Was Goldberg's WWE run successful?

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May 09, 2013

Still, there were so many things that happened after Goldberg lost to Kevin Nash at Starrcade 1998 that get ignored. Whoever talks about his rivalry with the Totally Buffed duo of Lex Luger & Buff Bagwell or the villainous turn he took at Great American Bash 2000? Besides a few choice highlights — particularly that time he forced his arm through a limousine window and tore an artery — Goldberg’s post-streak transformation from wordless warhammer to a three-dimensional human being was never particularly beneficial to his persona.

Regardless, when Goldberg showed up on Raw on March 31, 2003, those fans familiar with his early dominance looked at him as the dude with the winning streak — a guy who just finished stomping scrubs in Atlanta and would continue to do so in WWE. And, initially, he kind of did. First night in, Goldberg took aim at The Rock and practically speared The Great One out of his leather pants.

It was an impactful debut for the former WCW Champion and his subsequent victory over The Rock at Backlash announced him as an important new WWE Superstar. But Goldberg was not presented as the silent mauler he had been in his early WCW days. Instead, he picked up where he left off in Atlanta as a grappler who was both vocal and, at times, vulnerable. Announcer Jim Ross may have awkwardly dubbed him “the creature from planet Goldberg,” but the competitor audiences saw in WWE was clearly just a man.

Most negativity towards Goldberg’s WWE run tends to be targeted at these displays of humanity. Three particular moments — a locker-room interaction with Goldust, a loss in an Elimination Chamber Match to Triple H at SummerSlam 2003 and a disappointing sendoff bout against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XX — have long been the most widely debased of his tenure. And why? Because he looked less like an indestructible cyborg and more like an imperfect human in each of them.

When he first met Goldust on the April 14, edition of Raw — a segment which saw The Bizarre One plop a Barbie wig on Goldberg’s head — outraged fans reacted as though Goldust had tattooed “Loser” on the man’s forehead. Somehow, any period of time in which Goldberg was not hurling guys through the air became detrimental to his mystique — a mystique that had been shattered back when Lex Luger pinned him at WCW Sin in 2001.

Watch what happened when Goldberg met Goldust

There was a lot more to Goldberg than the three pronged attack of spear, Jackhammer, pin, but there always seemed to be an unwillingness to accept that. Did crowds love Goldberg? Hell yeah. The man adapted to and excelled in sports-entertainment with preternatural abilities. His aggressiveness was addictive. Plus he was a flat-out beast, right there alongside the likes of Brock Lesnar, Batista and Ryback as a true freak specimen of the ring. But most folks loved Goldberg for what he once was — not what he became.

Goldberg beat The Rock and Kane during his time in WWE and defeated Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship, but by the time he showed up in Madison Square Garden to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XX, WWE fans were booing him. The New York City crowd was disappointed that this would be his last night in the company as much as they were disappointed that Goldberg was not the Superstar they’d imagined him to be.

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