If you thought that Bill Goldberg was just going to return to WWE long enough to collect a paycheck and maybe hit a jackhammer or two, you were not alone. Prior to Goldberg’s match against Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, most people thought Goldberg’s return was a short-term publicity stunt meant to boost the PPV buy rate. That all changed when Goldberg smashed Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series and then declared his intentions to enter the Royal Rumble. Goldberg is not only back in WWE; he’s looking unstoppable.
Assuming that Goldberg is going to work more matches than just the Royal Rumble, which is looking likely, the question then becomes, “Who’s next?” So long as Goldberg is around, WWE is going to try to utilize his star power for all that it's worth. That means that you can expect them to throw their biggest names at the company’s new beast. However, how many wrestlers realistically stand a chance at beating Goldberg? Will WWE let anyone topple the man himself? If so, then it’s pretty clear who stands a chance at beating Goldberg and who should come nowhere close to that achievement. These are the 8 wrestlers who could credibly take on Goldberg in WWE and 8 who can’t.
16 Can’t: Triple H
Triple H has been mysteriously missing from WWE television ever since he memorably helped Kevin Owens win the Universal Championship. Inevitably, he is going to appear again and wrestle another match. It’s likely that Triple H is going to keep wrestling the occasional match until a doctor gives him a hard “no.” While his matches are still usually pretty good, there is no way that he should be involved in one of Goldberg’s few remaining dates.
We’ve seen Triple H/Goldberg before so there’s no novelty there. It’s also hard to believe that a guy like Triple H who wrestles maybe once or twice a year and doesn’t really dominate when he is in the ring could conceivably go toe to toe with a guy being built as a real monster.
15 Can: The Undertaker
The Undertaker, like Triple H, is also a guy that doesn’t wrestle that often. What separates him from Triple H in terms of credibility, however, is what he does when he steps into the ring. There is still an aura about The Undertaker that time and limited appearances have done nothing to diminish. He’s been shown to hold his own in recent years against some of the very best wrestlers in WWE (including Brock Lesnar) meaning that the idea that he is somehow the last thing standing between Goldberg and complete domination of WWE is a credible one.
From a practical perspective, it would be great to see the job of beating Goldberg go to someone that could get a little more mileage out of it, but this match-up makes sense.
14 Can’t: Kevin Owens
When Kevin Owens debuted on the main roster by beating John Cena, there were quite a few people that immediately began to suspect that he might be able to become that one young guy that WWE put their full weight behind and push to the moon. That didn’t quite happen. Kevin Owens has had a good WWE career thus far, but he’s rarely been portrayed as the street fighting bully that he was in NXT and throughout much of his career. Had he been, then it would make more sense for him to take on Goldberg if for no other reason than it would pay-off an angle involving the bully finally picking on the wrong guy. Without that persona, Owens just doesn’t feel like a credible threat.
13 Can: Randy Orton
Few people would have ever predicted that Randy Orton would ever willingly join the Wyatt Family and even fewer people would have predicted that Randy Orton joining the Wyatt Family would be the best thing to happen to his career in years. The new Randy Orton sure does resemble the old Randy Orton who seemed capable of beating just about anyone convincingly on any given night. Between his ongoing storyline with the Wyatt Family and his renewed sense of purpose, Orton is one of the few guys on the roster who could seemingly take on (and even take down) Bill Goldberg. There might be some better candidates for the role of Goldberg’s conqueror, but Orton is a fascinating option to consider. A match between the two could be better than many expect.
12 Can’t: Bray Wyatt
While Randy Orton’s career resurgence has been inspired, in part, by his role in the Wyatt Family, Bray Wyatt himself doesn’t feel like one of the few wrestlers on the roster who could challenge Goldberg. As anyone who considers themselves a fan of Wyatt will know, the guy has been a victim of inconsistent booking since he debuted on WWE television. He had the opportunity to beat guys like The Undertaker and John Cena on big stages, but WWE never pulled the trigger on a serious Bray Wyatt push.
Maybe they can turn that around, but for the time being, it’s hard to imagine anyone would buy into Bray being able to topple the mighty Goldberg one-on-one, simply because he's come up short time and time again.
11 Can: Braun Strowman
Sticking with the Wyatt Family member theme for one more entry, we come to the very interesting case of Braun Strowman. In the matter of a few months, Braun has gone from being the other guy in the Wyatt Family to one of WWE’s most intriguing big men. Strowman doesn’t always get to exhibit his full skills as he typically squashes everyone in his path, but the guy really does have a pretty impressive skill set. It’s entirely possible that WWE has identified Strowman as their monster of the future. If that is the case, then there are few better ways to announce Strowman’s potential future of dominance than to have him put up a strong showing against Goldberg. Even in a loss, Strowman could be made to look like a true beast.
10 Can’t: Sheamus
It’s highly doubtful that WWE would ever do something as stupid as pit Sheamus against Goldberg. However, given that Sheamus has received plenty of opportunities in the past that he hasn’t necessarily deserved, let’s recap why this is a bad idea. Sheamus is a solid worker who is capable of putting on the kind of old-school slugfest matches that many people say don’t happen anymore in professional wrestling. If you’re looking for people to have a good match with Goldberg, he’d be a prime candidate.
None of that, however, makes Sheamus a credible threat. For that matter, there are quite a few people in the hierarchy above Sheamus and not all of them are actually credible threats to Goldberg. Would it be a hard hitting bout? Sure. But it isn't main event caliber.
9 Can: Finn Balor
If the doctor's initial diagnosis was accurate, we should expect to see Finn Balor return to action sometime in the next couple of months. When that happens, Balor is likely going to be inserted right back into the Universal Championship picture. That’s not a bad way to go, but there’s a strong argument to be made that he could realistically cross paths with Goldberg sometime down the line. The advantage Balor has over some of the other guys on the roster is his mystique. The last time most fans saw Balor, he was convincingly winning the Universal Championship. He could come in as a young guy looking to prove the strength of the demon by proving that he is no afraid of the increasingly intimidating Bill Goldberg.
8 Can’t: Samoa Joe
Maybe it’s because fans are just desperate to see Samoa Joe debut no matter what it takes, but there are a lot of people out there who have started to theorize that Samoa Joe is going to be the one to take out Bill Goldberg. There is merit to that idea in that it makes Joe look incredibly strong, but does it really make any sense? If you followed Samoa Joe in NXT, you’ve seen him be booked as a 50/50 threat to the NXT championship. If you don’t know who Samoa Joe is…well, do you really expect the main roster creative team to present him in a way that makes him look like a true threat to Goldberg? It just doesn’t seem likely and you have to remember, WWE only has so many options when it comes to Goldberg opponents.
7 Can: Brock Lesnar
There’s a report going around which suggests that the announce team was instructed to call the Goldberg/Lesnar match as Survivor Series like it was a real fight. If that is the case, it makes sense given that the company has gone out of their way before to suggest that Lesnar’s matches are somehow legitimate fights, similar to what he's done in UFC. In that same sense, you can’t really say that Lesnar doesn’t deserve another shot at Goldberg just because he got stomped by him. Great boxers and UFC fighters lose all of the time and get right back on their feet. Why shouldn’t Lesnar be able to do the same? There may be more exciting match-up options, but Lesnar certainly deserves another shot from a storytelling perspective.
6 Can’t: Chris Jericho
Here’s one that requires a bit of a history lesson. When Chris Jericho was in WCW, he desperately wanted to feud with Bill Goldberg. He didn’t want to beat Bill Goldberg – he actually wanted Goldberg to completely destroy him – but he still wanted to be able to feud with the promotion’s biggest star. WCW didn't agree with Jericho and never gave him the chance to really work with Goldberg. These guys finally did get to have a match against each other in WWE, but there’s apparently still quite a bit of heat between them. As interesting as that is, Jericho is best right now as a supporting player. Goldberg dominating that match would be a foregone conclusion, and any matches Goldberg has going forward should at least be interesting.
5 Can: AJ Styles
For the most part, the guys that could conceivably challenge Goldberg are either veteran WWE stars or fellow power wrestlers. Sometimes both. AJ Styles, along with Finn Balor, would be one of the exceptions to that rule. Aside from his questionable loss to Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, AJ Styles has been booked as the next big thing in WWE. He’s taken on all challengers and has actually looked pretty great doing it. The story on AJ Styles is that he can likely outwrestle everyone in WWE and, if he can’t, he’ll find a way to win anyway. Because of that, it’s entirely believable that he could find a way to beat Goldberg. It’s a testament to how strong he looks at the moment that is even a possibility.
4 Can’t: Seth Rollins
Before he was injured last year, some were making the case for Seth Rollins being the best wrestler in the world. He was certainly putting on the kind of matches we typically associate with the best wrestler in the world. It’s not fair to say that his injury somehow ruined Seth Rollins career, but Rollins just hasn’t been the same ever since. WWE is seemingly still unsure if he should be booked as a face or a heel and this is resulting in more and more cases of 50/50 booking that is quickly ruining Rollins' reputation as one of the very best in the world. It would be irresponsible of WWE to make Seth Rollins look like a contender against Goldberg without at least spending the next few months rebuilding his swagger.
3 Can: Roman Reigns
It’s incredibly doubtful that Roman Reigns is ever going to be the top star that WWE hoped he might have become once upon a time. Given how much time they invested in the man, that’s kind of a shame. However, there is a bizarre upside to that false start. Now, Roman Reigns is treated like a guy that can conceivably win any match. Those that love Roman Reigns are happy to hear this because it means that their favorite is always in contention. Those that hate Roman Reigns fear this because it means he could upset one of their favorites at any time. Both sides would have to agree that this means Roman Reigns is one of the few guys that poses a threat to Goldberg.
2 Can’t: Dean Ambrose
Wrapping up our look at how the members of The Shield would fare against Bill Goldberg, we come to Dean Ambrose. For many fans, Dean Ambrose is the breakout star of The Shield. It may have taken a little more time for him to come into his own, and he hasn’t always had the support of WWE, but he’s an undeniably talented guy that has the ability to entertain and wrestle great matches. If there’s been one problem with Ambrose thus far, it’s that he hasn’t been allowed to consistently beat top-level guys. Ambrose has been booked as more of an annoyance than a real threat. If anyone is going to challenge Goldberg for real, it’s not going to be someone that is best described as an annoyance.
1 Can: John Cena
Yes, John Cena. Despite the number of people that have come along and claimed otherwise, Cena has been the WWE’s real top guy for over a decade now. You might not love him, but even the most passionate Cena hater has to admit that there is an electricity of excitement that accompanies every Cena match to this day. That’s because John Cena is still booked as a true champion who is rarely outshined even in a loss. If John Cena faces off against Bill Goldberg in the ring, you have to still respect the possibility that Cena could do to him what Goldberg did to Lesnar not that long ago. Plus, it would be a shame if one of these guys retired before they had the chance to have a proper match against each other.