Skip to main content

53-Year-Old Goldberg Out to Prove He Still Has It in Match vs. Bray Wyatt

After a truly terrible performance against The Undertaker in June, Bill Goldberg hopes his next match in Saudi Arabia shows he’s still on top of his game.

Bill Goldberg is ready to shock the wrestling world.

On Thursday at Mohammed Abdu Arena on the Boulevard in Riyadh—more than 6,500 miles away from WWE’s Connecticut headquarters—Goldberg will wrestle “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt for the Universal Championship.

The stakes could not be higher. For better or worse, this match will decide a critical piece of next month’s WrestleMania. If Wyatt wins, then speculation will run rampant whether he will defend the title at WWE’s signature event against Roman Reigns, John Cena, or Daniel Bryan. But those plans change entirely if we are treated to Goldberg’s greatest hits. If Wyatt takes a spear and a jackhammer, then has his shoulders pinned to the mat for a three-count, Goldberg will stomp into WrestleMania as the Universal Champion.

Will the Super Showdown be Saudi Arabia’s version of the July 6, 1998 episode of Nitro when Goldberg defeated “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan at a packed Georgia Dome to win the WCW title?

A lot has changed since that fateful night. A never-ending stream of back, hip, and knee issues have plagued Hogan, forcing the 66-year-old into retirement. WCW was purchased and swallowed up by Vince McMahon, and Nitro exists as nothing more than a relic from the past. The 53-year-old Goldberg has proven he is still a draw, but whether he should be booked to defeat WWE’s most unstoppable force is a question worth asking.

Many unknowns surround this matchup, but Goldberg knew this was the right time to return to the ring.

“I need to erase my last performance here, first and foremost,” said Goldberg, speaking from Saudi Arabia, referring to his unmitigated disaster of a match from last June against The Undertaker. “I knocked myself out 30 seconds into the match, and I performed like a school child. That’s one of the reasons I’m back, and this is my opportunity to do it.

“My internal clock is ticking, and I don’t know when it’s going to stop in terms of my ability to put these boots on and continue to do what I used to do. And when I’m posed with a challenge, I’m a defensive lineman, I don’t turn it down.”

A large portion of the wrestling audience is viewing this match from Wyatt’s perspective. Is it wise to have “The Fiend” lose to a part-time talent? Could this be an example of WWE devaluing one of its full-time stars? Those are all legitimate questions, but Goldberg enters this match wrestling for far more than the Universal Championship. Will a weak performance chip away at the armor of his legacy?

“I don’t know, man,” said Goldberg. “I don’t know, but somebody asked me to do something physical and I still believe I can do it.”

Goldberg still looks like an action figure come to life. He trains three times a day, and he put himself through grueling, strenuous workouts well in advance of the Saudi show, knowing that, since he is signed to a WWE contract, the phone call from Vince McMahon was inevitable.

“This is still a passion of mine,” said Goldberg, whose gratitude and appreciation for pro wrestling continues to reach heights he never imagined. “I also have a responsibility to my fans, who still believe in me to go out there and be the same machine I used to be, so I’m going to go out there and do it.”

For reasons that vary from personal to political, the trips to Saudi Arabia are not all embraced by WWE talent. Yet the trip resonates with Goldberg for reasons that extend beyond wrestling.

“There was a time in my life where I never thought there would be people in Alabama chanting my name, let alone Saudi Arabia,” said Goldberg. “These trips open my eyes to the power of the wrestling business, as well as to the goodness of people.

“I was here in November for a car show, and I was able to stay for a much longer stretch and experience the people from a different perspective. I met a little boy and girl, and that meeting brought me to tears. They were two beautiful, innocent children, no different from children anywhere else in the world. Experiencing it for myself, the people I’ve met here are gracious and kind. It’s truly an honor and a privilege to have people appreciate what you do and appreciate what you stand for, and then believe for a few minutes that you’re a super hero. In the ring, whether you’re black, white, blue, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, it makes no difference. My advice is to experience life for yourself and make your own opinion.”

As for the wrestling, Goldberg admittedly has unfinished business following his last Saudi performance against ’Taker. In addition to his outstanding physical condition, another reason he is quietly confident entering Super Showdown has everything to do with the men behind the curtain, starting with the brilliant mind of Paul Heyman.

“Paul Heyman is one of the few people on the planet that can set up a scenario for myself to fulfill and entertain everyone,” said Goldberg. “In the beginning, I didn’t need a Paul Heyman. I was the Mike Tyson of wrestling, I just needed people in front of me. I took wrestling back to the dark ages, like throwing Romans to the lions. I’m honored to have someone like Paul work with me creatively.”

Goldberg also singled out John Laurinaitis and Vince McMahon as people directly responsible for his success.

“Another integral part in my character in what I do is John Laurinaitis, and so is Vince McMahon,” said Goldberg. “Without those people, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And most importantly, I needed people to allow me to spear and jackhammer them–without them, I wouldn’t be who I am now. It’s a combined effort to set up a character like this.”

The stories behind the curtain in wrestling can often be even more fascinating than what transpires in the ring. With all the discussion of title changes, protecting full-time talent, and plans for WrestleMania, a reminder is almost needed that the Wyatt-Goldberg match will be appointment viewing. And Goldberg is grateful to re-enter the ring with an opponent like the reigning Universal Champion.

“I respect Bray as an athlete and a performer,” said Goldberg. “His character ‘The Fiend’ is an unstoppable force. I left a pretty lasting impression on the people that were watching, and Bray is a special enough athlete to do what I did back in the day.

“And I like the storyline. I never had a rematch. I’m not afraid of any human being on the planet, so that might be a difference between myself and the people he’s faced before. If I’m not afraid of Brock Lesnar, I’m not afraid of anyone.”

The final question posed to Goldberg was if he is ready for the nonstop responsibility on his body, mind, and soul that is inherent in becoming one of WWE’s top champions—a legitimate possibility based on the way his story with Wyatt has been presented thus far.

“I wouldn’t step in the ring if I wasn’t ready for that responsibility,” said Goldberg. “I hope and pray that I have the ability to bring a tenth of what Goldberg used to be. I’ve always said that 80 percent of me is better than 99 percent of the other schmucks on the planet.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.