As you can see above, the latest WWE television appearance for Brock Lesnar was a bit of a catastrophe. Billed as the Beast Incarnate’s response to Bill Goldberg accepting his challenge for a WrestleMania XX rematch, the company teased this would be where their bout - rumored to main event Survivor Series in Toronto next month - would finally be made official.
As The General explained in his reactions post, the Minneapolis crowd didn’t want to play along. Bolstered by the heartwarming scene in Denver when Goldberg returned last week, and probably just as much by Paul Heyman’s ability to get the Northern Cali crowd to chant the WCW legend’s name the week before that, WWE thought they had a clear-cut face/heel dynamic to work with for this feud.
But even outside of Lesnar’s home turf, fans’ feelings about both Brock and Bill are more complicated than that.
On last night’s Wrestling Observer Radio (subscription required), Bryan Alvarez said Vince McMahon “blew a gasket” over the crowd chanting “Suplex City” and “Goldberg Sucks” instead of cheering for Brock’s rival. The Chairman was allegedly so frustrated, he was the one who ordered Lesnar’s theme music be played to end a segment which was supposed to run longer... and maybe actually accomplish something.
McMahon’s anger probably wasn’t only because he’d just wasted a rare and expensive appearance by Brock.
Win or lose at Survivor Series, Goldberg’s return is a better fit for WWE’s marketing of wrestling history if he’s embraced as the real-life superhero he says he misses being. Live crowds chanting how he sucks returns things to the conversation that aren’t conducive to selling nostalgia - like allegations of Goldberg not loving the business, getting a big head during his heyday and needing to be humbled by “real” pro wrestlers in WCW like William Regal & Chris Jericho, or being pushed too fast by Eric Bischoff & company and having his inexperience be a factor in situations like the career-ending injury Bret Hart suffered while wrestling him.
Goldberg is scheduled to appear at next week’s Raw in Hartford, Connecticut, and the whole story may change again based on how those fans receive him. This could have been a one off (no pun intended) anomaly in Minnesota.
But at the very least, last night was a wasted stop on the road to Survivor Series. And worst case, it’s a sign everything won’t be smooth sailing to the “dream match” in which WWE has invested.