A Brief History Of Goldberg-Lesnar, The Worst Match Ever
The WWE's grab at video game sales and nostalgia revives the worst match in Wrestlemania history
This Sunday’s WWE Survivor Series brings us the much-hyped match between Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg. It’s a rematch of their encounter at Wrestlemania XX, a match so God awful that it has been broadly enshrined as the worst match in the event’s history. Consider that Wrestlemania also brought us a pillow fight match that included the Miller Lite Catfight Girls if you want a sense of just how endurably unwatchable the first go-round remains. And the WWE is running it back, at least in part, to boost video game sales.
To fully grasp the nightmare that was Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg at WrestleMania XX and why we are in for more of the same, we have to take a look at the WWE careers of Goldberg and Lesnar up until that moment.
“The reality is that it could have been one of the biggest matches in history, if done properly, but no body cared and since they didn’t care, when I looked across the ring, he didn’t care,” Goldberg said of the first match during a radio appearance early last year.
“Neither one of us wanted to be there. I didn’t give a shit,” Lesnar said during a radio appearance of his own.
Clearly, the match was undone by both men simply not caring, but what circumstances lead to the double KO of Lesnar and Goldberg quitting on the same night?
Goldberg has in the past pointed to one specific moment in his WWE career that was the final straw. In late 2003, 3-Minute Warning’s Jamal was released from his contract and his tag team partner Rosey was repackaged as an apprentice of The Hurricane and given the nickname of Super Hero In Training, or SHIT for short. Goldberg regularly tells the story of walking to the locker room and seeing SHIT written across Rosey’s chest and being offended by it.
Take a look at the bigger picture at the time and it’s hard to fault Goldberg for being disgusted with the WWE’s product in 2003. The Vince McMahon “Kiss My Ass Club” was in full swing. Roddy Piper pulled Zach Gowan’s prosthetic leg off during a beat down. Billy Gunn and Jamie Noble had a match where, if Jamie Noble won, he would be allowed to sleep with Torrie Wilson. Overall, the kindest assessment one could offer of the WWE at the time is that it managed the impressive feat of being both wildly offensive and dreadfully boring all at once.
As for Lesnar, he seems to have always hated the lifestyle of a pro wrestler, but talks about two motivating factors that drove him out of the WWE. The first was the constant travel between shows. He told Steve Austin during a podcast interview that he was “built to be in the ring, but I was not built to get from ring to ring.” To that end, Lesnar purchased himself a private jet for half a million dollars just so he could travel solo. His other motivation was not wanting to “be in the locker room 20 years from now looking like these guys and still doing the same thing,” according to an interview in a UFC documentary.
However, that doesn’t quite explain why he quit on the night of Wrestlemania XX. Understanding the full scope of Lesnar’s decision hinges on someone he’d eventually score a historic win over. According to the Figure Four Newsletter, Lesnar was told in January of 2004 that he would be feuding with The Undertaker after he returned to the WWE. With The Undertaker returning and needing momentum, there was no way that Lesnar would come out on top of that feud. It was rumored that Vince sent Lesnar a seven-year, $10 million-plus contract to sweeten the deal, but it was rejected.
The WWE already knew that Goldberg wasn’t going to sign another contract with them following WrestleMania XX and Brock Lesnar announced to the Smackdown locker room five days before WrestleMania that he would also be leaving the company to pursue a career in the NFL. And just like that, the perfect storm of circumstances for the worst match in Wrestlemania history came together.
By the time the crowd filled Madison Square Garden, it was widely known that Lesnar and Goldberg would both be leaving the WWE. Of the three men in the match only the referee, Stone Cold Steve Austin, would be cheered. Lesnar and Goldberg were both met by Stone Cold middle finger salutes by the arena.
Stone Cold called for the bell and… nothing. Both guys stood there staring at each other as the crowd began a deafening “You sold out” chant directed at Lesnar, followed by serenading them both with “na na na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.” About 90 seconds into the match you can hear Goldberg scream “Fuck these people” to Lesnar.
Three minutes into the match, Lesnar and Goldberg tie-up and no one moves, except the crowd which starts to chant “boring” and showers this unfolding travesty down with boos. At minute four, another tie-up and another stalemate. Poor Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler have to make this match coherent.
In the end, Goldberg won with a spear and jackhammer, but by the time the bell rang no one cared. Goldberg would leave the WWE for a dozen years, Brock Lesnar would leave the WWE to have a failed attempt at an NFL career and even Stone Cold Steve Austin left the company one month later.
So what’s to learn from this whole debacle? Not much. This Sunday, the WWE insists that Lesnar vs. Goldberg at Survivor Series is a match that the fans still want to see. Lesnar, who has had five matches on TV or pay-per-view in 2016, and Goldberg, who hasn’t stepped into a WWE ring since WrestleMania XX, collide once again in a matchup that is sure to disappoint. This despite the fact that both men are unbound by the WWE’s Wellness Policy and are thus every bit as abnormally jacked as one would expect. In Brock Lesnar’s case, his violations are well documented. This is arguably the worst WrestleMania rematch of all time and it’s happening in part to boost sales of the WWE’s video game franchise.
So what can we expect? Two words: sports entertainment. No matter who wins, the WWE wants you to buy more video games.