By former Lords of Pain 205 Live reviewer, “205 Clive“.
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Another year arrives in WWE, and a now five year point of contention rears its ugly, bald, and sometimes concussed and bloodied head. Yes, I am indeed talking about the ever controversial Bill Goldberg. The WCW legend’s early 2000s stint in WWE has today’s fans retrospectively incredulous over the several creative fumbles he endured. To the point that the year long run was deemed something of a failure. Not enough reigns of domination; too many wig skits, it would seem. Fast forward to today’s scene, and that same fandom is up in arms with how much of an unstoppable force Goldberg is presented as being. Ironically, and sadly, it is probably how Goldberg should have been handled way back when.
The thing is, 2003 Goldberg was what today’s audience would probably call an internet darling. A new toy for WWE to play with. Previously untarnished by a Titan Towers brush. Still enough of a phenomenon to be looked upon with a sense of shock and awe that he was even in a Vince McMahon ring. The issue now? Well, his presence, dominance, even general use, comes at the expense of those current darlings the internet wrestling community holds so dear.
The Bray Wyatts and Kevin Owenses of the world can testify to that. They are hardly shy when hinting at the disappointment they share, having both stared at the lights for Goldberg in Universal Title matches. In the run-up to Wrestlemania, no less. A cynicism most likely felt by some of their colleagues if you look hard enough. Or not, in Matt Riddle’s case. Speaking of the Show of Shows, Braun Strowman’s albeit victorious encounter with the man was met with an almost active apathy, and a “thank God it’s over” mentality. And the less said about the Undertaker match, the better. Plainly, there isn’t much evidence to suggest Goldberg’s presence placates at least wrestling’s more hardcore audience.
Yet, we’ve seen it time and time again. When Vince and Company go against the collective wishes and supposed expertise of an admittedly loud but small audience. Certainly in the grand scheme of things. Because whether or not we want to believe or admit it, Goldberg has a star appeal. Not so much a mainstream crossover appeal. But one that reignites old or lapsed fans’ interest enough for them to tune back into the wrestling zeitgeist. And not one merely measured by Nielsen’s TV ratings, either.
For, WWE’s social media and YouTube avenues see spikes in views. Both of which at least bring in some healthy revenue, in a world where digital content is consumed in areas well away from home television sets. Lords of Pain Alumni’s very own Chad Matthews once boasted of the website’s huge leap in podcast downloads surrounding Goldberg’s 2016 return to the company. My very own podcast (cheap plug – links above) discussed Goldberg’s upcoming Royal Rumble match for much longer than was deemed acceptable for a segment of audio programming.
There are probably more examples similar to the above, but the point I’m trying to make here is this. A sizable portion of the hardcore fanbase likes to consider Goldberg an unpopular figure in wrestling today. Recently and specifically, because he is next in Drew McIntyre’s list of attempted conquests. Whether his impact is positive or not, Goldberg is a regular topic in wrestling’s content creator circles. Which in itself proves a certain status of popularity.
On the subject of Goldberg eyeing McIntyre’s WWE Title, I’m undecided. I’ve been known in the past for lambasting WWE’s overreliance on legends. Or dinosaurs, as I can so affectionately call them. There was a time – not so long ago even – when I would have been furious at such booking as we are seeing now. The mere thought of Goldberg sniffing around WWE’s most prestigious prize used to fill me with a strong, bitter disdain. Furthermore, if this was one or two years ago, and Drew McIntyre, a superstar I’ve warmed to exponentially over the last eighteen months, was about to possibly put over He of The Streak? It’s safe to say I would have found myself in a right tizzy. Such strong emotions, however, haven’t resurfaced this time around. Even with a personal favourite in McIntyre in the cross-hairs. The question I ask myself is: what’s changed?
Firstly, and I think this is something wrestling social media should take heed of, considering how toxic it has become, wrestling should never elicit such anger as it seems to do these days. 2020 was a year of reckoning in myriad ways. Personally, politically, societally, health-wise. This list IS exhaustive. So for people to make demands, threats, you name it, behind a keyboard or a microphone, when people are dying in the streets or in hospital beds, or in government buildings for crying out loud, is a damning indictment on many’s values and priorities. Is a scripted action show really worth getting so passionate about? After last year, this is a mindset around wrestling that I will carry with me to my grave. Which is, hopefully, in the very distant future!
Second on my list of reasons is something I’m starting to sound like a broken record about. But there’s just something different about how Drew McIntyre’s position in WWE is presented to us by the company. Gone is the worry that he is a placeholder for something better somewhere down the line. Gone is the concern that WWE won’t ever finally place all its chips on a new male superstar (lowercase). One around which the whole WWE brand has been built, in a time of uncertainty, where those worried about what tomorrow will bring can find some comfort for a few hours at least. And with that, gone is the dark cloud I pull along behind my back when daydreaming about WWE’s future programming and plans. Well, at least from a reliance on today’s stars standpoint, anyway.
Lastly, and tentatively, to be honest, is my belief that this upcoming title program has been created for Drew’s benefit, not Goldberg’s. Instead of seeing McIntyre’s stock take a dip with a loss to Goldberg, especially at such a critical point in the WWE calendar, this is a plot device in Drew’s overarching story to add even more to his pedigree. It’s hard to one hundred percent justify a full timer worthy enough to face McIntyre, currently, at a Big Four. He’s already taken out the vast majority of Raw’s most dangerous opponents at other PPVs and on TV.
Who better, then, than someone who does strike fear in the hearts of the most cynical? Who better than an already made name with enough star power, that a victory over him is considered a notable scalp? Whether his accolades or workrate merit it or not? With Brock Lesnar out of the equation, perhaps the only viable option is Goldberg. As far as inserting one’s name in the annals of WWE history, such a win would do wonders for McIntyre’s status. More importantly, it shows an unconditional trust in McIntyre to be wrestling’s next megastar.
Now, this all depends, of course, on if the above belief actually comes true, and Drew heads that bit closer to WrestleMania with the WWE title still around his waist. Because with all of the above being said, I officially reserve the right to inflict all sorts of violence on the furniture in my house if Goldberg does indeed beat my beloved Drew! As any good will I have built thanks to Drew’s reign so far will literally be speared right out of me, and we are back to square one with regards to the whole Goldberg problem. So, please, WWE, have some sense. Have some faith in your stars of tomorrow, not of yesterday. Go all in on Drew McIntyre being your next John Cena, or the babyface Roman Reigns you so desperately tried to create. The evidence is already there to suggest WWE does consider McIntyre as such. And what better way to cement such a victory, than for McIntyre himself to head into WrestleMania and ask the all important question. “Who’s next”?
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