There’s an old saying in pro wrestling — never say never. No matter how much animosity or how great the real-life drama, somehow in the end wrestlers always seem to return to WWE. In recent years we’ve seen Bruno Sammartino put aside his differences with the McMahon family. Ditto for the Ultimate Warrior who buried the hatchet just days before his untimely death. And most recently, Goldberg.
The man who set World Championship Wrestling on fire as a central figure in the famed Monday Night Wars is back in Vince McMahon’s empire. His return on Monday Night RAW last month was shocking to millions. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been.
Recently, I was digging through the archives of an old wrestling radio show I hosted with former Redskins defensive end Adam Carriker when I stumbled across our interviews with the surefire WWE Hall of Famer. I dusted the digital dust off an mp3 of his first appearance, and as I listened, it became abundantly clear Goldberg was looking into a crystal ball. What he said that day four years ago turned out to be exactly what we’ve seen unfold in recent weeks.
“I swore that I’d never even consider wrestling past 40 years old, but I’m in the gym every night,” he said in 2012. “I’m sparring three days a week at my Muay Thai gym, and I gotta tell you, I’m in some pretty damn good shape.”
The interview was conducted right around the time Brock Lesnar returned to WWE after a long absence and successful run in UFC. The timing wasn’t lost on Goldberg, who then got a little more direct about a comeback.
“Would I consider wrestling again? Man, I got a six-year-old boy who everyday asks if I’m going to be a wrestler anymore,” he said. “Would I consider it? Absolutely. Would it have to be the right situation? Absolutely. You look at Brock coming back. Would I consider it? There’s no question about it. But is it something I’m longing for? Absolutely not.”
We then asked what the perfect situation would be. And sure enough it was as if he laid out a blueprint for WWE to use in the future.
“Obviously, I’d love to have a rematch with Brock again so that we could erase our WrestleMania XX match,” Goldberg said.
So, his itch must have grown over time, and the “right situation” presented itself with the release of the WWE 2K17 video game. When the game was built around their decade-old feud, plenty speculated it would soon explode out of the virtual realm and back into an actual WWE ring. Lo and behold, that’s precisely what happened.
Goldberg turns 50 next month, but his presence is no less magical than when he defeated Hollywood Hulk Hogan to win the WCW World Championship in 1998. He’s joked about having a little ring rust, but his small stumble on Monday’s RAW did nothing to sour the moment. The first jackhammer in over a decade was as sweet as ever, and the spear to Paul Heyman stunned the crowd. You know to figure that’s going to ratchet up his feud with Lesnar, who is at his best when he’s playing a pissed off beast. Kudos to WWE’s creative staff for putting him in that role.
As for Goldberg’s young son who pestered him about making a comeback, he was sitting ringside when his dad finally stepped in the ring again. It’s a safe bet he’ll be there once again for Survivor Series. After all, this isn’t about a paycheck. This is about a father giving his son a memory that will last a lifetime.
Who knows? Maybe this won’t be a one-night stand. Maybe there are more ringside memories to come. During that same long-ago interview, Goldberg also mentioned a desire to wrestle Steve Austin in a dream match that “everyone in the world would want to see.” The Undertaker is also on his short list. If you doubt you’ll ever see him tangle with the Dead Man, just remember this is WWE and you can never say never.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.