The one match Goldberg wanted; facing Stone Cold

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 15, 2018 at 5:41 PM

BRISTOL — Bill Goldberg calls himself blessed in a life which has seen him play in the NFL, become a two-time world champion in professional wrestling and star in television and movies.

He's faced some of most legendary names in pro wrestling from Ric Flair to Hulk Hogan to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The one regret he has for his professional career was never being able to work a program with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

Some thought his character was a copycat Austin with similar looks, but Goldberg said it was based more off his own personality and martial arts background, which saw him run the largest MMA gym in the country where many of the early UFC champions trained.

"Steve Austin was a big influence on me, but not because of what people think," Goldberg said Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "I didn't care what he looked like or what he wore because I was already me. I was bald, had the goatee and I liked black. I have 15 cars in my garage which are black so I didn't copy anybody.

"But because there was that much of a similarity, I would have loved to have shared the ring with that guy. He's done so much for me over the years that people don't know about. But, he's the one I wanted to have an angle with. He's at the top of the list."

Goldberg, a self-professed huge race fan who grew up in Dawsonville, Ga., near the racing Elliott family, was at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 weekend less than two weeks after his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

He also recalled the angle in WCW (World Championship Wrestling) that propelled him to superstar status.

He was booked for 178 straight wins, including pinning Hogan for the WCW World Title. It was a far cry from Hogan's Hulkamania speeches, Flair's "jet flying, limousine-riding promos" and the "Macho Man" Randy Savage's over the top promos that had resonated with wrestling fans for the previous dozen years.

"My first run in WCW, it was like throwing victims to the lions. I was the Mike Tyson of professional wrestling," Goldberg said. "I was the antithesis of what people were used to. They were used to the flamboyant characters and people bragging and boasting. I just came out and killed people, that was it.

"I don't know if it was my lack of talent or ability on the microphone, but it was organic and we gave the people what they wanted to see. It led to the longest winning streak in wrestling history. I was honored to be in that position, but it was a team effort. It was something different with MMA starting to just get big. You had a 285-pound guy that could do a back hand spring and all these martial arts moves. All I ever wanted to do was be different."

Goldberg left professional wrestling in the mid-2000s, but made his return to WWE at the 2016 Survivor Series, where he pinned Brock Lesnar in less than two minutes. Goldberg lost the title at Wrestlemania in 2017, but this past January was chosen to lead the 2018 Hall of Fame class.

He became far more of a household name for his wrestling exploits than his football career, which included being an All-American at the University of Georgia and a defensive lineman for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons.

Now living on a farm outside San Diego, he made his fourth visit to Bristol in five years.

BMS General Manager Jerry Caldwell presented him with a sword, which Goldberg commented would work well with his new show, "Forged in Fire, Knife or Death," set to debut soon on the History Channel. But, one of his proudest possessions is the WWE Hall of Fame ring, which allowed him to share a special moment with those he most cherishes.

"I'm gratefully appreciative to get any kind of accolades in wrestling," he said. "There was no character more dependent on other people for its success than mine. I'm not being humble. Truthfully, it wasn't my doing. I share it with every other person whether it's the referee, my opponent. I'm appreciative to have that spot.

"The most important thing about that was my family was able to experience it. I retired for 12 years and then I came back eight months and was Goldberg again. I did it for this goofy little kid (his son) because he and my wife mean the world to me. To get the opportunity to be the superhero in the eyes of your son is an honor and privilege."

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