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Goldberg makes for an ineffective recurring legend

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Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley (c)

WWE Championship match

When legends return, especially those like Bill Goldberg who don’t have a strong hardcore fanbase, there are usually some complaints. Mainly the complaints concern wrestlers past their prime taking the spotlight from full time talent. But with Goldberg, there’s one different complaint I hear every time he comes back. One that’s the opposite of the usual one.

My good friend Kevin texts me every time Goldberg comes back bemoaning that Goldberg is tarnishing his legacy by coming back and losing. We grew up watching wrestling during the Monday Night Wars, and we were a little more WCW than WWE so I understand the connection to a legend from Billionaire Ted’s promotion. But it’s not something I normally agree with. Goldberg was never my fave and at this point, I don’t concern myself at all with his legacy.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized he has a point. It’s not so much that he’s tarnishing his legacy from the late 90s. But as a returning legend, his returns aren’t as effective as they should be. And that’s primarily because of who he was in his prime.

Every legend that returns to WWE has to walk a fine line between putting guys over and losing too much. Any extended run requires a balance of losing to younger talent and staying strong enough to make that mean something.

Take Edge for example. If he just came back and put everyone over, then each program would yield diminishing returns. It would get to a point where defeating a has been that can’t win isn’t doing anyone any favors. Edge needs to win enough to show that he’s still enough of the man he was in his prime for his eventual losses to carry weight.

When it comes to Goldberg, that’s more true than with anyone else.

The entire of allure of Bill Goldberg was based upon one single thing: Winning. Nothing else. Goldberg is famous because he won 173 matches in a row before losing to a cattle prod and a jack knife. He was an unstoppable force. So what’s the allure now that he can pretty easily be stopped?

This makes it that much harder for the pattern of returning to put someone over to succeed. Because every time he does the favors, it’s another tick in the loss column. The more losses, the less he is the Goldberg we know. Compare this to someone like Edge again. Edge’s character was never about constantly winning. He was cunning, charismatic, and extremely capable in the ring. It took real skill to overcome his strengths, but he could be beaten. Then he would use those strengths to rebound after a loss, something that serves him well in his current role. Goldberg was never a promo guy and he certainly wasn’t a great technical wrestler. He was an unstoppable asskicker. But now he’s stopped fairly often.

Since coming back in 2016, Goldberg has gone 4-4. (This is not including the Royal Rumble in 2017 which he did not win, so 4-5 if you want to count that.) He’s defeated Brock Lesnar, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, and Bray Wyatt. He has losses to Lesnar, Undertaker, Drew McIntyre, & Braun Strowman.

Granted, two of those wins are title wins, which raises the prestige a little, not that they were matches he should have won. He derailed the momentum of two younger, full time champions with those victories. His victory over Bray Wyatt remains one of the worst creative decisions this company made in the last five years.

His losses aren’t leaving any lasting impact either. Of the four men he beat, only one of them (Drew) is a full time wrestler that’s currently still with the company.

Cleary, Goldberg isn’t an undefeated asskicker any more. At best he’s a mediocre asskicker. Perhaps that’s why in his go-home segment ahead of tonight’s match for the WWE championship against Bobby Lashley, he told his son Gage that he could go online to watch who Goldberg was but he wants to show him who Goldberg is. A distinction was made between 173-0 Goldberg and 4-4 Goldberg.

However, outside a .500 wrestler, we still don’t know who the current Goldberg is. Perhaps there’s a story to be told regarding the man coming to terms with the fact he’s no longer an unstoppable monster. But we’re five years into his return and that story hasn’t been told yet.

Goldberg’s return is a real Catch-22. If he loses too much, he continually strips away who he once was — as my friend Kevin said “tarnishing his legacy.” But if he wins too much, he derails the momentum of the full time talent. Could anyone say that his loss to Drew McIntyre or Braun Strowman helped them more than his victories over Bray Wyatt or Kevin Owens hurt them? Not without some mental gymnastics.

There’s no easy answer to this question. The only obvious answer would be “stop coming back for marquee championships matches.” But it’s unlikely he’s getting into shape just to spear and jackhammer a mid-carder for a pop at a big show. Instead, they’ll keep his appearances spaced out so his most recent losses aren’t fresh in our memories before his next undeserved shot at a championship.

But there’s only so many times a Goldberg with a win/loss record under .500 is going to have the allure needed for the big matches he comes back for. And those times may be running out.

Goldberg will try to win the WWE championship from the All Mighty Bobby Lashley at SummerSlam, emanating from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada starting at 8 PM ET. Keep it here to Cagesideseats.com for all of your SummerSlam coverage.

Poll

Who will win this match?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Bobby Lashley
    (155 votes)
  • 22%
    Goldberg
    (45 votes)
200 votes total Vote Now