SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Bill Goldberg on new season of Forged in Fire & potential interest in a Saudi Arabia appearance
Bill Goldberg returns Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET to the History channel to resume his role as host of Forged in Fire: Knife or Death for the show’s new season. For those wondering if Goldberg will also return to WWE, potentially for one of the upcoming shows in Saudi Arabia, the former Universal champion said to wait and see.
“I don’t really foresee that happening, but if Vince [McMahon] picked up the phone and asked me to do something of that magnitude, I’d have to listen,” said Goldberg. “It’s always a possibility.”
“If it’s just a money grab or it’s just a thing to throw me out there, I’m not interested. The biggest issue there is storyline. I don’t do things just to do them. If they can come up with a story or a reason for me to go back comparable to what they did last time, I’m in.”
Goldberg’s last run in WWE was bookended with Brock Lesnar matches, starting with a victory at the 2016 Survivor Series and ending in defeat at WrestleMania 33.
“The last run was so special,” Goldberg reflected. “It was everything it could have been, I believe, storyline-wise. As a whole, I couldn’t have asked for much more.
“All things considered, nothing that they put out there is ever guaranteed to succeed, but I think the stars aligned. It was the right time and the right circumstances. I don’t know if the stars will align like that again.”
In the interim, Goldberg has evolved as an actor and is ready to showcase his growing repertoire beside co-host Tu Lam, who is a knife expert and Special Forces veteran, on the second season of Forged in Fire.
“I challenged the competitors, and that was a big difference in my role this season,” said Goldberg, who plans on introducing viewers to the human side of the world’s most experienced edged weapons experts. “It’s a history of the blade on the History channel, but the biggest draws for me are the people and the differences between the contestants. I love hearing their stories, going along with them on their journeys, and holding their hands as they’re going through this course, jumping on their back and feeling what they feel.”
Drawing from the pro wrestling handbook, Goldberg explained that it is imperative the viewer either likes or dislikes the competitors.
“I want you to care about the people you’re watching,” said Goldberg. “I want you to care whether they win or lose.”
The show will build to its finale, the “Knife or Death” championship, which will see competitors slice their way through a series of obstacles that include flying watermelons, 50-pound ice blocks, tubes, and ropes for a shot at the $20,000 prize.
“I had a very rudimentary knowledge of knives, but at the end of the day, this is a competition show and I’m a competitor,” said Goldberg. “We’re in the forefront of blade sports, and we are the benchmark when it comes to blade sports competitions. There is nothing out there like this. It’s unparalleled, and these people are at the top of their game.”
Goldberg encouraged any viewers interested in watching a show based around power, speed, ferocity, angle, and anger to invest time every Wednesday in Forged in Fire.
“We’re putting an implement of destruction in real people’s hands and giving them the ability to go through a visually spectacular course,” said Goldberg. “They have stories, they’re real human beings with real problems, but they just so happen to be in the right place at the right time with a blade in their hand to vie for $20,000.”
WWE’s Goal for Australia Show Centered Around Roman Reigns
WWE’s trip to Australia will signal an important direction for the company if Roman Reigns closes the show.
Can Reigns send the crowd home happy? That is the responsibility of the headliner.
WWE has built its company around Reigns for the past four years, establishing him across the world as its signature superstar. He has defeated John Cena, headlined four consecutive WrestleManias, and Raw is designed each week to place Reigns in the spotlight.
The Super Show-Down’s objective is to expand WWE’s brand in international territories. A great presentation will help accomplish that, and for WWE, that involves more than just the in-ring product, including the return of The Undertaker. But for Reigns, he needs to close out the show by pinning Braun Strowman, Drew McIntyre, or, most likely, Dolph Ziggler.
Wins, losses, and match placements still matter. While it is a massive reach to say that WWE would ever be losing faith in Reigns if he did not close the show, placing him in the main event does solidify Vince McMahon’s belief in him.
Raw ended with the build to the Triple H-Undertaker match, which will include Shawn Michaels and Kane at ringside. Reigns getting overshadowed by three (barely) part-timers in their 50s and Triple H, who is 49—even if they are some of the company’s biggest stars—is not a good look for the champ.
Reigns has another chance to further bolster McMahon’s faith in him by expanding WWE’s worldwide reach this Saturday in Australia.
In other news…
• New Japan Pro Wrestling will air its “Fighting Spirit Unleashed” show this Friday on AXS TV.
The show took place last Sunday in Long Beach, California and featured a main event of the Golden Lovers’ Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi against Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii.
Another entertaining match on the card was a six-man tag between Los Ingobernables’ Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, and Sanada battling Suzuki-Gun’s Zack Sabre Jr., Lance Archer, and Davey Boy Smith Jr.
Naito is busy feuding with Sabre and Minoru Suzuki, but also has his eyes set on Chris Jericho.
Jericho defeated Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental title at this past June’s Dominion show, but reclaiming the belt is not the reason Naito is seeking revenge on Jericho.
“Winning back that belt is not number one on my priority list, neither is defeating Chris Jericho,” Naito said through a translator. “I just want to beat the s--- out of Jericho. That’s all I care about.”
A rematch between Naito and Jericho is likely to occur at January’s Wrestle Kingdom, which is NJPW’s signature show.
“It doesn’t matter if it is for the belt or if it’s any time soon, but rest assured, it’s going to happen,” said Naito. “I’m going to beat the s--- out of Jericho so badly that he’ll never want to come back to New Japan Pro Wrestling.”
• WWE’s show in Australia is the not only must-see show this holiday weekend.
New Japan’s King of Pro-Wrestling is to air from Tokyo on Monday, Oct. 8 and will be headlined by IWGP champion Kenny Omega defending his title in a triple-threat match against Kota Ibushi and Cody Rhodes.
In addition to the triple-threat match, which is only the second-ever in the history of the IWGP heavyweight title, New Japan will also crown a new junior heavyweight champion as “The Villain” Marty Scurll battles Kushida for the title that was vacated after Hiromu Takahashi injured his neck this past July at a show in San Francisco. Hiroshi Tanahashi will also put the rights to his IWGP heavyweight title match at Wrestle Kingdom on the line against “Switchblade” Jay White.
Former WWE star Neville created a stir in the industry with his surprise return to Dragon Gate on October 2. The Dragon Gate show, which took place at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, naturally leads to speculation that Neville—who returned to his prior ring name of PAC—will appear at New Japan’s King of Pro-Wrestling show.
• “The Bad Boy” Joey Janela will be out of action for the foreseeable future after suffering an in-match injury.
The timing could not be worse for Janela, who was collecting bookings for independent shows across the country at a furious rate after his standout performance against Hangman Page at All In.
“My surgeon thinks I’ll be out for over a year, which is longer than I thought,” said Janela. “He said if I were a football player, then my career would be over.”
Although Janela is known for his catch-your-breath-and-make-you-cringe wild spots and drops, his injury occurred two Saturdays ago at a Game Changer Wrestling show in Asbury Park, New Jersey when he hit a crossbody dive to the outside against Psicosis.
Janela’s leg left took the brunt of the fall, significantly injuring his knee. The laundry list of injuries includes a near-tear of his PCL and a complete tear of his MCL.
“I’ve done all this crazy s--- and now a crossbody off the top has led to all this,” said Janela. “I hurt my knee in June at Beyond Wrestling against WALTER, and I thought I tore my knee. I was so upset because I thought I was going to miss All In and my ‘Lost in New York’ show. I don’t believe in religion, but I do believe a presence or spirit was watching over me to get through these big shows.
“I wrestled PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles and wrestled as WWN champion, which all happened after my knee injury in June, so I feel like someone was watching out for me.”
Surgery is imminent for Janela, and he expects it to take place next week.
“The doctor said the MCL and PCL tears, the way they were ripped off and destroyed, were some of the worst he’d ever seen,” said Janela. “It’s going to be a long way back to where I was, but wrestling injuries happen. When I come back, I’ll change up a few things, but I’ll make it work and pick up where I left off.”
Despite being devastated by the consequences of the injury, Janela has greatly appreciated all of the support from the wrestling community.
“Steve Austin even reached out,” said Janela. “That’s the guy who was on my ‘Stone Cold’ poster on my wall when I was eight, which is crazy. People from all different tiers of the business, past and present, have been hitting me up, keeping me motivated, especially the fans.”
Janela helped transform the independent wrestling scene over the past two years. His presence, talent, and authenticity—there is only one true “Bad Boy” in wrestling—will be missed until he makes his return in 2019.
• Barstool Sports president Dave “El Pres” Portnoy sees similarities between his company and WWE, with Portnoy, especially on social media, playing the role of a modern-day Vince McMahon.
“There is a WWE-feel to what we do,” said Portnoy. “It’s a 15-year storyline that keeps evolving.”
“There’s definitely an element of that,” added Katz. “A lot of our fans like to see how the sausage gets made, and I think there is that element that we are a little bit of a reality show with different storylines, and that is what WWE is when it’s at its best.”
Portnoy continues to build Barstool’s sports and entertainment company Rough N’ Rowdy, which started as an amateur boxing contest but has evolved into a well-produced fight show. Portnoy and his team have helped establish a healthy heartbeat to Rough N’ Rowdy, and they are bringing Rough N’ Rowdy 5 to the Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington, Kentucky on October 5.
“We’re taking Rough N’ Rowdy outside,” said Portnoy. “This is still something that is unsanctioned in a lot of states, but Kentucky is a great place for us. It’s a new opportunity for Rough N’ Rowdy with an outdoor show at a baseball field, and we’re expecting it to be a great night.”
The show will be available on pay per view and will have more than 30 fights, with an added emphasis on the ring entrances, music, and rivalries.
“I always was a wrestling fan growing up, and the entrances and the music were two of my favorite parts,” said Portnoy. “That’s the show aspect, and we’re putting a lot of thought into those two aspects for Rough N’ Rowdy, plus we’re bringing back a lot of the favorites.”
Portnoy will be calling the action with Katz in a two-man broadcast booth this Friday.
“We’re going back to our roots,” said Katz. “Bill Burr has some shows this weekend, but Rough N’ Rowdy got so much popularity with Dave’s announcing. And we’ve worked together so long that we can finish each other’s sentences.”
Both Portnoy and Katz confirmed the show will include more elements often found in pro wrestling.
“This will be a very different card for us on October 5,” said Portnoy. “We’ll see a lot of return fighters. We are learning from Rough N’ Rowdy, and we’re bringing back a lot of fighters who had more entertaining fights, the ones with some pizzazz, character, and spunk.”
“It is the best money you can pay for a great night of entertainment,” added Katz. “You can watch for up to 48 hours afterward, and the reality of it is these guys are getting in the ring, proving their own toughness. The unscripted moments are what make it so special. Sports are the greatest reality show, and a live show like this with a bit of a reality show will really give people a bang for their buck.”
• For those who haven’t already watched, Pastor Ed Young’s interview with The Undertaker is incredibly gripping.
It is uncommon to watch ‘Taker in such an out-of-character interview, but fascinating to hear him discuss the beginning of his run in WWE, as well as character development and evoking emotion from the crowd.
Tweet of the Week
Congratulations to Chris Spradlin, better known as Kassius Ohno in NXT, who just celebrated his 20th year in pro wrestling with a reunion with former Kings of Wrestling tag team partner Cesaro.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.