The climax of Sunday’s Survivor Series will surely be remembered for one of the most memorable and controversial finishes in pro-wrestling history.
That the match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar ended so quickly was a welcome deviation from standard WWE booking as no headliner in history is better suited to short matches than Goldberg. Furthermore, main events in all promotions are increasingly hurt by fans knowing that nothing will end the match within the first ten minutes. The occasional quick ending helps keep everyone on their toes by reminding fans that a fight can end at any minute.
But the benefits of having Goldberg beat Lesnar are far less clear cut with a final decision that can both strongly praised and firmly condemned. Here’s a few of those talking points:
The Case for Putting Goldberg Over
Other than talents such as Kurt Angle or Steve Austin who have serious health issues, Bill Goldberg is the last major superstar who could have been brought back for a nostalgia run. Since he returned, he’s been featured in three excellent segments that have been head and shoulders above anything else presented on Raw. So far, he’s a rare example of a babyface receiving cheers from the crowd and encouraging more people to pay money to see the product.
With all this momentum, it was clearly not the time to beat him considering that historically, losses have hurt Goldberg more than most because his aura is based on being an unbeatable monster. Goldberg’s win was a babyface triumph in an increasingly heel-dominated promotion that so rarely gives fans a happy ending.
The Case Against Brock Lesnar Losing To Goldberg
No one in today’s WWE comes close to Brock Lesnar. Other than the false finish at SummerSlam 2015, he has not been defeated since he lost to HHH at WrestleMania 29. Since then, he has ended the Undertaker’s Mania streak and destroyed John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Randy Orton. Having Lesnar ride roughshod over the roster was an investment in the future as the more his aura of invincibility grows, the more his inevitable defeat means.
By having Lesnar lose to someone that is not a member of the full time roster and physically unable to have even a long part-time career with WWE, this investment is now wasted. Whereas defeating Lesnar should have given a rising star the credibility and momentum to be the next big thing, it’s instead would be used to prolong another feud with someone that won’t be around that long.
An Avoidable Dilemma
The reality is that both sides of the argument are correct. Goldberg really has been so awesome in the role of the returning babyface that it would have been a shame to have him lose his first match back. WWE really has spent too much time building Lesnar up to not have his defeat announce the beginning of a new year led by a new babyface.
The fatal flaw with the WWE’s booking was not the finish but the match itself.
That fans would flock to Goldberg should not have been a surprise. The success of Sting should have told WWE that fans would enthusiastically welcome him back. As this stale, bland era of WWE continues, the Monday Night Wars still shine bright in the eyes of so many.
Goldberg is everything that current babyfaces are not; a persona that is somehow both larger than and true to life, a wrestler who dominated his opponents, and a person who refused to kowtow to management. It did not take a genius to realise that Goldberg would get over.
That being the case, a smart booker would have done the deal for a two-match return. Goldberg facing Braun Strowman may not have meant as much for Survivor Series as hotshotting the Lesnar match, but the former WCW Champion squashing RAW’s unbeatable monster would have been the perfect steppingstone to a blockbuster Royal Rumble main event. It allows you to give fans the happy ending at Survivor Series before giving Lesnar another dominant victory to maintain his aura of invincibility.
Once again, WWE was trapped due to their inability to understand what their audience wants and think through even the medium-term implications of their booking.
Will Cooling writes for Fighting Spirit Magazine, the UK’s biggest and best combat sports monthly. This month, he looks at how WWE has mishandled Dean Ambrose.