Goldberg primed for battle with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series
Bill Goldberg is aware that he will be battling Father Time as well as Brock Lesnar at WWE Survivor Series Nov. 20 in Toronto.
The former SEC and NFL football star and current actor, television personality, businessman and volunteer is a realist.
“I'd love to be the Goldberg of old,” he told me recently, “and not the Goldberg that's old. I'm 12 years older, and gray, but in those 12 yeas I that I've been away from wrestling I'm much wiser, and I have 12 years of MMA training that I can utilize. My stand up game is immensely better than it ever was in WCW or WWE.”
There will be little time for warm-up matches or prelim, television bouts before Goldberg steps into the ring in Air Canada Center in front of a passionate, sold-out crowd. Goldberg will go directly from his spartan-like training regimen in California straight to Toronto to ascertain his pro wrestling legacy against, arguably, the biggest name in the genre and a legit, beast of an athlete in Brock Lesnar.
When I first laid eyes on Bill Goldberg, it was 1984 and he was a high school senior at Tulsa Edison High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, playing defensive tackle for the Eagles. The local, Okie sports writers often talked glowingly of the big, Jewish kid whose dad was an OBGYN and mother was a classical violinist. My football officiating crew and I got a close-up look at the best defensive lineman that the state of Oklahoma had produced since, arguably, the Selmon Brothers a decade earlier.
Goldberg dominated the football game as few defensive linemen could and many Oklahoma fans thought Goldberg was a lock to join Coach Barry Switzer's Sooners, who would be just a year away from winning another National Championship. Bill shocked the state, where he was the Defensive Player of the Year, and signed with Vince Dooley's Georgia Bulldogs, with whom he became an All-SEC defensive lineman.
Now all these years later, and after we reconnected in Atlanta in 1992 where I was working for Turner Broadcasting and doing some part time broadcasting with the Atlanta Falcons where Bill was a defensive lineman, we are on the verge of witnessing Goldberg's last “game.”
Goldberg returned to WWE television weeks ago on Monday Night RAW in Denver to a thunderous ovation that surprised some.
“I'm a 49-year-old guy who was humbled as I could be in Denver when I heard the reception that the fans gave me. I left them on a sour note 12 years ago and now I have a chance to return and rectify it. It was very cool,” Bill shared with me.
“The reaction to Goldberg confirmed our confidence that Bill is still not only relevant in the WWE world his reaction was met with passionate exuberance even after a decade's absence,” WWE Chairman Vince McMahon told me. “Bill's son has never seen him perform and Bill's wife and son were blown away with the reaction in Denver. Survivor Series is going to be on fire!”
Goldberg's heartfelt promo upon his return was the best verbal effort of his career.
“I absolutely stink at promos and have had many opportunities to do them better but they were never really any good,” he said. “WWE trusted me to express myself as Bill Goldberg and not the old, superhero Goldberg. I had no script and I spoke from my heart and it felt great. The Denver Raw was the first time in wrestling that I could simply be myself and I loved it. I could die tomorrow knowing that I gave my wife and son a glimpse into the world in which I once lived. “
Goldberg has been training intensely every day since it was first decided that he would return to the ring. Bill has enlisted the help of Muay Thai Kickboxing great Simon Marcus, former UFC Heavyweight Champion and pro wrestling competitor and instructor Josh Barnett, among others, to prepare himself for the war with Lesnar at Survivor Series.
But why Lesnar for your apparent, one-off, last and final pro wrestling contest?
“He deserves a rematch from 12 years ago and he was, quite frankly, my door to get back in. Plus, Brock doesn't care. He really doesn't care about the consequences for either of us and he's fearless,” Goldberg told me. “I know what Brock's capable of better than most, I assure you. I'm in better cardio shape today than I was in my pro wrestling career and in the NFL. I hope to compete at around 270 which is 25 or 30 pounds less than what I weighed back in WCW. I may be limited with what I can do stylistically in the ring but our match won't lack in physicality or passion.”
Sounds like a Slobber Knocker to me.
The WWE Chairman added, “Goldberg vs Lesnar is married to the WWE2K17 video game where fantasy warfare meets reality. It's Ali vs Marciano, Mayweather vs Sugar Ray Leonard … Goldberg vs Lesnar.”
I asked Goldberg if he could channel one wrestler to flow through his veins versus Brock who would it be?
“It would be my all time favorite, Bruiser Brody, who was a guy I never met but he was the wrestler that got me interested in the business when I was a kid watching the Von Erich's show out of Dallas with my grandmother,” Goldberg said. “Bruiser Brody was special and the most influential pro wrestler for me in my career. I'll need some Brody versus Brock.”
“Win or lose I want to show everyone, especially the kids, that I have a heart. Many kids today seem to be lost and their morals are not their highest priority. Kind, human nature including the most elementary of things like saying “please and thank you” seem to be lacking in our every day lives. Many kids today are too concerned with taking selfies and not rolling up their sleeves and getting involved and trying to make a difference. I want to help change that and perhaps I can motivate some kids to simply make better decisions and be positive contributors to our society,” the Muay Thai practitioner said.
Goldberg finished our conversation with, “Once a warrior always a warrior and I will always fight for my family name and my honor. This match is something that I really needed to do for my wife and son and because I have to know at this stage of my life if I can get physically ready for my last prize fight and then step in the ring and give it every ounce of everything that I've got.”
“I'm not scared.”
When our conversation concluded, I thought of a lyric from a song by my friend and fellow Oklahoman Toby Keith that goes, 'I may not be as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was.'
Brock Lesnar is next … and he's last.
Jim Ross on Twitter @JRsBBQ, listen to him on the Ross Report Podcast, and see him live at RINGSIDE: An Evening with Jim Ross. JR's products are also available online at wweshop.com,americansoda.co.uk and beyondtheropes.co.uk