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Catching up with Gillberg: Part 2
From the moment Duane Gill began parodying former World Heavyweight Champion Goldberg on WWE television in 1998, the WWE Universe anticipated a face-to-face meeting between the two men. But it would be five long years before the intense original and his hilarious impostor were in the same building. (PHOTOS)
It was April of 2003 and Goldberg was embroiled in a heated rivalry with The Rock after making his long-awaited WWE debut one month prior. To get under Goldberg's skin, The Great One recruited Gill to slip on his Gillberg tights and make a special appearance on Raw. But before Gill could surprise the man he'd poked fun at for years, the two crossed paths in the locker room. To the surprise of few, the deadly serious Goldberg made it clear that he wasn't a fan of Gill's antics.
"He told me I had a [butt] whooping coming," Gill frankly stated.
Still, despite Goldberg's stern warning, Gill went to the ring with The Rock and performed an over-the-top imitation of the bald, big man that was so funny even The Brahma Bull couldn't hide his laughter. But the hijinks came to a stop when Goldberg hit the ring and went straight for Gill.
"I tell you what, the man picked me up literally off the floor by my neck with one hand," Gill remembered.
Thanks to The Rock, Gill was able to escape unharmed. It would be the first and only time he'd make contact with Goldberg in the ring, but the thought of a big match between the two men never left Gill's mind.
"I guarantee that you could have held a pay-per-view with Goldberg against Gillberg, but I think [Mr. McMahon] saved me," Gill admitted. "He said, 'That little guy will die if Goldberg gets to him.'"
The near-fatal showdown with the man he'd mocked for years would be one of Gill's final appearances with WWE, but the man himself never left the ring. Although he hasn't shown up on Raw since December of 2007, the former Light Heavyweight Champion is still very active on the independent wrestling circuit and can often be seen at autograph signings and conventions.
"You know what a convention is to me? A way to get paid to go visit your friends," Gill said. "I have a blast."
The lifelong WWE fan is also passing on his years of experience in the ring through his brand new school. Located in Severn, Maryland, Gillberg's Pro Wrestling Academy opened for business in July of 2010 with Gill serving as owner and head trainer.
"The place is first class all the way," Gill told WWE.com. "I have two rings, a balcony, dressing rooms, three offices. It's beautiful, man."
Working with longtime friends and fellow competitors Rich Myers and Earl the Pearl, Gill is showing his students all the skills he learned through decades of matches with the likes of Bob Backlund, Goldust and countless others.
"I honestly love it very much," Gill said. "I can train young, up-and-coming wrestlers in a business that I really love."
But while Gill is an easygoing, affable character, he stresses the importance of hard work, respect and discipline at his academy.
"I'm old school," the veteran admitted. "I don't like to get [my students] out in front of a big crowd until I really feel they are ready. You have to pay your dues with me." (Learn more about the school)
As a man who wrestled for years and years in the thankless role of "enhancement talent" before earning his moment to shine, Gill truly understands the value of paying your dues. That's why the tireless worker still continues to do the carpentry work that kept his family going financially while he chased his WWE dreams.
"Right now, I'm buying houses with a buddy and fixing them up," he revealed. "Then we sell them and split the money."
The new venture has been a success for Gill thanks to his hall of fame-worthy remodeling skills.
"I'm a pretty good wrestler, but I'm ten times better as a carpenter," Gill cracked.
Now 51, the charming competitor can look back on a life filled with success both in the ring and in his personal life. A married father of two adult children, Gill also has a nine-year-old granddaughter who helps him stay young.
"It's the greatest thing in the world," Gill said of being a grandfather. "She comes out and watches me wrestle and cheers along. That's my biggest fan."
And while Gill has never made amends with Goldberg, he welcomes the opportunity for the man to visit his wrestling school someday.
"I wish he would stop by," Gill said with a laugh. "I hope he does. I'll take pictures with him. I'm serious."
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