It’s a well-worn cliche about war, but it’s true: History is written by the victors. In the world of wrestling there’s been no bigger victor than Vince McMahon and he has never had trouble bending the truth and muddying facts to fit a historical narrative he wished had happened. All one has to do is look at WWE programming in the wake of WCW closing and see how McMahon casts himself as the David against the Goliath of Ted Turner, and later AOL Time Warner. Whether he believes it or not, he doesn’t present himself as the person who systematically destroyed the way territories ran for decades. In that case, he was simply taking wrestling “out of the dark ages” and was a savior. Same story, different protagonist.
Vince McMahon has not been kind to the portrayal of WCW in the myriad of documentaries the WWE has produced, most notably The Monday Night War, which ones again casts McMahon as the scrappy underdog who had no chance of keeping his company afloat. Once his ingenuity, his creativity and his work ethic was injected into the product, it was only a matter of time before WCW fell. There’s no reason to mention the reality: Vince was dragged, kicking and screaming to present a more ECW-like product and give his wrestlers the space to become larger-than-life. Vince created The Ringmaster and Rocky Maivia. Steve Austin and Dwayne Johnson created Stone Cold and The Rock.
Throughout the years, Vince McMahon has not always been kind to his competition or to people who have dissed him. The Ultimate Warrior is a great example. Once Warrior left, McMahon green-lighted a slash-and-burn documentary called The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. It was never thought that Warrior would ever do business with the WWE again, but everybody had their price and more importantly, very proud people have a need to cement their legacy. You need to get into the Hall of Fame to do that. Warrior did it. Sting did it. And now Bill Goldberg is going to do it. Since appearing on Monday Night RAW saying he was coming back to take on Brock Lesnar in a final match, WWE is suddenly back in the building Goldberg business. This means the company has to ignore all of the horrible things they’ve intimated about Goldberg since he left the company at WrestleMania XX. Thankfully, we don’t have to ignore them, so here are the 15 Things WWE Want You To Forget About Goldberg.
15 The 173-0 Streak Was Greatly Exaggerated
Despite pushing it as the gold standard for WCW wrestlers back in the day in promoting his return to the WWE, Bill Goldberg’s actual winning streak was less than half of what it had been presented. When Goldberg showed up in WCW, the NWO storyline had started showing cracks and people began questioning if the story had any ending. Almost every WCW talent made their fame in WWE. The only “exclusive” property WCW could claim was Bill Goldberg. Nobody sat through years of Goldberg wrestling in WWE the way they had with Hogan, Hall, Nash, Savage, etc. Goldberg was new. Goldberg was interesting. In building him as the savior, management invented a few things, like a winning streak that will never be matched because it never happened to begin with.
14 The WWE Parodied Him With Gillberg
As Goldberg was kicking ass in WCW as their only original character, the WWE had dropped their long “ignore the other guy” philosophy and began taking shots at their competition. Years earlier a parody of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and “Mean” Gene Okerlund was created just as the talent exodus from WWE to WCW began, but those skits weren’t nearly as fleshed out as Gillberg. Former indy and enhancement wrestler Duane Gillberg who not only had the name, but looked like Bill Goldberg if he’d gone through a couple of wash cycles. Gillberg came to the ring with the camera following just as Goldberg did, but instead of looking ready to kick ass, he looked like he was heading to his execution. Instead of over-the-top pyro, it was dinky Fourth of July sparklers. Goldberg admitted in interviews he didn’t find the tribute flattering and in their Attitude Era recaps, WWE seems hesitant to talk about Gillberg.
13 Goldust Made Him Look Like A Tool
Dustin Runnels has taken a character that, on paper, should have fallen flat and been shelved by the WWE and instead made a career for himself better than anybody with the exception of Mark Callaway as The Undertaker. He started as an androgynous fan of old Hollywood, then played the character (along with his wife Terri "Marlena" Runnels) as a sexually aggressive guy, then he became a comedy character, then he became a comeback story and has now returned to his spot as one of the best comic characters in WWE history. As anybody over 6, either in age or IQ, could tell you, the words "Goldberg" and "Goldust" start with the same four letters. The braintrust at WWE thought they'd run a quick skit about it that ended with Goldust putting one of his blonde wigs on Goldberg's head. It wasn't to build a feud, it had no real reason other than being a quick joke for TV. Did it hurt Goldberg's WWE run? It certainly didn't help it and if you're looking for that clip, you're going to have to do your research because the WWE is not going to make Goldberg look like a fool building up to a match with Brock Lesnar.
12 Fans Under 20 Didn’t Grow Up With Him
The WWE’s greatest triumphs were the willingness to change the product to create new stars, usher in The Attitude Era and eventually win the Monday Night Wars against WCW. Anybody with a subscription to the WWE Network can see the emphasis in programming from this period. Mick Foley fell off the Hell in a Cell cage in 1998. People born that year are now entering college. WWE, however, never went away. They still show that clip to this day. Twenty-year-old wrestling fans likely don’t feel divorced from that event despite the fact they were toddlers when it happened. WWE hasn’t spent the last two decades reminding these fans of Goldberg the way they’ve reminded these fans they beat WCW in the Monday Night Wars. When he returned to RAW, WWE was forced to show a lot of clips leading up to Goldberg’s reappearance, most notably beating up The Rock. Fans went crazy when he came out, but it leads us to wonder if the younger fans were simply following the crowd and weren’t emotionally invested.
11 His Professional Football Career Was Unremarkable
There’s a strange phenomenon that has always happened among wrestling announcers. If a superstar in the ring has any kind of college or professional sports experience outside of wrestling, they will mention it in every single match. They did this for every Chief Wahoo McDaniel match in the late 1970s and are still doing it today for Titus O’Neil. With the exception of Ernie “The Cat” Ladd who was a genuinely great football player and Brock Lesnar, who captured the UFC championship, it doesn’t do anything to make us believe they are a more “legitimate” athlete. WCW pushed the fact Goldberg had college and NFL experience, probably nobody would go digging. He was an undistinguished defensive tackle with the University of Georgia Bulldogs. In the 1990 NFL draft he was chosen in the 11th round, overall the 302nd selection. He lasted with the Rams only one season then spent three years in the Canadian Football League. In 1995’s expansion draft he was nabbed by the Carolina Panthers and instead of any on-field heroics he has the distinction of being the first person ever cut in the team’s history.
10 His Streak Ended Via Cattle Prod
Despite the fact his 173-0 streak is by all accounts as big a myth as the first Intercontinental Title tournament in Rio, it’s impossible to say that Bill Goldberg wasn’t given the biggest push upon entry into the business that anybody ever had. No indies for this guy. No learning your craft in preliminary matches against more skilled wrestlers. Considering how much of a rookie he was, it’s impressive he was able to handle the situation on way to winning his first world title (against Hollywood Hulk Hogan) in front a sold-out Georgia Dome. Eventually, though, all streaks come to an end - just ask The Undertaker. Kevin Nash, who was the booker at the time, defeated Goldberg for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Starrcade in 1998 when Scott Hall, dressed as a security guard, “zapped” Goldberg with a cattle prod. The super-sized tazing was enough for Nash to capture the belt and end the streak at 173. Or 145. Or 118. Whatever it really was, it was over.
9 He Left WWE Under Unhappy Circumstances
Immediately after leaving the WWE, Goldberg didn’t have much problem ripping on the company, especially Triple H as the two apparently didn’t get along well. He’s mellowed over the years about it and that’s likely one of the things that has brought him back to wrestling after a dozen years. Goldberg appeared on Steve Austin’s podcast and got a little more in detail about why, in retrospect he left. He admitted something just didn’t feel right. He said he was paranoid and never able to have fun. Wisely, he only signed a one year contract when he joined the company in 2003, so he could walk and exercised his right to, which didn’t sit well with fans. It’s not hard to understand why somebody who entered as a rookie, becomes a massive superstar and can call his own shots in a poorly-run company like WCW would be like a square peg in a round hole in the massively well-oiled machine of the WWE where the good of the company is put before the good of any specific athlete.
8 He Was First Seen as a Stone Cold Steve Austin Rip-Off
Who was the biggest star during the Attitude Era (assuming you know the answer isn’t The Rock, but that’s a different list) leading the WWE to win The Monday Night Wars? It was a muscular bald guy in black trunks and black boots. He didn’t give a damn about anything or anyone. The only visible hair on his body was a goatee. If I asked the question, “Who was the only WCW star of that era the company actually created?” you could give me the same answer as the first question. While Goldberg wasn’t quite the rip-off of Austin that Ryback was to Goldberg, the physical similarities could not be denied. While the WCW probably wasn’t trying to exactly emulate Austin, they could have asked Goldberg to shave and put him in a pair of red pants with red boots, yet they chose not to go that route. The thought could have been with the resemblance and domination it may win over a few WWE fans who loved Austin. Either way, it was impossible to not compare him to The Rattlesnake and as is the case with all copies, it’s never as good as the original.
7 He And Chris Jericho Got In A Real-Life Fist Fight His First Day In WWE
Jericho has told this story publicly a few times, but we doubt the WWE is going to ask him to revisit it anytime soon. In real life, both worked for WCW as Goldberg was in the middle of his monster push. Keep in mind as amazing as he was being booked, he was a wrestling rookie. He hadn’t paid his dues like everybody else in the company. Supposedly Goldberg laughed at the idea of wrestling Jericho in a 10-15 match in WCW because everybody would know he could crush him in a fight in two minutes. Exactly how the scuffle began is up for debate, but essentially Jericho confronted Goldberg on his first day with WWE about his attitude toward Jericho. Depending on his mood telling the story, Jericho either wiped the floor with Goldberg or it was a draw when the two were pulled apart. We tend to believe in a legit fight that Goldberg would destroy Jericho, but we weren’t there and Goldberg has never talked about it. We can’t imagine the WWE will either.
6 He Really Didn’t Do Much Outside Of Wrestling
Despite a couple of small roles in films like The Longest Yard, Goldberg was no Rock. He didn’t leave the WWE and become a champion in another sport like Brock Lesnar. Bill Goldberg didn’t host a popular TV show or podcast. That was Steve Austin. When Goldberg walked away from wrestling, he didn’t stay in the public eye to the degree he may have wanted. Aside from popping up for the occasional interview or wrestling convention where he wasn’t exactly complimentary about the sport, Bill Goldberg was defined as a former WCW wrestler who had a lackluster run in WWE and went on to nothing. Upon his return, the WWE tribute package couldn’t include mainstream clips because there simply weren’t any. To his credit, there were no scandals or sex tapes like Hulk Hogan gave the world, but Bill Goldberg gave the world very little.
5 He Hasn’t Been Quiet About his Dislike of Steven Regal
Almost 19 years ago William Regal, then known as Lord Steven Regal in WCW, was slotted to take the next fall in the Goldberg streak, but didn’t exactly comply... depending upon whom you want to believe. Regal did the job, but received criticism (some which say led to his departure from WCW) he worked too stiff with the rookie. Following the match, the Internet generally agreed many of Regal’s moves were stiff, but not to the level of taking liberties nor being dangerous. In his book, Regal said he was told to have a competitive match, something Goldberg wasn’t used to having at that point. Instead of taking it in stride as a learning experience and moving on, he has repeatedly brought up the match over the years, going as far to call Regal a “jerk” in one interview. He felt Regal was jealous because like many WCW wrestlers, Regal worked for years and never could get to the place Goldberg got in a matter of weeks. In a 2015 interview, Goldberg said he’d pay money to have the opportunity to kickbox or wrestle the NXT commissioner.
4 He Never Caught on as a WWE Superstar the First Time Around
Bill Goldberg was given the red carpet treatment when he arrived in the WWE back in 2003 at the Backlash pay-per-view. It’s very few people who can say their first match in the WWE was against The Rock and was a victory. Actually it’s only one: Goldberg. Some may think the only reason the WWE took him on as a talent was to take some of the shine off of his legacy, but when Vince McMahon sees dollar signs, he’s more than willing to forget the past. Just ask Eric Bischoff. Despite the rocket they attached to him, WWE fans never warmed up. Whether it was because they didn’t know his WCW work or saw him as a lesser talent because he came from the competition, the guy just never clicked. For every Booker T or Chris Jericho who made a bigger name for themselves in WWE than they ever did in WCW, there are people like Scott Steiner and Diamond Dallas Page who didn’t. Truthfully, Goldberg was in the second category.
3 He Ended Bret Hart’s Career
This is a fact that seems like everyone has glossed over in wrestling history. No, Bill Goldberg didn’t intend to end Bret “Hitman” Hart’s career. Even Hart knows that. But to say it wasn’t Goldberg’s kick to the head that lead directly to Hart having to retire is trying to create a different ending to the story. We will give his credit though. He’s upfront about his role, as he said in 2015: “Though Bret and I are good friends and he doesn’t hold it against me, until the day I die I’m going to feel bad about it but I can’t take it back. I’ve explained that to myself millions of times.” We’re not suggesting this was anything but a mistake, one that is inherent in a sport like professional wrestling, but it did happen. We just can’t see WWE adding it to any of the video packages touting Goldberg’s accomplishments.
2 His First Acting Job Was in the Love Boat Reboot
This is probably something that isn’t even on the WWE’s radar, but when they find out, I bet they won’t be shouting about it from the rooftops. For anybody under 40 who hasn’t seen it on the Pop! Channel, The Love Boat was a cheesy early ’80s dramedy that took place on a cruise ship. B-level guest stars appeared in storylines about love that makes wrestling seem like Shakespeare. The show ran for a year in 1998 and featured Robert Urich (from Spencer for Hire) as the ship’s captain. Goldberg played Lou “The Pariah” Maguire in the episode entitled “Captain Courageous.” We haven’t seen it, but as the first television show he ever guest starred, we’re going to assume he hadn’t developed his amazing acting chops yet. In fact, we’re still kind of waiting for those to kick in. Maybe pretending like he really wants to be back with the WWE will be his chance.
1 Fans Booed Him Out of the Building During his Last Match
At WrestleMania, XX a mid-match card pitted Goldberg against Brock Lesnar. Internet sites sharing backstage secrets had become a normal part of many fans’ lives, so those in attendance knew it was the final WWE match for each of the wrestlers. If there’s one things fans don’t like, it’s the impression a wrestler is walking away because he doesn’t like the business we love. Here was a match with two such people. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was inserted as the guest referee to get pops, but even he couldn’t assuage the venom being thrown at Goldberg and Lesnar during the match. Goldberg did capture the victory, but few people cared. The only time the fans seemed to care about what happened was during the post-match victory celebration when Austin surprised Goldberg with a Stone Cold Stunner. If WWE plans on using that match to build-up to the rematch, they’re going to have to work their technical magic on the audio.
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