Bill Goldberg made his return to professional wrestling on the Oct. 17, 2016, edition of Monday Night Raw. Since that time, he has wrestled two matches, made an appearance in the Royal Rumble battle royal, and captured the WWE Universal Championship. But if audience reaction at Fastlane is any indication, the shtick is wearing thin.
Breaking it down by the booking, it’s easy to see why.
Rumors of a Goldberg return have abounded since he left the WWE in 2004. Aside from a couple of appearances for Legends of Wrestling, however, he largely kept a low profile.
Then WWE2K17, the video game, happened, and the McMahon family saw a chance to capitalize not only on Goldberg’s digitized identity, but also on a final in-ring run.
For his return, the story was built in.
Brock Lesnar lost to Goldberg at WrestleMania XX, and that match remained the one blemish on his record — the single loss he had never been able to rectify.
With Bill stepping into the role as the protagonist hoping to wrestle in front of his young son for the first time and Brock flying high over a dominant streak in the WWE along with a successful one-time return to the UFC, their meeting at Survivor Series promised to be an explosive one.
One minute 26 seconds later, Goldberg had pinned Lesnar in a squash match that left the audience in attendance and the ones watching at home stunned.
Goldberg just SQUASHED Brock Lesnar!!!
— WrassleNerd Ripken (@RipkenWN) November 21, 2016
The main event match left an impact that reverberated through wrestling news sites for days afterward, and in retrospect, it was easy to see why the WWE chose to go that direction.
At the time, there was no talk of Bill Goldberg wrestling another match.
Giving the “good guy” the rub and allowing him to ride off into the sunset was the right thing to do, and having him do it so quickly to a man who had pretty much had his way with the WWE roster and ended the Undertaker’s famous unbeaten-at-WrestleMania streak was a direction no one could see coming.
But when Goldberg decided to go beyond that match, it put his and Lesnar’s storylines into a more complicated situation.
The WWE invested too much money and confidence in Lesnar to have Goldberg tear it all down in a single night.
There would have to be a recourse in which Brock could save face while Bill’s legacy would be protected. In other words, Lesnar needed his win back, and that would entail another match.
Having burned the quick finish at Survivor Series and then doing another quick version of it at Royal Rumble was about all the company could get away with if it hoped to continue selling Goldberg to audiences.
The hand was played out when Goldberg speared a distracted Kevin Owens at Fastlane and became Universal Champion in less than half a minute.
Throw into the mix that Owens has earned his spot at the top of the roster and commands the respect of fans for his deceptive athleticism and unequaled mic skills, and the 22-second match pushed Goldberg’s acceptance past the breaking point, thus cuing immediate boos from the Fastlane audience.
Fans on message boards and some wrestling journalists also complained it totally disrespected one of the company’s hardest working and most deserving stars.
— Carlos Bolaños (@CarlosWorld007) March 7, 2017
The continuous slights to the current WWE roster and audience will culminate in a rematch between Lesnar and Goldberg at WrestleMania 33. The early buzz is Lesnar will get his win back in a main event and that it will be a more traditional length main event.
But to what end?
At this point, Goldberg’s return has harmed two major WWE attractions in Lesnar and Owens. Lesnar, however, has already “proven” himself as a superstar in this sport and in MMA.
The only real losers in all this are Kevin Owens and the other full-time superstars who are showing up every night, putting their bodies at risk for the sake of the company and getting minimal returns for their efforts.
For that, Goldberg needs to finally wrestle a match. He owes them, and you-the-fans, that much.
[Featured Image by WWE]