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Bill Goldberg on Big E: “I know he lost the belt, but it’s only going to be a bump in the road”
Twenty-three years have passed since Starrcade 1998, one of the most memorable moments in the career of Bill Goldberg.
The pro wrestling landscape was markedly different back then, largely dominated by World Championship Wrestling. It had the NWO and the phenom known as Bill Goldberg, who defeated “Hollywood” Hogan for the world title that July.
In ’98, for the second year in a row, Starrcade was held at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. And for the second straight year, the main event included a highly controversial finish. The previous year, referee Nick Patrick failed to make a fast-count in the Hogan-Sting bout, ruining any sort of “screwjob” that the debuting Bret Hart was poised to prevent from happening. Then, at Starrcade ’98, Goldberg lost the WCW title to Kevin Nash after Scott Hall—in disguise as a security guard—electrocuted Goldberg with a cattle prod.
Those watching the show can still vividly recall the finish. At the height of his power, Goldberg set up the spear, only to get stunned by the cattle prod and then take one of Nash’s signature jackknife powerbombs. Nash then covered Goldberg for the pin, winning the title and ending Goldberg’s remarkable (story line) streak of 173 victories in a row.
“There is one thing I wanted to do differently,” Goldberg says. “I wanted the cattle prod to be a different one. I wanted it to be the one that shot out and stuck into you and lit you up. I was told no, we couldn’t do that. Maybe I was being unrealistic, but I thought that was going to be the coolest thing ever.”
All these years later, Goldberg has no issue with the finish booked by Nash, which had the potential to enlarge the Goldberg vs. NWO story arc.
“I’ll always respect Kevin,” Goldberg says. “The guy had a hell of a mind and he’s a hell of a talent. And I’ll always profess that I am not on the booking committee. I’m a guy that comes and does his job.”
That Starrcade match took place on Goldberg’s 32nd birthday. Last week, Goldberg celebrated another birthday, turning 55. He still wrestles a match or two a year for WWE, and he has one more match on his current deal with the company, but that is not the only place to watch his work.
Goldberg returns this week to ABC’s hit show The Goldbergs, reprising his role as Coach Nick Mellor. First cast to appear on the program five years ago, Goldberg is thrilled to continue to play a role in the success of the show.
“When you’re surrounded by that wonderful of a cast, you’re going to be funny by osmosis,” Goldberg says. “It’s a privilege to be part of it, and I’m also very proud to be the only Goldberg on set.”
Sharing a particularly strong chemistry on screen with Wendi McLendon-Covey, who does a remarkable job in her portrayal of Beverly Goldberg, he is eager for people to see this episode—which includes the chance to see Goldberg dance.
“Wendy is a huge animal lover, and she and my wife are friends on social media,” Goldberg says. “Every time I’m on set, she loves talking about my wife’s animals. I’ve been a fan of hers for years, since Reno 911!. It’s just a great team with The Goldbergs. The director, the cast, everyone welcomes me with open arms, and I am honored to be part of this family.
“And yes, it looks like this is the episode where I’ll be dancing. I like to be the antithesis of what people think that I am, and this episode will pound that point further home.”
Even when he isn’t on screen weekly for WWE, Goldberg still follows the product. He was particularly engaged during Big E’s run as WWE champion, noting that the member of The New Day is one of the most captivating performers in the industry.
“I’m a huge fan of Big E, both personally and professionally,” Goldberg says. “It was wonderful to see him as champion. I know he lost the belt [at Day 1], but it’s only going to be a bump in the road.
“I feel like I’m old enough to be his grandfather. I’m extremely proud of him. I first met Big E when he was a kid at one of my signings. For him to be a fan of mine throughout the years, it’s an honor and a privilege. Now, I am a fan of his. I love his work, I love his enthusiasm, I love his passion. To me, he’s the prototype for a wrestling superstar in 2022.”
With a career arc unlike anyone else in the history of the industry, Goldberg has built a Hall of Fame career. There are a couple of low spots that will also be attached to his portfolio, yet his highs were extraordinary. He infused energy and excitement into pro wrestling like few others, ever, during his WCW run.
“I have cemented a legacy,” Goldberg says. “It’s been tarnished a little bit. There is a huge risk every time I come back, and that’s a challenge I’ve taken on. But looking at the whole, I am honored and privileged to be Goldberg in the WCW days, and I am still honored to be doing it today.
“I’m the last one that should pass judgment on his career. I try not to look back too often. I’m not a fatalist, but I don’t like the end of anything. If looking back brings me closer to the end, I’d rather wait until it’s over.”
Remarkably, more than two decades after the end of WCW, Goldberg is still active, with one more match on his current deal. He last performed at WWE’s Crown Jewel show in October, defeating Bobby Lashley in a no-holds-barred, falls-count-anywhere match.
“That’s what I needed,” Goldberg says. “I love Bobby and wanted to work with him for years, and we clicked. I was given more time to get ready for that match, and I was really happy with it. Not to beat a broken record, but that’s what happens when I have more time.”
Despite Father Time constantly reminding him that he is no longer 25, Goldberg still looks like an action figure come to life. That is no easy task at any age, let alone at 55.
“As a power wrestler, it’s tough,” Goldberg says. “It’s not easy to do this at my age. But I knew that, and I said the hell with it. For me, the prize is worth it, and that’s to open up opportunities for my son. If I can continue to do what I’m doing and continue to provide opportunities for him, then I’ll consider this a success.”
Moving forward, Goldberg has plenty of options. He will fulfill his WWE contract and deliver one more match, possibly as soon as WrestleMania 38. And while he is open to the possibility of extending his run with the company, his current focus is the present.
“I’m focused on what’s next,” Goldberg says. “If they want to come back to me with something, we’ll talk. You never know what the future holds.”
Kazuchika Okada wants to bring IWGP title to America
Order has been restored in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, where Kazuchika Okada reigns supreme as IWGP world heavyweight champion.
Okada defeated Shingo Takagi on the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 16, then had an outstanding victory against Will Ospreay on Night 2 at the Tokyo Dome.
As champion, he will have no shortage of challengers. In an interview that ran earlier this week, Okada also stated intentions to wrestle AEW stars Bryan Danielson and CM Punk.
“Danielson and Punk would make for some incredible matches,” Okada told Sports Illustrated through a translator.
But due to the pandemic, that is unlikely to occur at the current moment.
“Right now, with COVID the way that it is, it is difficult to get into the U.S., and returning to Japan means quarantine as well, so I do not have a definite plan right now,” says Okada, who wrestled Buddy Matthews in November at NJPW’s Battle in the Valley show in San Jose. “Having said that, though, there are great wrestlers in the U.S. right now. I definitely got that impression when I was in San Jose. I expect those guys to keep tearing it up to the point that the fans demand they face Kazuchika Okada.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Lesnar’s first challenger for the title will be Bobby Lashley, giving fans a match that has been of interest, particularly to Lashley, ever since his return to WWE four years ago. Plus, we get the privilege of hearing Heyman on the mic against MVP, who is going to show off a whole new range to his brilliance.
- Hiroshi Tanahasi, as promised, regained the IWGP U.S. title on the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 16, defeating Kenta to win back the belt. So when Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada team up on Saturday on the third night of Wrestle Kingdom in their match against Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Keiji Muto and Kaito Kiyomiya, they will both be wearing New Japan gold.
- The “Hangman” Adam Page–Bryan Danielson rematch for the world title on the TBS debut of Dynamite will be appointment viewing after they wrestled to a 60-minute draw when they met in the ring last month.
- Only a week into 2022, it has been an active stretch for wrestling’s champions. On Tuesday night, Bron Breakker won the NXT title by defeating Tommaso Ciampa. Breakker is the new face of NXT, particularly during its 2.0 reboot.
- Carmelo Hayes also defeated Roderick Strong to unify NXT’s North American and cruiserweight titles. The future is extremely bright for Hayes.
- Not every champion lost over the past week. Katsuhiko Nakajima extended his reign as Pro Wrestling NOAH’s GHC heavyweight champion, defeating Go Shiozaki at The New Year on Jan. 1.
- Tay Conti and Anna Jay defeated Penelope Ford and The Bunny in an outstanding street fight on Rampage on Friday.
- Jon Moxley is coming back to GCW. The highly anticipated match will take place on Jan. 23 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Moxley’s opponent, Homicide, won the Do or Die Rumble on Saturday to put him in line for a shot at the belt. As of now, it will be Moxley’s first match since entering an inpatient alcohol treatment program in November.
- As was announced on Busted Open Radio, Adam Scherr and Erick Redbeard—both former members of the Wyatt Family—will team up against Bully Ray and nZo (the former Enzo Amore) at Northeast Wrestling’s WrestleFest 26 on Jan. 22. Thinking about the Wyatt Family, while it may be unlikely, is there a better possible surprise for this year’s Royal Rumble matches than Bray Wyatt?
Big E enters pivotal stretch as he is cast aside from world title picture
Big E dropped the WWE title on Saturday at Day 1, marking the end of his first run with the belt. He took the pin to close out the five-man match, presented as an afterthought to conquering hero Brock Lesnar.
This was the same fate bestowed upon Kofi Kingston in 2019 after his six-month reign as champ. Following Lesnar’s return, a title match was built against Cain Velasquez (remember that?), and all of those that relished watching Kingston perform in the main event were left with only memories of “KofiMania.” For Big E, a similar idea was reinforced on Raw, when he was presented as merely part of the ensemble competing for Lesnar’s title in a match won by Bobby Lashley.
But could dropping the belt in such an unceremonious manner actually be the best thing to ever happen to Big E?
Ettore “Big E” Ewen stood out as a spectacular ambassador for WWE during his four months as champion. He put eyes on the belt at premier boxing bouts and showed it off at college football games. But there was a glaring problem with Big E’s title run. He was never treated as the top star, a spot currently held by Roman Reigns.
Partially due to there being two men’s world champions (how can you have one top star when you have two champs?), Big E was presented as a top-tier talent, just not of the same elite caliber as Reigns. In retrospect, he was not helped by the manner in which he won the belt: cashing in on a tired, beaten Lashley. The excitement of a Big E title win drowned it out at the time, but that scene made the defeated champ look heroic.
Looking back, the biggest issue when Kofi Kingston dropped the title wasn’t losing a squash match to Lesnar. The only guarantee in a realm as uncertain as pro wrestling is that a champion will ultimately lose that title. The problem was that Kofi was never allowed to cut promos about losing the title. He was immediately thrown back into the tag team division, which is incredibly unrealistic for even WWE.
After accomplishing his dream—slaying Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35, then crafting a six-month title run—Kingston was never afforded the opportunity to show his fighting spirit, win over the crowd again, and go back after the belt. Excuse me for applying logic to professional wrestling, but wouldn’t he at least want to fight to win back that title? Kingston was instead cast for a different role, far away from the title picture.
Call me naive. Maybe I’m too optimistic. But I think we will see a different scenario unfold for Big E.
The title loss at Day 1, followed by another defeat on Raw, can act as the spark to Big E becoming a multiple-time champion. If WWE puts its resources behind him as a never-say-die, coming-back-for-his-belt babyface, he would be a perfect candidate to win the men’s Royal Rumble match later this month. Then he could challenge whoever has the belt (Seth Rollins? Kevin Owens?) at WrestleMania and create a real moment at WrestleMania.
Brock Lesnar brings a different element to Raw as champion. But at this point in his career, he is a part-time option. Personally, I will be watching for a different reason next week: waiting to hear Big E detail his climb back to the top.
Tweet of the Week
AEW signed a star in Jake Atlas.
More Wrestling Coverage:
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- Roman Reigns’s Positive COVID-19 Test Throws WWE Into Chaos
- The Usos Represent the Bloodline at WWE’s ‘Day One’
- Wrestling Announcer Jim Ross Announces He’s Cancer-Free
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.