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  Friday, March 1st, 2002



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DONNIE ABREU
By NICK TYLWALK
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column
Defending Goldberg

Down the Ramp

By NICK TYLWALK -- For SLAM! Wrestling

Since I began writing for Slam! back in 1998, a large number of e-mails sent my way by readers have been of the "When is X wrestler coming back?" variety. Sting and Hulk Hogan (until recently) have been popular choices but the person generating the most interest was Bill Goldberg. There's no point in debating the merits of Goldberg someday joining the WWF - that's been done ad nauseum in various places. What intrigues me is that interest in the man who burst on the scene during WCW's heyday hasn't gone away.

It's become trendy for wrestling writers to bash Goldberg, especially since he's been out of wrestling. They sneer at his perceived inability to work a match and laugh at the way he was booked as an indestructible monster. Some are angered by his alleged role in the head injury that ended Bret Hart's wrestling career; others are upset because he continues to collect money from AOL instead of returning to the business. People even want to point to the allegations of piped-in Goldberg chants and say he was never that popular.

I'll admit that I've fallen into this trap myself. Nothing drove that point home better than an e-mail I got from my brother Nate, an opinionated wrestling fan who lives in Philadelphia. I don't remember how it came up in conversation, but I do recall making a snide comment that I've never seen the words "Goldberg" and "compelling" in the same sentence. His reply was right on the money, and instead of me paraphrasing it, I thought I'd just let Nate explain it in his own words (albeit cleaned up for spelling and punctuation:

Bill Goldberg.
"Come on ... Goldberg versus Hogan in the Georgia Dome on Nitro? Not even a pay-per-view, selling out the Georgia Dome? Hogan jobbing? And this was after months, I bet, of Hogan doing no matches on TV but PPV. Months of those crappy nWo guys running in and bashing everybody to end every show and PPV. After Goldberg had to go through all of those guys, including I believe, Scott Hall twice. That was absolutely compelling. Anybody who doesn't think that should be a recent unforgettable moment is using some revisionist history, because at the time everyone was into WCW and Goldberg. That was his peak. Anybody who claims Goldberg was never that over, never that popular, or tries to era name drop some old crappy feud instead of that one are lying to himself."

He's right. Though the original plan was to have WCW get revenge on the nWo at some point, that never happened - even Sting's victory over Hogan at Starrcade didn't really do it, and the Stinger even ended up joining the nWo Wolfpac. It wasn't until Goldberg came along that WCW regained some face, and it was only because he had been built up to be unstoppable during "The Streak" that he fit the role as savior. You could very logically argue that Goldberg extended the life of the nWo angle.

Bill Goldberg makes Hogan beg on Monday Night Nitro
Sure, he might not have been the world's greatest mat technician, but wrestling history is littered with examples to prove there's no corelation between workrate and popularity. It's easy to forget that he was fairly inexperienced, and Goldberg's look and presence - things you can't teach people - more than made up for his shortcomings in the ring. Think Goldberg wasn't over? Then I guess WCW just handed out all of those Goldberg t-shirts for free.

For more evidence of Goldberg's enduring popularity, here's more from Nate:

"Goldberg was an absolute phenomenon, a huge crossover hit, absolutely a household name. Every talk show, whatever. He was so big that his appearances are still making 1wrestling and he is still showing up as a celebrity of note at many events. He is still pointed out when he is courtside at the NBA, he is still featured on SportsCenter in the celeb golf tournies. He still has endorsements! Still!".

I couldn't have said it better myself. I still don't think we'll ever see him back in the ring, but this is wrestling we're talking about, so who knows? I know I would probably collect the millions still owed to him by AOL if I were in his position. Regardless, it's doing the man a real disservice to ignore his impact or retroactively deny his popularity. Just a few short years ago, like him or not, Goldberg was "The Man".

To think I needed my brother to remind me of that. Thanks Nate.

Previous Columns

Feb. 22 ... WWF return a test for Hall
Feb. 15 ... Nick who?




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