And Another Thing: The Man Who Would Be King 

Posted by Hyatte on 02.12.2001 

The good news is that Bill Goldberg is no longer just a rip-off of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It took him a while to break that stigma, years longer than he deserved actually, but he did it. 

great leg strength is the foundation of athletic excellence 

-Arnold Schwarzenegger: Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. 

And just like that, it all became clear. 

The good news is that Bill Goldberg is no longer just a rip-off of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It took him a while to break that stigma, years longer than he deserved actually, but he did it. 

In typical WCW form, Goldberg's success happened through no fault of their own. They had no idea what a dynamic powderkeg they had on their hands during his training at the Power Plant. When they trotted him out in1998 as one of Roddy Piper's "tough men" for the big World War 3 pay per view with a full head of hair, they were clueless as to what charisma he possessed. Even when he made his "official" debut a few months later, head freshly shaven so as to invoke the image of the biggest star in wrestling today, Goldberg was used primarily as an antagonist for a Steve "Mongo" McMichael singles push. That would have been his career, a mid-card heel who's bald head, goatee, and simple black gear sent a great subliminal message to the audience. It wasn't Bill Goldberg being beaten by the stars of WCW, it was WCW showing everyone that Stone Cold wouldn't succeed there. This is the best WCW had for him. 

Luckily, Goldberg had other ideas, and one move that was eventually dubbed, "The Spear". 

It seems that every decade or so, a new move in introduced into wrestling that becomes an instant success. These moves, simplistic in design yet so effective in execution, are attention getters. They make the audience stand up and scream "WHOA", despite themselves. In the 80's, it was the DDT; in the 90's, it was the Powerbomb. Both moves were invented by the right person. Jake Roberts' lithe, pliant body was the perfect tool to unleash the sudden, out-of-nowhere DDT finisher. Much like his "snake" character, the DDT struck suddenly and without warning. A decade later, who else but Vader could effectively introduce the raw, frighteningly easy powerbomb? Vader was a big, monstrous bully who kept things simple in the ring. He got in there, tossed his opponent around like a rag doll, and got out. The Powerbomb was perfect for a character like that. These days, you aren't considered a wrestler unless you pull off one or both of these moves at least once in your lives. 

Like it's two predecessors, Goldberg's first use of the Spear resulted in a stunned awe from the audience. The elementary technique, a simple full-body tackle, was so explosive on contact, that the viewer had to wonder how exactly such a big man could pull it off without hurting his opponent. Indeed, many victims of the Spear did look squashed on impact. That one move brought crowds to their feet, quickly. So awesome was the move, that people never even caught on that it was just a variation of the Flying Shoulder Tackle. Goldberg found himself the one thing every wrestler needs to make it in the big leagues... he found his hook. The Jackhammer follow-up was just the desert to the main course. The Spear is what got Goldberg over, much to WCW's surprise. 

By the time Goldberg had arrived on the scene, WCW had found itself in a precarious position. The WWF's new "Attitude" direction was just beginning to sweep across the country. Monday night ratings were beginning to become a bit too one-sided. Oh, it wasn't the utter weekly butt whupping that Mondays have become today, but it was enough to give Eric Bischoff and WCW pause. Marquee names like "Hollywood" Hogan, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Sting, and the entire "NWO" gimmick were simply not producing the numbers anymore. Bischoff, of course, was all smiles. To the public, he assured everyone that this wouldn't last, that WCW would soon ride high once again. Off camera, during his long vacations away from the scene, Bischoff dropped to his knees and started to pray for something to happen. He prayed to God to send his company a miracle. 

As soon as the crowd popped for the Spear, Bischoff got back on his knees and thanked Him. 

If things were going any differently for the company, chances are WCW would have built up the Goldberg phenomena a bit more slowly, carefully developing it over time and allow it to grow naturally. Unfortunately, time was money and while Turner was still handing Bischoff the keys to the bank vault, the Executives were finally starting to wonder about all the withdrawals Bischoff was making, as well as how sparingly Bischoff made deposits. Goldberg's arrival was not a case of perfect timing, he came on too late for that, it was more like he came in a nick of time. Bischoff saw Goldberg's heat and immediately rushed it into the stratosphere. Within weeks, Goldberg was the focus of the most extravagant marketing campaign the business had ever seen. His flashy, gladiator-like entrance, his stirring, thunderous music, and his simple, no-nonsense, thirty second decimation matches showcased his strengths as a true God among men. Not wanting to mess with what was working, Bischoff kept Goldberg off mic for the longest time, letting the Announcers coin the ready made T-shirt slogan "Who's Next?" and sell the man as the ultimate wrestler. So desperate was Bischoff for immediate results, he had the Announcers literally "mark out" for Goldberg's matches. Even Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, long considered the absolute standard in Heel Color Commentators, was forced to drop his character during a Goldberg appearance and marvel at his glory. "The Streak" was a convenient storyline for him, necessary to put over his majesty, and allowing Bischoff time to think of a long range plan... that being, of course, the WCW World Title. 

To his credit, Goldberg proved a natural showman. He quickly adapted to his gimmick and always knew where the camera was at any given time. One of the best tricks he had was the long, lingering, "try to stop me if you can" stares that he gave the cameras after each Spear and each pin. When he finally began speaking into a mic, his raspy voice were both cold and threatening at once. He knew that he was a "no-nonsense" type of guy, and while not overstating the characterization is easy... he also knew how not to underplay it either. His delivery was always pitch perfect. No wrestler can be expected to properly handle such an overwhelming promotional blitz, but Goldberg proved up to the task, much to Bischoff's delight. 

Less than a year into his "official" WCW debut, Goldberg defeated Scott Hall, and then Hulk Hogan to become WCW World Heavyweight champion to higher ratings. A month later, a replay of Goldberg's first WCW title defense against "Diamond" Dallas Page on Pay Per View was shown on Nitro and actually defeated RAW in that quarter hour. Eighteen month since his debut, Goldberg was the World Champion, had appeared on Jay Leno with a personal challenge to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (which Austin laughed off), was hired to film a movie with Jean Claude Van Dam, appeared on the covers of Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, was a fixture at many WCW Autograph signings, and was the primary poster boy for a slew of billboards and magazine pages advertising WCW as being "Out There". From nowhere, with only a very brief career with the Atlanta Falcons as a backstory, Goldberg had become WCW's primary representative. As the Announcers bragged, Goldberg became "Our Hero". A Hero to children, a Hero to adults, a Hero to wrestling fans everywhere, and a Hero to WCW. So what if he still looked like a "Stone Cold" rip-off, he was Bischoff's very own creation, and he made the crowd pop. 

But, Nitro was still losing ratings. WCW was still losing money by the truckload. 

As with everything else in life, human beings have a way of adapting to new things, then analyzing them. The fans began noticing the small, irritating things about the Goldberg blitz. They noticed that Goldberg's entrance theme included a ready made chant of "GOLDBERG" that was supposed to encourage them to join in. They noticed how the "peek" into a Goldberg autograph signing, complete with children chanting his name in unison seemed a bit too rehearsed and calculated. They noticed how Goldberg's matches were less of a match and more of an brief exhibition. They also noticed that the man was suddenly "our hero" when just a short time ago, nobody had ever heard of the guy. They noticed all that. Suddenly, Goldberg didn't seem as "awesome" as they would have us believe. In fact, he seemed less of a wrestler, and more of a WCW commercial being crammed down our throats incessantly. WCW put too much into Goldberg too fast, and the audience began to gag. This was no one's "Hero", this was a desperate company's idea of what a Hero should be, and after a while, the audience stopped being impressed. To counteract this, WCW ended the "Streak" and Goldberg's title reign with a Starrcade loss to Kevin Nash. That is to say, head booker Nash convinced Bischoff that putting the belt around him was the way to go. 

Roughly six months or so after Goldberg's first defeat, WCW fell into turmoil. Bischoff was gone, Russo was in. Russo was out, Sullivan was in. Goldberg sat out through this period and recovered from all the pressure he had been put under. Kevin Sullivan lost his rule, Bischoff and Russo formed a brief power group. Goldberg rejoined. After much convincing, thanks mostly in part of his huge ego that came from being thrust into the center of WCW so quickly, Goldberg turned Heel briefly. Bischoff left. Russo fended for himself for a while. Goldberg became involved in an inane "real/kayfabe" storyline with Russo. Goldberg turned face again. Russo quietly left an active role in WCW, but first he put Goldberg into a "Re-live the Streak" gimmick. An interim WCW booking committee fell into place and allowed Goldberg to work this gimmick for a time. Then he was defeated by Lex Luger and Buff Bagwell. Now, Goldberg is sitting at home, patiently waiting for his next big angle. 

In the two years since Goldberg held the WCW strap, amid all the changes in leadership, amid all the power struggles, and while the WWF lengthened it's lead and help send Nitro lose any credibility and respect, Goldberg actually became a better star. The spotlight was not completely taken off him, but it certainly was dimmed. Through proper booking and enough time, Goldberg developed a nice little history for fans to follow. Following his monster push, Goldberg was able to flesh out who he is and develop his character properly. Oh, he is still the ultimate Face for WCW, even through that horrible "Heel" period where neither he, nor the bookers put much effort into, but he wasn't just the Face who mindlessly decimated his opponents just for being there. He had actual storylines and angles to work with. Ironically, now is the best time to re-launch Goldberg and make him the biggest name in the business. The fans are used to him now, the wonder of his power has worn off, and he is no longer being dismissed as an Austin rip-off. Initially, WCW promoted Goldberg's potential to the Moon, now they can promote the man with a little backstory. Goldberg might just be WCW's savior just yet. They certainly haven't stopped treateing him as the company's Savior. He is still considered "our Hero". 


Notice those book sales of Goldberg's autobiography, I'm Next? It's not exactly doing the same business as Mick Foley's or the Rock's bio, has it? 

See, there is still a slight problem with Goldberg. One that I couldn't put my finger on. Until Arnold wrote that passage above fifteen years ago. 

Goldberg, for all his magnificence, with an upper body that is as massive and intimidating as anyone else in the business, has practically no leg definition at all. His thighs are well rounded, certainly. They are large, by normal standards, and are probably strong enough to kick a hole through a brick wall. But he has no calves whatsoever. They are small, puny things that give the rest of his body an awkward look. 

In short, Goldberg is what bodybuilders call a "club poser". He's the guy who works and works and works his upper body to impress people and show off to the girls at various nightclubs, but virtually ignores his legs because nobody looks at the them. He works out for the cameras. He works out because it is required of him. It's his job, not his passion. 

In a Hollywood movie, houses are built just for a few exterior shots and for some interior scenes. On film, they look like any house in any neighborhood, but in reality, if you lean on them hard enough, they collapse. They are built for show, not to be lived in. They have no foundation. 

Which is why I doubt Goldberg will ever be the mega-star WCW wants us to believe he is. He was never given the time to be properly built. They never thought to develop him on any foundation. 

In his book, written at the end of his active body building competition days, Arnold confessed to being so ashamed of his underdeveloped calves that he would routinely pose while standing in a pond or a lake, thereby hiding his faults. Even if he were allowed to have his matches in shallow ponds, WCW wouldn't allow Goldberg to do that. 

They still want us to believe that he can walk on water. 

This is Hyatte too.