“Wrestlemania 20, Madison Square Garden, I didn't give two sh-ts about wrestling. I had unfinished athletic business to take care of”.
12 years ago, it was the Irresistible Force named Brock Lesnar versus the Immovable Object named Bill Goldberg. Two of wrestling's strongest genetic machines in their primes squaring against each other for the first time ever. Set in the historic Madison Square Garden, the match even had Stone Cold Steve Austin as the guest referee. It was truly a main event caliber match, and I remember the hype I had 12 years ago being huge.
While the description of this match may get you excited, the match itself was actually one of the biggest letdowns in WWE history. Part of it was the competitors’ fault, and part of it was the crowd's fault. The audience knew Brock and Goldberg were leaving WWE. As the match begun, the crowd started booing and chanted “boring” immediately. It was the dawn of the smart mark crowd in WWE, but unfortunately it was born during what could have been an amazing match. Because of this, the match ended up a letdown with both competitors being disinterested, and with an annoyed Brock Lesnar giving a middle finger to the crowd.
Fast forward 12 years to 2016, I am just excited about this match as I was in 2002--and you should be too. Why? Because this time Brock and Goldberg care more than ever. Both men had 12 years stew over the fact that their match in 2002 was a let down. They had to hear about it from critics, fans, and peers.
The fact that Brock acknowledges he didn't care about wrestling 12 years ago should get you excited. He's not defending the match, nor his performance; Brock knows it wasn't up to par. To acknowledge something like that in a promo means that this time, 12 years later, the effort will be better. A man so competitive in his craft won't let a second chance like this be anything other than great.
From Goldberg's perspective, this is a match he wanted. Last year when asked about his Wrestlemania 20 match, Goldberg stated, “Would I change anything [about the match]? Yes. Would I change everything? Yes." 12 years later, he has that chance. He has the chance to prove he can wrestle, tell a story in the ring, and to rectify what was his last match. The old gunslinger has that chance to be a superhero one last time to his kid, and kids everywhere.
From a booking perspective, this match should make you excited. You don't know what's going to happen. Is Brock really going to lose to a part-timer instead of the next up and coming star? Is Goldberg really going to return after 12 years just to lose? Bret Hart once said the best matches are the ones where you don't know what's going to happen, and this is one match I truly can't predict. They could even end the match in an interference and bring in a new superstar like Samoa Joe--at least that's what Jim Ross hopes.
In my opinion, 12 years was perfect timing for this match to happen. It gave Brock enough time to do everything he ever wanted in the athletic world, so that wrestling became his priority. It gave Goldberg enough time to have a family, to have something to care for. Sure, the match won't be a technical masterpiece, but the storytelling is all there. The dramatic finish of Goldberg's career in front of his family, will he be that superhero one last time? Will Brock finally get even for one of the only clean losses in his career?
The old saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” But I have enough faith in this match to know I won't be disappointed, and so should you.