Bill Goldberg will return to action on Saturday night when he faces WWE champion Bobby Lashley in one of SummerSlam's featured matches. Goldberg's involvement in the match was met with some pushback from fans who feel the 54-year-old legend's days as a part-time wrestler should come to an end.
Ask Goldberg, however, and he'll tell you a different story, one where he's ready to continue on until the business no longer wants him and the fans no longer react when he steps through the curtain. For now, Goldberg says it's worth it even as his body struggles in new and different ways.
"I'm sitting here on the massage table getting cranked as we speak," Goldberg told CBS Sports. "The older you get, the harder it is to maintain, the harder it is to add weight, the harder it is to be able to push through your injuries. But there's a big picture here and it's a small price to pay. Mentally, as long as I can still be Goldberg, which I always will be, and physically, as long as I can show glimpses of myself, I think it's a worthy endeavor.
"I'm a glutton for punishment and let's just say that I feel pain every day, what's a little bit more? I wouldn't change anything in my life other than maybe I wouldn't have punched a limousine window, nor would I have headbutted a door at 51 years old and knocked myself out on the way to the ring, but hey, we all have things we'd like to change. I'm in a pretty good place. Show me another 53-year-old that can do this at my level and I'll shake their hand."
Even as he brags about his ability to still perform and drive through the pains of a process that were once easy for him as a powerhouse who took over the wrestling world with his lengthy undefeated streak in WCW, Goldberg admits that his time as a competitor -- even part-time -- is drawing to a close.
The irony of Goldberg loudly complaining about an aging Ric Flair still performing during their time in WCW is also not lost on Goldberg, especially as he's 10 years older than Flair was at the point where Goldberg wanted him to hang up his boots.
"Oh hell no. I don't think I have a lot more time by any stretch of the imagination," Goldberg said. "But I'm going to push it until I can't do it or they don't want me and then I'll reassess and figure something else out. I'm an active human being. I still train two or three times a day. It's just that the body doesn't react like it used to and things hurt a little bit more. Hey, man, it's all good. I'm in a very lucky position. I work my ass off with the time given to me to prepare and I like to think within that time I'm able to prepare with the likes of anyone.
"I don't know, I'm not going to forecast the future because I remember bitching and moaning about Flair when he was 43 in the ring and now I'm 53, 10 years removed from when I said he shouldn't be doing it anymore. The fact is, it's up to you and nobody else can pass that judgment. It's a conundrum and it's tough but I deal with it every day. As long as I can get the reaction from the crowd and I can still go do my thing and Vince [McMahon], the company and the business still want me, then I do my thing. If not, I go be on 'The Goldbergs' or do 'NCIS' and blow some people up."
In Lashley, Goldberg is facing someone whose career journey was significantly different despite possessing many of the same physical tools. While Goldberg ran through WCW, defeating top stars and capturing titles as he became one of the biggest names in the industry, Lashley struggled to build momentum even as WWE tried to push him as a major player.
From 2005 to 2008, Lashley's career was filled with starts and stops and even a prominent role at WrestleMania 23 as Donald Trump's muscle against Umaga, who was representing Vince McMahon. Never having reached the heights that seemed guaranteed in that early part of his career, Lashley was released from his WWE contract and took time to reinvent himself in Impact Wrestling before returning to WWE in 2018, 10 years after his release.
After more stumbles early in his run, Lashley hooked up with MVP and formed The Hurt Business, becoming a top heel in the company and winning his first true world championship in WWE. That positioned him as a man who could stand opposite a legend like Goldberg on a massive pay-per-view event.
"Whether it was 20 years ago or 20 days from now, Lashley is a guy I've always wanted to tangle with," Goldberg said. "Granted, the wrestling business has a lot of variables and I'm ecstatic for him and his career that, whether it took this long or not, he's made it to the point where he understands that what he's done and the time and work he put in has paid off. For one reason or another, he's in that spot now and he deserves it. He's earned it. He looks the part and he is the part.
"It was a potential match that I've always, I won't say I pushed for it, but I always wanted it to happen. The fact that it didn't happen back in the day? That sucks. I would have loved to have gone toe-to-toe with him in my prime. But I'll say it again, 75 percent of me is better than 99 percent of the morons that are walking the planet. So, let's go."