Exclusive: Goldberg Reveals WWE Dream Matches, Addresses Roman Reigns Buzz, More
Even over two decades later, Goldberg's iconic undefeated streak in WCW remains one of the best storylines in wrestling history.
In his rookie year alone, the defensive-tackle-turned-wrestler skyrocketed to singles success and made an immediate impact on the business. On an unforgettable episode of Monday Nitro in July 1998, he defeated Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and cemented himself as a main event player in doing so.
It was less than six months later that Goldberg's winning ways came to an abrupt end at the hands of Kevin Nash at the Starrcade event—on his 32nd birthday, no less. The decision is every bit as illogical now as it was then, largely because nothing good stemmed from the loss and his popularity never reached those same heights in the years that followed.
The story of the iconic undefeated streak that saw Goldberg go 173-0 for over a year will be explored in an upcoming episode of WWE Untold on the WWE Network. It will feature exclusive interviews with Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg himself discussing his rise to superstardom and everything that led to "The Streak" becoming as special as it was.
Before the documentary drops Sunday, Bleacher Report had a chance to chat with the four-time world champion about the origins of "The Streak," how today's WWE landscape compares to WCW, dream matches he still wants to have, developing a passion for pro wrestling and more.
Origins of "The Streak" and Whether It Will Ever Be Replicated
Goldberg debuted on the September 22, 1997, edition of WCW Monday Nitro with a win over Hugh Morrus. The undefeated streak he embarked on from there didn't become a focal point of the program until he defeated Raven for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in April 1998.
That was the moment Goldberg noticed that "The Streak" was starting to take on a life of its own.
Contrary to popular belief, the former NFL lineman going unbeaten for as long as he did was not planned from the get-go. Rather, "The Streak" was completely organic, and that was a major reason for why it worked so well.
"It took on a life of its own, and they just kept riding it week after week after week based on public interaction, and I think that was one of the first times that they truly listened to the people and gave them exactly what they wanted," Goldberg said. "As far as steering people in a direction, I think we went with the people's thought process and gave them what they wanted. We did little swerves here and there, but pretty much, fans took to the type of matches we were putting out there and there was no reason to change it."
Slowly but surely, fans rallied behind Goldberg and helped him become one of the biggest babyfaces the business had seen in ages. He rarely spoke but didn't need to as his actions always did the talking for him inside the ring.
There are plenty of Superstars in recent WWE history who have gone undefeated in one-on-one action longer than him, but few streaks are more prolific than his. The only other two that come close are, of course, The Undertaker's at WrestleMania and Asuka's from 2015 through 2018.
A good chunk of Asuka's undefeated record happened while she was in NXT, so it wasn't consistently on the same level as Goldberg's in terms of hype. At WrestleMania 34, she suffered her first singles loss at the hands of Charlotte Flair.
Goldberg commented on Asuka's streak constantly being compared to his own, saying, "I thought it was something that wasn't going to be replicated for a while, unbeknownst to me that Asuka came out with her streak. Hey, hats off to her for doing what she did, but I thought it would be unique for a longer period of time than it actually was."
How Wrestling Has Evolved and WCW's Reach 20 Years Later
As previously noted, Goldberg broke into the business in 1996 and instantly took to it like a duck to water. He had his most recent match at WrestleMania 36 in April, so he's seen the wrestling landscape change considerably over the last 25 years.
The biggest difference between then and now, he feels, is that less was more when he first started out. He was advised by Hulk Hogan to not give fans everything he had each and every time he went out to the ring, which paid dividends for him in the long run.
Goldberg added that the crowds are completely different from what they once were—and not in a good way.
"They're not nearly as respectful as they used to be," he said. "I think it's more about how they can turn the momentum of the show as opposed to actually being a part of it. They actually want to dictate more so than in the past. They were content just sitting back and being entertained as opposed to dictating what's going on. That's really the biggest difference for me is the crowd."
Goldberg, more than most, knows what's like to deal with a hostile audience. Rarely is he the root of the problem, but that hasn't stopped fans from taking their frustrations out on him, anyway.
It most notably happened at WrestleMania 20 when he faced Brock Lesnar and again earlier this year when he unseated The Fiend as universal champ. On the bright side, between his upcoming episode of WWE Untold and Sting making his AEW debut last week, it's surreal for him to see the reach WCW has even after all this time.
"It truly shows you how viable that company was and how viable the competition was back in the day to continue to have value in the business at such a later date," Goldberg said. "Sting is WCW. Period, end of story. People want to say it was me for a period of time, but he just handed the reins to me for a little bit. Sting is that promotion. That promotion is Sting. Everything I learned, I learned from him. He was an integral part of my process becoming a professional wrestler. I wouldn't have done it without him."
Returning to WWE in 2016 and Why WWE Is His New Home
When Goldberg finally arrived in WWE in 2003, there was no telling what the fans were going to get. It had been nearly five years since his career-making world title win over Hulk Hogan, yet he was still beloved by the audience and had the potential to be every bit as big as he was in WCW.
He revealed that he wasn't sure whether there was ever a plan for him to embark on a similar undefeated streak in WWE like he did in WCW in order to reach those same heights. For what it's worth, however, he was pinned only three times during the one year he spent with WWE, and every instance involved Triple H.
"I think it was a completely different Goldberg," he said. "I think WWE...I don't know if they wanted to continue it by any stretch of the imagination. I sure didn't get that feeling, but it was a character that had to be massaged. After that long winning streak, how do you beat him? How does he take to losses? Does his character still have worth if he loses a bout? Those are difficult things we had to address. It was tough."
It wasn't until 2016 that he was able to recapture some of that original magic from "The Streak" when he returned to WWE and defeated Brock Lesnar in shocking fashion at Survivor Series. The crowd exploded in elation following his squash-like victory like it was 1998 all over again.
"I can't say I felt the same thing by any stretch of the imagination, but I did feel something similar," Goldberg said. "The reality is, 16 years removed, I'm not the same person that I was back in the past. To be able to tap back into that person in some way, shape or form was not the easiest thing, but it's still me. The reaction I got from the crowd, I was floored. Was it the same that I felt before? No. Was it similar? Absolutely."
Goldberg seemingly wrestled his last match at WrestleMania 33 only to return to the ring against The Undertaker at Super ShowDown 2019. It has been heavily rumored throughout the years—including as recently as this past summer—that other companies were interested in bringing him in, but he admits that WWE was always the endgame and likely where he'll end his career.
"As a businessman, you have to keep your options open, but truth be told there's no question that with WCW gone, which was my first, original home, my home is the WWE," he said. "As a businessman, I would've hoped that they felt the same at that point in my career and would treat me as such as I've been very fortunate for that to be the case. If that wasn't the case, would I have considered going elsewhere prior to hanging my boots up? I would think about it, but that's purely from a business standpoint. From a personal standpoint, I would never want that to happen."
When He Plans to Retire and Dream Matches He Still Wants to Have
During an interview with The Pop Culture Show (h/t SEScoops) earlier this year, Goldberg revealed that his current contract with WWE runs through 2023 with two matches per year.
By then, he'll be roughly 57 years old. Even though his last few matches haven't been overly long (and thankfully so), he has still looked and felt like the Goldberg of old and has proved that he can hold his own at this stage of his career.
When asked about whether the end of his contract would mark the end for him in the ring, he responded by saying that it's possible he'll continue to compete past that point, but it would only be for a few more years.
"We always have to cross that bridge when we come to it," Goldberg said. "I'm 53 years old, I'll be 54 here in a couple of weeks. Hey, as long as my body can still do it, I'm still going to do it. It's very tough because being a power wrestler at this age, I'm not the person I was back in the past. You have that sense of, 'Oh, am I ruining my legacy?' Well, you know what? I still have to put food on the table for my family.
"There are a lot of things that come into consideration, and at the end of the day, I'm a businessman," he continued. "I do what I got to do to stay afloat and stay out there. I don't see myself hanging it up any time soon, but then again, I also don't see myself wrestling until I'm 60."
One Goldberg match that undoubtedly has to happen sooner rather than later is with Roman Reigns. He made headlines this week when he said on The Bump that Reigns is next, which would make sense given that they were supposed to face off at WrestleMania 36 before plans changed when Reigns took a break from the company amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, the matchup is more appealing than ever before with Reigns in the midst of a hot heel run. He and Goldberg would have no problem ripping it up in the ring together, even if there isn't an audience in attendance to witness it.
"If the Roman Reigns match isn't the match at the top of my priority list, then I wouldn't be Goldberg," he said. "That's a match that needs to happen. It's a match that's needed to happen for a very long period of time. I wish I would've been able to have that match 10 years ago. People in hell want ice water, too. You can't have everything the way you want it, but I think I can still be a very formidable opponent for him. Georgia will always be better than Georgia Tech at the end of the day, anyway."
Beyond Reigns, Randy Orton is someone else Goldberg would jump at the opportunity to work with again before he calls it quits.
"I'm a business guy, I'm a company guy, but I would be remiss in saying I didn't want to tangle again with Randy Orton," he said. "Hands down, he's one of the best in the business. His professionalism, his character development, his in-ring work, his promos, his everything. I'm a huge fan, I have been for a very long time. It's been in his blood and family for God knows how long and he's at the top of the food chain as far as I'm concerned. I'd love to tangle with Randy again. I'd love to get in the ring with Drew [McIntyre]. I'd love to get in the ring with [Keith] Lee. There's a lot of people that are still attractive out there."
His Favorite Spear and a Possible Sequel to "Santa's Slay"
Goldberg has dished out some spectacular spears in his day. Everyone from Big Show to Dolph Ziggler has sold the move beautifully, but the one that stands out above the rest is the one he delivered to Christian on an episode of Raw in 2003.
Upon rewatching the clip, it looks like Goldberg broke him in two, so it should come as no surprise that he regards that spear as being his all-time favorite.
"From the angle to his sell, it's all about how the people sell it," he said. "I can hurt people every single time with it and it doesn't look nearly as bad as when they oversell it like a Rock or a Dolph or a Brad Armstrong. Guys have gone above and beyond to make it look devastating. There's a lot of them that I enjoyed doing. The one against Sting when I leapfrogged and turned and speared him. There's a lot of good ones, but I think that one with Christian was pretty much perfect."
While not wrestling, the two-time universal champion has kept himself busy with a variety of endeavors, most notably acting. He starred in The Longest Yard in 2005 and met his wife on the set of Santa's Slay that same year, an underrated Christmas horror flick for which he says a sequel may be in the making.
"Ironically, David Steiman, the director, and I were on the phone yesterday about doing a sequel," Goldberg revealed. "It's one of my favorite movies ever. On Saturday, I donned the costume again for a local Santa Claus/Goldberg meet-and-greet for Toys for Tots and for the Salvation Army. That's definitely a go-to, and now that my son's 14 he can finally watch it."
Developing a Passion for Pro Wrestling and His Relationship with Vince McMahon
Goldberg has made it quite clear over the years that he didn't grow up wanting to be a wrestler or watching the business. It was something he was willing to try out after his original goal of playing in the NFL was taken away from him by injury.
He thrived and achieved great success, but much like longtime rival Brock Lesnar, he largely looks at wrestling as a job. That said, his passion for the industry has grown exponentially throughout his career, and now he considers himself a bigger wrestling fan than at any other point.
"I've learned to open my arms and take the business in for its good and for its bad, and you can't help but grow attached to your surroundings when you're there for a very long time," Goldberg said. "I do have a personal attachment to the business, to its fans and to the people behind the scenes. I owe it...I don't want to say everything, but I owe it a lot. It's given me the opportunity to provide for my family and be the person that I am, and I owe everything to it. I'd like to think that I'm continually giving back to it, and it's something, yes, I do have a passion for and, yes, I have a lot for that I never had."
After the heights he reached in WCW, going to WWE was a risk for him, especially with how they had treated some of the ex-WCW talent up to then. However, it was a risk he was willing to take, and although it didn't pan out the first time around, he's redeemed himself with this most recent run.
As for WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, he went from someone he once loathed to someone he now loves. He appreciates and respects everything he's done for him and feels there is a mutual respect there between the two of them that was never present in the past.
"I hated him in the beginning, and now I'd die for him," Goldberg said. "Let's be perfectly honest. I don't think there's a bigger swing of judgment than I have had since I've been in WWE. I went into the business at WWE with unrealistic expectations. I went into WWE with my back against the wall, thinking everyone was out to get me. It was a tough situation for me to exist in, and it was almost an impossible situation for me to coexist in on a positive note. With that first year out of the way, I've grown as a wrestler. I've grown as a human being, and I'd like to think that Vince and I have grown as friends."
Tune into WWE Untold: Goldberg's Streak this Sunday, December 13, only on WWE Network.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.