Of all the big names in professional wrestling that have made cameo appearances/in-ring returns to WWE after their retirement, Bill Goldberg had been an exception.
That changed after Goldberg appeared during the October 7, 2016 episode of Monday Night raw, 12 years after wrestling his last match at Wrestlemania XX. He returned to a thunderous ovation from the crowd! Modern day fans never imagined that they would see him in a wrestling ring again. Casual fans had a moment of nostalgia, watching their childhood hero walk to the ring from backstage and emerge in front of the crowd with his usual theatrics.
As Goldberg soaked up the emotion, he laid out his verbal attack on Brock Lesnar, accepting Lesnar’s challenge for a match at Survivor Series. The seeds of the match were planted before when Goldberg was revealed as the pre-order bonus character of the WWE 2k17 video game which featured Lesnar in the cover. During a WWE 2k event in Germany, Goldberg expressed his desire to fight Lesnar once more in a WWE ring. They both traded insults via social media and TV interviews before Paul Heyman issued Goldberg a challenge on behalf of Lesnar for a match at Survivor Series.
As soon as Goldberg accepted the challenge, fans started speculating about the rematch between these two icons. They have already witnessed the wrestlers face each other at Wrestlemania XX in a disastrous bout.
Lesnar and Goldberg were both the top superstars in their respective brands in 2003. Fans were always hoping for a clash between them. Their dreams came true when after a lengthy and exciting buildup, the superstars were booked to face each other in an inter promotional match, with Steve Austin, who was also in a feud with Lesnar at that time, as the special guest referee.
Unfortunately, everything fell flat at Wrestlemania! As news had already surfaced that both Lesnar and Goldberg were leaving the company after the bout, fans turned on both the competitors, hurling insults and only cheering the referee, Austin. Lesnar and Goldberg, disappointed at the hostile reception from the crowd, wrestled a very subpar match. The match went on for more than 13 minutes until Goldberg won by pinning Lesnar after a Jackhammer. The only time fans cheered during the bout was after the match when Austin gave two stunners to both the competitors and celebrated by drinking beer.
The match caused a great deal of embarrassment to WWE management. Hence, they are eager to right that wrong 12 years later. But in doing so, WWE has not done a good job up to this point.
For starters, it does not have that ‘big match feel’ of 2004. Lesnar’s fights have become too generic nowadays where he dominates his opponents for the majority of a bout with mostly German suplexes and F5s. Goldberg’s ring rust is not helping the bout either. He had an awkward bump during his brawl with Rusev on the October 31 episode of Raw. Although this was a one-off incident, both the superstars have aged and are 12 years older than they were during Wrestlemania XX.
The bout could be a repetition of their previous match with a slower pace. Fans these days are used to seeing fast-paced matches between competitors. In the reality era, with indie superstars hogging the main event scene, slow matches bore the crowd. The crowd could therefore, turn on the superstars again!
Moreover, WWE has made strange booking decisions with this feud. During the October 24 episode of Raw which emanated from Minneapolis, Minnesota, as Paul Heyman responded to Goldberg’s verbal tirade, WWE wanted the crowd to boo the Beast Incarnate and his advocate. But they completely overlooked that it was a pro-Lesnar crowd since University of Minnesota was Lesnar’s alma mater and they cheered for him. The crowd was rather hostile at the mention of Goldberg and Heyman cut one of his worst promos ever. The segment ended abruptly and Vince McMahon was livid with rage backstage.
It seems that WWE are going for more disaster as they are adamant to keep the conventional heel-face dynamic with Lesnar as the heel and Goldberg as the face. This will create further problems down the line since Survivor Series will be held at Air Canada Centre of Canada and Lesnar currently resides in Maryfield, Canada. Whatever WWE does to convince the fans, they will not boo him at the pay-per-view. WWE cannot afford to have anything go wrong again during their rematch.
It would have been better to do away with the conventional heel-face role and just focus on the story-line; the return of Goldberg as well as Lesnar’s hunt for revenge for the loss at Wrestlemania XX and expect the wrestlers to take the ball from there.
Furthermore, WWE should be cautious as to who they should book as the winner of the bout. Bringing Goldberg back has been a massive step towards marketing Survivor Series as a must-see pay-per-view and WWE would not want the fans to be disappointed seeing Goldberg to be just another man to fall at the hands of Lesnar.
On the other hand, Lesnar, since his return to the company in 2012, has been invincible! He broke the undefeated streak of the Undertaker, decimated John Cena to win the WWE World Championship and annihilated superstars like Triple H, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose.
The man to beat Lesnar would receive a massive push in his career. However, Goldberg is not that person. As backstage reports indicate, he is here for one match only. Besides, WWE already let Goldberg win the first bout.
It would be best for business to have both the men go toe to toe against each other and for Lesnar to steal the victory in a last-gasp effort. Paul Heyman can also play a role in the finish by interfering and allowing Lesnar to gain an unfair advantage. WWE can book a Goldberg victory but that would not further anything in the storyline.
Till now, WWE has done a below-average job with this feud. They have two more weeks to build genuine interest and intrigue for the fight and expect a massive payoff at Survivor Series with sensible booking to milk the most out of this feud. Otherwise, it will be another blueprint for failure for the company.