Muscle Sport Magazine

Why WWE Has Bet On Bill Goldberg For WrestleMania

Courtesy of Brentwood Communications International

We have no idea if you follow any pro wrestling fans on Twitter, but if you do, you’ll probably have noticed that they’ve been extremely upset for the past week or so. That’s because one of their favorite performers, a seemingly-indestructible character by the name of ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt, has just been destroyed and deposed as champion in under three minutes by Bill Goldberg. In the process, Goldberg has taken Wyatt’s apparently slot at the forthcoming WrestleMania event against Roman Reigns.

If the name ‘Goldberg’ is ringing a very distant bell with you, it’s probably because you were a pro wrestling fan in the 1990s and remembering him tearing through the WCW roster like a wrecking ball. In his youth, Goldberg was booked as a monster who couldn’t be beaten. He was billed as being 173-0 when he won his first-ever pro wrestling World Heavyweight Championship and barely shipped a loss for the remainder of his career after that. All of that, though, was twenty years ago. Goldberg is now fifty-three years old. Why is he suddenly flavor of the month again, and why has Wyatt been pushed out of the way?

The Lure Of Nostalgia

In many ways, the move to put Goldberg front and center is symptomatic of WWE’s (and by extension, Vince McMahon’s) failure to create new stars in the past decade. Even when they appear to be on the edge of doing so – as they were with Wyatt’s legitimately scary ‘Fiend’ character – they generally find a way to shoot themselves in the foot and ruin the good work they’ve done before they’ve had a chance to see it achieve its full potential. They’ve even pulled this exact-same bait and switch before, putting a championship title on a then-50 Goldberg in the run-up to WrestleMania 33 and damaging the stock of Kevin Owens in the process.

On a surface level, Goldberg looks more like Vince McMahon’s idealized version of a pro wrestling star than either Wyatt or Owens. Even in his mid-50s, Goldberg is ripped. He looks like a bodybuilder and is still ferociously strong, even if everyone does now wince when he attempts to lift his opponents up for his ‘jackhammer’ finishing move. His beard might be white, but Goldberg is a guy you wouldn’t want to see down a dark alley. Owens and Wyatt, by contrast, are average-looking men. They’re still strong, but they’re short by pro wrestling standards, and they’re carrying excess weight. They don’t have the kind of bulging biceps and washboard stomachs that people came to expect of pro wrestlers during the 1980s and 1990s. The fans love them anyway, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

What does seem to matter to Vince is the lure of nostalgia. WrestleMania is the company’s biggest show of the year and, like an online slots player trying to put together the perfect winning line and gain the maximum amount of money, McMahon and WWE are searching for the optimum lineup to extract the maximum amount of money out of fans. WWE has a harder job than the online slots player, though. When you’re playing UK Slots on an online slots website, there can be hundreds – in some cases thousands – of combinations that can trigger a payout. Because there are so few stars left in wrestling, McMahon’s options are limited. He goes back to the stars that he knows because he’s confident they’ll entice people into spending money. There’s a large casual wrestling audience who only watch once or twice a year, and they’re more likely to watch WrestleMania if there are names they recognize on it. Goldberg is one of those names. Wyatt, as a younger man, is not.

There are also persistent rumors that WWE has lived to regret offering all of its pay-per-view shows via its over-the-top network for ten dollars per month, and is now moving to sell its bigger shows through other large outlets again. It’s been said that ESPN is in the market for WrestleMania, and we’ve also seen it reported that FOX might ultimately pay up to gain the pay-per-view rights for the show. If WrestleMania does go to pay-per-view this year, it’s even more important that there are attractions on the show that the casual audience will buy into. Again, Goldberg fits the bill here while Wyatt does not. Ultimately, WWE doesn’t exist to entertain wrestling fans – it craves a more mainstream audience, and it exists to make money. Rival company AEW is for wrestling fans. WWE likes to think of itself as sports entertainment.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns

While we can easily make a case for WWE going with Goldberg at WrestleMania this year, the company is eventually going to come up against a big problem, and that problem is the law of diminishing returns. Back in the 1990s, WWE used to poke fun at WCW for relying on older stars to draw viewers and tell stories. Now it’s doing the exact same thing in the 2020s, and many of the stars that it is using are far older than WCW’s 1990s main event acts. There’s only so long you can get away with using old acts for, and the company is surely coming to the end of the line with several of its main attractions.

The current card for WrestleMania has Goldberg against Roman Reigns fighting for one version of the world championship. In the other, 42-year-old Brock Lesnar defends against Drew McIntyre. The Undertaker, who turns 55 in early April, is scheduled to face 42-year-old AJ Styles. Wyatt’s reward for laying down for Goldberg is a marquee match against 42-year-old John Cena. In another of the main events, recently-returned 46-year-old Edge takes on Randy Orton, who’s barely shy of 40 himself. Cena, Undertaker, Lesnar, Edge, and Goldberg have far fewer matches ahead of them than they have behind. It’s likely that none of them will be on the card for WrestleMania 40 in four years’ time, and WWE hasn’t positioned anyone to take their place. Wyatt is no longer undefeated as the Fiend. Roman Reigns has been fed to Brock Lesnar too many times. Kevin Owens – not even in a feature match on the card at the moment – never fully recovered from being steamrollered by Goldberg. Right now, it’s hard to see who’s going to headline the WrestleManias of the future, and that’s a big black mark against WWE when it comes to planning ahead.

Goldberg may well be the right man for the moment if all WWE care about is selling tickets and pay-per-view buys in March and April 2020. What it means for tickets and pay-per-view buys in 2021, 2022, 2023, and beyond might yet turn out to be disastrous.

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