In Defense Of…8.21.05: Goldberg (Part 2 Of 3) [REPOST]
In Defense of…
By JP Prag
Goldberg (Part 2 of 3)
Hello everyone on every coast in every part of the world, and welcome back to In Defense Of…! Last week we began yet another two part series with In Defense of Goldberg (Part 1 of 2)! Except that this is now a three part series! The unstoppable enigma has been such an interesting case and because I am not afraid to face the hard punches, we have extended this trial. Thanks to everyone who has written in, this case just keeps getting better and better.
Still, perhaps you have been on a business trip all week and didn’t have time to read part 1—even though I have been on a business trip all week and found time to write part 2! Besides, you see our next section is entitled stenography, so you know you are getting a review of the last issue. Well, if that’s the case, then let me tell you what you have just wandered into:
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’ve extended my business trip to Florida to visit a very good friend of mine, so you are so lucky that I finished this article in time!
Speaking of articles, Stenographer, what happened last issue?
Well, aside from some formatting issues that made the tables a little hard to read, we began the case of the IWC vs. Goldberg. Going straight for the gusto, we disproved that Goldberg was a Stone Cold rip off. Not only did they only kind-of look alike, but their characters were polar opposites. Besides, Goldberg was designed to mock Ken Shamrock, not Austin. On top of all that, their assents were almost parallel in terms of time. No one knew that Steve Austin was going to be the WWF’s savior in 1997, he was still feuding with Owen Hart and had just won the Intercontinental Championship. More so, no one knew that Goldberg would catch on so fast and that the fans would demand he rise to the top and take the title away from Hogan.
That being said, it was the streak that got him over. But despite what some jealous, uniformed people will tell you, Goldberg only fought 59 individual people. Of those, 8 didn’t even work for WCW, 9 were developmental talent, and 7 were over the hill veterans who sat around to be jobbed out anyway. And of the ten people Goldberg beat the most (which constituted nearly 50% of his wins), 41% were main eventers, 33% were mid or upper-mid carders, and only 26% were jobbers. That just goes to show that the streak was not about an unlimited supply of jobber fodder, but the long and credible build up of the man.
Still, despite being so new to the industry, Goldberg himself aimed to improve. He worked with Fit Finlay on the road to be better with in ring presence and psychology. He trained his body for performance and stamina. He watched and learned different styles so that when he went to Japan he would have an arsenal of popular arm and leg locks. And then he fought DDP with no less then a move every 53 seconds, not including the moves DDP did or the excellent display of in ring psychology. Oh, Goldberg could go when needed, but that was not very often. Why waste it if you don’t have to? Arn Anderson felt the same way and spent a quarter of interview praising Goldberg and saying how he was the total package and future of the business, long before he even won the US Title. And who are we to argue with Arn Anderson?
Thanks Stenographer. It seems though that some of those points may not have been as clear as I would have hoped. Since that is the case, it’s time for some…
Quid Pro Quo
First, let’s have a quick refresher on Goldberg the wrestler.
[Y]ou should have mentioned how many matches in which he used ONLY a few moves. Just highlighting one match of more than 150 matches is kinda wrong in my book…
While it is true that the vast majority of Goldberg’s matches were a few moves that lasted less then four minutes (with the intro being longer), that does not take away from his actual ability and willingness to learn. But Goldberg, much like Nash or Hogan, followed a less is more mentality. His job was to go out there and entertain the fans, and most were entertained by short squashes. He did not do a lot of moves per match because he did not have to. Sometimes, entertaining the fans means just doing the quick things they love best. His character was a demolisher, why should he perform a hundred moves he does not have to? Besides, when he did break out moves it make it that much more special. For instance, Booker T used to use the Harlem Hangover so much that it was not that interesting to see anymore. But now that he breaks it out only once a year (if that), it looks like a much more devastating maneuver. If Goldberg wrestled every match to the best of his ability, then what would be so special about those big PPV matches where he was taken to the limit?
Now, Logan from Cincinnati also does not like how Goldberg wrestled at all:
Ok going in I am already not liking Goldberg. The main reason I dislike him is his matches just were not that exciting. I cannot think of one good feud he had or series of matches from his wcw days that people are still talking about.
I never claimed at the beginning of this case that you had to like Goldberg. This is just to acknowledge that he was popular and had a lasting impact on the business. I, personally, do not like the Rock and find him boring in the ring and on the mic. But I would be insane to not admit that the vast majority of fans love the Rock, that he was popular, got over, made oodles of money, and has made a lasting impact on the business. Just because you, personally, may not find Goldberg exciting in the ring, it does not mean that there are plenty of others, like myself, who do. This is not a case of personal preference, and I do not except people to come out of this case and going back and buying the best of Goldberg VHS (no DVD yet!). I do expect people to respect Goldberg’s accomplishments at the end of the day.
As far as memorable feuds, Goldberg had several. First was against Steve “Mongo” McMichael when Goldberg was being managed by Debra (more on that later). Then he was fighting against the nWo as WCW’s last hope, finally defeating Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan in one night. He followed that up with a series against Kurt Henning, and a drawn out continuous feud with the Giant. And look at Goldberg’s matches with the Giant to show that Goldberg was more then just hype. He picked up and jackhammered the Giant 18 times. No matter what anyone says, it takes significant upper body strength to pick someone up that is 500 pounds. The Giant did for Goldberg the same thing he would later do for Brock Lesner: he showed off that Goldberg could do the same to anyone, Goldberg was a super man to everyone—no matter the size.
Also, Goldberg had a series with Bret Hart where Bret defeated Goldberg three times (out of Goldberg’s six WCW loses)!! We’ll obviously talk more about Bret Hart a little later, but for now just remember that Bret Hart got Goldberg to run into a steel plate he wore around his chest (a la Back to the Future 3 where Goldberg was “Mad Dog” Tannen’s bullet). How is that not memorable? And towards the end of WCW, he also had a great feud with Scott Steiner, a feud that turned Scott into a true main event player when he destroyed Goldberg at Fall Brawl 2000. And then there was Goldberg’s final feud with Brock Lesner that is most definitely still talked about today, but mostly for the controversy of both men leaving the company at the same time. Still, it was a great an interesting buildup.
And all of that does not cover the one-shot feuds he had, like the match with DDP, the Rock, or the three matches with Sting. His feud with the Outsiders after the reformation of the nWo after the Fingerpoke of Doom was also of note. Sure, no one is walking around saying that any of those feuds with workrate matches of the year, but they were fun, enjoyable, and made money (more on that later, too), and that’s what counts. Can you remember any Frank Gotch feuds that people still talk about today? How about Adrian Adonis? Memory is short, but the moment is what counts.
Speaking of moments, I had a loss of one last week that Zack Dickerson pointed out:
"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."
This is not true, JP. Austin had already won the Intercontinental title once by the time Goldberg debuted on Nitro on the above-mentioned date. He defeated Owen Hart at SummerSlam that year, which was held August 3, 1997. Otherwise, this is another in a series of excellent reads by you that make me give a second look to some of the scandalous stories in wrestling. Thanks a million!
This was an absolute mistake on my part that was a combination of misreading someone else’s thoughts on Goldberg and getting dates confused in my head because I had not slept enough. That being said, my argument still stands. Austin had JUST won the IC title from Owen Hart, and would lose it soon afterwards. He was gaining popularity, for sure, but he was not THE main event yet. Austin still had a ways to go until he was the entire program.
Of course, there were still a few people who said Goldberg and Austin were the same based on looks. Well, Hulk Hogan looks a heck of a lot like Superstar Billy Graham (and he even notes him as being an influence on his career), but no one calls Hogan a rip-off or says that the WWF was trying to steal people away from the AWA by confusing them. Or the same with Triple H and Edge. Just because Edge has long blonde hair does not mean that he or the WWE is trying to get him confused with Triple H. They have two completely different gimmicks. Goldberg was a mixed shoot-fighter/strong man/silent killer. Austin was a loudmouthed/loner/underdog. Similarity of look does not make the characters even remotely similar and does not mean the fans are not intelligent enough to be confused by the two. As for “casual” or non-fans, the two attracted different audiences. While one attracted the person who wanted to beat up their boss and had to fight their way to the top, the other attracted people who liked an unstoppable machine. Anyone watching either program for three minutes would know which one they were getting.
As a matter of fact, Josh chimes in with his thoughts on this, Goldberg’s wrestling style, and how it would match up in the real world:
I just sat there and watched him in the utmost awe. He was doing rolling queen arm scissors, standing to rolling leg bars, twisting arm-drag to arm bars (even off the top!), I mean this man was a VERY technical wrestler in the WCW days. To be fair, he wasn’t a ‘[B]enoit’ or even a grade A submission artist, but the man could deliver when he needed and wanted to. I am a [B]razilian jiu jitsu MMA fighter myself and I know for a fact that a lot of his [bleep] is not only HARD to do, but VERY effective in real life and he brought it to the ring. He could ground and pound, he could slam you down, and he could twist you around. He had it all and was a winning combination. This man was everything wrestling fans yearn for, a technical powerhouse that never spoke and just decimated his opponents.
So you see, Goldberg had a wrestling prowess, natural strength, and an arsenal that reflected a true fighter. He was not the best ever, but why would he need to be. He did what the vast majority of fans wanted and did it effectively and convincingly.
And we previously talked about how others, including Arn Anderson, saw this potential in Goldberg when he was first rising up the ranks. But Erik Schwob finds this interview suspect:
That Arn Anderson interview was to shill WCW seeing that Arn did not mention other wrestlers. It would have cost him his job to compliment a non-WCW wrestler, especially since they were always under fire for not pushing fresh talent.
Well sir, here are some more excerpts from that interview:
GoUtes BA (Prodigy Member): Compare working for Jim Crockett, Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff.
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Crockett was a time when I was in my formative years. I learned wrestling etiquette in and out of the ring during that era. At that time, that I was with Titan, that was THE show, which made it an honor to work for McMahon during that period. It was the largest earning year I have had to date. As for Eric Bischoff. WCW is my home and is where I would like to retire. WCW has been very fair to me, and I'd like to return the favor with years of loyal service to them.
nWoFan (Prodigy Member): Will you watch WrestleMania XIV?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Yes
Techlight17 (Prodigy Member): Who in your opinion is the best worker in wrestling today?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): You can't say any one. I think we have a lot of the best. I'd have to say Benoit, Malenko, Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, and never count Ric Flair out. Steve Austin is doing very well for himself. There's a lot of great young talent. Probably too many to cover in the time allotted.
Techlight17 (Prodigy Member): What is your opinion about shootfighters like Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock, and possibly Don Frye entering pro wrestling? Do you feel they will be good workers and would you be excited to see more ex UFC stars make the jump into wrestling?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): The only one that has even relatively proved himself so far is Shamrock, as far as making the transition. Time will tell. It's two different animals really.
Wrestling GD (Prodigy Member): Of all the wrestlers in the United States today, who do you think resembles you the most in terms of style?
ARN ANDERSON (Speaker): Probably Chris Benoit, but with a lot more talent. He has the same desire, the same business ethics, same work ethic. Chris has a lot more talent than I ever did.
Ok, so he talked about several other WCW wrestlers, went out of his way to compliment a number of WWF wrestlers, and admitted that he was going to order a WWF PPV. Come on people, this conspiracy theory is too much. Bischoff was not controlling everyone and everything they said. I am sure Arn said a number of political things to protect himself and his job, but Bischoff was not over his shoulder and whispering in his ear. In order for any evidence to work, we have to take what people have said as their beliefs. Until the day that Arn Anderson comes out and says everything he said in that interview about Goldberg was a lie forced on him, then what he said was his testimony. Also, last issue he talked about Dean Malenko as the other potential horseman along with Goldberg.
Arn Anderson may have enjoyed Goldberg’s style, but there are others who thought there was something he needed to do more of…
Peanuts for sale!
Several readers wrote in that they were upset that Goldberg refused to sell any moves. To that I respond:
Who says Goldberg didn't sell moves? He sold a shoulder to the ring post against DDP, as we covered last issue. He sold an arm injury against Scott Steiner when Steiner defeated him at Fall Brawl 2000. That match was built up on the idea of Steiner working over Goldberg’s previously injured arm (see window, limo) until Vince Russo saw fit to have three run-ins.
Earlier yet, at Slamboree 1999, Sting and Goldberg fought to a no contest where Sting had Goldberg locked in a Boston crab. When Goldberg escaped, he continued to sell the knee injury for the rest of the match. Then Bret Hart came down and waffled Goldberg in the knee, followed by the Steiner Bros. who came down to beat up both contestants. Rick went right after Goldberg’s injured knee and kept up the momentum of the match and Bret Hart’s run in.
Speaking of Bret Hart, Goldberg sold a steel plate from him. I enjoyed the way reader Josh put it: It really helped to sell Goldberg in to an unstoppable, but not unbeatable, force to be reckoned with. Bret Hart broke him down mentally during [their later] match and we all got to see the smaller, but smarter, man dissect a beast. Let us not forget as I said before, Bret holds three of the six WCW wins over Goldberg. Goldberg sold to Bret’s moves and his intelligence, multiple times.
The point is, Goldberg will sell when it is appropriate. He is Goldberg: his character is super human. He knows and understands that and what it takes to keep that projection going. If he starts selling to Funaki, then he's not a super man anymore and you don't care.
Look at Kane. When he first debuted it took multiple tombstones just to keep him down. Now a foot on the ropes can defeat him. They didn't raise anyone up to his level, they brought him down. Goldberg soared to a super man level, and by trying to "humanize" him, it made the character less Goldberg and more generic nothing. Sometimes, a character is better for not selling 100% of the time, the same way the Harlem Hangover looks more devastating now that Booker T only breaks it out less then once a year. Sure, he COULD do it every match, but then what?
When Goldberg sold to someone, it made them look that much better. Anyone who could even hurt Goldberg had to be taken as a serious threat. And the people who defeated him were simply amazing. It all came down to protecting Goldberg the character.
Protecting the character or When to fall down and go boom
People often complain that the WWE and WCW misused talent. When Chris Jericho, Christian, Chris Benoit, RVD, Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, or countless other are not getting the push or storylines that smarks say they deserve, then people get upset with the company and writers.
But how often do these wrestlers do something about it themselves? Sure, we hear RVD complain, and recently have heard rumbles of Christian’s unhappiness. But how many have actually tried to protect their character because they knew the storyline they were involved with were not helping them or the business.
When Goldberg first debuted in the WWE, he got off on the wrong foot. For whatever reason, Vince decided that it was necessary to “WWE-ize” Goldberg. The first thing to change was his music, which had been a signature of his character and entrance. The slightly off-beat tempo made it hard for fans to chant his name in time as the old music did. This, of course, would be changed back to his original music after much chagrin.
Then, Goldberg was put into a program with a recently heel-turned Rock. Rock was allowed to run rough shot over Goldberg and expose his weakness on the mic, as well as make him look bad going into the PPV by allowing the Rock to get the upper hand physically. Goldberg was also forced to resort to using a chair on the Rock. Goldberg is a weapon, he does not need one. That PPV (Backlash) was also held in a town not friendly to Goldberg. I know because I was there. The crowd, which was a solid base of WWE fans, turned on Goldberg as he defeated the Rock. They had seen a cowardly, weak Goldberg getting schooled by the Rock for weeks, and did not want to see the homegrown People’s Champ defeated by the outsider.
In order to make Goldberg more lovable, the WWE got him involved with comedy sketches involving Goldust. What had made Goldberg popular in the WCW was that he was so serious, completely intense in his matches. The funny Goldberg was not what old WCW fans wanted to see, and not something the WWE fans could get into.
So Goldberg took matters into his own hands.
In an interview with Filmmonthly.com, Goldberg was asked of his time in the WWE:
Gary: Was it mostly an issue of them not utilizing your character?
Bill: There's no question. Let's be honest a moron can see that Vince holds a grudge, and when WCW was kicking their ass I don't think he'll even forget the people who were at the helm, that were managing the boat and beating him on Monday night. For some reason it always stuck. We were never really a member of the family. Maybe I'm the only one that thinks this, and if so that's still my thoughts. His pride gets in the way of his business sense I think. And if you ask me that's pretty stupid. But it's a public company now.
And so Goldberg used his contract that he took years to negotiate with Vince and held it against him. He made changes in his direction, and got some help from his good friend Steve Austin. With Steve Austin’s influence, the two worked together to get the WWE fans to accept Goldberg. Because of that, Goldberg was able to work his way up and defeat Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. He returned to what made him great, while still being a little more “WWE” Goldberg.
Of course, this is not the first time Goldberg had used his creative influence.
In an interview with AskMen.com, Goldberg stated this when talking about his WCW contract:
I had creative control over my character, which means if they wanted me to do something that I didn't agree with, then I wouldn't do it. If it was good for the show, then I had no problem. If it was demeaning to the character and wasn't adding a positive light to the show, then I can guarantee that I wouldn't do it.
Q: How did WCW and WWE differ?
Vince McMahon, he was the determining factor. He was the main player at WWE. It was just a totally different atmosphere, it was more of a business-like atmosphere and, to me, it wasn't as fun. It was like we were infiltrating a tight-knit family and we weren't wanted. You don't need to demean and knock the character down because they were once part of the competition.
You see, Goldberg tried to protect the character for the good of the business, not necessarily himself. And then when he went to the WWE, he wanted to do more of the same. That is, he wanted to use the Goldberg character for the betterment of all. Yet, in the WWE he felt shut out from Vince and company because he was an outsider. And when they misused him and his character, he had to fight back. He could have just sat around and collected his money and did whatever Vince told him to do, but he wanted his run to be more then that:
Q: You have an amazing track record, do you ever get into a position where you really don't want to follow the script, or is it just a matter of getting a paycheck?
There is no question in my mind that I am not doing it for the money. If I was doing it for the money then I would still be there. The fact is that I made a stand a number of times in my career, and I did it because I knew I was right.
And it is not like Goldberg was not worried before he got to the WWE. Goldberg told The Palm Springs Desert Sun in February 2002:
“I personally believe that everything I've stood for when I got into the ring would be compromised and succumbed to the circus-like atmosphere that's out [in WWE], and that's putting it mildly… I would be an imbecile if I gave up half my money to work for a company that I didn't respect.”
But was Goldberg a hypocrite for going to work for Vince? No, he would not let himself get involved with the circus atmosphere as he tried to protect his character. It is the same as Molly Holly or Ted DiBiase—two devout Christians—working for the WWE. They have personal convictions that stop them from getting involved with anything they deem inappropriate, despite the fact that inappropriate things (to them) do happen.
When Goldberg found he could not get to that point, that Vince was trying to force the circus on him despite everything he did, Goldberg stood up for his beliefs and left. Besides, he had more motivation then fans and money:
Everyone in the business owes it to their career to be a performer under [Vince McMahon’s] image. He pioneered the business.
Goldberg wanted to take the chance and do what so many had asked him to do. But he did not want them to be disappointed if Vince could not live up their hopes and dreams. So he protected himself and he protected the business. He did what so many smarks would love their heroes to do: he stood up to the man to get what he deserved.
Of course, there are those who think that Goldberg went too far with his creative control and did not want to make the jump to the dark side…
Oh my gosh, I do not want to make this my first four part case! There is just so much to cover, and this week we did not even get to what I said we were going to cover last week! Oh dear…
Well, should everything go as planned, next week we’ll continue looking at Goldberg in the back by examining Goldberg’s real thoughts on being a heel. Then we’ll jump into his backstage feud with Chris Jericho and find out what actually happened. Changing pace, we’ll head back into the ring and look at Goldberg’s injury record, especially one dealing with a certain hitman. On top of all that, we’ll pay close attention to Goldberg’s last day in the WWE at Wrestlemania against Brock Lesner. And then we have to get to the numbers (and I also mean Goldberg’s contract)! Plus, I still have a bunch of fun facts lined up, and some special lessons in what it means to be Jewish in modern American society!
So tune in next week for the oversized In Defense of… Goldberg (Part 3 of 3)!! And hopefully not the large sized Part 3 of 4 followed by the medium sized part 4 of 4. This is really killing my schedule.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be glad to hear your case.