If you’ve listened to episode 001 of the Title Hunt podcast you’ll know that Dolph Ziggler is my boy. He’s my guy. I want him to succeed, I want all the belts on him, I want him to be the next Shawn Michaels. I wish him every wonderful thing in the world. This might lead you to believe that Dolph Ziggler is my favorite wrestler.
You would be wrong. My favorite wrestler is Bill Goldberg.
Not a lot of people who follow wrestling as close as I do would agree with me. Bill was never the greatest worker, he was a little sloppy and a little dangerous and his mic work was always a little below the average, and certainly below fellow WCW alumni like Chris Jericho, Sting, and others.
But when Goldberg returned to the ring on WWE Raw this past Monday he brought up a very interesting point. He said that one of the things that he missed the most about working in wrestling was that he no longer got the opportunity to be a superhero for the kids. He said that there’s “not enough of us” anymore.
And you can talk all day about the number of 5-star matches that AJ Styles has put on, or the work rate Dolph Ziggler has, or how Finn Balor started Bullet Club in Japan and they’re the best thing since the nWo. You can talk about Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson and how they’re the most devastating tag team in history. Tell me all about Jay Lethal and his recent Ring of Honor title run. Tell me all about the strange wizardry Zack Sabre Jr. can pull off every time he gets between the ropes. It does not matter.
Nobody will ever be better than the person you believed in when you were seven.
For me that’s Bill Goldberg. My house was a WCW house until about 2003. I missed out on the heydays of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin because I was too busy watching Goldberg win 173 times in a row. That was a huge deal. He beat Hulk Hogan and literally nobody beats Hulk Hogan. And yeah, probably 50 of those matches were less than two minutes long, and a good 60 of them don’t exist. but when you’re seven that doesn’t matter. Bill Goldberg was the human equivalent of a car crash made out of hurricanes. He had to be escorted by security because he was so fucking dangerous and he ate sparks and breathed smoke like a dragon and he was unbeatable.
I don’t remember the night that Kevin Nash beat Goldberg and ended his undefeated streak. I only know it happened because I just Wikipedia-ed it. Apparently there was a stun gun or a cattle prod or something involved. Oh WCW in the late 90s, you magnificent bastard.
This presents a problem: Bill Goldberg returned on Monday’s episode of Raw. He accepted Brock Lesnar’s challenge to repeat their match from twelve years ago, and all signs point to the fact that Goldberg and Lesnar will be facing off during next month’s Survivor Series pay per view. And it’s a match that Bill Goldberg is absolutely going to lose.
And in the real world that makes perfect sense. Brock Lesnar is ten years younger than Goldberg and he’s one of the largest and most memorable combat athletes the world has ever seen. In the fake and wacky world of wrestling, the idea of Goldberg losing also kinda makes sense: WWE has built Brock to be literally unstoppable. He is Godzilla in a deftly crafted man-suit. He might literally actually be Goku. Goldberg on the other hand was portrayed as very much human in his appearance on this Monday’s Raw, something that I don’t remember ever seeing before. He talked about his kids and what the business meant to him.
In these ‘returning legends’ matches it’s not unusual at all for the legend to lose. They don’t need the victory because they’re retired, so it’s a great opportunity to build a shitload of momentum for the guy who still wrestles regularly by having him knock off the shiny golden god. If we apply this formula Bill Goldberg should lose. I should have no reason to be upset. Except that Brock Lesnar wrestles, if we’re lucky, a whopping two matches per year. Not because he’s getting old or slowing down, or even because he has prior obligations like the UFC. Brock Lesnar is just a man who’s never been all that interested in wrestling. He’s incredibly good at it, definitely one of the best, but it’s been a long-understood fact that Big Man Brock doesn’t really care for pro wrestling as a career. He never shows up ever. He doesn’t need more momentum. He’s going to win anyway. And it’s going to be a slow and formulaic match and I’m going to walk away not just disappointed but actively hurt.
Sometimes the guys that you loved when you were a kid should stay in your memories where they belong.
(One last shameless plug for episode 001 of the Title Hunt podcast)