In Defense Of… Goldberg
A version of this article originally appeared on 411mania.com and was updated for the book IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED. Learn more at https://www.jpprag.com
Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum rap. Some writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!
Some dame walked into my office and said…
A while back, I received a note from Damian Bartlett who let me know…
I have a REAL challenge for you!
Bill Goldberg. I personally wasn’t amazed with him in WWE at first, but over time I warmed to him. He wasn’t boring in the ring, he was a fierce character who knew his role and didn’t try to be anything but himself. Not to mention he sold really well, I was expecting far worse after hearing the IWC slam him on everything he did.
He is constantly called a money grabber who doesn’t care for the business, people say he has three moves, he’s bland and a generic big man… I disagree on all accounts, but can you defend Goldberg?
Still, earlier I had heard from Ben Jammin out in Modesto, CA who wanted all the credit that credit deserves:
How about one on Goldberg? That should give ya something hard to work on….
Even hardcore supporter and nWo 4-Life member Andrew Strom had this to say recently:
If you ever defend Bill Goldberg and I vote NOT GUILTY then you truly are a master at this, because I am not really his biggest fan.
More so, a comment from Justin Pelletier (though not the only similar one) when I announced the case made it abundantly clear that I had to do this case:
Good luck trying to get a Not Guilty out of me considering GOLDBERG. I hate that douche bag.
It’s an uphill battle, but I love a good challenge!
Justin’s and many other people’s comments made it clear: the IWC hates Goldberg. But why? Why is he a douche bag? What did he ever do that made people hate him so? He went out there, wrestled, scored a bunch of victories, won some titles, lost some titles, did his job, and tried to watch out for himself in a dangerous business. What along the way made people turn their backs on him so much?
Part of me believes that when the WWF bought WCW, the wrestling world lost the vast majority of WCW fans and therefore there are only WWE, Japanese, and Independent fans left. But something goes deeper, even with the remaining WCW fans. What is it about Goldberg that ticks off so many fans? But more importantly, does he deserve their ire?
A while back, Matthew Sforcina did an Evolution Schematic on Goldberg that I thought was tremendous and really put his character in perspective. But it was not enough. Maybe those who read it understood the character better (especially those who did not see his initial assent), but there is a deeper problem underlying the surface — and it all comes from his detractors presenting false facts.
So often, I have read outright lie after lie about Goldberg repeated as if it were the only truth possible. Maybe you don’t like Goldberg, maybe you don’t like unstoppable babyfaces; that’s fine. I generally prefer heels myself (Goldberg being one of the notable exceptions). But to take that hatred and spin lies around it to justify that hatred… that goes against everything this court stands for.
While Evolution Schematic may not have been a case of Goldberg the man — but the character — this case hopes to do a lot more. I want Goldberg the character to be a consideration, as well as the man, as well as the combination of the two. We will blur the lines back and forth without warning, but at the end of the day, I hope this case looks at what Goldberg has meant for wrestling overall.
But I suppose I cannot get there until I get the biggest lie out of the way…
Stone Cold Rip Off
The absolute biggest and most outrageous lie I read every week is that Goldberg is a Stone Cold Steve Austin rip off designed to confuse the fans into watching WCW.
How this argument makes any sense is beyond me.
First off, yes, both men were bald, had a goatee, and wore black trunks. But this is going to come as a real shock: neither man was the first to go for this look! Hundreds of wrestlers over the years have had the same look, and hundreds more will in the future. Heck, I bet Gene Snitsky will lose a match at some point and have his head shaved bald and look the same. Well, OK, much more ugly, but the same. But Goldberg did not shave his head to look like anyone. He had played professional sports (notably football) for years and — as many athletes do — felt his hair got in the way and got rid of it. It’s a quick and easy way to eliminate heat, sweat, and hygiene problems associated with constantly playing a demanding game.
Still, Austin really spent most of his time in denim shorts and a leather vest. Goldberg rarely appeared in anything but his black trunks while in WCW. Not until his trip to Japan and subsequent return to the WWE did he trade them in for black and white checker shorts. Back during the Monday Night Wars, though, you were more likely to see Goldberg in wrestling attire than Steve Austin.
But let’s look beyond the surface. Steve Austin was an anti-hero who spent more time on the mic than in the ring. He was a loner who attacked everyone and talked trash non-stop. That was his character. But what about Goldberg? Goldberg was a quiet man who just came in, beat people up, and left. He rarely said anything, and most of the time it was “Who’s next?!” Austin went around flipping people off and beating up the boss; Goldberg had a long entrance to the ring with security guards a la a boxer.
How are those two similar characters in the least? Just because both men were getting popular at the same time does not mean one was ripping off the other.
And I know I said “at the same time”. The timing does not make any sense for Goldberg to be a rip off of Steve Austin.
When Goldberg signed with WCW in late 1996 and joined the Power Plant, Steve Austin was still nowhere near the top of the card. Heck, when Goldberg debuted on television on September 22, 1997 (he was tested at house shows starting in June 1997 as “Bill Gold”), Austin had just won the Intercontinental title for the first time a month earlier (and had to vacate in September due to the injury he suffered in that match). While his popularity was growing, his then current feud with Owen Hart gave no indication that he was going to be THE main event. Yes, Austin 3:16 was started in June 1996 after the King of the Ring, but that still did not mean he was going to reach the top of the card and become the phenomenon that he did become.
The same could be said for Hulk-a-mania. Just because Hogan defeated the Sheik for WWF Championship did not mean Hulk-a-mania was going to reach its great heights. It took years of cultivating, the growth of national cable TV companies, and the Rock & Wrestling connection to make Hogan into the true superstar he became. So just because Austin had a catchphrase and was popping the fans did not mean he was going to bring the WWF to heights they never imagined. It took years of cultivating him and the ultimate opponent in heel Vince McMahon to make him into Steve Austin.
And the same could be said for Goldberg. He was not just going to be pushed down our throats and become the merchandising masterpiece for WCW. It took years of cultivating and a compelling storyline to make that happen. More on that in a moment.
First, though, let’s take a trip back to a Prodigy chat transcript with Eric Bischoff from October 1997:
maddog O (Prodigy Member): It seems to me that Bill Goldberg is version of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Is that the idea?
Eric Bischoff (Speaker): Not at all. Bill Goldberg is much bigger, and in much better shape, and is a far better athlete than Steve Austin has ever been. Bill Goldberg is going to be Bill Goldberg. He won’t be a character per se. He’s a very intense, very gifted athlete. Steve Austin isn’t the only performer who happens to shave his head. That’s the only thing they have in common.
You see, just one month after Goldberg’s national debut and people were trying to compare him to Steve Austin. And he hadn’t even said one word yet! Let us not forget that this was before anyone started counting wins and realized that Goldberg was undefeated. Bischoff wanted to demonstrate that Goldberg was an athlete, not a brawler — yet another character trait that Goldberg and Austin did not share.
A few months later in another Prodigy chat, Bischoff actually revealed that Goldberg was designed to mock Ken Shamrock. He was supposed to just be a “shoot” style wrestler. But the fans changed his and WCW’s mind once they realized something special was happening.
Of course, there were still a few people who said Goldberg and Austin were the same based on looks. Well, Hulk Hogan looks a heck of a lot like Superstar Billy Graham (and he even notes him as being an influence on his career), but no one calls Hogan a rip-off or says that the WWF was trying to steal people away from the AWA by confusing them. Or the same with Triple H and Edge. Just because Edge has long blonde hair does not mean that he or the WWE is trying to get him confused with Triple H. They have two completely different gimmicks. Goldberg was a mixed shoot-fighter/strong man/silent killer. Austin was a loudmouthed/loner/underdog. Similarity of look does not make the characters even remotely similar and does not mean the fans are not intelligent enough to be confused by the two. As for “casual” or non-fans, the two attracted different audiences. While one attracted the person who wanted to beat up their boss and had to fight their way to the top, the other attracted people who liked an unstoppable machine. Anyone watching either program for three minutes would know which one they were getting.
As a matter of fact, Josh chimes in with his thoughts on this, Goldberg’s wrestling style, and how it would match up in the real world:
I just sat there and watched him in the utmost awe. He was doing rolling queen arm scissors, standing to rolling leg bars, twisting arm-drag to arm bars (even off the top!), I mean this man was a VERY technical wrestler in the WCW days. To be fair, he wasn’t a ‘[B]enoit’ or even a grade A submission artist, but the man could deliver when he needed and wanted to. I am a [B]razilian jiu jitsu MMA fighter myself and I know for a fact that a lot of his [bleep] is not only HARD to do, but VERY effective in real life and he brought it to the ring. He could ground and pound, he could slam you down, and he could twist you around. He had it all and was a winning combination. This man was everything wrestling fans yearn for, a technical powerhouse that never spoke and just decimated his opponents.
So you see, Goldberg had a wrestling prowess, natural strength, and an arsenal that reflected a true fighter. He was not the best ever, but why would he need to be. He did what the vast majority of fans wanted and did it effectively and convincingly.
Three hundred sixty-four jobbers?
Goldberg was winning matches constantly, but it was more by happenstance than a full plan. However, the fans were noticing that he was slowly picking up win after win. The entrance got bigger, he became interactive with smoke and fireworks, got the fans on their feet, and got them chanting his name. Still, it was not an immediate push to the top, as some would have you believe. He continued to collect wins off of short matches but was left off of the Uncensored PPV card. And even after that, he fought through the mid-card of Saturn and Raven (who had just defeated DDP for the US Title) and continued fighting in the mid-card for a long while after that until finally the fans got their wish and he plowed through the nWo to become WCW World Heavyweight Champion on July 6, 1998. A meteoric rise, yes, but not without precedent.
There are fans, and a number of WWE wrestlers, who will say that Goldberg’s rise to the top by squashing his opponents was because WCW had an unlimited supply of people to feed him and that he would have never gotten to the top in the same manner in the WWF/E because of their smaller roster.
This, of course, is complete hogwash. Absolutely WCW did have a larger roster than the WWF at the time. Also at the time WCW was making about 10 times the WWF revenue and — more so — was profitable while the WWF was not. But their supplies were still limited and (despite what some will tell you) WCW did not hire everyone under the sun.
I catalogued all of Goldberg’s 141 true wins during his streak (thanks again Matt!), excluding his 32 phantom wins. I then went ahead and broke the wins down by the wrestler’s status. Here’s how that came out:
You can quickly see that the majority of Goldberg’s wins came from a combination of the main eventers he defeated and the mid and upper-mid card guys he beat up during his rise to the US Title and in its defense. But let’s take a look deeper.
Breaking it down by wrestler, the top ten ones Goldberg defeated were:
Thus of Goldberg’s wins, the most came from the Giant, a no doubt main event player and former World Heavyweight Champion himself. That does not sound like someone plowing through jobbers. As a matter of fact, Goldberg only defeated 59 unique individuals, of which you have seen 8 did not even work for WCW, 9 were developmental talents, and another 7 were over-the-hill veterans whose job it was was to make the new kids look better. That leaves just 35 unique individuals that Goldberg really went over in a significant matter.
Overall, though, of Goldberg’s top ten wins, 41% were over main eventers, 33% were over mid or upper-mid carders, and only 26% were over jobbers. Sure seems like a credible build over worthy talent to me!
Developing into a wrestler
Many, though, complained during Goldberg’s entire assent and career that he was too green, that he did not have enough moves, and that he had no longevity in the business. Once again, I remind you first off that the plan was not to make Goldberg a champion in just over a year, but that the fans demanded to make it happen. That said, let’s look into Goldberg’s past.
First off, Goldberg was an athlete before entering into WCW and already had an excellent physique and workout regimen. He had good stamina and a body willing to learn. He went to the Power Plant to train and while there he was put through the very best that Buddy Lee Parker had to offer. From there, he hit the house show circuit before making his television debut. He was learning on a high curve, yes, but he did not stop learning.
Across the country, Bill was staying with Fit Finlay and being paired up with him to learn more moves and in-ring psychology. And as we have seen Fit Finlay do with the Divas in the WWE, he is an excellent teacher. After his time with Finlay, Goldberg continued to try to learn more moves, including adding a number of leg and arm submission holds that are popular in Japan (these moves he learned for his tours over there).
Sure, he was no Chris Benoit, but Goldberg could still go when need be. More often than not, though, there was no need. Goldberg — much like his good friend Kevin Nash — knew that he did not have to do so many amazing technical things in the ring but could instead entertain the fans with his presence and charisma. Still, there were times he got to show off.
At Halloween Havoc in 1998, Goldberg defended his World Heavyweight Championship against DDP in a stellar ten-and-a-half-minute match-up. During that match, Goldberg performed the following moves: collar-and-elbow tie up, reverse arm-drag, overhead flip to reverse a legsweep (and landed on his feet! Take that Super Crazy!), fireman’s carry, Jericho Armbar variation #547, shoulderblock, underhook suplex, side suplex, cross-armbreaker, attempted hiptoss (reversed), spear, jackhammer. That’s more than a move a minute, not including all the moves Page was doing to Goldberg or the fact that the match was built around Goldberg hurting his shoulder on an attempted spear and being unable to lift Page for a jackhammer.
So wait: Goldberg has a full arsenal of moves, tries to learn new movies, and built a match around psychology? Guess that man did learn a few things about wrestling.
When discussing Goldberg’s matches, though, one must address their length. RC says:
[Y]ou should have mentioned how many matches in which he used ONLY a few moves. Just highlighting one match of more than 150 matches is kinda wrong in my book…
While it is true that the vast majority of Goldberg’s matches were a few moves that lasted less than four minutes (with the intro being longer), that does not take away from his actual ability and willingness to learn. But Goldberg — much like Kevin Nash or Hulk Hogan — followed a less is more mentality. His job was to go out there and entertain the fans, and most were entertained by short squashes. He did not do a lot of moves per match because he did not have to. Sometimes, entertaining the fans means just doing the quick things they love best (i.e., playing the hits). His character was a demolisher; why should he perform a hundred moves he does not have to? Besides, when he did break out moves it make it that much more special. For instance, Booker T used to use the Harlem Hangover so much that it was not that interesting to see anymore. But now that he breaks it out only once a year (if that), it looks like a much more devastating maneuver. If Goldberg wrestled every match to the best of his ability, then what would be so special about those big PPV matches where he was taken to the limit?
Of course, there were others who recognized these facts long beforehand. Let us go back to March 1998 when Arn Anderson did a rare online chat on Prodigy:
FlyerJon (Prodigy Member): If the 4 Horsemen were re-formed today, who would you choose to become the newest members of wrestling’s most elite and prestigious group?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Bill Goldberg
Bodinky (Prodigy Member): Chris Benoit was an excellent choice as a Horseman. Is there anyone else in WCW who you think could join Benoit and Flair to reform the Horsemen?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Bill Goldberg and Dean Malenko
bronco 94 (Prodigy Member): Arn, what about BILL GOLDBERG, is he Horseman material???
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Bill Goldberg is a special athlete/wrestler, that comes along only so often. Not only is he Horsemen material… but barring injury, he’ll be as big a superstar as anyone in wrestling one year from this date.
Hoops01 (Prodigy Member): Arn, who do you think the brightest star is among independent workers and you guys that haven’t been given their chance yet?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): I haven’t had the chance to see any independent talent. I think the brightest star today is Bill Goldberg. It would be nice to see young talent being developed somewhere. New talent is always needed.
UPSETS (Prodigy Member): How long do you see until Goldberg will get a TV, US, or even a World Title shot?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Less than a year.
How many times can you complement a man in one interview? Arn Anderson is a highly respected in-ring performer and considered one of the best mic men of all time. He said it in plain text: he thought Bill Goldberg was “it”, that Goldberg was the total package and needed to rise to the top. Not only that, he did not seem upset at all by the idea of Goldberg growing to the top so quickly. Quite the contrary, he seemed to want it to happen as soon as possible. Guess who got their wish?
Unfortunately, Erik Schwob has found this whole interview suspect:
That Arn Anderson interview was to shill WCW seeing that Arn did not mention other wrestlers. It would have cost him his job to compliment a non-WCW wrestler, especially since they were always under fire for not pushing fresh talent.
Well sir, here are some more excerpts from that interview:
GoUtes BA (Prodigy Member): Compare working for Jim Crockett, Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff.
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Crockett was a time when I was in my formative years. I learned wrestling etiquette in and out of the ring during that era. At that time, that I was with Titan, that was THE show, which made it an honor to work for McMahon during that period. It was the largest earning year I have had to date. As for Eric Bischoff. WCW is my home and is where I would like to retire. WCW has been very fair to me, and I’d like to return the favor with years of loyal service to them.
nWoFan (Prodigy Member): Will you watch WrestleMania XIV?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Yes
Techlight17 (Prodigy Member): Who in your opinion is the best worker in wrestling today?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): You can’t say any one. I think we have a lot of the best. I’d have to say Benoit, Malenko, Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, and never count Ric Flair out. Steve Austin is doing very well for himself. There’s a lot of great young talent. Probably too many to cover in the time allotted.
Techlight17 (Prodigy Member): What is your opinion about shootfighters like Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock, and possibly Don Frye entering pro wrestling? Do you feel they will be good workers and would you be excited to see more ex UFC stars make the jump into wrestling?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): The only one that has even relatively proved himself so far is Shamrock, as far as making the transition. Time will tell. It’s two different animals really.
Wrestling GD (Prodigy Member): Of all the wrestlers in the United States today, who do you think resembles you the most in terms of style?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Probably Chris Benoit, but with a lot more talent. He has the same desire, the same business ethics, same work ethic. Chris has a lot more talent than I ever did.
OK, so he talked about several other WCW wrestlers, went out of his way to compliment a number of WWF wrestlers, and admitted that he was going to order a WWF PPV. Come on people, this conspiracy theory is too much! Bischoff was not controlling everyone and everything they said. I am sure Arn said a number of political things to protect himself and his job, but Bischoff was not over his shoulder and whispering in his ear. In order for any evidence to work, we have to take what people have said as their beliefs. Until the day that Arn Anderson comes out and says everything he said in that interview about Goldberg was a lie forced on him, then what he said was his testimony. Also, in the prior quote block he talked about Dean Malenko as the other potential horseman along with Goldberg.
Quid Pro Quo
Let’s have a quick refresher on Goldberg’s career. Logan from Cincinnati did not like how Goldberg wrestled at all, but for a different reason:
OK going in I am already not liking Goldberg. The main reason I dislike him is his matches just were not that exciting. I cannot think of one good feud he had or series of matches from his WCW days that people are still talking about.
I never claimed at the beginning of this case that you had to like Goldberg. This is just to acknowledge that he was popular and had a lasting impact on the business. I, personally, do not like the Rock and find him boring in the ring and on the mic. But I would be insane to not admit that the vast majority of fans love the Rock, that he was popular, got over, made oodles of money, and has made a lasting impact on the business. Just because you, personally, may not find Goldberg exciting in the ring, it does not mean that there are plenty of others, like myself, who do. This is not a case of personal preference, though, and I do not expect people to come out of this case and buy the Best of Goldberg VHS (no DVD yet!). I do expect people to respect Goldberg’s accomplishments at the end of the day.
As far as memorable feuds, Goldberg had several. First was against Steve “Mongo” McMichael when Goldberg was being managed by Debra (more on that later). Then he was fighting against the nWo as WCW’s last hope, finally defeating Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan in one night. He followed that up with a series against Kurt Henning, and a drawn-out continuous feud with the Giant. And look no further than Goldberg’s matches with the Giant to show that Goldberg was more than just hype. He picked up and jackhammered the Giant 18 times. No matter what anyone says, it takes significant upper body strength to hold someone up that is 500 pounds. The Giant did for Goldberg the same thing he would later do for Brock Lesner: he showed off that Goldberg could do the same to anyone, that Goldberg was a super-man to everyone — no matter the size.
Also, Goldberg had a series with Bret Hart where Bret defeated Goldberg three times (out of Goldberg’s six WCW loses)!! We’ll obviously talk more about Bret Hart a little later, but for now just remember that Bret Hart got Goldberg to run into a steel plate he wore around his chest (a la Back to the Future 3 where Goldberg was “Mad Dog” Tannen’s bullet). How is that not memorable? And towards the end of WCW, he also had a great feud with Scott Steiner, a feud that turned Scott into a true main event player when he destroyed Goldberg at Fall Brawl 2000. And then there was Goldberg’s final feud with Brock Lesner that is most definitely still talked about today, but mostly for the controversy of both men leaving the company at the same time. Still, it was a great and interesting buildup.
And all of that does not cover the one-shot feuds he had, like the match with DDP, the Rock, or the three matches with Sting. His feud with the Outsiders after the reformation of the nWo after the Fingerpoke of Doom was also of note. Sure, no one is walking around saying that any of those feuds were workrate matches of the year, but they were fun, enjoyable, and made money (more on that later, too), and that’s what counts. Can you remember any Frank Gotch feuds that people still talk about today? How about Adrian Adonis? Memory is short, but the moment is what counts.
Peanuts for sale!
Several readers wrote in that they were upset that Goldberg refused to sell any moves. To that I respond:
Who says Goldberg didn’t sell moves? He sold a shoulder to the ring post against DDP, as we covered above. He sold an arm injury against Scott Steiner when Steiner defeated him at Fall Brawl 2000. That match was built up on the idea of Steiner working over Goldberg’s previously injured arm (see window, limo) until Vince Russo saw fit to have three run-ins.
Earlier yet, at Slamboree 1999, Sting and Goldberg fought to a no contest where Sting had Goldberg locked in a Boston crab. When Goldberg escaped, he continued to sell the knee injury for the rest of the match. Then Bret Hart came down and waffled Goldberg in the knee, followed by the Steiner Brothers who came down to beat up both contestants. Rick went right after Goldberg’s injured knee and kept up the momentum of the match and Bret Hart’s run in.
Speaking of Bret Hart, Goldberg sold a steel plate from him. I enjoyed the way reader Josh put it:
It really helped to sell Goldberg into an unstoppable, but not unbeatable, force to be reckoned with. Bret Hart broke him down mentally during [their later] match and we all got to see the smaller, but smarter, man dissect a beast.
Let us not forget as I said before: Bret holds three of the six WCW wins over Goldberg. Goldberg sold to Bret’s moves and his intelligence multiple times.
The point is, Goldberg will sell when it is appropriate. He is Goldberg: his character is super-human. He knows and understands that and what it takes to keep that projection going. If he starts selling to Funaki then he’s not a super-man anymore and you don’t care.
Look at Kane. When he first debuted, it took multiple tombstones just to keep him down. Now a foot on the ropes can defeat him. They didn’t raise anyone up to his level; they brought him down. Goldberg soared to a super-man level and by trying to “humanize” him it made the character less Goldberg and more generic nothing. Sometimes, a character is better for not selling 100% of the time, the same way the Harlem Hangover looks more devastating now that Booker T only breaks it out less than once a year. Sure, he COULD do it every match, but then what?
When Goldberg sold to someone, it made them look that much better. Anyone who could even hurt Goldberg had to be taken as a serious threat. And the people who defeated him were simply amazing. It all came down to protecting Goldberg the character.
Protecting the character or When to fall down and go boom
People often complain that the WWE and WCW misused talent. When Chris Jericho, Christian, Chris Benoit, RVD, Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, or countless other are not getting the push or storylines that smarks say they deserve, then people get upset with the company and the writers.
But how often do these wrestlers do something about it themselves? Sure, we hear RVD complain, and recently have heard rumbles of Christian’s unhappiness. But how many have actually tried to protect their character because they knew the storyline they were involved with were not helping them or the business?
When Goldberg first debuted in the WWE, he got off on the wrong foot. For whatever reason, Vince decided that it was necessary to “WWE-ize” Goldberg. The first thing to change was his music, which had been a signature of his character and entrance. The slightly off-beat tempo made it hard for fans to chant his name in time as the old music did. This, of course, would be changed back to his original music after much chagrin.
Then, Goldberg was put into a program with a recently heel-turned Rock. Rock was allowed to run rough shot over Goldberg and expose his weakness on the mic, as well as make him look bad going into the PPV by letting the Rock get the upper hand physically. Goldberg was also forced to resort to using a chair on the Rock. Goldberg is a weapon; he does not need one. That PPV (Backlash) was also held in a town not friendly to Goldberg. I know because I was there. The crowd, which was a solid base of WWE fans, turned on Goldberg as he defeated the Rock. They had seen a cowardly, weak Goldberg getting schooled by the Rock for weeks and did not want to see the homegrown People’s Champ defeated by the outsider.
In order to make Goldberg more lovable, the WWE got him involved with comedy sketches involving Goldust. What had made Goldberg popular in the WCW was that he was so serious, completely intense in his matches. The funny Goldberg was not what old WCW fans wanted to see, and not something the WWE fans could get into.
As such, Goldberg took matters into his own hands.
In an interview with Filmmonthly.com, Goldberg was asked of his time in the WWE:
Gary: Was it mostly an issue of them not utilizing your character?
Bill: There’s no question. Let’s be honest, a moron can see that Vince holds a grudge, and when WCW was kicking their ass I don’t think he’ll even forget the people who were at the helm, that were managing the boat and beating him on Monday night. For some reason it always stuck. We were never really a member of the family. Maybe I’m the only one that thinks this, and if so that’s still my thoughts. His pride gets in the way of his business sense, I think. And if you ask me that’s pretty stupid. But it’s a public company now.
And so Goldberg used his contract that he took years to negotiate with Vince and held it against him. He made changes in his direction, and got some help from his good friend Steve Austin. With Steve Austin’s influence, the two worked together to get the WWE fans to accept Goldberg. Because of that, Goldberg was able to work his way up and defeat Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. He returned to what made him great, while still being a little more “WWE” Goldberg.
Of course, this is not the first time Goldberg had used his creative influence.
In an interview with AskMen.com, Goldberg stated this when talking about his WCW contract:
I had creative control over my character, which means if they wanted me to do something that I didn’t agree with, then I wouldn’t do it. If it was good for the show, then I had no problem. If it was demeaning to the character and wasn’t adding a positive light to the show, then I can guarantee that I wouldn’t do it.
Q: How did WCW and WWE differ?
Vince McMahon, he was the determining factor. He was the main player at WWE. It was just a totally different atmosphere, it was more of a business-like atmosphere and, to me, it wasn’t as fun. It was like we were infiltrating a tight-knit family and we weren’t wanted. You don’t need to demean and knock the character down because they were once part of the competition.
You see, Goldberg tried to protect the character for the good of the business, not necessarily himself. And then when he went to the WWE, he wanted to do more of the same. That is, he wanted to use the Goldberg character for the betterment of all. Yet, in the WWE he felt shut out from Vince and company because he was an “outsider”. And when they misused him and his character, he had to fight back. He could have just sat around and collected his money and did whatever Vince told him to do, but he wanted his run to be more than that:
Q: You have an amazing track record, do you ever get into a position where you really don’t want to follow the script, or is it just a matter of getting a paycheck?
There is no question in my mind that I am not doing it for the money. If I was doing it for the money then I would still be there. The fact is that I made a stand a number of times in my career, and I did it because I knew I was right.
And it is not like Goldberg was not worried before he got to the WWE. Goldberg told The Palm Springs Desert Sun in February 2002:
“I personally believe that everything I’ve stood for when I got into the ring would be compromised and succumbed to the circus-like atmosphere that’s out [in the WWE], and that’s putting it mildly… I would be an imbecile if I gave up half my money to work for a company that I didn’t respect.”
But was Goldberg a hypocrite for going to work for Vince? No, he would not let himself get involved with the circus atmosphere as he tried to protect his character. It is the same as Molly Holly or Ted DiBiase — two devout Christians — working for the WWE. They have personal convictions that stop them from getting involved with anything they deem inappropriate, despite the fact that inappropriate things (to them) do happen.
When Goldberg found he could not get to that point, that Vince was trying to force the circus on him despite everything he did, Goldberg stood up for his beliefs and left. Besides, he had more motivation than fans and money:
Everyone in the business owes it to their career to be a performer under [Vince McMahon’s] image. He pioneered the business.
Goldberg wanted to take the chance and do what so many had asked him to do. But he did not want them to be disappointed if Vince could not live up their hopes and dreams. Thus he protected himself and he protected the business. He did what so many smarks would love their heroes to do: he stood up to the man to get what he deserved.
Of course, there are those who think that Goldberg went too far with his creative control and did not want to make the jump to the dark side…
Many have said that Goldberg refused to turn heel, that he only wanted to be a babyface in the limelight. Well people, it’s time to take a trip back in time. First stop: 1997!
This is going to come as a shock, but Goldberg was not a face upon his debut. Well, at first he was nothing, but things began to change when Debra McMichael was putting together a stable to take out her ex-husband Steve “Mongo” McMichael. At Halloween Havoc, Goldberg ran in and speared Mongo in Mongo’s match with Alex Wright, allowing Wright to get the win. Afterwards, Debra rewarded Goldberg with Mongo’s Superbowl ring. The funny part was that the crowd loved how Goldberg beat up both Mongo and Wright.
But the feud would continue with WCW keeping Goldberg with Debra, thus keeping him “heel”. Goldberg continued to pick up wins, and ducked out on fighting Mongo. Finally the two were set to meet at Starrcade 1997. On WCW Saturday Night two weeks prior, Mean Gene interviewed (I kid you not!) Goldberg about his thoughts on the match. Keeping his heel image, Goldberg first verbally assaulted Mean Gene (“No more first names! Do I look like a Billy to you?!”), and then ran down how Mongo “used” to be a legend and some other degrading comments. Then at Starrcade the two met, where Goldberg defeated Mongo in quick fashion. Even after that, he would not quit his “heel streak”.
Still, WCW noticed that the fans were popping for him and starting to chant his name. It was unexpected, but they went with it. On the January 26, 1998 edition of Nitro, Goldberg dumped Debra and began his official run as a face, culminating with his 25th win over Brad Armstrong (not Glacier as WCW would have you believe).
See, Goldberg had nothing against being a heel from the start. He was supposed to be one, but the fans turned him, much the same way they turned the Rock or Austin. WCW saw the fans reactions and ran with it, and we all know where that ended up.
Goldberg continued unabated as a face until 2000 during the Russo/Bischoff era of WCW. The two were looking for a way to really shock the fans. Whether it was a good idea or not is debatable, but Goldberg agreed with their plans and turned heel at the Great American Bash 2000 by spearing Kevin Nash and allowing Jeff Jarrett to pin Nash and retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
This heel turn would not go well, as the fans reacted badly. The angle did not catch on and Goldberg was turned face again. Many have said that it was Goldberg himself sabotaging the turn that did not make it happen. In an interview with Wrestling Digest in December 2000, Goldberg had this to say:
WD: How did your heel turn develop, and what are your thoughts on it?
BG: At first, I kinda liked the idea. I like the ability to go out there and beat the crap out of people without remorse, because that’s how I am. It gives me an opportunity to develop my character more. The only thing that has been difficult is playing a heel in front of a Make-A-Wish kid who has cancer that I met before the match, and hearing her family say I made such a difference for her. After making a positive difference in a kid’s life, it’s difficult to go out there and do the heel stuff.
WD: Let’s hypothetically say that you see that kid in the front row, and you’re in the ring swearing and playing a heel. What do you say to that kid after the show?
BG: I’m an actor. Like Mel Gibson, I assume a character. It’s hard for me to do something in the ring or in front of the camera if I am not totally behind what I’m doing. I have to do whatever I have to do in order to turn this company around.
You see, Goldberg was for the idea of being a heel so long as it made sense! He had been a face so long, though, that he did have doubts about it. From the Dallas News:
It was hard for me because here I was making speeches to these kids and doing the things I do with charities during the day and then at night I was running those same kind of people down in the ring,” he said. “Yeah, it was just a character, but for some of the kids, it’s hard to understand.
Goldberg had doubts about being a heel. But so what? Having doubts does not make you a saboteur. He went out there, did what he was told, and tried to make the angle happen. He was not as into it as possible, that is for sure, but he did not fight it. It was Russo and Bischoff who saw that they had failed in the angle and hot shot their decision backwards. It was hard for Goldberg, but he was trying to make it happen. Just because the heel turn failed, it does not make it his fault.
There is one place it may have succeeded, though, and that was in the WWE. Goldberg was booed in his feuds with the Rock and Chris Jericho. He yelled at an audience member during his match with Chris Jericho, to boot. But the WWE chose to ignore their own fan base and continued to push Goldberg as a face. Yes, he did win over the fans with the time, but had the WWE asked him to turn heel, he may just have gone along with it.
In an interview with WWE.com, Goldberg had this to say:
WWE.com: Are you anticipating that some WWE fans might boo you because they perceive The Rock as “their guy”?
Goldberg: If I worried about what the fans thought, then I wouldn’t be here. I’m out here to do a job. If they like it, great. If they don’t, get in line.
WWE.com: Some of your critics have said you lack passion for this business. What do you have to say about that?
Goldberg: The main reason why I’m here is to entertain little kids. Period. The main reason I came back to wrestling in the U.S. is to entertain little kids.
Goldberg just wanted to entertain. If people booed him, he would have been fine with it, so long as it was good for business. As he has stated on many occasions throughout this piece, Goldberg never had a problem losing or doing something controversial so long as he felt it was right for the character and the business. He came into the WWE with high hopes and an open mind, willing to go along with the plan whatever that may be. It was only when it became obvious that there was no plan and that they were hurting Goldberg the character did he take a stand and try to change the tempo.
Of course, there have been other times in the past where people have questioned Goldberg’s creative decisions…
Why won’t you fight me, Greenberg?
Back in WCW, Chris Jericho began a feud with Goldberg as a joke. At Fall Brawl 1998, Jericho defeated a fake Goldberg via submission. Then, on Nitro on September 28, 1998, Goldberg (who was World Heavyweight Champion) and Jericho (who was World Television Champion) were set to do battle. Actually, Jericho had arranged for a little person Goldberg to be his opponent, but the real Goldberg came out with the little person on his shoulder. Jericho ran away while Goldberg beat up the Jericho-holic Ninja. But Goldberg was trying to prepare for his match with DDP at Halloween Havoc and didn’t have time to deal with Jericho then. So Jericho said Goldberg ran away, and that was win number two!
The next win for Jericho came on the October 8, 1998 edition of Thunder. Knowing Goldberg was not there, Jericho challenged Goldberg to a match. Since Goldberg did not come out, Jericho won by countout. Two weeks later on the October 19, 1998 edition of Nitro, Jericho premiered his “Jericho 3, Goldberg 0” T-shirt. He would have to update this shortly as on Thunder on November 5, 1998, he told Schiavone he was now 4–0 against Goldberg (even I’m not sure where the 4th win came from!). Goldberg had heard enough, and speared Jericho on the rampway on Nitro on November 9, 1998.
And then… well, that was it. The feud was over.
It was not exactly the most paramount ending to a feud, but both went on with their lives. Jericho began a feud with Bobby Duncam Jr. while Goldberg beat up the Giant a few times before losing at Starrcade to Kevin Nash.
But critics will say that it was Goldberg’s decision, that he asked not to be involved in a program with Jericho. Well, straight from Y2J’s mouth:
I wanted to wrestle him. We started this angle (in WCW) on a whim, as kind of like a joke, and it became something that people wanted to see. I was calling him “Greenberg” at the time, because he was just starting out. And I always claimed victories over him whenever I escaped. It got to the point where I would always have a shirt that said, “Jericho 1, Greenberg 0.” And then when I “beat” him again, it would be “Jericho 2, Greenberg 0” and then “Jericho 3, Greenberg 0.” People had signs in the crowd counting along with me. People wanted to see him kick my ass, and that’s what I wanted him to do. This was when he was in the middle of his winning streak, and the office wanted to end this in a two-minute squash match, as we call them, with him just spearing me and jackhammering me. I refused to do it because people wanted to see this match, and they were going to pay for it. I wanted to have a match on a pay-per-view, and he could kick the [bleep] out of me in a minute if that’s what they wanted, but at least people would be paying to see it — not seeing it on free TV as just another guy that was part of his streak.
Let me focus on one small part of that:
[T]he office wanted to end this in a two-minute squash match, as we call them, with him just spearing me and jackhammering me. I refused to do it because people wanted to see this match, and they were going to pay for it.
To set the record straight: CHRIS JERICHO REFUSED TO LOSE TO GOLDBERG ON FREE TV.
The office wanted the match to happen, as did Goldberg, but it was Chris Jericho’s refusal that made the match not happen. Look at the timing of this: Right during and after DDP and right before Kevin Nash. Jericho, as Television Champion, just did not fit in that spectrum in the eyes of the office. I am not saying they were correct in that belief, as I was excited to see the match, but that was the decision of the office.
So you see, it was not Goldberg who refused to work with Jericho, but it was Jericho’s refusal to have the match on free TV and the office’s decision not to make the match happen. Goldberg would have done this (and Jericho would have had no problem jobbing, don’t think I am attacking him), but it was an office decision. The office was upset with Jericho’s refusal to lose on Nitro, and thus pulled the feud entirely. I’m not trying to justify that decision, but it the words of Gene Snitsky, “It wasn’t [Goldberg’s] fault!”
Danger Will Robinson
What is Goldberg’s fault is the injury to Bret Hart. Let’s forget about the epic feud, the metal sheet, the three wins that Hart has over Goldberg. Let’s forget about their professional relationship and just concentrate on what so many do: a kick to the side of the head.
Actually, no, let’s not. According to Hart’s RF Video “shoot” interview the whole storyline was Hart’s idea. He pitched it all to Goldberg, who loved it and went along with everything Hart wanted. After getting approval from Bischoff (who wanted to make sure Goldberg was okay with it), the storyline began under Hart’s direction. Hart actually listed this angle as one of his favorite two memories from WCW (the other being his tribute to Owen Hart match with Chris Benoit). So you see, Bret thought the situation was great, despite the outcome.
But Bret became bitter in the interview when asked about the career ending kick. He said:
“I’d love to kick Bill in the head the way he kicked me.”
Wow, that was bitter. He then went on to say how Goldberg never took responsibility for hurting him.
OK, pause right there.
First off, on the Wrestling Observer hotline Hart said:
“I don’t blame Bill. I don’t have hard feelings toward Bill….”
And yet he wants to kick him in the head? And Goldberg never took responsibility?
Goldberg has apologized on numerous occasions both publicly and privately. As a matter of fact, Bret and Goldberg met at a Calgary Flames hockey game where both parties came out very amicably with each other. You can guarantee that Goldberg apologize then, as well.
Hart must have been having selective memory (or one of the other many brain traumas he seems to have suffered) the day of that shoot interview because on May 9, 2003 Hart wrote in his own article:
Making his way back into wrestling circles is Bill Goldberg, who is most famous for his incredible undefeated string of victories in WCW. Not to mention that he’s the guy that accidentally kicked me in the head in December ’99 causing my career ending concussion.
There it is right there! It was an accident! Sadly, accidents do happen in wrestling, and this was one of them. Bret actually went to Goldberg after the match and said:
“Accidents happen, don’t worry about it.”
But wait, this gets better. Back to the RF Shoot Interview:
After discussing the injury, Bret went on to describe how he DID NOT go to a doctor and just took some headache medicine and passed out in his hotel room. He then went back to work and took power moves from the likes of Kevin Nash and Sid Vicious. After a FEW WEEKS of seeing silver stars, he THEN decided to go to a real doctor and have his condition checked out.
Now, I’m not doctor myself, but might I hypothesize that Bret’s injuries were not as severe as they were just after the kick. That, if he had gotten proper treatment immediately and not been so stubborn, that the injury would have been much less severe. I am not suggesting that Goldberg did not ACCIDENTALLY give Hart a concussion, but that Hart made the situation worse by his own actions. Goldberg did not end Bret Hart’s career, Bret Hart ended Bret Hart’s career.
And when it comes to the end of careers, we should talk about Goldberg’s last day. As we have discussed in depth, Goldberg was not happy in the WWE. He decided that no amount of money was worth it, and let the WWE know months ahead of time that he would not be renewing his contract. Shortly before his match with Brock Lesner at WrestleMania, Brock let the office know that, he too, was leaving the company. Since the wound was so fresh, the WWE decided to have Goldberg go over. It was not Goldberg pushing the decision on the WWE, for he would have lost on his way out, just like he lost to Luger and Bagwell to be retired in WCW. He did not care at that point. But the WWE and McMahon decided to have Goldberg go over in a last screw to Lesner.
The problem was that the fans were smart. They knew both were leaving, and the match was an abomination. The two did not know how to react to the crowd of smart fans attacking them both. But Goldberg explained in an interview with Filmmonthly.com:
My decision to become a member of the WWE was a very hard one to come by. And when I actually made the decision I knew what the road could be like and I knew what it was probably going to be like and unfortunately it was the latter of the two. Even though the only reason I went back was for the fans; still dealing with the B.S. at the WWE, it still wasn’t worth it. It’s hard for me to say that and I hope people understand what I’m talking about. The fans are first and foremost the reason why I stuck with wrestling as long as I did. Fans are the reason why I kept coming back after injuries. It was very unfortunate that my first WrestleMania and my last match at the WWE had to be like that. As bad as the people felt, believe me Brock and I felt even worse. I would have loved nothing more for it to have been the hyped-up match it should have been. It should have been the main event. It should have been different than it was. It was a shame they didn’t let it crescendo to what it could have been. And the people that got screwed the worst were the fans and the WWE screwed themselves.
Do you get what Goldberg is alluding to? He and Brock wanted to go out there and give the fans the power match they were looking for. They wanted to have a special match and leave on good terms. But Vince and company got nervous and had them only do a few moves and end the match. They did not want to go out that way, but it was the call from the back. Given any other circumstance, they could have made that match happen. Just like when Taz left ECW, he could put on a good match even when everyone knew he was leaving. Goldberg thought that he and Brock could do the same. But the decision was made to not let it happen, and what we got at WrestleMania was the result.
We’ve gone all this time and we haven’t talked about the numbers?
We have gone on forever talking about Goldberg and we haven’t talked numbers much at all? Well, let’s do some quick ones:
One of the last times the WCW beat the WWF in ratings for a full night was when Goldberg defeated Hollywood Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship on July 6, 1998 in front of over 45,000 fans jam packed into the Georgia Dome!
In June 1998, Nitro’s average monthly head-to-head rating was a 3.98 (compared to the WWF’s 4.54). In July it was a 4.68 (above the WWF’s 4.65). In August it was a 4.73 (above the WWF’s 4.58). And again in September is was a 4.33 (above the WWF’s 4.00). Goldberg’s win meant a lot for the momentum of Nitro and WCW for months to come.
Immediately after Goldberg’s title victory, Bash at the Beach 1998 scored 1.50 PPV buyrate, the highest one of 1998 for WCW, and highest since Starrcade 1997 seven months earlier.
But here is the funny thing: Goldberg did not headline that PPV. He actually did not headline a PPV until Halloween Havoc, where he faced DDP for a 0.78 PPV buyrate, which was higher than the preceding month’s Fall Brawl (0.70) and the following month’s World War III (0.75). So Goldberg did not main event after Halloween Havoc until Starrcade against Kevin Nash, which drew a straight 1.15 buyrate. See the pattern: Goldberg in the spotlight, buyrates go up. Goldberg pushed to the side, buyrates go down. It is not Goldberg’s fault (this is becoming a recurring theme) if management refused to keep him in the main event spotlight. But when he was there, he proved his worth.
But what about in the WWE? Well, Goldberg premiered against the Rock in the main event of Backlash 2003. That scored a high 1.10 buyrate. I say high because Backlash 2002 had a 0.80 and Backlash 2004 had a 0.54. OK, maybe that was just a fluke. So the following month’s Judgment Day scored a 0.58 with no Goldberg on the card. But the next month’s Bad Blood where Goldberg finally beat Jericho scored a 0.75 (oh, and Triple H/Kevin Nash Hell in the Cell was also on the card, in case anyone was questioning Nash’s drawing power). Vengeance, the SmackDown! only PPV the following month, scored a 0.49. Summerslam’s Elimination Chamber featuring Goldberg scored a 0.94. Unforgiven 2003 buyrates (where Goldberg won the title) seem hard to come by, but the story I hear is that they were higher than the following month’s SmackDown! presents No Mercy, which had a 0.50. The point is, Goldberg drew buys for the WWE, despite everything they did to him!
Goldberg is money, but he also cares about how he is compensated:
When WCW was bought out by AOL Time Warner and they decided to not have wrestling on their programming anymore, Vince ended up buying WCW. Most of the contracts carried over, but if they wanted to work for him, they would get $0.50 on the dollar. I wasn’t going to stand for that.
Q: Did you suffer for that?
I don’t think so. I sat out and made my money. What kind of moron would go to work for half the amount of money, when they could sit at home and collect what’s written in a contract?
So what if Goldberg decided to sit around and get paid? Why should he accept half his money that he is guaranteed when from the evidence above he is the draw he thinks he is? Might as well stay home, make a lot of money healing up, and then come back and make a whole bunch more. He did just that, and who can blame him for it?
Humanitarian and Heritage
Of course, as I have said over and over, Goldberg is not just about the money. As you have seen in snippets, he spends a lot of time working with children and visiting kids in the hospital. He has used his fame to try to make people in terrible situations feel better about themselves. In his interview with WWE.com upon returning to the company, Goldberg stated that it was a boy whose brother had died in battle that made him want to come back. That boy looked to Goldberg for his hope, and Goldberg did not want to disappoint.
And it’s not just people Goldberg is interested in helping. He spends a great deal of time working with animal shelters and humane societies, and owns quite a few pets himself. Surprisingly, Goldberg is a known vegetarian. I’m not saying he’s a better person for it, but that his conviction to animals stems so deep that he refuses to eat them is a noble cause.
Goldberg also has a long storied history, from being a bouncer at a bar, getting a degree in psychology from the University of Georgia, playing college and pro-football, appearing in several movies, currently hosting AutoManiac on Discovery, and writing a biography with his brother. Through all of that, Goldberg has kept one thing about himself prominent:
Goldberg is Jewish.
Now, this is going to be hard to explain to a lot of you who come from areas where there are few or no Jews, but being Jewish in America is a hard thing. I know, because I am one. To explain to people how you are constantly outside regular society, how Christmas does not excite you, how you want to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, how Chanukah is the least important holiday in Judaism… it’s difficult.
While doing my research, I came across an anti-Goldberg piece that said Goldberg refusing to work on Rosh Hashanah (the two day New Year holiday usually falling in late September or early October [Judaism follows a lunar calendar with an extra month needed to catch up from time-to-time]) was an example of the man just taking advantage of his born religion. After all, Goldberg said on numerous occasions that he is not a religious Jew.
Well, neither am I, but this is what is hard for many Christian Americans to understand. If you chose not to practice Christianity, the society is still built around Christian holidays and traditions. From having Christmas vacation from school to pee-wee soccer games being on Saturdays, there is very little difference in the life of a non-practicing Christian. Now I, and Goldberg, are ethnic Jews. We do not consider ourselves religious, but the traditions of the religion are important to us. Most non-practicing Christians like to celebrate Christmas and do. Goldberg and I like to celebrate Chanukah. They like to celebrate Easter, Goldberg and I like to have Passover dinner with our families (for at least the first two nights). But whereas non-practicing Christians already have their holidays and family time woven into society, Goldberg and I have to go out of our way to celebrate our traditions. Goldberg was not using his religion as a crux to get out work, but just trying to keep his tradition, the way he grew up, and his family time alive. I am taking three days off in October to see my family for Rosh Hashanah. I may not go to temple on any Saturday between now and then, but the symbolism of the holiday is not lost on me. I am not trying to skip out on work, I’m trying to keep my family and my traditions alive.
Kudos have to go to Goldberg for continuing to and insisting on using his real name. Face facts: the vast majority of wrestling fans, especially in America, are xenophobic. WCW’s core audience was from south of the Mason-Dixon line. I’m not bashing the south here, but there are plenty of portions that are not accepting of others (not that the north and other countries don’t have that problem, too, it’s just not as pronounced). The fact that Goldberg was able to win over so many from a xenophobic base is astounding unto itself. And all the while he would never hide the fact that he was Jewish, and actually promoted it.
Goldberg has these things to say:
“I was considering calling myself the Beast, or the Annihilator, and I even went so far as considering the name ‘the Mossad,’ after the Israeli secret service.”
But Goldberg kept his real name, and was appreciated for it. The Jewish National Fund presented him with the prestigious Tree of Life award (go read the Giving Tree some time) in Israel. On top of that, Goldberg notes:
“I’ve been asked to give out awards at the Maccabee [sports] games in Israel and to speak at the Young Jewish Men’s conference. The Jewish National Fund wants me to dedicate a water project in Israel, and I was offered a ride on the Estee Lauder family plane…
Of course, Jewish organizations were not the only ones to note Goldberg’s accomplishments. He was the only wrestler in 1999 to be rated as one of Sporting News’ “Most Powerful People”. He also appeared on the cover of USA today as the representative for all professional wrestling.
More than all that, though, is this interesting fact:
“[T]here is a marketing company in New York that conducts surveys to determine the popularity and marketability of celebrities and athletes. The result is called the Q rating. Michael Jordan [the basketball star] had the highest Q rating in the country for ten years. At one point in 1998, he dropped to number two behind… yes, as strange as it may seem, it was Goldberg the wrestler.”
Some people claim that Goldberg was never really over. Goldberg was the most popular man in America for a short while in 1998!! How can you argue with that?
Spear, jackhammer, pin, go home
Goldberg has been called a flash in the pan, a scam artist, a hater of wrestling, a rip off, and every other terrible name in the book. He was given a break in this business, no doubt, but his charisma and his abilities took him to the top of the game and kept him there. Yes, he wanted to protect himself, but for the good of the character and the business. When others backed down, he stood up to the bosses and tried to make a difference. Although money was important to him, it was not his only goal in business and in life. Goldberg has regrets in this industry, but he was looking out for the business. He is by no means perfect, and by no means the best ever seen in the ring. But he gave us everything and then some, and did a fine job of it. You may not have enjoyed him, but many people did. At the very least respect him; he has earned it.
Goldberg is a very private man, and that is why so much about him is misunderstood. It took a lot of research to learn this much about Goldberg, but he deserved it. He deserved a defense.
Now that Goldberg is off with his TV show and movies, will we get a chance to see him step into the ring on last time? Well, when it comes to future plans, I’ll let the man speak for himself:
“One thing’s for sure, when I do decide to give up wrestling, I could have a long and profitable career on the Bar Mitzvah circuit.”
The defense rests.
After the Trial
IN THE CASE OF THE IWC VERSUS GOLDBERG, GOLDBERG HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF JUST BEING A STONE COLD RIP OFF WHO WAS PUSHED DOWN OUR THROATS AND TREATS THE FANS, THE BUSINESS, THE WORLD, AND WRESTLING IN GENERAL WITH CONTEMPT.
With 81.1% of the vote, Goldberg was found:
Ha! That wasn’t even close. I was so worried, as were many of the “not guilty” people. This shows me that people are capable of being incredibly positive and open, so I am proud of all that we have done.
Before we get too far into this, it is important to note that JorgeM and TASS posted this case on the Goldberg fan message-board and basically rallied the troops to vote “Not Guilty”. That said, the work was worth it due to responses like these:
I’m not a huge fan of Goldberg, but the fact is that he is a big draw.
Dammit, man, this is the first time you’ve made me change my mind about one of these topics. Couldn’t you have just let me go on hating Goldberg for no good reason?
Still, even the most ardent supporters had their doubts:
Nice case, thanks for defending him it was a great read. No doubt haters will still vote against him but that’s their problem for being sheep and following the other haters.
To which I let Damian know:
Thanks Damian, glad to be of service. So far the “Not Guilties” are winning by a large margin, but the haters are still being haters. The number one reason for voting guilty? “Goldberg still sucks”. God, sometimes, I just don’t know.
Even after the case, though, there were things to clear up:
Now, I’m not a Bill Goldberg fan. As a matter of fact, I have never liked him (as a wrestler anyway). I was with you when you proved that he was no Austin ripoff…
But I do feel that Goldberg has always looked at wrestling (and the fans in general) with contempt. He wrestles for the “little kids”. This points out to me that he feels wrestling is only for the kids. Not for those of us who are upper 20s and 30s or even older who love it. He blamed the fans for not following the Wrestlemania match and in turn, they didn’t get the match Goldberg wanted to give them…
So while I felt that you just might make me agree that he was not guilty, I feel that his words showed contempt for fans and the sport.
And my response:
Thanks Gary, and I have to respect your vote even though I do not agree with it. I was talking to someone else about the “little kids” factor, and something to keep in mind is that Goldberg still talks to Steve Borden AKA Sting a lot. Sting is of the impression that he wants wrestling to be family entertainment, and Goldberg (tempered with is work with children) is in that same vein. The WWE, as we know, is not really family entertainment, and Goldberg was mistaken for believing he could be a family entertainer in that environment. But I look at it the same way I would look at the movie Shrek. Sure, it’s a kids’ movie, but it has adult themes and jokes that go over kids’ heads. Kids and Adults will watch the same thing and tell you something completely different that happened. Goldberg being around kids so much wants to cater to their needs, which is fine so long as he can provide the subtext that adults want. I felt he did accomplish that, and that — although one of his goals was to entertain children — he did not believe everyone was a child.
Then another one that came very late:
I’d like to introduce new evidence, proving Goldberg’s guilt
[Y]ou failed to mention the piped in chants during the latter years of his WCW stint. WCW comes down to the Southern VA, North and South Carolina area [a lot], and I’ve been to quite a few shows where he was on the card. Most of the time, my seats were near speakers, and you can clearly hear the piped in chants. I looked around, and nobody was on their feet chanting his name save for a few kids.
Also[,] I’d like to mention that in ANY match Goldberg had to wrestle for more than 5 min in the WWE, the fans turned on him. They saw him for what he was. A fraud. No matter what Goldberg says in an interview, his actions didn’t reflect someone who wanted to be there to entertain….
Claims that the WWE didn’t use Goldberg correctly, I partially agree with. But, in the WWE’s defense, they are structured differently. Squash matches really hurt how a wrestler is [perceived] in the fans eyes in the WWE. Prime example, they had to move away from Brock squashing people, and actually have him wrestle. That is the reason why Goldberg wasn’t built up to be the “Unstoppable” Monster in the WWE. He couldn’t go to Heat/Velocity and Squash the nobodies, because he would be [perceived] as a nobody, and you didn’t want to bring the Heat/Velocity guys up for him….
The reason why they had Goldberg get involved with characters like Goldust, is because [whether] you like to admit it or not, you can’t survive in the WWE by just grunting and snorting, and saying “You’re NEXT!” or “FEAR THE SPEAR!” [Y]ou gotta talk a little bit….
Luckily, I still felt like writing new material:
Well, it’s a little late now, but I’ll respond:
I went to a number of WCW shows myself, and I never heard the piped in chants. I have heard rumors that WCW did add them later to get the fans chanting earlier or to add to the smaller crowds, but that is not substantiated. Either way, it was WCW’s call, not Goldberg’s.
I believe the fans in the WWE turned on Goldberg because he was a perennial WCW guy. Goldberg = WCW, WWE fans boo. The WWE lost 4 million WCW fans, so all that is left are WWE fans who are protective of their territory. They weren’t booing him because he was a “fraud”, they were booing him because he was an outsider. That’s why I would have loved to have seen Goldberg as a heel in the WWE. But history happens the way it did, so what can you do?
What are you talking about? The WWE does squash matches all the time. The LOD have been squashing jobbers on TV for a month. Whenever JBL needs a rub, he beats up Scotty 2 Hotty or Funaki or someone else. Big buys like the Big Show and the Undertaker beat up the Tag Team Champions (by themselves) on a regular basis! The WWE is full of squashing….
I think you can survive fine anywhere if you have a connection with the fans. The Undertaker in the past and currently rarely says anything, and he’s fine for it. The same with Kane. The same with Yokozuna, King Kong Bundy, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, and many others up and down the card over the years. Not that having the gift of the gab does not help, but not everyone needs it…
My point is, politically you are right. In the WWE, you can’t get and stay at the top unless you are everything management thinks is best for business. That does not mean that those who are different are not good, though, and have strengths that should be exploited.
And finally, we do have to delve deeper into societal norms:
There is one thing I must comment. About Goldberg and his Jewish convictions. I understand that it is tough to be a non-Christian, or non-white person in this country. But Goldberg being over with the WCW crowd despite being Jewish, that is not an extraordinary feat. Hell, Booker T is black, and he was just as over as Goldberg in WCW. I know how tough this country can be against “different” people. I am an Arab-American, and it can be tough. And Batista is over with American white crowds, and he’s half Filipino (half Greek, and I am quarter that). Trust me JP, times have changed, but we still have a way to go in this country. And it is easier for big white guys to get over with American crowds, but that doesn’t matter too much anymore. In all honesty, I think Japanese crowds are more discriminate than American crowds. Whites are the minority over there, and it is tough for a non-Russian (or any other former Soviet ethnicity) white person to get over with a Japanese crowd. Hell, the term Gaijin (which just means foreigner in Japanese) is now more of a derogatory term towards whites in Japan. But times have changed over there now. I think Bob Sapp, who is African-American, proves that. …. And I said before, it is a small feat for a Jewish person to get over with a southern crowd, but not an extraordinary feat.
So here in 2020, have things gotten better or worse since 2005? Or — does the fact that the fight continues — is the proof that it not a completely winnable war? While systems may be changing rapidly at the time of this writing, attitudes and perceptions take generations to evolve.
More Good Things
A few weeks after the original case I received a nice e-mail from a certain person who wanted to remain anonymous. These stories just go to show there’s even more to the wrestlers we watch every week, great things they do that often go unnoticed…
Two quick stories about Bill that are not widely known.
During Bill’s run as a heel with WCW they were scheduled into Cleveland. A Make-A-Wish boy (age 8) wanted to meet Bill… [The boy] arrived about 2 hours before the show, and [he] had the run of the arena, getting in the ring, walking the entrance ramp, even playing with the sound system. Finally we were told that Bill was ready to meet us and we were brought backstage into a small room off the main corridor. We could see people hurrying back and forth as the show was about to start… [Goldberg] went directly the boy, who looked terrified — stood towering over him stuck out his hand and said “Hi. I’m Goldberg, you must be David” The boy couldn’t even speak, just nodded. Bill went to one knee grabbed the boys hand and shook it. That broke the ice and the kid went for a hug. Five minutes later they’re sitting cross legged on the ground together chatting like they’re old friends. Bill spent about 20 minutes with David that day, and this is as Nitro is within minutes of starting. Finally someone sticks their head in the door and says “Bill, five minutes to gorilla” [m]eaning Bill had five minutes to get to the curtain as he was starting the show that night. Bill stood up, and reached down for David’s hand. Pulling the boy up into his arms Bill said. “Dave, you understand this is all like a play right? That I’m really like this in here, and not the bad guy?” David nodded yes. “Good, because I’m going to go out now and do some bad things on TV, and later tonight with Booker T. That’s OK, right?” David nodded again. Bill put the boy down, waved goodbye and was gone. That night was one of Bill’s few ‘almost clean’ losses. He did take a chair shot before walking into a ‘bookend’ and being pinned in the middle of the ring — then the ‘bad things’ happened to Booker T.
The second story is virtually unknown because it’s Bill’s involvement with the WCW/WWF Invasion PPV. Yes, he played a hand there. The PPV you may recall was in Cleveland. When the location was announced, Make-A-Wish Ohio immediately got calls from kids wanting tickets. Many of them wanting to meet Goldberg, none of them believing that it was possible that their hero would not lead the charge as WCW invaded the WWF. Well, of course he didn’t, and a quick call to Bill after Make-A-Wish called me confirmed his plans to be in San Diego that day. Still, I was left with the task of setting up a MAW event for Goldberg fans that would not involve Goldberg. Bill offered to help any way he could that would not involve a violation of his non-compete clause with AOL Time-Warner. No point in blowing several million dollars even for charity after all. It developed that I prevailed on the good hearts of the owners of Ohio Savings Bank to use their family luxury suite at the Gund to host [an] event party for the MAW kids. We had 15 kids and their families to the PPV. Ironically, the family that owns Ohio Savings is named Goldberg, and it turns out they’re something like 3rd cousins to Bill’s family — all from the same little village in Russia. We explained to the kids that Bill would not be there, and in the face of a catered party, great seats, and being able to meet several WWF/WCW stars they were happy. The highpoint though came about 1/2 through the PPV. We arranged as a surprise for Bill [to] call the suite. He spoke to each child in turn. He was on the phone for over an hour. Finally the last child was done and I got on the phone to thank Bill for his time… the connection was poor, and there was a lot of background noise. I asked him what the hissing sound was. ‘Traffic’ came the answer. Bill had been driving from LA to San Diego when it came time to make the call, so he had pulled off to the side of the freeway and was standing outside the car in the desert talking to kids 2000 miles away. You have to love the guy.
Sorry to go on so long, they were quick stories when I started typing. Thanks again for writing the defense.
All I can say is… wow.