Corrigan’s Corner: Goosebumps for Goldberg Return

John Corrigan believes the hype.
Credit: WWE.
Credit: WWE.

I’ve argued more about Goldberg’s return than about any aspect of the presidential election.

First off, I’m in favor of it, as every wrestling fan should be after watching Raw. The former World Heavyweight Champion, at one point rivaling Stone Cold as the hottest star in the industry, came back to pro wrestling in grand fashion: marching through the backstage area, surrounded by cheering WWE Superstars who grew up idolizing him, showered in pyro and breathing fire, inhaling smoke and the adoration of a raucous Denver crowd.

Although his goatee aged, his presence was effervescent—Da Man slapping hands and hugging kids, cussing up a storm, genuinely thrilled to be back in the ring. Before he even grabbed the mic, the fans chanted “This Is Awesome” and “Holy Shit” because holy shit, Goldberg was back! He left a dozen years ago, at the height of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Smarty Jones and Ashlee Simpson’s lip-synch fiasco, disgruntled at his disappointing run in McMahonland.

Thanks to video game developer 2K Sports, who has influenced the return of Ultimate Warrior and the debut of Sting, now Goldberg has resurrected in the hearts and minds of wrasslin’ fans followed by a pulsating comeback to WWE TV.

Here’s where people pissed out my fireworks.

A friend from Temple (a Cena worshipper) claimed that Goldberg’s answer to Brock Lesnar’s challenge was “weak.” She argued that WWE spent all night hyping his return, only for the old man to hug and kiss children and offer “soft” smack talk.

“You know this wasn’t a good promo segment.”

Honestly, I thought this was the greatest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I gathered my brothers and dad (wearing his “Who’s Next” shirt from 2004) in the living room and we went apeshit as the master of the jackhammer snarled about delivering one more ass-kicking. He explained that he’s had the itch to come back because of meeting kids around the world who light up around him, and that he takes great pride in being a superhero in an age where they’re sorely missing. His wife Wanda, whom he married in 2005, and his son Gage have never watched him perform. They’ve heard all the stories, they’ve seen all the clips, but they’ve never experienced the electricity of 20,000 fans chanting his name.

He wants to give them that experience, just once, but could he? Well, Paul Heyman made that decision for him last week when the advocate issued a challenge on behalf of his client, Brock Lesnar.

Goldberg responded with a killer line: “Brock Lesnar, not only does that mean You’re Next, but most importantly, it means, Brock Lesnar…YOU’RE LAST!”


Never known for dialogue, Goldberg’s promo was a homerun. Yeah, he’s hugging kids because that’s where he is in his life. That’s what makes him tick. The 49-year-old devoted family man lives to be a role model. He’s humbled and matured, he’s comfortable in his own skin. Just like the best characters in pro wrestling, he has evolved.

The Myth is finally human.

But that means he’s like all of us, and he lives with cardinal sins. Pride, the deadliest of those sins, compels Goldberg to accept Lesnar’s challenge and lace up those boots one more time. He may be at peace with himself, but he’s at war with the Beast Incarnate.

That’s why I disagree with David Levin’s assertion that the rematch is a bad move for WWE. Levin looks at the big picture, and doesn’t see where Goldberg vs. Lesnar fits in WWE’s frame. He argues that it’s a short-term money maker between a part-timer and a one-timer that won’t positively impact the future of the company.

In fairness to Levin, he wrote that piece before Goldberg’s promo so I’m not sure if he’s changed his mind. But I’ll assume he hasn’t because his points of contention weren’t affected by Goldberg’s passionate proclamation.

Is this rematch an attention grab? Yes. Is it a prayer to increase ratings and network subscriptions? Certainly.

Is that the point of pro wrestling? Of course.

Vince McMahon has been called many things, but the truest is “greatest promoter.” The chairman is an expert at drumming up interest in his product. Need to entice people to purchase the newly-launched WWE Network? Break The Streak. Need to fill 100,000 seats for WrestleMania 32? Bring back Shane, book him against Undertaker and lock them in the Cell.

Although these promotions don’t always live up to the hype, half the battle is already won: Vince pocketed your money.

In terms of drumming up interest, Goldberg’s return has already been a success. Raw’s rating jumped to 3.1, its highest point in several weeks and up 372,000 viewers from the week before. Major sports outlets covered it and social media embraced it. The hardcore fanbase loved his promo, and there’s anticipation for Brock’s rebuttal and the eventual showdown. More importantly, the casual fanbase is talking about WWE in front of lapsed fans and non-watchers.

“Guess who came back? Goldberg! And he looks pretty good.”

It’s those conversations that drive pro wrestling’s popularity and can invigorate the product to reach those profitable heights of the Monday Night War. Goldberg’s return doesn’t have to be just a short-term impact—the interest can lure new viewers to check out and hopefully invest in other WWE Superstars. By hyping his return throughout the night and saving it for the end of Raw, WWE allowed maximum exposure for the rest of its roster so new acts like Kevin Owens, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Rusev and Enzo & Cass could receive the rub.

However, Levin’s major issue with the rematch is one that many folks share, even after the greatness of this past Monday.

When the bell rings and these two mastodons finally lock up, it’s going to suck. It’s more than speculation, we have evidence. Goldberg has a dozen years of ring rust and he’s pushing half a century on the planet. Being younger didn’t help because the original match was an epic clusterfuck.

But I’ll tell you what this match has that the original lacked: emotional investment.

It’s the X factor in pro wrestling. It’s saved many a match and has kept fans clamoring for more. It goes both ways, too: Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV was technically terrible, but the bittersweet feeling and historical significance behind it made for a classic. Meanwhile, the cruiserweights deliver technical masterpieces every Monday night, but nobody cares because we don’t know their identities, their motives, their characters.

Emotional investment makes Brian Kendrick a star and Tony Nese a seat filler.

When Goldberg fought Lesnar at WrestleMania XX, the fans shit all over it because there was nothing to invest in. Both competitors were leaving the company immediately after the match, and both felt sick of the sport that we all love. Imagine all the money those attendees spent on tickets for the 20th anniversary of pro wrestling’s biggest night, and then they watch two men, who profited greatly from the sport, piss all over it.

This time around, it’s different. Sure, Lesnar still doesn’t care and is solely in it for the money, and that’s fine. Because after this past Monday, that’s what makes him the villain.

His opponent isn’t coming back for the money. He isn’t coming back for championships either. Goldberg is coming back for family and for the love of his fans.

He’s the hero we didn’t think we needed right now, but the one we deserve.

John Corrigan
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John Corrigan

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John Corrigan
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