There are few legitimate wrestlers left on the planet who can help lure the casual fan to pro wrestling. Guys like Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and a handful of other New Era talents have the potential to reach that level, but none of them have yet to achieve the mainstream stardom of a Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock or even a Hulk Hogan.
Because of that, every so often the WWE feels the need to go to the nostalgia-well to bring in someone with large name recognition. The sort that can bring in those fringe fans, and help right whatever ratings or Network Special dips the company feels can use a a jolt of life.
With that all being understood, and even completely needed at certain points during a wrestling calendar (think WrestleMania), it does come at a cost — which is usually at the expense of a younger, riddled-with- potential wrestler already on the WWE roster.
Sometimes it is fine, other times it goes over great, but on the latest edition of Monday Night Raw, the WWE’s thirst for star power hit such an absurd level it highlighted how poorly these things can often be for everyone involved… save for the returning name-brand “hero” that is.
This is where we found ourselves after Bill Goldberg destroyed a promo-interrupting Rusev. After Paul Heyman came out to discuss Goldberg’s feud with his client, Rusev illogically came out to pick a fight with the returning “star,” and the former WCW World Heavyweight Champion walloped on the “Bulgarian Brute” with ease — squashing him in a non-match with one move within a five-second span.
Here is where it is worth noting that Goldberg isn’t a mainstream star. Sure, he had a few reality shows, but his drawing-power was never that of The Rock or Austin. Instead, he was a relatively popular wrestler in a niche space who benefited greatly from happenstance (coming around during the peak-nWo run).
Somehow the WWE is parlaying that into him becoming some revisionist-history-made kind of legend.
Goldberg’s peak lasted all of a year. After his undefeated streak became an angle that turned on itself (as WCW began to make up wins for the wrestler, which led to some backlash), and the company he worked for was bought out by Vince McMahon, Goldberg’s career would never been the same.
He would eventually wind up in the WWE, getting lackluster crowd reactions as the WWE Universe just never took to his gimmick, and his run with the company was actually capped off with something it is now building toward to again — a blow-off match against Brock Lesnar.
The original bout was a disaster, for what it is worth. So much so that it is easily one of the worst “monster vs. monster” matches of all time, and that is saying something.
For whatever reason, however, the WWE felt as though Goldberg’s name recognition was still relevant enough that he can help the company. Even though those people who think that are wrong (and they very much are), it was all fine and dandy since he returned, as he was mostly operating in a world outside the actual WWE Universe. It was just Goldberg, a one-off performer, and the duo of part-time talents in Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar, trying to spice up the Survivor Series card.
If it stayed only being that, without the two altering anyone else’s career(s), it could have been an angle swallowed a bit more easily.
That being said, the moment the build to what will surely be a disaster of match cost a young talent some of his own monster-aura, this angle jumped the shark.
There was no need to feed Rusev to Goldberg on Monday night. Not only is Rusev a modern day brute force in WWE, but he’s been a guy the company has mishandled before (John Cena angle). Yet, the wrestler showcased how skilled he is by being able to bounce back from that. Furthermore, he’s been able to do what few wrestlers are able to do when burdened with playing a forcibly evil foreigner, he’s had relative longevity.
Instead of burying him to a random returning wrestler, the WWE should have been going out of its way to protect him. It is even worse when we realize there was really no need for Rusev to be the guy to eat a jackhammer from Goldberg, as it could have been any of the not-talented guys in the back the WWE has at its disposal.
A wrestler as ho-hum in talent, draw, and overall appeal as Goldberg doesn’t deserve to be the washed older wrestler who should get to bury someone like Rusev.
When you combine the fact that Rusev was made to look weak in a general way, with the fact he is doing so for the sole purpose to make a guy who will vanish from wrestling forever after Survivor Series (and isn’t even a good draw) strong, it should make us all sick in our tummies.
Honestly, here is to hoping this entire thing backfires on the WWE. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Lesnar-Goldberg, if the build to that match which has zero consequence or meaning comes at the expense of wrestlers who should be the stars of the industry, let it all burn to the ground.
Instead of “Goldberg” or “Suplex City” chants heading into Survivor Series, I’m hoping, with a disturbing amount of vigor, that “Rusev” chants overpower them both.