Gather around and let me tell you a story about a man and a streak.
It was 1997, and then it was 1998. Do you remember much good coming out of those years? They weren’t totally bad, but they weren’t exactly memorable. Yet there was some man, some very large and intimidating man with a tribal tattoo across his massive arm that, at the time, seemed pretty cool and cutting edge. A tattoo! So crazy!
But then that very large man did something incredible: Goldberg went on The Streak. The house of a man plowed through 173 matches without a loss in the waning days of the NWO and, as it turns out, the WCW. It was sort of the last gasp of the Monday Night Wars between Goldberg’s company and rival WWE, and just watching this massive dude go into the ring and waste no time just annihilating opponents was thrilling. He couldn’t wrestle much, but good lord could Goldberg crush another wrestler.
You probably know where it all goes from there. WCW gets bought up by WWE, Goldberg eventually makes the move to the one supreme wrestling superpower in a pretty badass debut that ended with him spearing The Rock. He spends a year there, culminating with the infamous first match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XX, the one that everybody talked about leading up to this past Survivor Series, possibly the most disappointing match in Wrestlemania history. And then: He was gone from wrestling. That was it – until 2016. Until Goldberg marched down the hall, walked through his fireworks and destroyed the supposedly indestructible modern-day version of Lesnar, the guy who has laid waste to everybody in the WWE who has crossed his path. Nearly 50 years old and over a decade removed from wrestling, and Goldberg was suddenly, once again, the most badass man in wrestling.
So that leads us to now, today, the day after Bill Goldberg announced on Raw that he thinks he’s got one last title run in him. Stephanie McMahon pulled out some of that McMahon charm (read: money), and she convinced him to go for the gold one last time. So now Goldberg is in the Royal Rumble, and somehow, even though talent-wise the WWE is filled with names like AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Charlotte, Seth Rollins, Sasha Banks,The Miz and at some point in 2017 a returning Finn Bálor, along with a bunch of really talented big men, the ratings just haven’t been there this year.
The ratings have been there, however, for Goldberg. And you could call it nostalgia, but then you’re underestimating just how fun watching a dude pulverize everybody can be. Sure, Lesnar, with all his MMA experience and just overall terrifying presence, obviously did plenty of that, savaging everybody from John Cena to leaving Randy Orton a bloody mess at SumerSlam, but it’s almost like his talent for beating the hell for people just isn’t fit for the WWE ring. Like he really wants to be in the Octagon still. There’s no enjoyment in what Lesnar does, and in some strange way, that’s part of the appeal, but it was getting a little boring, that buildup to one match every few months that you knew he’d rip through.
With Goldberg, it’s different. There’s still a bit of that unstoppable mystique from his early days, but maybe being married with a kid has tempered it with a more human side. He seems more vulnerable now. Not vulnerable enough that you could even get one punch in against him in a street fight, but he isn’t necessarily this machine that just mows down any wrestler put in front of him. All that, and he’s older – much older than most of the other superstars in the locker room. (Although Chris Jericho has proven that age ain’t nothing but a number). He’s never been the greatest wrestler, and since we look to be in a good era for wrestlers that can really wrestle at the top of the pile, and not just ripped dudes who are “immortal,” he’s sort of the odd man out in that respect as well.
And that’s great – for now. Yes, Goldberg is from a different era. Yes, he’s probably going to destroy every wrestler they put in front of him and it would totally not shock me if he goes for the championship one last time and then just walks away. Why not? What’s one more go at it for the guy if he really thinks he still has it in him to simply go out there and be as predictable as possible by pulling off one last streak? It could be great, it could be really fun or it could be a total flop. Who knows?
Yet, the fact remains that we really have no idea and, as much as wrestling fans love to try and predict what’s going to happen, that they know every trick the creative team might have up their sleeve, Bill Goldberg, at nearly half a century old, is sort of a wild card. He could do exactly what he’s always done before, or he totally might not. All we know is that there’s probably a limited window of time for him to do whatever, and that alone makes whatever happens in the coming months more interesting than possibly any other time in Goldberg’s wrestling career.