RAW Deal: What's next for Goldberg in WWE?

Okay, let’s talk about Goldberg.

It’s almost one whole week since that Survivor Series main event happened—you know, the one that was short enough to fill WWE’s usual YouTube highlight video. Short enough to be shared on Facebook without any legal ramifications (although that might have been the point). Short enough to recall memories of Goldberg’s dominant WCW days, where he built his iconic streak in quick demolition jobs like these.

Let’s talk about all that, and whether it had to go down that way.

I can understand the need for such a moment. Pro wrestling has become bogged down in 2016, in a really good way, by action that’s completely satisfying. Thanks to the rise of the indies and Japan, and the products of those environments finding their way into the WWE mainstream, there’s a premium now put on quality in-ring action. And there should be. This is how we create the right kind of emotional investment needed in wrestling, and this is how we come out with a craft we can all be proud of.

But sometimes, you just need a moment that’s undeniably cool. Undoubtedly awesome. As much as the WWE has been moving toward the model of leaning on smaller and better, more athletic workers, it’s also been bringing back old traditions since they’ve split their brands. They’ve brought back squash matches on the regular, local jobbers, and more traditional, stable storytelling that’s been lost in the gulag of an overstocked roster working a single 3-hour show. What happened between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar has to be the biggest throwback they’ve ever done this year.

Yeah, it’s cool. The idea of the match itself is stupid in 2016, when both men are no longer spring chickens, but it’s cool. It’s out of this world, and if you take off any lens that overanalyzes things, you really cannot deny how awesome it is. That moment was for casual Goldberg fans who may have tuned in after hearing he was coming back to the WWE in 2016, and impressionable young children—and there’s really no reason for the WWE to not do anything for them. For the regular viewer, though, the hardcore fan who is invested in not only a ‘90s legend and an early-2000s force of nature, it’s a confusing move. And doing anything for the casual fan always ends up being a confusing move.

It would’ve been okay, even wholly embraceable, if Goldberg and Lesnar existed in their own plane of the WWE Universe, one far above the goings-on of the laborers wrestling night in and night out for glory. In one metaphorical sense, they already are; they’re legends, for Christ’s sake, and this whole rematch from WrestleMania XX should’ve been a sideshow not greater than the astounding 5-on-5 traditional Survivor Series match the men from RAW and SmackDown put on just before them.

The reality is because Goldberg chose to deal with Brock Lesnar, a man who’s imposed himself on the other real-life goings-on in the WWE, from breaking the Undertaker’s streak to defeating John Cena for the WWE Championship to preventing a breakthrough moment that could have been Dean Ambrose’s at WrestleMania, they’re still fighting in the world of mortal men. Lesnar had been a special attraction when he first returned, when he faced off mostly against Triple H and CM Punk, but now there are implications. When Goldberg—a 49-year-old man, everyone should be reminded—destroys that Beast in around two minutes, what does it really say about the rest of the WWE roster? No, really?

Even if you factor in the argument that Lesnar was cocky and caught off-guard, that’s still a retired dude (who Lesnar is in better shape than) who managed to subdue him and throw him for the win. It makes sense that the old Undertaker was helpless in his hands, but not Goldberg? And Lesnar was able to withstand a similar assault from John Cena, too. You can tell me that Goldberg has his own mystique, but come on, let’s not overblow it.

Now the development is that Goldberg will be joining the Royal Rumble to find his way to the WWE Championship. That’s all well and good, so long as he fully plays by the rules of the Universe he’s stepping into, and he doesn’t squash wrestlers who have been working too hard to just get squashed. 

But we all know that the real person who’s next—and last—is still Brock Lesnar. Survivor Series was a setup for something bigger, that much is clear now, and while the possibility is now there to undo the damage that’s been done, some of it will always stay. Let’s just hope they make less mistakes from here on out. 

*****

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