When Goldberg agreed to return to the WWE this past October, he was only supposed to wrestle one match and then ride off into the sunset once again. Goldberg came to terms on a deal with the WWE to help with continual promotion of the 2K video game and then lose his comeback match to Brock Lesnar at WWE Survivor Series in November. As we’d find out, it didn’t quite work out that way.
WWE officials were so impressed with the response Goldberg was getting that the week before that fantasy warfare battle with Lesnar, the two sides came to another agreement that extended the icon’s contract through WWE WrestleMania 33. This extension had a domino effect on many other plans for the WWE’s biggest event of the year during the first weekend in April.
In addition to the WWE scripting Goldberg’s return in a way that would have seen him return the favor to Lesnar after their infamous encounter 12 years earlier, WWE officials were penciling him in as the headliner for the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2017. But because Goldberg agreed to continue performing, that was delayed. Instead, Kurt Angle got the call to be the main attraction the Friday night before ‘Mania.
Even though Goldberg’s current deal is set to expire after WrestleMania, WWE officials are said to be open to signing him up for future dates since this run was much more amicable than his previous time with the company. What’s interesting, however, is that because his WWE Hall of Fame induction was put on hold this year, it may be a while before he goes in. Goldberg is certainly worthy of being a headliner, but Daniel Bryan is rumored to be the featured superstar next year in New Orleans, and the Undertaker and The Rock are sure to receive top billing when the WWE decides to put them in.
The other effect Goldberg’s stay had on WWE plans, of course, involved the WWE Universal Championship. Once he committed to staying through the beginning of April, WWE officials laid out title plans six months in advance. To their credit or detriment, depending on how you look at his run, the WWE stuck with those plans. Goldberg was to become Universal champ at some point (he did so by beating Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble) and then drop it to Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Had Goldberg not stayed past the Survivor Series match, it’s believed that Roman Reigns would have carried the WWE Universal Championship into WrestleMania, where he would have defended against either Braun Strowman or the Undertaker. The other alternative would have seen Owens’ reign continue and put it on the line against Chris Jericho, but even though WWE officials always had that match set in stone, the title wasn’t always a part of that proposal.
As noted, the WWE is open to using the Goldberg character more once this current run is over, but he is not expected to remain in the title picture after the match with Brock Lesnar on April 2. On the other hand, the WWE has huge plans for Lesnar once he becomes champion again. It was reported last week that they’re currently working towards a Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns match as the main event for WrestleMania 34.
Whether Lesnar would carry the belt for the entire year in between is unclear, but if he is to drop it at some point, the expectation is that he’d regain it leading into the show next year if they stick with their current idea. Keep in mind, as we reported on Thursday, the WWE wanted John Cena to carry his WWE Championship from May 2011 all the way to WrestleMania 28 in April 2012 against The Rock, but things changed. Brock may also be working more dates than usual in 2017 with his current contract set to expire in the spring of 2018. And WWE officials may have his first title defense lined up.
According to a new report, the WWE may be planning to have Brock Lesnar defend his Universal Championship against Finn Balor at WWE Payback, the first post-WrestleManiaRAW-branded pay-per-view, on April 30 in San Jose. As you recall, Balor is the first-ever Universal Champion after beating Seth Rollins last year at SummerSlam. He was severely injured in the match, however, and had been on the shelf until this March with a shoulder injury.
WWE officials were debating what to do with Balor upon his return but being an integral part of WrestleMania doesn’t appear to be an option. That could always change, but as of now, look for Balor to return on RAW the night after ‘Mania to set the stage for the marquee program with Lesnar. Balor is also expected to receive a mini-makeover when he comes back as part of WWE’s efforts to make him more marketable when he isn’t performing under the Demon King persona.
If things shake out like that, the other marquee feuds for WWE Payback would then most likely include Roman Reigns rekindling his story with Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins avenging his injury sustained during Samoa Joe’s debut, and the culmination of the angle between Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. Triple H is expected to assemble a new heel faction that will include Joe and Owens, so that will also play a major factor in plans after WrestleMania.
[Featured Image by WWE]