Goldberg has been divisive since returning. Who has been his best opponent?
Love him or hate him, Bill Goldberg is back once again. The WWE Hall of Famer is back for Summerslam to challenge Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship. WWE keeps going back to the well for more Goldberg matches ever since his return at Survivor Series 2016. When WWE needs a ratings bump, they bring in the former WCW phenom to give them a boost.
While his matches aren’t for everyone, they still seem to be a draw. Since his return, Goldberg has had eight matches. Here’s how they rank from worst to best.
#8: vs The Fiend, Universal Championship Match, Super ShowDown 2020
This match was a nightmare, and not just because of the recently-released Fiend character being spooky. The Fiend had been a near-invincible monster since his debut and had hold of the Universal Championship. At Hell in a Cell in 2019, Seth Rollins couldn’t defeat him with multiple stomps and weapon shots.
Goldberg beat him in under three minutes.
All of the build-up of The Fiend’s mystique went out the window. He was able to recover, but never to the same level. This match was a mistake in booking, a poor showing, and damaged one of WWE’s best young stars. It is undoubtedly the worst Goldberg match since his return.
#7: vs Kevin Owens, Universal Championship Match, Fastlane 2017
Another great example of Goldberg showing up to stop the push of a newer star. Kevin Owens was embroiled in a great feud with former best friend Chris Jericho. They seemed destined for a battle at Wrestlemania 33 for the Universal Championship held by Owens. Instead, Vince McMahon decided that the Goldberg – Brock Lesnar rematch needed a world championship. This led to Goldberg squashing Owens in 22 seconds.
Goldberg versus Lesnar did not need any more build-up aside from their three-match series. McMahon disagreed, and we had our second example of Goldberg being used to ruin a younger star’s momentum in its tracks.
#6: vs Undertaker, Super ShowDown 2019
This match is a dream match from 1998. Instead, it happened in 2019. The match was the main event of another Saudi Arabia show, which are shows seemingly designed to be full of nostalgia. It’s one thing to see your favorite wrestlers, but another entirely to see them well past their prime.
The match was bad, but that was mainly because of the concussion suffered by Goldberg early in the match. Both men had botches in a painstakingly long match where Undertaker eventually went over. It was a slog and is near the bottom of all-time matches for both men.
#5: vs Braun Strowman, Universal Championship Match, Wrestlemania 36
This was originally meant to be a match against Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Reigns chose to stay home out of an abundance of caution. That meant Braun Strowman stepped in to face the reigning champion, Goldberg.
We knew when Goldberg beat The Fiend for the title that he was not in for a lengthy reign. Strowman had some of the weirdest hot and cold booking in WWE, but this came at a time when they saw big things for him. They gave him a dominating win over Goldberg for his first world championship. The match is nothing to write home about, but at least the right guy won.
#4: vs Brock Lesnar, Survivor Series 2016
This match was a shock. It was the first match back for Goldberg since Wrestlemania 20 where he and Lesnar both were booed out of the building. Goldberg was brought back to challenge Lesnar, who said his loss at Wrestlemania 20 was “the one blemish on his record”. Lesnar wanted his vengeance.
What Lesnar got instead was an ass-whooping. Goldberg flattened the unstoppable Lesnar in less than a minute and a half. It was a shock to the wrestling world, and established that WWE still saw Goldberg as a dominant force like he was in WCW.
#3: vs Drew McIntyre, WWE Championship Match, Royal Rumble 2021
Goldberg returned once more in 2021, this time to be the next challenger for Drew McIntyre. The reigning champion of the ThunderDome Era, McIntyre had beaten pretty much everyone on the Raw roster. They built a feud around respect for legends after Goldberg challenged McIntyre on Legends Night.
For a match that clocks in at under three minutes, it had a ton of action. McIntyre looked good kicking out of two Spears and a Jackhammer before hitting a second Claymore to retain his title. It wasn’t the best of McIntyre’s defenses or Goldberg’s return matches, but it was solid and had the right finish.
#2: vs Dolph Ziggler, Summerslam 2019
If you need a wrestler to make someone look like a million bucks, the answer is Dolph Ziggler. The match had a familiar build with Ziggler disparaging wrestling legends (Shawn Michaels in particular) and continuing his feud with The Miz. Miz pulled the bait and switch at the contract signing and made Ziggler sign up for a match with Goldberg.
Goldberg ate two Superkicks early but was only down for only a one count. A Spear and Jackhammer put down Ziggler, but he kept asking for more after the match. Goldberg Speared him twice more to stop his yapping. This match is high because it was a fun legend spot. Goldberg got to look dominant without mucking up the championship scene, and Ziggler sells Spears better than anyone else.
#1: vs Brock Lesnar, Universal Championship Match, Wrestlemania 33
This is the best match under six minutes in wrestling history. Brock Lesnar was haunted by Goldberg beating him in two different matchups as mentioned earlier. Their match at Wrestlemania 33 had more than enough build-up and the crowd was ready for them to explode.
We get three german suplexes to start the match, yet Goldberg hit him with a pair of Spears immediately. This is followed by a Spear through the barricade. What a hot start. Lesnar would avoid a Spear by leaping clean over Goldberg. A clean 10 piece of german suplexes followed by an F5 gave us a new Universal Champion and the best performance of Goldberg’s return.
Evan Gomes is a sports & culture writer and the co-host of Crossbody of Work & The Pop Capsule Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsEvanGomes.
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