Cue the piped-in chants...
Yes, I'm back people. With one near finished PhD (woohoo!) I thought I'd come back and vent once more. :)
Mention the letters WCW to one of John Cena's younger fans and you'll probably get a blank stare. This is a crying shame because for a couple of years WCW led the way when it came to wrestling television in America. Much of this was due to the diverse nature of the program. You had the cutting edge nWo as well as some of the best wrestlers in the world in the cruiserweight division. You had Sting stalking the rafters.
Oh, and you had this guy...
Goldberg was perfectly placed to take advantage of WCW's run in September of 1997. Though he wasn't the most technically perfect wrestler in the ring, he had a great look which could be utilised in quick squash matches that would not only be palette cleanser's for the crowd, but also allowed Goldberg to get over in the process. So much so that not even a year later, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the still undefeated Goldberg pinned Hollywood Hogan to win the WCW Championship for the first and only time in his career.
That's right. Goldberg won the WCW Championship only once in his career. Some may say that wasn't the attraction of the streak, but it goes to show that after he had lost the streak in the infamous Starrcade match with Kevin Nash Goldberg never actually got to the top of the pile again. In one of the insane quirks of the fall of WCW, the one star that they manage to push from the ground up during their 2 and a half years on the top of the wrestling world...was just given one title run that didn't even last half a year.
And yet, for all of that, Goldberg was a phenomenon with the biggest wrestling streak in history (supposedly). If a company could properly book him...well, who knows...
Cut to the night after Wrestlemania 19 where the Rock had just vanquished Steve Austin to history. The Great One was cutting another one of his hilarious heelish promos in the ring, saying there was literally nothing left for him to do in the WWE and since the fans wouldn't appreciate him, he was leaving.
Cue the snare drum and the strange synth-y strings.
GrecoRomanGuy said in his Retroactive Reconstruction of Goldberg's run that the Rock was the wrong person to put him up against. I don't often disagree with Greco...and I'm not here either. It's not that the idea was bad on the face of it- Rock is selling Goldberg brilliantly (there's a wonderful moment just after the music hits where he grins nervously at one of the cameraman and gestures at Gorilla as if to say "C'mon, we've all had a laugh but it's just a joke right?"), including rolling around on the floor after he gets speared before clambering to his knees, clutching his stomach and looking like freakin' Death had just beckoned him. It's brilliant selling work and makes me yearn for Dwayne Johnson to come back as his Hollywood Rock persona today to put over a Dean Ambrose or even (if you want to get a little more out there) a face Bray Wyatt.
The problem was...everything around it.
Firstly, one thing to remember was Wrestlemania 19- despite being one of the better Wrestlemanias ever was also one of the least grossing. Part of this was due to the fact that two of the angles that dominated in the lead up to the main event were Hulk Hogan vs Vince McMahon (yes, shocking that Hogan was dominating TV time) as well as Triple H vs Booker T's wonderfully constructed angle that left a truly bad taste in the mouth. Add to that a Rock/Austin angle that didn't really take off like it should have due to the fact that the stakes weren't quite there (the match was great though) and a headline match where the two participants, for all their good points, were certainly not embedded in the minds of the casual viewer.
Secondly, Rock was leaving. And we all knew that was the case while he was acting like a prize tool. And so what creative thought would happen is that we'd boo the Rock for selling out.
The trouble is, when you let the kayfabe genie out of the bottle, you can't just try to cram it in whenever you feel like it.
The WWE fans did not see the Rock selling out. They saw the chance to say thank you to a man who had entertained them for 6 years and was now going to greener pastures. Furthermore, there was probably the hope that the Rock would make it to legitimise this whole wrestling malarkey in the eyes of those who just didn't know any better.
And into this you chuck in a guy who has never wrestled for the WWE, who had not wrestled in America for two years to simply swan in and be the babyface? What had Goldberg done to deserve it to the casual WWE viewer?
Y'see the thing is that while Goldberg was cheered in WCW, he was kinda cheered the way a demolition derby is cheered. Sure, you clap and cheer for the explosions, but if one of the cars hit a flat tyre, you'd hardly be enthralled by the notion of the car slowly climbing up the greasy pole again to reclaim the crown.
In WCW, of course, while the streak was alive, this wasn't really an issue because Goldberg could still be the dude who would get the fans on their feet by wrecking everybody's shit. But when he lost and the Fingerpoke happened...then the shallowness of his character was exposed.
And then WWE came along and basically threw him against a guy who the crowd had been invested in for SEVEN YEARS.
The second thing is, once you beat the most electrifying man in all of entertainment...Where do you go from there?
I miss the jacket... :(
Yes apparently Chris Jericho was next to be fed to Goldberg (having had his friend Lance Storm try to run him over first- Lance obviously doing it for the Rock...).
The basis of the feud was actually fairly sound- Jericho was jealous of Goldberg's success in WCW but wanted to prove that he was now Goldberg's superior, having won World Championships and headlined a Wrestlemania in the WWE.
But despite the fact that Goldberg was almost run over by Jericho's friend at the behest of Y2J...people couldn't get behind Goldberg. Part of this might have been the fact that people were still not prepared to treat him as anything more than a WCW blow-in. Part of it might have been the fact that they actually never really gave people a reason to care about Goldberg- it wasn't like he was doing this for his kids or the title- he just showed up on Raw one night and challenged the Rock. And part of it might have been the fact that it wasn't 1998 any more and he was now beating guys that WWE fans had invested in, for good or for ill.
Which was made all the more clear by his presence in the Elimination Chamber.
There were 6 guys in the Elimination Chamber- Nash, Jericho, HBK, Orton, Triple H and Goldberg. Goldberg managed to eliminate Jericho, Orton and HBK (Jericho elimnated Nash) in the space of 3 minutes when he entered.
The trouble was, everyone knew that it was going to be either Goldberg or Triple H that was walking out of there champion and so they basically forced Goldberg down people's throats...when he didn't have to be because Triple H won the match!
What you could have done is had Orton, Triple H and Ric Flair (we'll say he cheated to beat HBK to win a spot) basically cleaning up Jericho and Nash between them before Goldberg came in and cleaned house after being beaten by the three of them for a while. That would have at least given Goldberg the sense of being up against it and maybe given him a pop. And because he didn't win the World Heavyweight Championship at Summerslam it just strung everything along another month.
Which meant another month with this guy as champion.
Look, Triple H has done wonders for WWE with NXT and the like and he has put together a great body of work during his in ring career. But the Reign of Terror at times could get awfully one paced. And it wasn't if Triple H was setting the world alight with his feuds before he and Goldberg collided. That year we had the awful body posing that was the Scott Steiner feud followed by the hideous prejudice and burial of the Booker T feud followed by a pretty ordinary match with Kevin Nash (cause there's nothing like introducing fresh new talent...).
So Goldberg was kinda stuck in a feud with a guy that nobody really cared about, who was so ingratiated as champion of the Raw brand that he was honestly struggling to retain heat. His victory over Booker T at Wrestlemania actually soon had the opposite effect that Hunter was hoping for- instead of people seeing him as the worst prick on the planet and booing him out of the building every night, Triple H found himself greeted indifferently because people realised if the WWE weren't going to give him his comeuppance when he was being racist...when were they? And more to the point, when they did eventually take the damn title off him, how could it be a more powerful moment that the one they had potentially at Wrestlemania 19?
Because as much as wrestling is a couple of guys putting holds on each other in tights, the WWE style also relies heavily on the greater picture. We got behind the Yes! movement because it was a tale of a great wrestler proving champions were more about size, look and whose ass you were prepared to kiss. We loved Austin 3:16 because we all fantasise about flipping the bird to a boss who we really have hated.
But WWE made it really hard to relate to the ascension of Goldberg. This wasn't a guy who wanted to show his son what he could do. Nor was he a guy who came up through the ranks as he did in WCW. And when you put that together with the fact that his wrestling ability was now being found out in the more high octane Ruthless Aggression style the WWE were employing it's little wonder that he would be seen as a bit of a bust. Nevertheless, at Unforgiven, Goldberg and Triple H would go mano a mano again with the stipulation that Triple H could lose the title by countout and DQ, but if he won Goldberg would leave the WWE.
The difference between Triple H as a heel in the ring and say a Chris Jericho is the entertainment value. Jericho is able to make the match seem like it's moving when he's targeting various parts of the body and he continuously interacts with both the ref, the opponent and the crowd. And as much as I like Triple H's psychology as a heel, during his reign of terror he seemed to need to be the best at something- even when he lost. If he was facing a larger opponent, he had to be the better mat wrestler. If he was the bigger wrestler, he had to be seen as a powerhouse who was difficult to put away. And he seemed to always need to be seen as the smartest wrestler.
So you have a lot of Triple H attempting to lure Goldberg to the outside, focusing on a limb (in this case, the leg) and a very slow plodding pace with little interaction with the audience except for Hunter's furrowed brows. This is not helped by a very limp JR and King who seem more interested in praising the great Triple H than calling the match and calling Goldberg "a damn animal". So...the heel is praised for his wit and his ability to cheat, and the face is called an animal, and this supposed to get him over? At least Bill won this time...
The obvious thing to do at this point would be to have Evolution get involved. Which they did, with Batista kayfabe shattering Goldberg's ankle but the way they went about it was a bit bizarre, with Triple H offering a $100 000 bounty to anyone who was able to take out Goldberg. On one hand it kinda made sense to try and have lots of people fight on Goldberg to put him over, but on the other it's one of those weird ideas where one wonders why more wrestlers don't do something like this. Maybe Triple H just wants the title more (or has more money to throw around...).
Of course all this meant was that once again Hunter would be focusing on that damn leg again with their rematch at Survivor Series...And yes, there's a bit more overbooking with Flair, Orton and Batista all involved but geez there's still a lot of the same moves as the last one. Incidentally Earl Hebner looks like a real idiot in this match, with Goldberg at one point in a half boston crab with his hand so far below the bottom rope that he is clutching the ring apron, but Hebner continues to let the submission go on. This leads to the hilarious comment from Lawler that Goldberg may be in so much pain "that he doesn't realise that the rope is in front of his face!" And why doesn't he disqualify Triple H when he elbows him in the back of the friggin' head? Or throw Flair out when interferes time after time after time? I don't mind if it was behind his back, but it's not.
By that stage the writing was already on the wall, despite the fact that Evolution tried to bump around for him like madmen to make him look like a total beast. The thing was, Goldberg didn't emerge as a monster, like he did in WCW. He was claimed to be a monster and then the WWE expected their audience to go along with it, without giving much of a reason why the WWE universe should cheer or even empathise with him.
Looking at the Goldberg of today and you can see that WWE learned its mistakes. No longer is he portrayed under Goldust's wig or not given much of a motive. He is the guy who came back for a very simply and quite nice reason. For that the WWE were rewarded with a crowd who were much more receptive to his return.
And that's article 68! Next time we continue to look at runs that haven't reached where they may have with another worker who has been in the news of late! See you then!
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?