When Goldberg worked his program with Brock Lesnar that led up to WrestleMania 33, it felt like a wrestling miracle. Here was a star of the late 1990s, who had last worked a full-time wrestling schedule in 2004, not only coming out of retirement but doing so to battle one of the hardest hitting, biggest stars of all time in Brock Lesnar, let alone with the Universal Title ultimately at stake.
After that program, Goldberg said farewell, first in an address to fans on Raw, then with his WWE Hall of Fame induction. It looked like we had seen the last of him, besides maybe the occasional, one-off legend appearance. That is, until this spring. Rumors that AEW might pursue him gave way to the announcement WWE had contracted to, at minimum, work at the next show in Saudi Arabia this June.
Goldberg doesn’t have many miles left in the tank, but it also doesn’t look like he’s done just yet. This article looks at five opponents it would still be worth his while to face, and five to avoid.
10 Opponent For Goldberg: The Undertaker
One of the challenges of booking a star the magnitude of Goldberg is finding a suitable legend who can hold his own in terms of notoriety among hardcore and casual fans alike. It’s why Brock Lesnar made sense as Goldberg’s primary opponent in his most recent WWE run, and why it felt like a step up for Kevin Owens—even as Universal Champion—to get squashed by him.
One of the few other talents WWE teased engaging with Goldberg this most recent run was The Undertaker. In terms of first-time dream matches between stars of a similar era, Goldberg vs. The Dead Man has a lot of appeal. No, the match itself wouldn’t have much hope, but if kept short and booked to protect both men, it could be a fun spectacle.
9 Goldberg Shouldn’t Face: Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock has been campaigning for another shot at the big time in pro wrestling for some time now. His ego seems to have tripped him. His high asking price largely priced him out of working for smaller promotions after his WWE career and a brief stint in the early days of Impact Wrestling. At the age of fifty-five, he has pitched himself as an opponent to Brock Lesnar and later as Kurt Angle’s final opponent for WrestleMania.
WWE seems to have closed the door on its business relationship with Shamrock, but might the World’s Most Dangerous Man surface for AEW? If so, he’d have the notoriety and real-life fighting credentials to make some sense challenging Goldberg. Nonetheless, it’s hard to buy him as a wrestling draw these days, and if AEW were to look past booking Goldberg against a fellow main event legend, then the booking should probably go to a young up and comer, not Shamrock.
8 Opponent For Goldberg: Kenny Omega
In terms of sheer match quality, it’s difficult to imagine much of anyone pulling a genuinely great match out of Goldberg. Kenny Omega is on the very short list of the best workers alive today, though, and if anyone could break three stars in a traditional match with Goldberg in 2019, it may well be him.
Omega’s high flying and bumping talent would be on display for this match, which would probably be built to make Goldberg look like a million bucks, while Omega gets over based on whatever offense he can muster against the legend.
7 Goldberg Shouldn’t Face: Cody Rhodes
From day one with AEW, Cody Rhodes will be walking a tightrope between cashing in on his own fame and family name to bolster his brand, while needing to do all he can to keep from making AEW look like a vanity project built to put himself over. It’s a trap Jeff Jarrett fell into with Impact Wrestling, booking himself as the top star and more of a main eventer than most fans were prepared to buy him as. While Rhodes is generally better liked in the wrestling community, he still needs to watch his step.
Rhodes doesn’t match up well with Goldberg visually or in terms of in-ring style. If Goldberg were to come to AEW, it would be best for these two not to clash in the ring.
6 Opponent For Goldberg: Matt Riddle
One of the tougher parts of planning a big match for Goldberg at this stage of his career is that his body isn’t necessarily built to hold up to taking many bumps. There’s an extent to which that’s fine, given that even in his heyday, Goldberg tended to dish out most of the offense, and to do so in short matches. However, when it comes to giving younger stars some shine, if not the rub of a big victory, it’s a tougher sell.
A performer like Matt Riddle brings real-life amateur wrestling and MMA skills to the table, besides his size making him relatively believable as someone who could take on Goldberg. As far as up and comers in the WWE system, he’d be a prime choice for this matchup.
5 Goldberg Shouldn’t Face: Lars Sullivan
On paper, Lars Sullivan could make a compelling opponent for Goldberg given that he has the look and size to make Goldberg look like an underdog, not to mention that WWE seems to be building him as a serious threat. While Sullivan isn’t a bad worker from bell to bell, though, he remains very green. In NXT, his title fight with Aleister Black was his only match to write home about, and WWE seemed to consciously have him keep a low profile in the aftermath to protect him and cleanse fans’ palettes before he moved up to the main roster.
Goldberg vs. Sullivan wouldn’t stand much of a chance of actually being a good match and Sullivan isn’t a big enough star—at least yet—for this match to feel like a fitting draw in WWE.
4 Opponent For Goldberg: Jeff Cobb
Jeff Cobb rose to prominence in hardcore wrestling fan circles for his work as The Monster Matanza Cueto in Lucha Underground, where he did an excellent job of playing a monster heel character. Cobb has since gone on to success working with Ring of Honor.
By WWE standards, Cobb isn’t exactly a giant, but he nonetheless works a big man style well, and if AEW could lure him into their locker room, he could be one of the more credible challengers for a legend like Goldberg. Moreover, Cobb’s star power would only stand to gain from this pairing, and he’s a good enough performer to put together a suitable match for an opponent with limitations.
3 Goldberg Shouldn’t Face: Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns rightfully returned to WWE more popular than ever after beating back leukemia and getting back in the ring far sooner than anyone expected. There could be an understandable temptation on the part of WWE to get him the ring with Goldberg. After all, they’re both big, popular stars whose explosive spears are signature parts of their offensive arsenals.
At this point, however, WWE should be doing all it can to protect and preserve Reigns' popularity. Putting him in a shades of gray situation against a bona fide legend, in what probably wouldn’t be a great match, doesn’t bode well.
2 Opponent For Goldberg: Pentagon
Quite a few wrestlers have had the opportunity to shine working for Lucha Underground, but one of the most definitive stars is Pentagon. Across the first season, he developed from a relatively generic heel to one of the most explosively over acts in the company based on his violent, vicious edge. These dynamics ultimately turned him into an offbeat face who transcended cultural lines and arrived on top, winning the Lucha Underground Championship.
Pentagon since did well in Impact Wrestling and MLW, and has now signed with AEW as half of a tag team with his brother Fenix. This tag team is a good platform to introduce him to a larger audience, but Pentagon has the potential to break out as a singles star before too long. If he can recreate his magic from Lucha Underground, he could arrive as exactly the sort of young, electric performer who could be an optimal foil for Goldberg.
1 Goldberg Shouldn’t Face: Braun Strowman
There are ways in which Braun Strowman makes a lot of sense as an opponent for Goldberg, particularly given his size and strength. He’s still unproven as an in-ring performer, though. Moreover, while he’s fast for his size, it’s doubtful whether he’d be athletic enough to convincingly sell Goldberg’s offense at this stage in their respective careers. Most notably, there’s little hope that Goldberg could jackhammer Strowman, and any Goldberg match at this point without his famous finisher would probably ring hollow.
Strowman could conceivably benefit from partnering with Goldberg as some sort of all-star tag team. As opponents, however, it just doesn’t look like a fit now or moving forward.