Say what you will about pro-wrestling, but P.T. Barnum said it. “There’s a sucker born every minute.” That’s all you need to know. It’s all well and good. Gorgeous George appears on some of the earliest broadcast television sport entertainment shows ever to be televised. Live. Professional wrestling drove television technology back in those days. Once upon a time Mr. and Mrs. Pleasant Valley Sunday down the block were known as the only folks on the street to have a TV and everyone was invited at least once if not weekly to watch the programming that was available at that time. The late 1940s, early 1950s. Pro-wrestling. Flash forward to Bill Goldberg standing in the middle of a WWE wrestling ring last night on the USA Network’s Monday Night Raw program. That wasn’t Gorgeous George. It was, “Goldberrrrrrg! Goldberrrrrg! Goldberrrrrg!”
Bill Goldberg. This is a man who’s been very vocal about the ebb and flow and culture shock of how sports entertainment (or, professional wrestling) was something thrust upon him at a time when not only was he a legitimate pro football athlete trying to prolong his career but simultaneously, at a time when pro-wrestling was trying desperately, somehow, someway to legitimize itself after years of scandal – court depositions in front of grand juries over alleged misconduct and drug abuse. Bill Goldberg – for whatever image the industry tried to paint onto him (MMA fighter-esque) came to pro-wrestling when the industry had long turned a deaf ear and blind eye to steroid and recreational drug abuse in the business of pro-wrestling. He was quickly programmed with the longest winning streak to ever have been recorded in sports entertainment on television on a national level.
Bill Goldberg recently hung out with wrestling icon turned podcaster, Steve Austin, and on two, back to back podcasts was very vocal with respect to his past in pro-wrestling: being the ultimate prisoner to his manufactured, in-ring, persona with the WCW professional wrestling organization in the 1990s and again, later with the WWE brand. On the podcasts, Goldberg voiced his disappointment to Austin with how – as an outsider to the business – the backstage goings on and locker rooms he dressed in became places where he never truly felt comfortable, accepted nor completely worthy of and sometimes above the sullied stage he was helping to populate at the time. Goldberg also said he was never given fully the opportunity to cement the legacy he was fighting to create for his in-ring wrestling persona. The fun he originally enjoyed – being a professional wrestler – was not there for him any more toward the end, twelve years ago; he eventually became jaded and left the business in the early 2000s.
So it has come to this. When the lines get blurred between comedia del arte, high drama, sports entertainment and theatricality spiced with athletics the likes of which can only be seen in Olympic tumbling events, the battle of good versus evil will rage on. On television. Bill Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar many years ago at WWE’s WrestleMania XX in what was touted as one of the worst main events ever to have been played on on a WrestleMania stage. He, now, as then, seriously has nothing to prove to Brock Lesnar, who clearly came away from being called as, “stiff,” if not stiffer than Bill Goldberg and held an Ultimate Fighting Championship (mixed martial arts) in the years since Bill Goldberg pursued other interests. Lesnar cemented for himself a persona as formidable as any “bad guy wrestler” of the last hundred years. No one would want to meet Lesnar on a school playground at recess, that’s for sure.
But for Bill Goldberg who accepted an open challenge from Lesnar’s manager, Paul Heyman to fight Brock Lesnar last night on USA Network’s WWE Monday Night Raw, recess, may have just become a level playing field. But for P.T.Barnum, one eye will always be perpetually shaped in the form of a, “wink.”
Word Count: 665. Post # 1164