Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but Bill Goldberg is returning to WWE yet again. The 54-year-old veteran of the squared circle, famed for his very short matches, has been lined up as a challenger for reigning WWE Champion Bobby Lashley. According to sources, he’s scheduled to appear on Monday Night RAW imminently, which means he might even have made his first appearance by the time you read this.
We last saw Goldberg in January this year, when he unsuccessfully challenged then-WWE Champion Drew McIntyre for the championship. Prior to that, he wrestled Dolph Ziggler, and before that, he lost to The Undertaker in a disastrous confrontation in Saudi Arabia. The return of Goldberg was a big deal when he returned to face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2016, shocking wrestling fans by winning the match in under two minutes. Goldberg was in far better shape than anyone expected him to be at his age and looked better than he did during his entire first run with the company. However, that was five years ago. Time waits for no man, and as impressive as Goldberg still is for a man in his mid-fifties, he’s an ever-fading shadow of his former self. He certainly shouldn’t be presented as a threat to a dominant champion like Bobby Lashley, and nor should WWE present him in that role.
Although WWE will never confirm or deny rumours about talent negotiations, there’s talk in the industry that Goldberg has only been brought in because Brock Lesnar turned down the idea of a return. Lesnar’s last appearance was also against Drew McIntyre, but that was more than a year ago at WrestleMania 36. It’s thought that Vince McMahon offered “The Beast Incarnate” huge money to come into the company for the match, but Lesnar said no because he’s still rich from all the huge money that McMahon has paid him in the past. He also didn’t like the idea of coming in for three or four weeks, losing, and then disappearing again. Instead of doing that, the former UFC Champion has most recently been seen sporting a surprising new look while helping out the Bearded Butchers for their YouTube show. Lesnar looks to be in amazing shape and could handle a return to the ring if he wanted one – it’s just that he doesn’t seem to want one right now.
Most wrestling fans have no objection to Goldberg being used as an occasional attraction. It’s the way that he’s presented that causes such consternation. When Goldberg is brought in, it’s almost always as a main event attraction in or close to the title picture. Compare and contrast that to how All Elite Wrestling uses Goldberg’s fellow WCW alumni, Sting. Sting is on television almost every week for AEW but is yet to compete in the main event. There’s been no suggestion that he’s interested in competing for the world heavyweight championship. Instead, his character serves as a mentor for Darby Allin. AEW knows how to use an older, established talent to generate interest in a younger, greener one. Allin has benefited enormously from being attached to Sting and is now one of the most “over” performers on the AEW roster.
It would be easy for WWE to do this with Goldberg if they wanted to. The idea of Goldberg losing cleanly to a young mid-card talent probably doesn’t appeal to him much, but he could serve as a tag team partner or mentor to that same talent. He could show up on television to buck up the ideas of someone who’s performing beneath their potential, or he could be paired with a debuting performer from the company’s developmental wing. In doing so, he’d give the performer legitimacy. That would help WWE generate new stars for the future – something the company has singularly failed to do in recent years. Instead, he rides roughshod over the rest of the roster and takes a spot at the top of the card, either winning titles or getting title shots. He destroyed the momentum of both Kevin Owens and “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt by beating them for the title at crucial moments. He could do the same to Lashley.
Aside from the problematic use of Goldberg, there’s also the law of diminishing returns to think about. According to that law, output is decreased when the input of a single factor is increased. Think of it like playing an online slots game. WWE probably wouldn’t thank us for bringing that up, because the company tried and failed to bring a range of WWE online slots to the internet last year, but we’ll stick with it. Once you’ve hit the jackpot once, it’s usually a statistical unlikelihood that you’ll hit it again soon afterwards, no matter how much more money you put in. This is how and why online slots websites like Roseslots.ie make a profit even when players score wins – people don’t know when to quit. In this instance, the “single factor” is Goldberg. The more frequently Goldberg goes away and comes back, the less impactful his returns are. All signs point to the idea that WWE will present him as a babyface character when he comes back. Now that crowds are back in arenas and able to voice their opinions, they might be in for a nasty shock.
Part of the reason that Goldberg has been lined up as a challenger for Lashley is that the company has nobody else to fulfil the role. Pairing Lashley with McIntyre again is out of the question for the immediate future. Nobody else on the current RAW roster is seen as a legitimate main eventer, and so there are no viable challengers for Lashley’s title. Wyatt would make sense, but he’s absent from the company indefinitely. Randy Orton would be a believable challenger, but recently he’s been stuck into a comedy tag team with Matt Riddle and then disappeared from television completely. Goldberg is in WWE again because the company no longer appears to be capable of presenting younger talent as stars. With AEW narrowing the ratings gap week by week and demographic by demographic, that ought to be a big concern for the company and its investors.