Let me be clear from the start, I love professional wrestling. I have been a fan of wrestling ever since the time I watched my first Royal Rumble PPV back in 1991, and despite the dips in quality since that day, I have remained one of the faithful few. My in-ring experience, on the other hand, is zilch. I am not a wrestler – though I did undertake some basic training many years ago – and as such, I am in no position to critique a wrestlers talent beyond the perspective of being a life-long fan. It’s important that you understand this because I am about to be critical of two of wrestlings’ biggest icons, and I do not intend to disrespect them because quite frankly I’m sure they could both kick my arse, even on their worst day.
OK, so, like many of you, last night I fired up the WWE Network app and endured another overblown trip to Saudi Arabia by the WWE. The show was promoted as being “bigger than WrestleMania”, which as you’ll recall lasted about 7 hours this year, but offered very little in the way of exciting matches, with the one exception being the first ever in-ring confrontation between former WCW mainstay Bill Goldberg and Vince McMahon’s greatest creation, The Undertaker. I’ll be honest, this match alone was enough to convince me to reactivate my now dormant Network account because despite all the old man jokes everyone (myself included) was making, the fan in me was genuinely curious to see these icons stand toe-to-toe, and I didn’t want to miss what was probably a once in a lifetime match.
No one expected the match to go long, nor did anyone think this would come close to being a match of the year candidate. Goldberg hadn’t wrestled consistently in a decade and a half, while Undertaker’s last standout performance had been in 2013 against CM Punk at WrestleMania 29. In other words, their best days were behind them both, but if WWE followed their recent squash match formula which had worked well for both competitors in recent matches, they may have been able to cover up enough of the shortcomings that can be expected with age, and leave fans with a memorable encounter that made both names look strong. I’m sure you know by now that this didn’t happen.
For reasons we may never know, Goldberg vs Undertaker at WWE Super ShowDown 2019 was slated to last 20 minutes, which was 10 minutes longer than the match actually lasted, and maybe 15 minutes longer than it should have been. True to form, Goldberg, nailed the Dead Man with a spear in the first few seconds of the match, indicating to those of us watching that this would be a high impact, quick contest. How wrong we were. Undertaker wouldn’t be defeated but would instantly look like he’d been involved in a 30-minute battle, struggling to get to his feet and appearing punch drunk. This was worrying in itself because of Goldberg’s reputation as being someone known for injuring his opponents. Had his spear been too sloppy? Had he blown the main event with one move?
The match continued on in the searing heat with both men attempting to get the better of the other with weak looking punches, and botched submissions until finally Undertaker hoisted the former WCW Champion into the air and planted him with a Tombstone Piledriver – a move he had performed thousands of times without ever injuring a single opponent. This time was different though. Maybe Goldberg was out of position, or maybe Undertaker lost his grip and couldn’t find the strength to raise him back high enough to protect him, but either way, the usually safe finishing move resulted in Goldberg’s head connecting painfully with the ring mat. We can only presume that this is the moment Bill received his concussion. Or maybe it was when his head hit the ring post and left him bloody and dazed? Against his better (see: impaired) judgment, Goldberg would attempt a Jackhammer on his opponent but instead came very close to dropping Undertaker awkwardly on the back of his head and potentially breaking his neck. It was obvious at this point that something was very wrong. Within moments, Vince McMahon had gotten word to the referee that the wrestler’s needed to ‘go home’ and bring the ugly looking bout to an end quickly, with the result coming after ‘Taker planted Goldberg with the worst-looking Chokeslam ever seen and scoring the 3-count. The look on Undertaker’s face after the ref called for the bell told us everything we needed to know.
If you want to know more about the fallout from the match then I suggest heading over to the news sites, because that’s not why I’m here. No, I’m here to say that the nostalgia train WWE has been riding for so long needs to come to a stop at the nearest station and have its furnace extinguished for the very last time. For far too long now, Vince McMahon has relied too heavily on so-called Superstars from bygone eras to sell his shows, instead of building new stars and allowing the RAW and SmackDown Live rosters to shoulder the burden that brought out the very best in their predecessors.
How many times can you roll out names like Hulk Hogan, Batista, or The Undertaker before you realise you’ve completely neglected to invest in the future of your company? Bringing Hogan back in his 50s was acceptable, but to still be using him at 65? That’s just silly. The same can be said of Undertaker. At 54 he has nothing to prove, but an entire legacy to lose. Would you rather people remember you for your jaw-dropping performances against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania, or as an old-timer botching his way through a main event match in 2019? On the other hand, Goldberg’s brief feud with Brock Lesnar over the Universal Championship was a fantastic way to go out on top. Why taint that memory with this pile of steaming hot garbage? OK, so they didn’t plan to have such a rotten match, but did either of them really need the money bad enough to put their bodies through it anyway? Wasn’t their brief encounter at the 2017 Royal Rumble better than this?
Now is the time to say goodbye to nostalgia. Now is the time to let legends walk away. Now is the time to realise the Attitude Era is over – it’s gone and it’s never coming back. WWE needs to begin to focus on the next generation and give its talent the chance to sink or swim on their own merit, and if having Vince McMahon step aside is what it takes to allow this happen then so be it. Super ShowDown should serve as a warning that the current model WWE is running will ultimately end in someone either being seriously injured or worse and whether the fans chant “one more match or not”, it’s time to finally leave nostalgia exactly where it belongs – in the past.