At WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, Florida, the Universal Championship was up for grabs when champion Goldberg defended his title against Brock Lesnar. This match was the third and final chapter in their feud, which started with WrestleMania XX in 2004 inside Madison Square Garden in New York. Although Goldberg and Lesnar received resounding jeers at this event, both competitors had better receptions during their returns in 2012 and 2016. Survivor Series 2016 held one of the most shocking moments in WWE history, as Goldberg defeated Lesnar in less than 90 seconds.
The rubber match was held at the Camping World Stadium (promoted by WWE as the Citrus Bowl) at WrestleMania 33, and Lesnar was able to break the 2-0 record that Goldberg had over him, as well as win the Universal Championship. Many fans were satisfied with the match, and although he started to get jeered by some fans toward the end of his six-month run, Goldberg’s stint was much more positive than the previous one. In fact, Goldberg stated on an episode of WWE 24 on the WWE Network that this latest run was the first time that he was actually happy about being a professional wrestler.
Although this latest iteration of the feud between Goldberg and Lesnar ended up becoming two matches, with Goldberg defeating Kevin Owens at Fastlane to become Universal Champion, this was not the original plan, according to Chris Jericho.
At WrestleMania 33, Jericho defended his United States Championship against Kevin Owens. Jericho and Owens were “best friends,” and Jericho would frequently assist Owens in retaining his championship during his feuds with former Shield members Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. However, at the Festival of Friendship, Owens would betray Jericho, and reveal that they were never best friends but he used him instead to keep his title. Jericho would distract Owens at Fastlane, causing Owens to lose the Universal Championship to Goldberg, which set up the match against Lesnar in Orlando.
According to Jericho, the original plan was for Owens to keep the title until WrestleMania and lose it to him. Then, Jericho was going to lose the title at the next pay-per-view event, Payback, to Brock Lesnar. Plans changed when Goldberg and Lesnar decided to extend their feud, and they competed for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania instead.
Jericho also revealed the conversation that Lesnar had with Vince regarding the direction of the title, according to the Daily Star.
“[Vince] goes, ‘Yeah. You’ll lose it the next pay-per-view to Brock [Lesnar].’ I’m like, ‘That’s cool.’ One week later Survivor Series happens, Brock versus Goldberg. Goldberg beats Brock in a minute. And that’s when Brock went, ‘I can work with this guy [Goldberg]. I want to work with him. I’ll lose in a minute, but only if I can beat him for the title at WrestleMania.’ And Vince had to make a decision: What’s the bigger box office? Ya know and obviously, it was Brock and Goldberg, and Chris and Kevin take back seat.”
Essentially, Chris Jericho was going to add the Universal Championship to his long list of WWE accomplishments, but Vince McMahon felt that Goldberg vs. Lesnar would be a better box office draw for the biggest stage of the year, WrestleMania.