A true physical specimen in his prime, Goldberg has always been known to dominate his opponents from the moment the bell rings. With a now legendary march right from his dressing room to the ring, and a sparkling entry into the arena, even his entrance makes any show he's on must-see programming.
But it's far to say that the WCW icon has faded over the last few years, and he looks a mere shadow of his former self today. Make no mistake, Goldberg was not exactly Shawn Michaels in the ring. He was never a great promo, either. But in the age of smart fans, his shortcomings have often received a lot of criticism.
Likewise, his WWE appearances have become a cause of concern among many fans. Though his initial comeback was fairly popular, plenty of fans have turned on Goldberg. Where did it all go wrong? What is next for the man with the iconic catchphrase "You're Next!" ?
Goldberg did not rise to stardom overnight. It was the result of a very intelligent booking decision on the part of World Championship Wrestling - The Streak. Goldberg went on an unbeaten 173-match streak from his debut in WCW. He defeated jobbers, mid-carders and main event superstars alike in live shows, television shows and pay-per-views.
At one point, he became the biggest draw in WCW as a result of his dominant performances every time he entered a ring. He even defeated Hulk Hogan to become the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. After his unbeaten streak was broken, Goldberg remained a star. Every aspect of his presentation, from his entrance to his impressive finisher was loved by fans around the world.
After WWE (then WWF) purchased WCW, he was one of the stars who chose not to jump ship, as he remained a free agent. He eventually joined the company in 2003, and he was instantly pushed as a main eventer due to his overwhelming popularity among the fans. It was a fairly successful run for Goldberg that culminated with a controversial feud with Brock Lesnar.
The two stars clashed in a match at WrestleMania XX. But when fans realized that both superstars had decided to leave WWE, they loudly booed the competitors during an utterly disappointing matchup. Goldberg then disappeared from WWE and pro wrestling altogether for over a decade.
2016 - Fantasy Warfare Just Got Real
It was October 2016. Paul Heyman, the advocate for Lesnar, presented a challenge for Goldberg to return and face his client in a singles encounter at Survivor Series 2016. His client wanted to avenge for the loss in their WrestleMania match. Goldberg made his buzzworthy return to WWE television after a 12-year gap. And the fans ate it up.
Goldberg accepted the challenge in order to wrestle for the first time in front of his young son. This version of the legend was looked at as a legendary cowboy who returned long after hanging up his boots to show that he still got it. Lapsed fans returned for the prospect of seeing Goldberg on their TV screens. Newer fans watched in awe as a man captured the attention of crowds like never before.
Deep down, fans thought they knew the result going into this encounter. Goldberg was well past his prime, and he was facing a ferocious monster in Lesnar. "The Beast Incarnate" was the man who did the unthinkable by ending the legendary streak of The Undertaker. Goldberg defeating Brock, who was the biggest draw in the WWE, did not make any sense from a marketing point of view, either.
For the first time in his career, Goldberg went into a match as a massive underdog with most bookers counting him out before the bout. Fans wanted Goldberg to win in order prove everyone wrong. He could finally put Lesnar in his place, to avenge Taker, and be the warrior he once was one last time.
Then, Goldberg shocked the world. At 49 years old, Goldberg defeated Lesnar in the main event of Survivor Series. He even squashed "The Beast" in under two minutes. Goldberg's entrance was longer than the match itself. This win seemed like a perfect fairytale ending to a massive comeback. But it just wasn't meant to be.
2016-17 - The Championship Chase
The night after Survivor Series, Goldberg announced his entry into the Royal Rumble Match. He wanted one last title run before he officially retired. In the Rumble match, Goldberg eliminated Lesnar to reignite their feud, but he failed to win the bout itself. "The Beast Incarnate" then challenged the veteran for one last match at WrestleMania that year.
Goldberg again accepted the challenge, and many fans acknowledged the fact that the last installment of their feud would probably end in a victory for Lesnar. But on the same episode of RAW where Goldberg agreed to the match, he challenged the Universal Champion Kevin Owens to a title match.
At the time, Owens was engaged in a fabulous "Best Friends" storyline with Chris Jericho. Fans were looking forward to their eventual title match at WrestleMania. And Goldberg did not need a title to make him feel special. He was a special attraction himself. But WWE went ahead and gave Goldberg the title at Fastlane, marking the beginning of the end for Goldberg's universally accepted character.
Goldberg went on to defend the Universal Championship against Lesnar in a match where two part-timers clashed over the biggest championship on the flagship show of WWE. Of course, several younger, talented superstars could have used the opportunity to propel themselves to stardom. Lesnar won, and Goldberg subsequently left WWE.
After this run, fans who had been unhappy with the decision to put the title on him could appreciate the efforts he had taken to make a comeback at his advanced age and deliver his best work for the WWE Universe.
2019 - Nightmare in Saudi Arabia
Following his WWE Hall Of Fame induction in 2018, many fans assumed that Goldberg's WWE career was over. But it wasn't. In May 2019, WWE announced that Goldberg was returning for another marquee match. This time, he would face the Undertaker at Super ShowDown. Fans were immediately excited by the first-time match in which two icons clashed.
But both men were in their 50s, so they were years removed from their prime. Come June 7, 2019, the Undertaker and Goldberg competed in a match which is mostly remembered for the botched spots and mistakes. It even had some dangerous moments, like when Goldberg botched the Jackhammer.
Both the wrestlers were bloodied, and Goldberg got knocked out at one point in the match. It was truly painstaking for the fans to watch their favorite legends risking their bodies and their legacies in the ring. The match was considered sloppy at best. With a combined age of 106, the veterans struggled, but they tried their best to salvage their reputation in the ring.
Still, many fans felt that Goldberg would have been better off hanging up his boots after this disastrous encounter. But he refused to walk away on such a disappointing note. Instead, he made his return to the ring against Dolph Ziggler at Summerslam the same year. He somewhat redeemed himself by defeating Ziggler in his usual dominating manner.
By this point, fans had started to get sour on the formerly beloved veteran. He kept coming back to WWE, though he clearly lacked the ability to pull off impressive feats of strength in the ring. The sloppy match at Super Showdown, along with his squashes of "smark" favorites Owens and Ziggler, only served to increase the animosity towards him.
But as one of the last draws left on a roster that lacked big names, WWE kept bringing the veteran back to boost the ratings.
2020 - The Icon and The Fiend
Fast forward to February 2020. WWE had finally struck gold with the supremely talented Bray Wyatt in his new gimmick as The Fiend. It looked like WWE had finally found a successor to The Undertaker as the manifestation of supernatural elements in the company. But On the Feb 7 episode of SmackDown, Goldberg made an appearance via satellite to challenge The Fiend to an Universal Title match at Super ShowDown 2020.
Many fans were instantly disappointed by this development. Goldberg had just returned and simply booked himself into a world title match ahead of several full-time performers. At Super ShowDown, the stage was set for the two practically invincible forces to collide. But again, WWE chose a booking decision that left the fans scratching their heads.
Here, WWE missed a huge opportunity to make The Fiend a genuine star by having him beat Goldberg. Wyatt clearly needed the victory here. But WWE went ahead with a Goldberg title reign for the sake of a "Battle of Spears" against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 36.
Wyatt's Fiend character lost a steam after this defeat, and it took some time to repair the damage. Plus, because Reigns choseto opt out of WrestleMania, WWE booked a makeshift title match between Goldberg and Braun Strowman. "The Monster Among Men" won the bout and the title to end Goldberg's run at the time.
In this chapter of Goldberg's career, the fans clearly turned on him when he went over the fan-favorite Fiend and got another title reign. Here, Goldberg started getting booed more than ever before.
2021 - Goldberg Challenges Drew McIntyre
Several months later, Goldberg returned on WWE RAW: Legends Night. He challenged WWE champion Drew McIntyre to a title match. Fans were worried by the prospect of having the strong champion collide with Goldberg, a legend who had not lost a title challenge since his comeback.
It seemed like McIntyre was bound lose all his momentum the same way that The Fiend did. But this time, WWE decided that Goldberg would put over a young talent. He lost to McIntyre and established him as the new face of RAW.
In a respectful gesture after the match, Goldberg endorsed the champion. This move restored some of the love he had lost after his previous run. But after two consecutive defeats, what lies ahead for Goldberg?
WrestleMania 37 and beyond
This year, WrestleMania is expected to be a star-studded affair, so Goldberg could be one of the featured attractions at the show. If WWE plans to have Goldberg back to put over younger talent in the next few years, it is important to maintain his special presence. WWE cannot afford to have him take his third consecutive loss on television.
A safe route would be to have a despicable heel like King Corbin or The Miz, call out and/or humiliate Goldberg on the road to WrestleMania. Then, the legend could teach the bully a lesson by beating them at "The Showcase of Immortals." From there, Goldberg can be booked to put over another young superstar.
With Goldberg putting over McIntyre, he has won back a lot of supporters. Now, it's up to WWE to handle him wisely.