For however poorly perceived Bill Goldberg's reputation was within the professional wrestling business during his 12-year exile, his triumphant return to WWE over the last 18 months went a long way to fix things. Not only did Goldberg repair his relationship with WWE chairman Vince McMahon, he seemed to win over just about every disapproving fan with his in-ring comeback, which included a memorable feud with Brock Lesnar and a championship match at WrestleMania 33.
Perhaps there was no representation as to just how different Goldberg is at age 51 than the humility he showed earlier this month during his WWE Hall of Fame speech during WrestleMania weekend in New Orleans.
Goldberg gave thanks to so many people within the business who helped or influenced him upon his meteoric rise in WCW during the Monday Night War era, all the way to his recent return which was made possible to some degree by the efforts of Lesnar.
Among the many names, Goldberg also offered thanks Hulk Hogan, who was willing to do the job at the peak of Goldberg's unbeaten streak during their WCW championship match from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, which aired live during a July 6, 1998, episode of Nitro.
Goldberg, who told Hogan, "I owe you one," during his speech, didn't reference the fact that Hogan was fired by WWE in 2015 after a leaked sex tape from 2012 showed him making racist remarks.
During an appearance Monday on CBS Sports' In This Corner Podcast, Goldberg responded to a question asking whether it's time for both WWE and wrestling fans to forgive Hogan, opening up the potential for an on-screen return.
"Oh, that's not for me to judge," Goldberg said. "I think everybody deserves a second chance. I think you put [Hogan] in the locker room and give him the floor and let him speak his mind. That's what he deserves. Who knows what happens from there but it's not for me to say by any means. I can just give you my opinion and say that he deserves the floor and who knows where it goes from there."
Goldberg, the new host of History's "Forged in Fire: Knife or Death" show (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET), also gave a shout out to fellow Hall of Famer "Stone Cold" Steve Austin during his speech, playfully referencing how similar their bald heads and goatees looked while both were the top draw for rival companies during the late 1990s.
While Goldberg admitted he never talked to or crossed paths with Austin during the "Attitude Era," it was important to him Monday to set the record straight that he never actually stole Austin's look.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: I never copied a damn thing from Steve Austin," Goldberg said. "But I did see how a character can be so grandiose, so all-encompassing and so successful that I took cues from his rise to better help me in my preparation for my hopeful rise. In the speech, I gave credit to a number of people who landed one thing or another to the formation of Goldberg as a character. Whether it was just the look from the Road Warriors or sticking the tongue out from Hawk, there were a lot of people that had a lot to do with my success. But it doesn't mean that I copied them in any way, shape or form."
Goldberg met Austin for the first time after signing with WWE in 2003 and has enjoyed a special friendship with him ever since.
"I watched [Austin] from afar and took notes on what to do and what not to do, and he was a very positive influence in my career watching from afar," Goldberg said. "It wasn't a hands-on approach, but then when I did get to WWE and he and I hooked up, it was nothing but respect. I greatly appreciated that coming from him -- such a successful character and such a good person deep down inside. I appreciated that to the utmost degree. Since we became friends years and years ago, there is no question I keep in contact with him more so than anyone else in the business and there is a reason for that."
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