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The WrestleMania Disaster - Brock Lesnar vs Bill Goldberg

In anticipation of Brock Lesnar's upcoming fight at UFC 121 against Cain Velasquez, we'll be covering Brock as much as we can. I've been having issues with my internet, hence the absence the last few days and lack of posts, which I apologize for, but I'll be getting that fixed up soon and bringing you as much content as I can. That means more of the UFC dubbed "Baddest Man on the Planet".

I had been wanting to do a post on this for a while now. It was the last match of an extremely short, but very successful, WWE career. When he first showed up packaged with Paul Heyman, he was dubbed "The Next Big Thing". That wasn't just a nickname for him to be called on TV. They really expected that to be the case. He was going to be the new wave of main eventer for the WWE after The Rock and Stone Cold. They took the shortest route to building him up; the unstoppable monster. A few squash matches with a couple of glorified jobbers, I'm looking at you Hardy Boyz, and boom, he was ready for the big time. They wanted Stone Cold to put him over but the Rattlesnake wasn't digging that idea so they had The Rock do it. At Summerslam 2002 he won the title and he was a top guy from that point on. Really, if he was still with WWE, he would be a top guy today. 

At some point during his tenure, Brock decided he didn't want to be a professional wrestler anymore. The toll it took on his body, combined with constantly being on the road and the fact that it wasn't legitimate competition was enough to drive him from the sport. Not only that but he had reached the pinnacle of the profession. He had won the title at the two biggest shows of the year, WrestleMania and Summerslam. He won the 2003 Royal Rumble. He defeated Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Undertaker in Hell in a Cell; he had done it all. There wasn't anything left for him. So he decided to try something new, which ended up being pro football and eventually MMA. But he would need to figure out a way out of WWE first. So he worked out his contract and it was decided that he would set up a feud with Goldberg that would culminate at WrestleMania and lose the title to Eddie Guerrero at No Way Out, along the way. The match with Eddie was a classic and one I'll never forget. The match with Goldberg? Not so much. In fact, I think it's safe to say it's one of the biggest disasters in the history of WrestleMania.

A look at the match after the jump.

The build up was simple. Fans had salivated over the possibility of seeing these two monsters in the ring pitted against each other, so the WWE was going to give it to them. Lesnar mentioned in a backstage interview that he could beat anyone in the world and suddenly out comes Goldberg. It was as simple as that. Then, when Goldberg drew the coveted number 30 entry into the Royal Rumble, Lesnar interfered and caused him to get thrown out. The next month, Goldberg interfered in Lesnar's title match with Eddie Guerrero at No Way Out, costing him the belt and leading right into the showdown at WrestleMania.

Of course, the WWE couldn't just let those two go at it; they had to bring in another big star. So they found a cheap way to insert Stone Cold as the special referee, which led to unintentional hilarity in the match. They played Stone Cold against Lesnar with Austin being the one that helped Goldberg cost Lesnar the title at No Way Out. So Brock stole Stone Cold's four wheeler and the feud was full on heading into Mania. There was actually a decent amount of anticipation for this match, even with everyone knowing that it would be the final match that Goldberg would have under the WWE umbrella. His leaving wasn't making anyone truly upset. He had been poorly utilized and had all but lost his passion for the business. No, he was not going to be missed and his departure wasn't what made the fans so upset and act out the way they did that night. It was the surprising announcement in the days leading up to the event that it would also mark the final appearance in a WWE ring of Brock Lesnar. 

Wrestling fans are a different breed. Most of them feel entitled. Like a bunch of only children who expect to always get what they want and when they don't, you'll feel the wrath of their vengeance. This manifests itself in two things; signs and chants, mostly negative. That was exactly the case in this match. As soon as news broke that Lesnar would be gone after Mania, the fans turned on him. The fact that the match was going to mean nothing made the fans turn on it all the more. What made it even better was the fact that WrestleMania 20 was held at Madison Square Garden. Always smart fans at the Garden and they don't hold back one bit. Here is the video of the match. The quality isn't the best but it's what I could find.

A commenter on a YouTube entry on the match actually took down the time it took for them to lock up. 2 minutes and 43 seconds. That doesn't seem like much when you read it or say it out loud, but at the time and even watching the match, it's an eternity. They just refused to engage each other, like they weren't sure what kind of match they wanted to work. Combine that with the fans relentlessly attacking them and it made for brilliantly awful TV. Neither guy really wanted to be there. I think in the course of those nearly 3 minutes the fans chanted, "You sold out", sang the tune "Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye", and then just rabidly started chanting "Austin". Stone Cold couldn't help but laugh and later said that his thoughts at the time were that he just wanted them to do something. The fact of the matter was there really wasn't anything they could do. Once they finally got some offense going, using the unstoppable force-immovable object guideline, the fans just booed louder and rained down "booooring" chants. The chants were so bad that the WWE actually edited down the DVD release. 

The match as a whole just could not be saved due to the intense hate the crowd was spewing all throughout it. The slow start was embarrassing and they didn't seem to have chemistry in the ring. If I had to rate it, I'd give it one star but Jason Mann over at Wrestlespective as a different, but very interesting, outlook on the match.

Try an experiment. Find the match. Watch it. But turn the sound completely off.

True, it begins slow, as both men soak in the crowd and are reluctant to lock up. But once they finishing battling for lockups, the work itself is fine. It’s a basic structure, but Goldberg’s high-impact moves such as a gorilla press into a spinebuster look great, and Lesnar’s strikes and bumping are top-notch. The last few minutes even build to a fairly dramatic finish, with Goldberg finishing with a spear and jackhammer after kicking out of an F5.

Lesnar-Goldberg is no classic, but it’s hardly an embarrassment. In fact, if you ignore the respective crowd, and compare the actual match to Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III, I really think Lesnar-Goldberg comes out on top.

Now, if you watch it again with the sound on, obviously it’s a different story.

I wouldn't put it all on the fans but he's largely right. With the sound off and ignoring the ridiculously slow start, it wasn't the worst match in the world. However, what I find to be truly the greatest happening about this whole thing is the fact that the very last thing that Goldberg, and more importantly Brock Lesnar, ever did in a WWE ring was take a Stone Cold Stunner from good old Steve Austin.

Jason actually makes another good point on that same post about Lesnar and the way wrestling fans view him now.

While Lesnar didn’t live up to the expectations of becoming the next Goldberg in pro wrestling, he of course became a far, far bigger star in another sport.

Amusingly, six-plus years after his ignoble exit from WWE, Lesnar is almost universally beloved by wrestling fans for his MMA success, and his two 2010 fights are likely to do about the same business in North America as all 13 WWE pay-per-views.

Like I said, wrestling fans really are something else. They were the first to call him a sell out and shit all over him for leaving and as soon as he had success in MMA, the first to take credit for him. He's actually made many a pro wrestling fan feel like they have a place in MMA because of his success. Either way, the match with Goldberg is something I will always remember when I think of Brock Lesnar.

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