goldberg was able to defeat the former Olympian. Upon returning from Japan, he was booked to be part of the Royal Rumble match with 29 other superstars, it was during that PPV that he had a little scrimmage with former 3-time WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, who later became UFC Heavyweight Champion in MMA and IWGP Heavyweight Champion from New Japan before returning to WWE in 2012 after WrestleMania 28, that led to Goldberg’s elimination at the hands of Kurt Angle following Lesnar’s interference by smashing him with an F-5, thus prompted Goldberg in declaring Lesnar as his next victim. At No Way Out 2004, even after being barred from making contacts with Lesnar by orders from Vince McMahon, he managed to snuck back into the arena thanked in part by Austin, and jumped on Lesnar by spearing the latter before the late Eddie Guerrero, who was also with WCW alongside Goldberg and Jericho but neither Jericho & Guerrero were never pushed into stardom before leaving for WWE in August 1999 (Jericho) and January 2000 (Guerrero), managed to pin Lesnar with a frogsplash. Everything seemed to be very rosey with Goldberg and Lesnar was set to wrestle at WrestleMania 20 in Madison Square Garden, until a clause in Goldberg’s contract prevented him to appear more often to set up the match with Lesnar, and then Lesnar began complaining about scheduling – among other things, and the person who was in charge of talent relations at that time, John Laurinaitis – who was later criticised by CM Punk for releasing good talents too soon during a tirade on Raw in 2011, did not offer both men contract extensions that could have prolonged this rivalry. As it stood, Lesnar and Goldberg fought in front of many disgruntled crowd for they have known both men would depart WWE after the match. Since both men were known as “power house”, agility became a factor in Goldberg’s victory against Lesnar with the trademark moves. However, both men were on the receiving ends of “Stone Cold Stunner” from the guest referee Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was forced into retirement from active wrestling due to neck injury in 2003 (coincidently that was the same night Goldberg made his debut), as “parting gifts” – after Lesnar “flipped” his finger to the audience and Austin & Goldberg shared beer to celebrate the latter’s victory. Since then Goldberg has been doing a lot of movies and television specials and staying away from pro wrestling.
If I have to describe Goldberg’s legacy in one line, all I can say is quoting the late Gorilla Monsoon (WWE Hall of Famer) because it’s true:
“There won’t be another one made when they break the mode made again.”
Never before I have ever witnessed a man who came straight out of a wrestling training camp and dominated the industry right out of the gate, and the difference between Warrior and Goldberg is that Warrior only cares for the fame and not the craft, whereas Goldberg may not have been a pro wrestling fan, he certainly enjoyed and appreciated his success in that career since then. There may never be another like that again, and if he is willing to wheel his body for one more match at age of 46/47, i.e., Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans, per se, I am all for it if it happens.