• J.P. Prag

In Defense Of…8.14.05: Goldberg (Part 1 Of 2) [REPOST]

In Defense of…

By JP Prag


Issue #16


Goldberg (Part 1 of 2)


Intro


Hello my wonderfully faithful readers, and thanks for coming back to In Defense Of…! Last week we finished off the case of the IWC vs. Vince McMahon not buying out WCW’s top contracted wrestlers. This tale of business intrigue, numbers, backstage shenanigans, and 10-K summaries can be read in the ground shaking Part 1 and quickly finished in the diabolical Part 2.


But I have a feeling you have already read those issues and want the verdict. Well then, with exactly 62 and 2/3 percent of the vote, Vince Not Buying Out WCW’s Contracts has been found:


NOT GUILTY!


And the streak continues! Despite a case of mistaken semantics and some people’s interpretation of the law.


A number of readers who voted guilty did so because of the fantasy of everything that the InVasion could have been. I cannot stress this enough: Vince’s trial was not about the InVasion, it was about not acquiring WCW’s top tier contracts. And at that, to find Vince guilty based on what could have been (but still would probably have not been) is just against justice. Would you find someone guilty of murder because they chose to stay in bed instead of taking their normal root to school where they would have seen the murder happening? No! It’s pure fantasy, and finding someone guilty of not living up to your hopes and dreams does not take away from the actual actions they have done.


Some people additionally came up with very rich and creative fantasy booking that I did enjoy, no doubt. I would have loved to have seen some of those matches, but people were trying to bend the laws of time and reality. Anything involving Triple H (torn quad), Chris Benoit (neck surgery), Scott Steiner (dropped foot syndrome), HBK (still retired), or Goldberg (shoulder surgery) just could not have happen. I mean that: physically could not happen. But yet Vince was voted guilty on those accounts. Since when is evidence of fantasy permitted in court?


We’ll have a talk next issue about “reasonable doubt”, too. Actually, I think I’ll start to spell out the new law of the IWC! But of course, everything is up for debate, so be sure to disagree or propose new amendments to the jurisdiction of this court.


Of course, we won’t have any law to talk about unless we get to our next case!

Perhaps this is your first time clicking on In Defense Of…? Maybe you didn’t read about Vince not buying out WCW’s contracts, Earl Hebner Screwing Bret Hart, Dusty Rhodes: Head Booker, The Finger Poke of Doom, Kevin Nash, the Elimination Chamber, or even Eric Bischoff. It might be that you loved the last bastion of hope for WCW, or hated him with everything in your being. Well, for those new to the concept, this article has a pretty simple premise:


Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum wrap. Certain writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!


And that’s what I intend to do.


Me? I’m the One and Only JP, and I finally caught up to all my e-mail! Sorry for those of you who were waiting for a month to hear back from me!


Some dame walked into my office and said…


A while back, I received a note from Damian Bartlett who let me know…


I have a REAL challenge for you!


Bill Goldberg. I personally wasn't amazed with him in WWE at first, but over time I warmed to him. He wasn't boring in the ring, he was a fierce character who knew his role and didn't try to be anything but himself. Not to mention he sold really well, I was expecting far worse after hearing the IWC slam him on everything he did.


He is constantly called a money grabber who doesn't care for the business, people say he has three moves, he's bland and a generic big man.. I disagree on all accounts, but can you defend Goldberg?


Still, earlier I had heard from Ben Jammin out in Modesto, CA who wanted all the credit that credit deserves:


How about one on Goldberg? That should give ya something hard to work on....


Even hardcore supporter and nWo 4-Life member Andrew Strom had this to say recently:


If you ever defend Bill Goldberg and I vote NOT GUILTY then you truly are a master at this, because I am not really his biggest fan.


More so, a comment from Justin Pelletier (though not the only similar one) when I announced the case made it abundantly clear that I had to do this case:


Good luck trying to get a Not Guilty out of me considering GOLDBERG. I hate that douche bag.


It’s an uphill battle, but I love a good challenge!


Why this?


Justin’s and many other people’s comments made it clear: the IWC hates Goldberg. But why? Why is he a douche bag? What did he ever do that made people hate him so? He went out there, wrestled, scored a bunch of victories, won some titles, lost some titles, did his job, and tried to watch out for himself in a dangerous business. What along the way made people turn their backs on him so much?


Part of me believes that when the WWF bought WCW, the wrestling world lost the vast majority of WCW fans, and therefore there are only WWE, Japanese, and Independent fans left. But something goes deeper, even with the remaining WCW fans. What is it about Goldberg that ticks off so many fans? But more importantly, does he deserve their ire?


A while back, Matthew Sforcina did an Evolution Schematic on Goldberg that I thought was tremendous and really put his character in perspective. But it was not enough. Maybe those who read it understood the character better (especially those who did not see his initial assent), but there is a deeper problem underlying the surface. And it all comes from his detractors presenting false facts.


So often, I have read outright lie after lie about Goldberg repeated as if it were the only truth possible. Maybe you don’t like Goldberg, maybe you don’t like unstoppable babyfaces, that’s fine. I generally prefer heels myself (Goldberg being one of the notable exceptions). But to take that hatred and spin lies around it to justify that hatred… that goes against everything this court stands for.


So while Evolution Schematic may not have been a case of Goldberg the man, but the character, this case hopes to do a lot more. I want Goldberg the character to be a consideration, as well as the man, as well as the combination of the two. We will blur the lines back and forth without warning, but at the end of the day, I hope this case looks at what Goldberg has meant for wrestling overall.


But I suppose I cannot get there until I get the biggest lie out of the way…


Stone Cold Rip Off


The absolute biggest and most outrageous lie I read every week is that Goldberg is a Stone Cold Steve Austin rip off designed to confuse the fans into watching WCW.


How this argument makes any sense is beyond me.


First off, yes, both men were bald, had a goatee, and wore black trunks. But this is going to come as a real shock: neither man was the first to go for this look! Hundreds of wrestlers over the years have had the same look, and hundreds more will in the future. Heck, I bet Gene Snitsky will lose a match at some point and have his head shaved bald and look the same. Well, ok, much more ugly, but the same. But Goldberg did not shave his head to look like anyone. He had played professional sports (notably football) for years and, as many athletes do, felt his hair got in the way and got rid of it. It’s a quick and easy way to eliminate heat, sweat, and hygiene problems associated with constantly playing a demanding game.


Still, Austin really spent most of his time in denim shorts and a leather vest. Goldberg rarely appeared in anything but his black trunks while in WCW. Not until his trip to Japan and subsequent return to the WWE did he trade them in for black and white checker shorts. Back during the Monday Night Wars, though, you were more likely to see Goldberg in wrestling attire then Steve Austin.


But let’s look beyond the surface. Steve Austin was an anti-hero who spent more time on the mic then in the ring. He was a loner who attacked everyone and talked trash non-stop. That was his character. But what about Goldberg? Goldberg was a quiet man who just came in, beat people up, and left. He rarely said anything, and most of the time it was “Who’s next?!” Austin went around flipping people off and beating up the boss, Goldberg had a long entrance to the ring with security guards a la a boxer.


How are those two similar characters in the least? Just because both men were getting popular at the same time does not mean one was ripping off the other.

And I know I said “at the same time”. The timing does not make any sense for Goldberg to be a rip off of Steve Austin.


When Goldberg signed with WCW in late 1996 and joined the Power Plant, Steve Austin was still not anywhere near the top of the card. Heck, when Goldberg debuted on television on September 22, 1997 (he was tested at house shows starting in June 1997 as “Bill Gold”), Austin had not even won the Intercontinental title yet. While his popularity was growing, his then current feud with Owen Hart gave no indication that he was going to be THE main event. Yes, Austin 3:16 has started in June 1996 after the King of the Ring, but that still did not mean he was going to reach the top of the card and become the phenomenon that he did become.


The same could be said for Hulk-a-mania. Just because Hogan defeated the Sheik for WWF Championship did not mean Hulk-a-mania was going to reach its great heights. It took years of cultivating, the growth of national cable TV companies, and the Rock & Wrestling connection to make Hogan into the true superstar he became. So just because Austin had a catch phrase and was popping the fans did not mean he was going to bring the WWF to heights they never imagined. It took years of cultivating him and the ultimate opponent in heel Vince McMahon to make him into Steve Austin.


And the same for Goldberg. He was not just going to be pushed down our throats and become the merchandising masterpiece for WCW. It took years of cultivating and a compelling storyline to make that happen. More on that in a moment.


First, though, let’s take a trip back to a chat transcript with Eric Bischoff from October 1997:


maddog O (Prodigy Member): It seems to me that Bill Goldberg is version of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Is that the idea?


Eric Bischoff (Speaker): Not at all. Bill Goldberg is much bigger, and in much better shape, and is a far better athlete than Steve Austin has ever been. Bill Goldberg is going to be Bill Goldberg. He won't be a character per se. He's a very intense, very gifted athlete. Steve Austin isn't the only performer who happens to shave his head. That's the only thing they have in common.


You see, just one month after Goldberg’s debut and people were trying to compare him to Steve Austin. And he hadn’t even said one word yet! Let us not forget that this was before anyone started counting wins and realized that Goldberg was undefeated. Bischoff wanted to demonstrate the Goldberg was an athlete, not a brawler—yet another character trait that Goldberg and Austin did not share.


A few months later in another Prodigy chat, Bischoff actually revealed that Goldberg was designed to mock Ken Shamrock. He was supposed to just be a “shoot” style wrestler. But the fans changed his and WCW’s mind once they realized something special was happening.


Three hundred sixty four jobbers?


Goldberg was winning matches constantly, but it was more by happenstance then full plan. But the fans were noticing that he was slowly picking up win after win. The entrance got better, he became interactive with smoke and fireworks, got the fans on their feet, and got them chanting his name. Still, it was not an immediate push to the top, as some would have you believe. He continued to collect wins off of short matches, but was left off of the Uncensored PPV card. And even after that, he fought through the mid-card of Saturn and Raven (who had just defeated DDP for the US Title) and continued fighting in the mid-card for a long while after that until finally the fans got their wish and he plowed through the nWo to become WCW World Heavyweight Champion on July 6, 1998. A meteoric rise, yes, but not without precedent.


There are fans, and a number of WWF wrestler, who will say that Goldberg’s rise to the top by squashing his opponents was because WCW had an unlimited supply of people to feed him, and that he would have never gotten to the top in the same manner in the WWF/E because of their smaller roster.

This, of course, is complete hogwash. Absolutely did WCW have a larger roster the WWF at the time. Also at the time WCW was making about 10 times the WWF revenue and, more so, was profitable while the WWF was not. But their supplies were still limited and, despite what some will tell you, WCW did no hire everyone under the sun.


I catalogued all of Goldberg’s 141 true wins during his streak (thanks again Matt!), excluding his 32 phantom wins. I then went ahead and broke the wins down by the wrestler’s status. Here’s how that came out:


Wrestler Status Count Percentage

Non-contracted Jobber 8 5.7%

Contracted Jobber 49 34.8%

Contracted Mid or Upper-Mid Carder 48 34.0%

Contracted Main Eventer 36 25.5%


You can quickly see that the majority of Goldberg’s wins come from a combination of the main eventers he defeated and the mid and upper-mid card guys he beat up during his rise to the US Title and in its defense. But let’s take a look deeper.


Breaking it down by wrestler, the top ten wrestlers he defeated were:


Wrestler Wrestler Status Total Wins

Giant Contracted Main Eventer 18

Saturn Contracted Mid or Upper-Mid Carder 11

Jerry Flynn Contracted Jobber 8

Curt Henning Contracted Main Eventer 7

Brad Armstrong Contracted Jobber 6

Fit Finlay Contracted Mid or Upper-Mid Carder 4

Konnan Contracted Mid or Upper-Mid Carder 4

Scott Hall Contracted Main Eventer 4

Steve McMichael Contracted Mid or Upper-Mid Carder 4

Yuji Nagata Contracted Jobber 4


So of Goldberg’s wins, the most came from the Giant, a no doubt main event player and former World Heavyweight Champion himself. That does not sound like someone plowing through jobbers. As a matter of fact, Goldberg only defeated 59 individuals, of which you have seen 8 did not even work for WCW, 9 were developmental talents, and another 7 were over-the-hill veterans whose job it was was to make the new kids better. That leaves just 35 unique individuals that Goldberg really went over in a significant matter.


Overall, though, of Goldberg’s top ten wins, 41% were over main eventers, 33% were over mid or upper-mid carders, and only 26% were over jobbers. Sure seems like a credible build over worthy talent to me!


Developing into a wrestler


Many, though, complained during Goldberg’s entire assent and career that he was too green, that he did not have enough moves, and that he had no longevity in the business. Once again, I remind you first off that the plan was not to make Goldberg a champion in just over a year, but that the fans demanded to make it happen. That said, let’s look into Goldberg’s past.


First off, Goldberg was an athlete before entering into WCW and already had an excellent physique and work out regimen. He had good stamina and a body willing to learn. He went to the Power Plant to train where he was put through the very best that Buddy Lee Parker had to offer. From there, he hit the house show circuit before making his television debut. He was learning on a high curve, yes, but he did not stop learning.


Across the country, Bill was staying with Fit Finlay and being paired up with him to learn more moves and ring psychology. And as we have seen Fit Finlay do with the Divas in the WWE, he is an excellent teacher. After his time with Finlay, Goldberg continued to try to learn more moves, including adding a number of leg and arm submission holds that are popular in Japan (these moves he learned for his tours over there).


Sure, he was no Chris Benoit, but Goldberg could still go when need be. More often then not, there was no need. Goldberg, much like his good friend Nash, knew that he did not have to do such amazing technical things in the ring, but could entertain the fans with his presence and charisma. Still, there were times he got to show off.


At Halloween Havoc in 1998, Goldberg defended his World Heavyweight Championship against DDP in a stellar ten and half minute match-up. During that match, Goldberg performed the following moves: collar-and-elbow tie up, reverse arm drag, overhead flip to reverse a legsweep (and landed on his feet! Take that Super Crazy!), fireman carry, Jericho Armbar variation #547, shoulderblock, underhook suplex, side suplex, cross-armbreaker, attempted hiptoss (reversed), spear, jackhammer. That’s more then a move a minute, not including all the moves Page was doing to Goldberg or the fact that the match was built around Goldberg hurting his shoulder on an attempted spear and being unable to lift Page for a jackhammer.


So wait, Goldberg has a full arsenal of moves, tries to learn new movies, and built a match around psychology? Guess then man did learn a few things about wrestling.


Of course, there were others who recognized this fact long beforehand.

Let us go back to March 1998 when Arn Anderson did a rare online chat on Prodigy:


FlyerJon (Prodigy Member): If the 4 Horsemen were re-formed today, who would you choose to become the newest members of wrestling's most elite and prestigious group?


ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Bill Goldberg


Bodinky (Prodigy Member): Chris Benoit was an excellent choice as a Horseman. Is there anyone else in WCW who you think could join Benoit and Flair to reform the Horsemen?


ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Bill Goldberg and Dean Malenko


bronco 94 (Prodigy Member): Arn, what about BILL GOLDBERG, is he Horseman material???


ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Bill Goldberg is a special athlete/wrestler, that comes along only so often. Not only is he Horsemen material...but barring injury, he'll be as big a superstar as anyone in wrestling one year from this date.


Hoops01 (Prodigy Member): Arn, who do you think the brightest star is among independent workers and you guys that haven't been given their chance yet?


ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): I haven't had the chance to see any independent talent. I think the brightest star today is Bill Goldberg. It would be nice to see young talent being developed somewhere. New talent is always needed.


UPSETS (Prodigy Member): How long do you see until Goldberg will get a TV, US, or even a World Title shot?


ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Less than a year.


How many times can you complement a man in one interview? Arn Anderson is a highly respected in-ring performer and considered one of the best mic men of all time. He said it in plain text, he thought Bill Goldberg was it—that Goldberg was the total package needed to rise to the top. Not only that, he did not seem upset at all by the idea of Goldberg growing to the top so quickly. Quite the contrary, he seemed to want it to happen as soon as possible. Guess who got their wish?


RECESS!


Wow, that went by much quicker then I thought. We might have to make this in a three part case after all! We’ll see how I feel after next week.


Speaking of next week, when we return, we’ll take a look at Goldberg in the back, from heel turns to Chris Jericho. And of course, there are plenty of numbers to go over (ratings, PPV buys, merchandise, you know the deal). Also, you bet I have a number of fun facts lined up, plus some special lessons in what it means to be Jewish in modern American society! Take that Rabbi Weiss!

So tune in next week for In Defense of… Goldberg (Part 2 of 2 [or maybe 3])!!


Until then, the defense rests!


Know a particular person, event, organization, storyline, etc… in wrestling history that needs a defense? E-mail the One and Only JP at lookforme@mikefine.com, and I’ll be glad to hear your case.

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