For a man whose on-screen WCW career lasted less than three and a half years and whose subsequent WWE run lasted just one year, Goldberg remains a popular and much loved character. No matter what you think of the man’s career there is one thing that cannot be denied. At his peak he was the hottest character that WCW ever produced (and certainly has to be the biggest “non-WWE” star they created). That the WWE have chosen to release this Ultimate Collection on him nearly a decade since his last WWE match shows just what an enduring appeal Bill Goldberg has.
In the first instance it is important to acknowledge that the man himself had no input into this set and there is no documentary to accompany the matches. The only “new” footage are a handful of video packages on each disc with clips of Goldberg narrated over by an unknown voice. Whilst it would certainly have been nice to see more interview/documentary footage, as far as we’re aware the WWE never even approached Bill for any input into the production.
The discs on the DVD set are split quite nicely, with Disc 1 taking us from his debut in September 1997 to the end of his famed streak against Kevin Nash at Starrcade in December 1998. The opening two matches are his first two Nitro matches against Hugh Morrus and The Barbarian. Whilst both show an energised Goldberg and signs that fans were into his character from the off, neither match is anything more than a squash and both could be said to somewhat challenge the oft-quoted assumption that Goldberg was a mega-star right from the start. A match with Steve “Mongo” McMichael from Starrcade 1997 doesn’t exactly leap out at you when you read the listings and it’s somewhat strange that this is the one match shown between his 2nd Nitro match and his first Title win in WCW.
That match, for the United States Championship against Raven, is the first good match of the set. Whilst naturally short, Raven does a very good job here and it’s great fun to see Goldberg smash his way through The Flock en route to picking up the win. The crowd reaction is something to behold too. From there it’s straight onto July 6th 1998 and Goldberg’s historic World Title win. A match with Scott Hall sets things up for his main event clash with Hollywood Hulk Hogan. The match is rudimentary at best, but boy is there a white-hot atmosphere. Even today it’s a stand-out moment, albeit tinged with sadness that perhaps less than a year into his career Goldberg had had his greatest moment.
From there we take in Championship defences of varying quality against Curt Hennig, Sting, Diamond Dallas Page and The Giant. The line up of opponents certainly makes it star-studded, but only the DDP match from Halloween Havoc REALLY gets going. We end with his title loss to Kevin Nash at Starrcade 1998. Too much has been written about head booker Nash booking himself to end the Streak and whilst Nash’s comments since haven’t really done anything to sway anyone who sees it as self-centered booking, it is certainly true that it had to end at some point.
Disc 2 takes us from 1999 to the end of Goldberg’s WCW career. The opening match with Ric Flair is somewhat ruined by Nash and Hogan on commentary, who think they’re being funny with their insider “jokes” but actually are burying both men and the company at large. Still, the self-destruction of the nWo is a topic for another time. A fatal four way involving Hogan, Flair and DDP follows before we get to the match that time forgot – Nash returning the Starrcade favour to put Goldberg over at Spring Stampede in a surprisingly good match. Another eminently watchable DDP match follows that before we get to Halloween Havoc and Vince Russo territory. Goldberg beats Sid in another remarkably entertaining bout (considering Sid is one half of it) before beating Sting in an impromptu main event after Hulk Hogan had voluntary laid down for Sting earlier in the night. Sting is WCW Champion but the commentators insist that neither than belt nor Goldberg’s US Title is on the line. Yet when Goldberg win, the referee awards the World Title to Goldberg. The commentators and Sting are non-plussed and this viewer was so irritated by the confusion that he didn’t even bother to look on the internet to see how the issues was resolved.
Goldberg then continues to show that he wasn’t as bad a worker as his detractors would have you believe by having a decent “I Quit” match with Sid and then using the “No DQ” rules of his match with Scott Steiner to have a hard-hitting mini-classic. Sadly the disc then ends with two clunkers. Kronik were indeed chronic and there’s no fun to be had with their 2-on-1 handicap match against Bill and then from the dying days of WCW Goldberg teams with the thoroughly irritating PowerPlant trainer Dewayne Bruce to lose to the awful team of Lex Luger and Buff Bagwell, a loss that meant Bill had to leave WCW forever (a Vince Russo penned storyline saw a re-setting of the Streak and if Goldberg lost before matching his previous streak he would be forced to leave WCW). Amusingly, this was one wrestling angle that was true, as by the time he was ready to return to action WCW had been sold to Vince McMahon.
Disc 3 then concentrates solely on his WWE career. Although taken as a whole it was underwhelming, there were certainly some great moments. A quick video package of his RAW debut (which I only mention so I can say I was there that night in the Key Arena, Seattle) precedes his debut PPV appearance against The Rock. Of course any thoughts that Bill might really be allowed to make an impression by squashing the People’s Champ were mere pipe-dreams and even now it’s obvious that Bill is going to be forced to do things the “WWE way”. I wouldn’t sign Christiano Ronaldo and play him as a Goalkeeper, but that’s just me.
A steel cage match against Christian is fun thanks to the actions of his opponent whilst his match against Chris Jericho is a little disjointed and doesn’t really sparkle. What comes next was a match that had me absolutely livid at the time, SummerSlam 2003’s Elimination Chamber match. If ever there was a night for WCW’s Goldberg to come to the fore it was this and for a while you almost believed it was going to happen as Bill smashes through his opponents one by one…only for an injured Triple H, who has done nothing in the match at all, and Evolution to attack with a sledgehammer to retain the title. This match and the treatment of Goldberg legitimately caused me to stop watching the WWE at the time for quite a while. The match the following month where HHH finally drops the belt is up next but it’s a dull match that does nothing to support HHH’s contention that he lose “properly” to Goldberg to solidify the new champion was “best for business”. Even though Bill was champion, it’s essentially over for him now and clear he will not resign with the company when his one year deal is up.
RAW matches against Mark Henry and Batista are formulaic big-man clashes and whilst another match with Triple H at Survivor Series 2003 is better than their previous bout, it’s still a plodding affair, despite Goldberg’s efforts. Triple H looks weird with cycle shorts under his wrestling trunks too! We end with the infamous WrestleMania XX car-crash opposite Brock Lesnar, which was Lesnar’s last bout in the WWE for nine years, and Goldberg’s last WWE bout full stop. That the fans knew both were leaving obviously harms the atmosphere from the start, it’s disappointing that the two men seem to accept the dull match presumably presented to them by the agents instead of at least trying to go out on a high. In many ways it’s symbolic of Bill’s WWE career. Promised much, but was ultimately disappointing for factors outside of Goldberg’s control.
Like all collections of this nature, your opinion of it will largely center on your opinion of the profiled wrestler. Goldberg was never a great technician, that’s for sure, and a lot of his matches haven’t aged well. Most of his WCW matches here seem to have some form of outside interference and the genuinely excellent matches are few and far between. Yet the atmosphere that Goldberg generated in WCW still leaps off the screen to this day and before things get really desperate in the dying days of WCW there is always entertainment. His WWE stint was disappointing, but even on the final disc there are some good matches. And with 30 matches, you’re certainly getting value for money.
If you didn’t like Bill Goldberg, this is obviously not for you. If he was your favourite wrestler of the era you will get a great kick out of this set. If you’re somewhere in between it’s a good look at one of the hottest stars of the peak of the Monday Night Wars and shows just what a star he was. You may however get frustrated by reliving the typical WCW madness that affects parts of Disc 1 and 2 and the WWE arrogance on Disc 3 that refused to use Goldberg in the way that made him the star he undoubtedly was.
Blu-ray extras add 5 exclusive matches (including clashes with Bam Bam Bigelow, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels) and as ever are worth the upgrade for the few pounds extra.
– By Matthew Roberts
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk for providing our copy of Goldberg – The Ultimate Collection. Goldberg – The Ultimate Collection is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from 7th October. You can pre-order your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here.