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The biggest irony of Bill Goldberg’s return to a pro wrestling ring Monday night wasn’t that a WCW star was the biggest Superstar on Raw, it was that 12 years later Goldberg was the only one left not wearing a metaphorical blonde wig.
You remember the blonde wig, right? Bill Goldberg was the last great WCW star, a guy who drew eyeballs and money adhering to the strictest winning formula (martial music, march to the ring, lots of sparklers, glower, spear, jackhammer, pin) since Hulk Hogan. Problem was, Vince McMahon thought he created Hulkamania, and knew he hadn’t come up with Who’s Next.
Add to it that Bill Goldberg started his wrestling career at the top of the business, and, like Brock Lesnar, was a businessman and not a fan. If he had a better contract with more money and fewer dates to work than the rest of the talent, he expected both sides to abide by it anyway. That meant that, like in WCW, he had more than his share of political enemies – experienced WWE locker room jockeys who knew how to whisper in McMahon’s ear.
Goldberg got tasered out of his winning gimmick in WCW, and it was easy to convince McMahon, who didn’t get it anyway, that Goldberg’s formula had to be changed in the bigger, better WWE, and that this entitled, overpaid, underworked dilettante needed to have his punk card tested, first thing.
That’s why, on Goldberg’s first-ever Raw appearance, the androgynous Golddust (I forget whether he was stuttering at the time) popped up to give him a blonde wig.
Bill Goldberg had to put it on.
See, it wasn’t enough that Bill Goldberg was a proven money draw, doing exactly what it was he knew how to do. He needed to learn how to be like all the rest, how to wrestle a WWE style 20-minute main event, how to play light comedy with a human Oscar statuette, and bow his head.
I had my biggest audio argument ever with editor/publisher Wade Keller about this idiocy. Talent and management adjust to money, money doesn’t just adjust to talent and management, simply because one is rarer than the other two and, you know, money.
Bill Goldberg didn’t have a successful stay in WWE, and WWE didn’t get their money’s worth out of their orphan attraction. That blonde wig became a symbol of what went wrong between the two parties. Either Vince McMahon was too mule-headed to just make the money, or Goldberg was too stubborn to adjust to a new landscape and evolve into a modern money performer.
Twelve years later, Bill Goldberg gave the best, most effective promo of his career at the end of Raw. Ryback got the hell out just in time. It worked precisely because he was simply himself, performing his version of what he understood to be his best chance to draw money – playing superhero in a Universe that forgot how to create them. There was no blonde wig on his bald wig, meant to conform him to the modern light-comedy WWE ideal.
He didn’t speak in that stilted Universe talk, taking it to new level, looking to change the game. He’d probably never even heard any of it and, like most foreign languages, if you don’t hear it all the time, it’s hard to speak. Instead, he spoke from the heart about what it meant to have the fans – not the universe – and his wife and son see him in the ring after all these years away. He then addressed, not a brand or an authority figure or a wrestling style, but his bad-ass opponent and that fat loudmouth stooge of his.
Bill Goldberg and, truthfully, that stooge were bald before the world, and that blonde wig was now on the heads of the rest of the male roster. One championship wrestler was live on Facebook, too busy entertaining to care about losing his match. Another main-eventer was so far into modern WWE comedy that he just showed slides of his real-life family, no jokes even attempted.
Appropriately enough, Goldust was still there to lead his team of minstrels against another. The Universe Champion continues to childishly bicker with, not his boyfriend, but his “best friend” (they’re clearly asexual) and it’s their touch of whimsy that keeps them eating up the airtime.
Soon enough, Goldberg’s stolen moment will have faded in the face of WWE’s slowly fading brand of light entertainment. It’s worth marking the moment, though, where he proved his point once and for all, in Vince McMahon’s own ring and with blonde wigs everywhere he looked.
(Bruce Mitchell has been a PWTorch columnist since 1990. He hosts the PWTorch Livecast every Friday night at 7 ET with Travis Bryant at www.PWTorchLivecast.com. The weekly two-hour Bruce Mitchell Audio Show with host Wade Keller is a VIP audio staple for years and is part of over a dozen VIP exclusive audio shows that run usually daily or weekly that online members have access to with their VIP password. Follow Bruce on Twitter: @mitchellpwtorch.) ###