Exclusive Interview: Goldberg looks back on his debut run, 20 years later
September 22, 2017
He walked in as an outsider with a target on his back, well aware that nobody wanted him to be there. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to be there. However, he had no other options, an opportunity to make some money, and the dogged belief that being a spitting-mean martial arts machine could make some waves in one of the most competitive fields on the planet. Two decades, multiple championships, Spears and Jackhammers beyond counting, a couple video games and a pair of WrestleManias later, we’re still talking about him.
On the anniversary of this legendary Superstar’s WCW debut, WWE.com spoke with him to get the story behind the story. Much like everything about him, it’s not like what you’d expect. So sit back, relax and find out how some clutch timing, a few key allies and more than a little luck turned a guy called Bill into The Man Called Goldberg.
WWE.COM: Let’s start with your athletic career. You played football, and an injury forced you to hang up the cleats. How did you land on wrestling as something you could get into following that?
GOLDBERG: Well, I was born with a football helmet on. That’s all I ever aspired to do. Nothing, period, was on my radar other than playing football. So, when that was taken away from me because of a career-ending injury, I was clueless. I had no idea whatsoever. No path, no second plan, no nothing. And I had to find something reasonably applicable to the hard work that I’d done over the past 25 to 30 years.
It seemed to me that the most logical decision would be to segue into the world of professional wrestling. I lived in Atlanta, I played for Georgia and I’d rubbed shoulders with all the WCW guys my entire football career in Georgia. That was the only relation I had to the business whatsoever. I didn’t grow up watching it. I watched it as a kid a little bit, but I wasn’t rabid about it because there was really no place in my viewing list for wrestling. I’ve got two older brothers that played football, and all I ever wanted to do was be like them. So, it never became an option until football was taken off the plate.
WWE.COM: Was there a specific conversation or meeting that convinced you it would work for you?
GOLDBERG: Well, no, [but] there’s a couple instances throughout my life that pointed toward this as a viable option. I’m a rookie at the LA Rams, and I have Kevin Greene as my roommate, and Kevin Greene does the best Hulk Hogan impression ever. He looks at me and says, “Man, you ought to be a professional wrestler,” and I’m thinking to myself, “Eh, you know, I want to try this football thing. Maybe wrestling’s for you.”
Ironically, both of my brothers had ties with professional wrestling in college. They had a house, and [Ric] Flair and [Ken] Patera were members of the house from time to time. They were all up in the University of Minnesota, it was before the Olympics for [Patera] and Flair was a walk-on with the football team. [So] there were signs. [Diamond] Dallas [Page] had tried to get me into the business ever since he met me, but it never became a logical progression until it was something I needed to do. And then, when I chose that path, it was 150 percent forward to try and be the best wrestler I could.
It never became a logical progression until it was something I needed to do. And then, when I chose that path, it was 150 percent forward.
WWE.COM: In an old interview, you said your goal in football was to be the best at what you did. That’s obviously a trickier question in wrestling, but what, to you, constituted success as someone who was a newcomer and came from a different background as everyone else?
GOLDBERG: Oh, God. [Laughs] I still don’t know what the formula is for success in wrestling. I mean, look at me. We all try to attain that, but at the end of the day, you can only do what you can do within your power to be as prepared as humanly possible. Whether it be coming up with a good character, whether it be getting time in the ring, working on your craft, developing new moves… I mean, I was a student of the game. I bought five to ten thousand dollars’ worth of tapes and studied stuff for day upon day, hour upon hour. I’d video my training, I’d break stuff down and try to cross-reference existing fighting with wrestling, and I’d try to come up with different stuff. I was very serious about my craft, and it was something I didn’t know anything about, so it was a crash course.
WWE.COM: Was there anyone in particular who was pointing you in the right direction while you were doing this?
GOLDBERG: DDP took me up under his wing, for sure. But, being active at the time and being right in the thick of it, he could only provide so much. DeWayne Bruce, the trainer at the [WCW] Power Plant, was instrumental in helping me create what we see on television or what we saw on television when I wrestled. He was instrumental.
WWE.COM: What was your first meeting like with the people who ran WCW?
GOLDBERG: [Laughs] I met them years ago, you know? I had played at the Falcons and I went to University of Georgia; it was home base in Atlanta. I’m not gonna tell you specifics, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out [laughs], but I ran into them every weekend, no matter what we did. I rubbed shoulders with and befriended them. The Steiner Brothers were also great. I watched from afar, and I kind of studied a bit and was like, “You know what? If I ever did that, I’d do it this way.”
At the end of the day, Sting had almost everything to do with me making the final decision because I looked at [wrestling] as kind of a theatrical endeavor as opposed to a competitive one. For me, it was hard to look myself in the mirror and be proud of who I was and who I was going to represent if I wasn’t on an athletic playing field. [But] I could look at a guy like Sting and the character and image that he had, the character he portrayed on TV and at home; it was something to be proud of. He did it his way, he did it the right way, and that was a catalyst for me.
WWE.COM: How much input did you have into the presentation of what your character was going to be and who Goldberg was going be on TV?
GOLDBERG: I don’t want to sound cocky, but what you see is me. And I think any human being can answer that question pretty easily because Goldberg is 100 percent me and 100 percent what I wanted to put out there. [Laughs] I’m very lucky in that I was able to come up with something and be allowed to portray it on television and have it be a success. The story’s well-written that I was a huge fan of marital arts as a kid, and UFC and MMA were coming up [with] Ken Shamrock and all those guys. I was training for years upon years and I said, “Hey, that’s gonna be the next best thing,” and lo and behold.
WWE.COM: What do you remember about your first few matches where you would just go out and wreck guys?
GOLDBERG: Oh, I was absolutely terrified. The biggest thing with me, and people don’t get it, is that I greatly appreciate the opportunity from the wrestling world to give me a chance because I was not from the wrestling world. I was from elsewhere; I was looked upon as an outsider. Fortunately, I had success in another endeavor and then came over to try and steal some of the glory from you guys. [Laughs] That may not be the case, but it’s hard not to feel like that. And I was resented. I was just there to try and help bring in some money, raise the bar and be part of the team. That’s it, end of story. I never tried to be selfish, I always tried to lead and I always tried to make everybody better. It’s not just about a money grab because I took a lot of pride in it.
To be able to look back 20 years ago today when I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful son, and be able to share some memories with them in real time looking back on it, I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world.
WWE.COM: You attained a lot of success in a very short period of time. In retrospect, do you think you were ready for that much success that fast?
GOLDBERG: It’s hard to answer that. Who’s ready for something like that? I think I did an alright job at it. I don’t know if I was completely ready, but I don’t know if anybody is. I was just really lucky to be in that situation. It was an honor and a privilege to represent guys who’d aspired to do this their entire lives and, oh, by the way, they let me in on this exclusive club and somehow, I succeeded.
WWE.COM: You were very successful in WCW, then you did your year in WWE and your character changed a bit. Yet, when you came back last year, you returned to that very basic formula of Spearing guys and being Goldberg again. What was it like for you to go back to that state of mind?
GOLDBERG: It was very rewarding, kind of full circle. Wrestling is wrestling. It is what it is, and we all are lucky enough at certain times to acquire this other character. I’m honored and privileged to have been that guy and to have had that opportunity to be the original guy. You know, no holds barred, what you see is what you get, speak straight from the heart and I’m gonna crush your face and rip your ears off. But hey, man, I was very honored to be able to be that guy again.
WWE.COM: We’re doing this interview because it’s your 20-year anniversary. What does it feel like to be able to look back and say it has been 20 years since all this happened?
GOLDBERG: I’m friggin’ old, dude. [Laughs] Like I said, I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world. To be able to look back 20 years ago today when I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful son, and be able to share some memories with them in real time looking back on it, I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world. I couldn’t have done it without every single wrestler, coach, promoter and the fans. It’s one thing that people have always got to understand about me: I’m very appreciative of my position and I worked my a-- off to get here.
WWE.COM: We have to ask: Do you think we’ll see you back anytime soon?
GOLDBERG: Ask your boss! [Laughs] Hey, man, never say never, dude. Stranger things have happened. I did sit [around] for 13 years and then suddenly appear back in the ring. Let’s just say it ain’t gonna take nearly the effort to get me ready again that it did last time. So, I’ll see you on the rebound for damn sure.