Now living on a remote 30-acre property in Bonsall, Calif., former WCW/WWE World champion Bill Goldberg recently told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he’d love to return. But only, of course, “if the money was right.”
He tells The Union-Tribune: “I’d go out there and do it in two seconds,” Goldberg said. “I’d have to be totally prepared for it, because I wouldn’t want to tarnish my image, but I’d like to be in the ring one more time so that my wife and my son can see me wrestle live.”
Tarnish his image? That must be a rib. Hmmm…what would that be? The memory of his grueling 30-second squashes? His Superman push to the WCW World title, which came so effortlessly because of his unique charisma–so much in fact that he never seemed to appreciate it. Is he referring to how he ended Bret Hart’s career because he insisted on throwing his ridiculous MMA-style kicks with little regard for his opponent’s safety? His refusal to work with Chris Jericho because of his size?
Admittedly, Goldberg’s WCW run was a classic throwback of the fans making a guy a superstar, i.e., the people decided–not the booker. By all accounts (though dozens of people have taken credit for “The Streak”) no one in WCW knew what they had in Goldberg initially. The plan was to hide his massive shortcomings in 30-second squash matches and hope for the best, a formula that exceeded expectations, with the fans exploding for the guy the moment he stepped through the curtain after about six weeks of one-sided wins. In one of the last great booking moves for the company (they were certainly few and far between after 1998), WCW rode the momentum and built up the former Georgia Bulldog for a showdown with heel champion Hulk Hogan, despite the fact that Goldberg couldn’t do much beyond a spear and jackhammer suplex finisher.
Of course, Hogan’s ego cost the company millions of dollars when he insisted that the World title switch occur at the Georgia Dome Nitro less than a week before the show, which had already sold about 35,000 tickets. Hogan knew WCW brass would be in attendance, so he expertly manipulated his way into the main event to appear that he had drawn the house under the guise of “taking one for the team” and dropping the belt to the rising star and “making him.” If they had instead waited for these two seemingly unstoppable forces to meet at Starrcade ’98, WCW likely would have shattered PPV records or come close. Instead, on that Starrcade show later year, Kevin Nash booked himself to defeat Goldberg with a ridiculous finish. The Goldberg character never recovered.
After the sale of WCW, Goldberg eventually was signed by WWE (too late to save the ill-fated invasion angle), but Vince McMahon and WWE Creative seemed determined on breaking him down before building him back up, ignoring the simple formula that made him a dominant superstar to begin with. He was booked to look like a fool in his hometown at the hands of the Rock, who seemed to delight in making fun of the former WCW champion instead of getting him over as a force.
He had a forgettable series with Triple H in bouts that were booked to last far too long, exposing Goldberg as a less-than-credible worker. The fans caught on, and by the time he had dropped the WWE World title back to Trips, his era as a big star was over as fast it had begun.
Coupled with the fact that Brock Lesnar was also leaving the company, the two were booed out of the building while going through the motions during his last bout at WrestleMania XX. Once viewed by WCW fans as a superior bad ass to Steve Austin, WWE had the last laugh, with the retired Rattlesnake stunning Goldberg following the bout and sealing the lid on his career.
My disdain for Goldberg goes beyond his limitations in the ring. He’s always looked down on the business and never made the effort to understand it. His own ignorance doomed a potential feud with Jericho, who later taught the big guy a lesson backstage about respect when the two were reunited in WWE. Even now, he talks of putting smiles on kids faces for one more match while maintaining it would only happen if the money were right. Then again, it’s always been about the money to guys like Goldberg and Lex Luger, who were never big wrestling fans and always acted like the business was beneath him.
But with the 2011 WrestleMania live from Atlanta, where his greatest accomplishment occurred, Goldberg’s likely to get the “main event” Hall of Fame induction spot ahead of far-more deserving stars like the Freebirds and Arn Anderson, who would most likely be insulted to even be mentioned in the same class with the two-time World champion. (Personally, I think former Atlanta superstar and NWA World champion Tommy “Wildfire” Rich would be a logical candidate–or at least more deserving than Goldberg–but that’s not going to happen.)
Goldberg’s induction after such a limited career would further illustrate that WWE’s Hall is nothing more than a shameless marketing tool. When watching the recent DVD release about the life of Ricky Steamboat, I was struck by how emotional the Dragon became when discussing his induction and the footage of him crying backstage when shaking hands with Vince prior to his speech. This was a stark contrast to a guy like Jerry Lawler, who sees the Hall for what it really is. When I jokingly called Lawler to congratulate him on his HOF induction a few years ago, knowing he was livid about missing a Cleveland Indians exhibition game that was to held in Memphis on the same night of the ceremony (and fearing that HOF status would make the King seem “old”), he snapped, “Yeah, right–that’s like somebody calling and congratulating me for winning a fuckin’ belt.”
I suppose if the WWE HOF is meaningless, then Goldberg is a perfect fit. You know, if the money is right.