A Retrospective On Goldberg’s Career: What Made Him An Icon?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Goldberg is a wrestling icon in every sense of the word. While there have been quite a few icons whose tenure on top were very short, Goldberg’s overall tenure itself was for a very small timeframe, with his career in itself just being a little over seven years. Even so, that itself speaks volumes of the impact that he had during his time.

He was never interested in wrestling in the first place. He was a Football player, but nagging injuries had stalled his career, and while rehabbing in a gym, Lex Luger and Sting had spotted him and tried to pursue him to tryout for WCW. They knew talent when they saw it, and Goldberg possessed the perfect look for a top star at the time.

So he went to the WCW Power Plant and trained to be a pro wrestler, looking at it as a good alternative career. In hindsight, it turned out to be the best decision that he could have made, both from the standpoint of fame and money, as he walked out of his wrestling career with millions of dollars.

However, before the millions came flowing in every year, Goldberg had to get a start, and he did so by picking up win after win after win. WCW knew that they had something very special in their hands, and they would capitalize on it by continuing his momentum. 1998 was when championship success would begin to roll in for Goldberg, and he would win the United States Championship from Raven, who had held it for one day. It was his 75th victory according to WCW, and the match made Goldberg look like an absolute beast, as Raven bumped from post to post, and even tried to run away, knowing he was defeated.

Goldberg won the United States title to a big pop, one that could compare to many world championship victories. He was getting increasingly over by the week, and though he was no in-ring technician, people paid to see him, and that’s always a good sign. His increasing popularity and win streak would lead to the biggest match of his career – against Hollywood Hogan on July 1998.

To add to the World Championship stakes – it was in front of Goldberg’s hometown crowd in the Georgia Superdome, that saw 41,000 people get behind their hero as he would squash Hulk Hogan in an 8-minute match. This made him a double champion, and he was still undefeated.

However, the biggest problem with regards to his streak was the end of it. By the end of the year, it was time for WCW’s biggest show – Starrcade. There, he faced nWo member Kevin Nash, and thanks to interference via a stun gun from Scott Hall, Nash was able to beat Goldberg 174 days into his title run, ending his streak at 173-0.

Apart from just the fact that he was 39 years old at the time, it was even more bizarre because Nash dropped the title to Hogan days later in the “Fingerpoke of doom” incident. Shockingly, despite Goldberg remaining a top star in WCW till its demise, he would never win the World title again.

He was still the highest paid at one point of time after Hogan left. Once WCW was purchased by WWE, rather than jumping ship, he opted to have a brief stint in Japan, where he was successful in the few matches that he wrested. It was 2003 when WWE came knocking at his door, and he had an impactful debut.

However, his overall run, despite having a World title win to his name, was considered a flop. Even Goldberg himself didn’t fully seem to be in it, and Linda McMahon publicly called his signing a disappointment. By the time WrestleMania XX in 2004 rolled on, he was all done and put in little to no effort in his final match for the company against Brock Lesnar. Both superstars were leaving at the time, and fans knew it, deciding to take a crap all over their match and sending them packing with a bitter taste in his mouth.

It would only be 12 years later when Goldberg decided to lace up his boots again because his son had never seen him be the superhero that he was to all the kids. A much older, but wiser Goldberg came back to accept Brock Lesnar’s challenge, and he was met with an extremely warm reception by the WWE Universe. His return was a triumphant one, where he not only squashed Brock Lesnar in 86 seconds, but he would win the Universal Championship a few months later.

It all led to his official final match at WrestleMania 33, where Brock Lesnar looked to win the Universal title and redeem himself against Goldberg. It was as good of a retirement match as you could have asked from Goldberg, as the two competitors officially righted the wrong of WrestleMania XX. Goldberg would lose clean, putting Brock Lesnar over on his way out.

Many wonder why Goldberg was so beloved and was such a box office draw in his time. Those who saw the Monday Night Wars knew that Goldberg was not a technician in the ring, but he was more of a Mike Tyson in wrestling, in the sense that people paid money to see him squash superstars.

That was exactly what he was best at, and he was one of the most believable butt-kickers of his time. He was a true WCW and wrestling icon, and no matter what his critics say, he’ll always have a place in the hearts of wrestling fans.