Saturday, 20 January 2018

Goldberg's Undefeated Streak (from debut to the world title)

 Goldberg's Undefeated Streak (from debut to the world title)

I was never much a fan of Goldberg. Probably because I was a massive Hart Family mark, and so always linked him to Bret Hart’s career ending. 

However a recent thread about “what did you think at the time?” made me realise that I’ve never actually watched the streak. Sure, I’ve seen the Hugh Morrus match countless times, it’s part of wrestling history, but beyond the famous matches, nope. Before my time as a fan. In fact, the first WCW match I saw was in August 1999, and it was Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and Konnan vs Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit. Lucked out there, but never been able to find this match again. Before then, WCW was the “enemy”, afterwards, it became “the place lots of people who should go to the WWF were”.

But by then Goldberg could lose on TV. The impact was lost, somewhat.

I naturally wondered how much of the streak was on YouTube and Dailymotion. Surprising, most.

I didn’t take notes on all the matches, because many of them are No Sell, Spear, Jackhammer, Done, or unmemorable squashes.  But here’s a few thoughts on marathon watching the first half of Goldberg's undefeated streak (from debut to beating Hulk Hogan for the World title in Georgia Dome) and seeing most of it for the first time.

(The number is the match order by which I saw them – couldn’t see house show matches for obvious reasons, and a number of Thunder/Saturday Night matches don’t exist online. I used Cagematch to track the order too, which doesn’t help when some matches are taped months in advance. Sadly, the 60 minute draw with Dean Malenko is a fan joke....)

#1 – Hugh Morrus. What really sells this match is how much the commentators don’t pay attention to it. It’s just a random jobber match like hundreds before it, and their lack of interest in the non-main event actually helps disguise whats about to happen. Could be a deliberate use of tropes, but most likely a happy accident. I like the team referring to Mike Tenay to get them out of the research hole, only for Tenay to go “I know nothing about this man”. Commentary mostly ignores the match, beyond a few “well, that’s a mistake” comments until Goldberg kicks out of No Laughing Matter and suddenly everyone in the arena perks up. Jackhammer, three count, and a legend is born.

#2 – The Barbarian – I feel like they went too early on this match, but Barbarian kicks a bit and then jobs.

#3 Road Block – Some 300 pound jobber, but I see the logic – you defeated the midcarder and the tough guy, let’s see you against some big guy. Big guy jobs.

#6 Wrath. Hey, it’s Adam Bomb! This could be coo...Goldberg crushes him in 20 seconds. A young looking James Mitchell (who I’m actually sad never got to work in WWF) looks gobsmacked, as does Kanyon in full Mortis regalia. It’s notable how OVER Goldberg is already, by which I note fans in the front row jumping up for him as well as the pops. 

#8 – Disco Inferno. A TV title match, in theory. Goldberg doesn’t want titles, though, he spears Disco and throws him out of the ring. I feel a TV title, to US title to WCW title run would have been better – did we really need a Disco Inferno/Booker T swap? Have it that you can’t hold the TV and US titles simultaneously, and Goldberg wins the US title just in time for the Benoit/Booker T best of 7 for the “vacant” title. Otherwise, the first sign of a booking black hole – Disco can’t lose the titile, Goldberg can’t lose. 

#9 – Renegade – Renegade takes on Goldberg a few times and loses easily. Can’t help but think how he killed himself about a year later, poor chap, makes these matches a bit spooky.

#11 – Glacier – The two men with the best win/loss records in WCW! I’ll keep you in suspense as to who improves their one!

#14 – Jerry Flynn – Flynn gets in a few kicks and tries to go for submissions. Still gets crushed. He fought Goldberg several times, with the matches getting more and more one sided. Remember when Jerry Flynn was Tank Abbot’s ultimate challenge? 

#15 – Meng. This is a bit of an awkward match, but it plays well with the story of both men being wary of the other, and how much that puts over Goldberg. When Haku treats you as a threat... Lots of stiff looking kicks and punches, and Goldberg has to fight for the win, but win he does, and its arguably his biggest rub so far. Unless you rate Steve McMichael, which I don’t. 

#17 – Brad Armstrong. The late brother of Road Dogg kicks Goldberg in the face as he enters the ring. Goldberg stands up straight and gives him his glare as if to say “Oh tell me you didn’t just do that.” That’s as good as it gets for Brad.

It’s funny how much Bobby Heenan just completely marks out for Goldberg. None of his heeling up on commentary, he clearly thinks Goldberg is awesome, and is already referring to him by this point as “The Man”.  Wrestling fans love destroyers though, it’s in our DNA. If Mantaur just killed jobbers, he’d have a bigger cult following than Sean Waltman, true story. Goldberg, Sid, Vader, Braun Strowman, doesn’t matter – the destroyer will get over like rover.

#22 – Regal. The infamous match when Regal is meant to have worked stiff and had an awkward match from Goldberg. The story changes multiple times, but this is the best Goldberg match so far. The story on screen is this: Regal is a tricky veteran, and a legit tough guy, so challenges Goldberg with leg locks and sneak open fists, and can reverse anything. And Regal’s on his A game and manages to get all this working on Goldberg for a few minutes. And then Goldberg STILL WINS in his usual dominating factor. It just makes Goldberg look more awesome, in my book, and I can remember just being young enough to be marky about Regal. There were actual school conversations when Regal joined WWF about how he was “actually legit” and several of us unironically loved the Real Mans Man gimmick. We were...twelve at the time.

#26 – Finlay – Thought this would be like the Regal match, but Finlay is here for the money and jobs out quick.

#32 – Lodi – “Goldberg is a Meathead” reads the sign, and this is over quick.

#36 – Ray Traylor – I thought this would be cool, but Bossman was on his way back to WWF, so loses fairly quickly, though he did get a front spinebuster in first. 

#37 – John Nord. Unrecognisable from his WWF days. “He’s on a streak of his own” – yeah, and Royal Rumbles are meant to be his specialty because of his finisher.  Over quickly.

#39 – Rocco Rock. Public Enemy member actually stuns Goldberg, and brings in a table. Spear through table, game over.

#41 – Perry Saturn. I remember reading an interview with Goldberg from over sixteen years ago in which he called this his favourite match he ever had. Goldberg’s feuding with Raven’s Flock, and Saturn is the enforcer type he has to beat to get a US title shot. Saturn brings everything to the match, leaping through the air and on the ground and speeding about like a bullet around the monster. Goldberg hits power moves, but slowly Saturn grounds Goldberg and even gets a 2 count. He even manages to reverse the Jackhammer, via distraction, through a low blow. Goldberg, for his part, is actually trying to sell some of the stuff, and really this is the first of the streak matches to make both men look better. Saturn gets Goldberg in the Rings of Saturn, and there’s an audible gasp – for that split second, some of that crowd genuinely thought they were there to see the streak end – before Goldberg powers up out of the Rings, flips Saturn upwards and reverses his ground submission into the Jackhammer, in a fluid moment that made the commentary team, the crowd, and jaded thirtysomething me all lose our fucking minds. There are a few things which don’t come off with this match, but it would be churlish after the effort that went in – Goldberg can just about hold his own in an eight minute match, and even with Saturn throwing everything at him, he still wins.

Also, Perry Saturn should have been a made man after that match.

#42 – Raven. I’d seen it before, and all the extra circular stuff like the plant fans pushing Raven back into the ringside area had seemed rather corny. But in context, the fans take to Goldberg so quickly, by this point, they absolutely adore him, so if corny, it doesn’t kill the suspension of disbelief. This crowd HATES Raven, and LOVES Goldberg, and comes entirely unglued as the whole Flock come down to interfere, and Goldberg kills them all. Goldberg finally wins gold, the US title, and everyone goes mental. 

Raven pretty much dies though. Reminds me of an old joke after a Hardcore match in 2000 – “you can kill two birds with one stone, but Undertaker would rather kill one Raven with a tombstone through a table...” Jackhammer, Goldberg, you get the rest...

#43 – Mike Enos - “Mike Enos can get it done!” Now they’re just lying to us. Bobby is a bit over-concerned at times – calm down, it’s only Mike Enos. Spear, jackhammer, done. 

#44 - Norton gets a 2 count from a cross-body before Goldberg gears up. We go to the outside, and Norton gets a near fall (!) on a shoulder-breaker bomb, and then goes to the submission. Goldberg powers out of a second shoulder-breaker – spear, jackhammer, done.

#47 – Sick Boy - Remember when WWF signed Sick Boy? It was covered in the news sites at the time as a major coup. He never appeared on TV. Rest-holds. “It’s tough to criticise Sick Boy, he’s been very effective so far.” It’s the thing Goldberg could never prepare for – an extended nerve lock! Goldberg wins, in case you were worried.

#51 – Barry Horowitz – The pyro, the music (which he got three matches in!), This is 92-0 in total but 51-0 on TV. It’s amazing how fast they make Bill Goldberg the no name into Goldberg the big star. Horowitz lasted slightly longer than the time he tried to pull a fast one on Diesel, incidentally. 

#52 – La Parka – Another old favourite of mine, crushed And yet Van Hammer got some offence in. There’s no justice. This match is solely for Goldlberg to no sell a chair shot. It’s funny how theres a bunch of folk in the crowd marking out, and some guy in the front row no selling it as if he’s Comic Book Guy – “called it”. 

#53 – Hugh Morrus, US title match. He brings out The Barbarian to psyche out Goldberg. “Remember us, you beat us nine months ago, try beating us now you’ve improved!” The ref just allows this to be handicap match, but Goldberg spears Morrus, Barbarian and Jimmy Hart at the same time. Hugh Morrus’s weight same to go up every time he faces the Jackhammer. Goldberg is taking on Barbarian, and Heenan is still pro-Goldberg. Bobby Heenan and The Barbarian, ffs, they go back decades! The Brain is completely smitten. 

#54 – He still doesn’t have the security escort and we’re in June! Chavo Guerrero Jr is doing a insanity gimmick, and specifically asked for this match. He really doesn’t need to act crazy then, surely that act alone counts for months of gimmick? This is around the Eddie Guerrero feud, yet Goldberg just randomly waltz around all these feuds happening all around him, like a one man hurricane destroying anything which gets close. 

#55 – Match 100 (I think they padded it out, but not by much – lots of house show matches – plus a few Saturday night matches which just aren’t online). Konnan is subbing for the injured Curt Hennig. 

Shame, as Broken Curt Hennig did later get a good match out of Goldberg in October 1999. Konnan is in theory a tough task, but absolutely no one in the arena believe in his chances. True to expectations, Konnan puts up less fight than a Barry Darsow, it’s solely a quick loss to sell the 100th win. 

Goldberg stares down Rick Rude and Curt Hennig at ringside, and then they turn on Konnan! So, Hennig and Rude left the NwO to join a different nWo group, but it was all a ruse, and now they’ve turned on the bad guy to join another group of bad guys. Swerve!

Look, massive Curt Hennig (aka Mr Perfect) fan here, I’m sure he had a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this. 

Rick Rude was dead less than a year later. That completely sucks. 

All this storyline stuff happened, and Goldberg basically walked in, pinned Konnan and walked off. 

#56 – Reese. Heenan is making the Hogan comparisons already. Reese is a great character in WCW/NWO Revenge Battle Royals – all big boots and Bradshaw hammer fists. The fans chant “Gold Boulder, Gold Boulder” (no wait, that's Wrestling Mpire). 

Heenan: “I want to see if he can move Reece around!” 

Goldberg no sells a high vertical suplex, and Heenan’s voice goes up about ten octaves. Tony and Bobby go nuts as Goldberg hits the Jackhammer on the seven footer.
After squashing Rick Fuller (who?), Goldberg comes out to even the odds when the entire nWo are beating up Kevin Greene, and runs through them. Apparently Greene was a known pal of Goldbergs from real life, so the commentary says, so clearly the whole Greene v Giant match was to segue into Goldberg vs the NwO. As the entire NwO run like the wind, suddenly Goldberg has gone from a passing hurricane into being the main event at the centre of WCW. He’s not got the belt, but its largely irrelevant, he’s the standard bearer, and the fans are going apeshit. 

#58 – Glacier – the Nitro main event. Glacier has made it! We get the Nitro girls first, with an appearance by new girl Whisper. The commentary team are excited, and clearly Shawn Michaels, watching the TV somewhere, was too, as they were married within a year. Glacier is the kind of stupid gimmick which would be a cult favourite today. Michael Buffer gives him the OTT treatment – “he is the man known for the Cryonic Kick!” 

Listening to Tony Schiavone reminds me of the interview he gave where he said he remembered looking at the sheets that night in September 1997 and thinking: “So we’re going to put some no name on prime time? Boy, did he make us experts look stupid.” Of course, calling Tony Schiavone an expert is perhaps stretching credulity a bit too far...

Greene and Goldberg were going to team up at Bash at the Beach but...

JJ Dillon shows up on 2nd July 1998 Thunder, and he arrived by Ted Turner’s private helicopter to give the world the news that Goldberg was getting a World title shot that Monday on Nitro. 

They sold something like 40, 000 tickets in 4 days – can you imagine what WCW could have done with some build and PPV? In true WCW style, this is both amazing and a massive missed opportunity at the same time!

Heenan is besides himself with joy.

The crowd in the Georgia Dome are nuts the entire night. 

But first, he has to defend the US title against Scott Hall!

#59 – Scott Hall – Hall is the first bonafide main eventer that Goldberg has taken on.  Hall walks in quite confident, but loses the power game early. Hall is really gone mentally here, so this is a massive disappointment, which serves to have Goldberg overpower the Bad Guy and finish him off. “That's as close as anyone's got” cries Tony after a 1 count on a back suplex. They’ve forgotten Saturn already. This match was awful but the crowd would have loved Goldberg now if he’d farted the national anthem.  Five mins in: “He hasn’t gone this long, has he?” Poor Saturn. 

Bobby Heenan can hardly contain himself. It’s his dream. An unstoppable destroyer taking on his bĂȘte noire, Hogan. Man, when Bobby falls for someone, he really goes the full hard sell. 

#60 – Hulk Hogan – Well, here we go. Charles Robinson is the referee, he’s probably had one of the greatest referee careers of all time, really, if you think about it, with the number of main events and the sheer period of time. Earl who? 

Heenan: “If Hogan beats Goldberg, it will destroy this sport.”

Goldberg grabs Hogans belt, and throws it away. Hogan gets the upper hand through low blows and cheapshots. Hogan keeps taking the match to the floor, and using chairs. If it’s no DQ, how come Hogan doesn’t need to beat Goldberg, Tony?

Legdrop by Hogan, and a second Legdrop. The camera nearly misses Goldberg kicking out of the Legdrop to catch Karl Malone hitting Curt Hennig with the Diamond Cutter! 

Look, I love Curt Hennig, but keep the cameras on the ring!

Hogan turns and gets the spear, and the entire arena is shaking.

Heenan: Finish him off!!!! This is it! This is it! Do it!

Jackhammer to Hogan, and the pin is academic. They’ve called him The Man since about ten matches into his entire career, and now he’s World Champion!

Arguably, it was all downhill from there...

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