Bill Goldberg is back at home in WWE as 'Royal Rumble' approaches
Posted: Jan 25th 2017 By: Brian Fritz
No one saw that one coming.
Many, including Bill Goldberg himself, never envisioned that he would return to the wrestling ring. His last time around didn't end the way he or the WWE had hoped, including a sendoff match at WrestleMania XX against Brock Lesnar that was poorly received.
But things have a way of changing in the wrestling world. Everyone was buzzing after the former WCW and WWE champion signed on with 2K as the pre-order exclusive character in the latest installment of the "WWE 2K17" video game.
In fact, the buzz was so loud that it wasn't long before WWE and Goldberg struck a deal: He would face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, 12 years after leaving the wrestling business.
Then, he shocked the world by defeating "The Beast" in under 90 seconds, setting social media and the WWE Universe into a frenzy.
Goldberg's return has been such a success that he signed on for more action. That includes this Sunday's "Royal Rumble" from the Alamodome in San Antonio, where he and 29 other superstars will square off in the annual event, with the winner going on to headline WrestleMania 33.
Sporting News spoke with Goldberg on Monday while he was in Cleveland, getting set for that night's edition of "Raw," about his return to the ring, the "Royal Rumble," going full circle in his career and his beloved Atlanta Falcons.
SPORTING NEWS: Congratulations on your Falcons going to the Super Bowl.
BILL GOLDBERG: Man, 1998. It's been a long time. It's been a long time. I'm very happy for them. What a way to go out of the Georgia Dome. (The Georgia Dome is being demolished with the new, state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium becoming the home for the Falcons next season.)
SN: You obviously had a big moment there (July 6, 1998, when he defeated "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan on "Monday Night Nitro" for the WCW World Championship). What are your recollections of that building?
BG: First and foremost, playing with the Falcons and being there for the opening of it, it was awesome. It was surreal. It was a beautiful stadium. It's also the stadium that put me out the business. I tore my abdomen on that turf. I have good memories, bad memories. That's actually the only bad memory — that and paying 10 grand in my last game for a fine. I think the Georgia Dome has done Atlanta well, no question about it. People still to this day talk about Hogan and I in the dome. I'm quite honored that during the playoffs they would show that picture of he and I. Just to be part of that picture, it's pretty surreal.
SN: They were showing the greatest moments in the Georgia Dome history and you and Hogan came up. What was that moment like back in 1998 when this epic match happened on "Nitro" in front of a sold-out building?
BG: I think it was over like 42 (thousand) or something like that. The way that I can recollect it is the Thursday night I was watching TV and I learned about the match like everybody else did. I didn't know about it. Six months removed from the football field and stepping in the ring. Here's 40,000 people chanting Goldberg and I had the opportunity to go in there and wrestle an icon in the business. It's funny because the end result of that night, which people ask me about all the time and they think that was the pinnacle of my career as far as memories are concerned. And it was, but not for the reason that people think. People think because I won the belt in front of that many people that that was what I remember about it. What I remember about it, like it was yesterday, was being handcuffed in the corner and having the Falcons come down at the end of the match and save me. There's a big story in there in that the only thing I ever wanted to do as a kid was play professional football. These guys that I bled with, sweat with and cried with on the football field that I revered and looked up to and idolized and wanted to be like and worked towards being like every single day, when they got the opportunity to get in that wrestling ring — from Jamal Anderson to Chuck Smith to Shane Dronett to Jesse Tuggle — they were the happiest I'd ever seen them in their lives. For that second, they wanted to be me. My entire life I wanted to be them. So, what I remember most about that night is it kind of coming full circle. I'm sitting in the corner. Obviously, it was a wonderful night for me but I'm just sitting back there like any other fan watching my guys have fun. It was a really surreal moment.
SN: Fast-forward to now and you're back in the wrestling ring with WWE. How much fun was it for you to not only get back in there at Survivor Series, but the big surprise of you beating Brock Lesnar in the way that you did?
BG: You know, just coming back is kind of comical for me. I never in a million years imagined that I'd be doing it at 50 years old. I'd made comments about people doing it ... (but) I never imagined that this would be a reality. The biggest surprise and the best payback I am getting for is that the hard work and the blood, sweat and tears that I'm putting towards trying to be presentable at this age in front of a new crowd and partially a crowd that watched me when I did my thing, it's tough. I gotta tell ya. ... I have my family in tow with me now. It's a completely different situation than before. I'd fly into a town, I'd do my work, I'd leave. Now it's an experience for my family. As we're sitting here in Cleveland, my wife and my boy are about to go out and see the town. It's full circle for me. It's really cool. I feel like I'm a pretty cool dad to be able to do this for my son. It's really neat to watch them come along this journey that I've been on before.
SN: I know you had said that if you were ever to return, one of the reasons would be for your son to see you in the ring. What was your son's reaction to watching you get back in the ring and beat Brock Lesnar as quickly as you did it?
BG: He flipped his lid like everybody else. I think we turned the wrestling world on its head that night. It happened to him too. He was really excited and I went to him after the match and the kid ripped his shirt off. I get him in the ring and, again, to be able to ... If I was a script writer in Hollywood, I couldn't have written it any better than this. I truly couldn't have. And there's been times in the past when I didn't have the best relationship with the WWE or the wrestling business as a whole. I'm just one of the luckiest guys in the world. Number one, to be given the opportunity but, number two, I gots to have the intestinal fortitude to work my a— off and try to hold myself as high as possible to make sure that when I go out and I put my underwear on in front of millions of people again that I resemble the Goldberg of old.
SN: You have the Royal Rumble coming up next Sunday. This will be the second one for you. What were your thoughts on being in the match the first time back in 2004?
BG: I can't really remember back that long. It's a cluster man. Any time you have more than two guys or four guys in the ring, let alone 30, you want to keep your eyes open at any time. Obviously, for someone like me, when I played football, when I was at WCW, you listen to coaches and you listen to gameplans. I'm not a gameplan guy. I feel as though if I get my game at its highest level, I don't care who the 29 other guys are. I'm going to take care of every one of them. It's a tumultuous situation to have to deal with so many people at one time. It's going to be an honor. There's a couple of guys that I've never been in the ring with before. I will be looking very much forward to introducing them to me.
SN: I was thinking about that. Have you ever been in the ring with The Undertaker before?
BG: I have barely been in the building with The Undertaker before.
SN: I assume that's one of the guys you're looking forward to being in the ring with then.
BG: Yeah. I knew him before he got in the business. We were friends before he started wrestling. It's amazing that we haven't been in the same ring together before. I will honestly say that he's probably the one I'm looking forward to introducing myself in ring more than anyone.
SN: You came back for the one match and originally that was going to be it. Now, you're going to be in the "Royal Rumble" and assume there will be more to come. What convinced you to do more than just the one match?
BG: You know, I think the reaction of my son, the reaction of my wife and, you have to say, the reaction of the crowd. I'm greatly appreciative than anybody would ever know who I was, especially back then when I was doing my thing, let alone 12 years removed and the welcome that I got. I'm very humbled and it just makes me want to go out and work harder. I'm here in Cleveland, woke up at 5 o'clock, already worked out the first time today, ate a couple of times, gonna go to the gym again here in a little while. I'm addicted to this training thing. I'm an extremely lucky guy. Vince McMahon has opened his doors and I'm back at home. It's a different experience this time.
SN: I know nothing has been officially announced yet, but what's it going to be like for you if that moment comes to be back at WrestleMania?
BG: I have such memories of it, both good and bad. I tried to repress it there for a while because it wasn't the match that we really wanted to send off with. If I ever got the opportunity to do it again, it would give me an opportunity to rewrite history. I hopefully would go out in a better way this time at WrestleMania than last in that the match would be better well-received. Obviously, I was happy that I won it but, at the end of the day, you want people to be happy with your performance.
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