When it comes to final acts as a WWE superstar, one might be hard-pressed to find someone who has had it better than Bill Goldberg over the last 18 months.
In an unlikely return to WWE after 12 acrimonious years, Goldberg took part in a trio of epic matches against Brock Lesnar which included a universal championship run and a memorable slugfest at WrestleMania 33 last year. One year later, Goldberg capped the emotional coda to his great career as the headlining inductee to the 2018 class of the WWE Hall of Fame on April 7.
Goldberg's return proved to be therapeutic as he squashed his remaining beefs with chairman Vince McMahon and was able to find closure from his disappointing one-year run in WWE that ended in 2004. But the main focus of Goldberg's return, which was well-documented on WWE's "24" documentary series, was to provide a gift for his wife Wanda and 11-year-old son Gage, who had never seen him wrestle.
As Goldberg, 51, prepares for the next act of his varied careet as the host of "Forged in Fire: Knife or Death" on History (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET), he looks back on his recent WWE experience as a memory so fond that he called it "the best moment of my life" during his HOF speech. And the man he gives the most credit for it even happening might surprise you.
"If Brock didn't see in myself a viable competitor, I never would've come back," Goldberg told CBS Sports during Monday's appearance on the "In This Corner" Podcast. "I never would've had the opportunity to come back. Let's be honest, my first tenure with the WWE wasn't a glorious success; my exodus from the company wasn't the most positive to date. Twelve years pass, nothing happens. Then low and behold, 'The Beast' needs somebody to kill. I'm fortunate enough that I always keep myself in good shape and it was an option."
Lesnar, who joined Goldberg in getting infamously booed out of Madison Square Garden in 2004 following their WrestleMania 20 match in which both were set to exit the company, took his idea of facing off against a returning Goldberg in 2016 all the way to McMahon.
"Brock fought for it and he brought the world to me," Goldberg said. "He means the world to my family beyond the wrestling business. He is a guy who has made a huge difference in how my son looks at me and for something like that, I will never be able to repay him. It doesn't mean that I won't kick his ass if I ever get in the ring with him but it does mean that I have the respect for him that can never, ever be diminished."
Goldberg's son, Gage, was there for every step of the journey, either sitting in the front row or often joining his father inside ring after a match or promo on Raw. Goldberg made shocking headlines by defeating Lesnar in 86 seconds at Survivor Series before returning to eliminate Lesnar two months later at the Royal Rumble.
In February 2017, Goldberg squashed Kevin Owens in 22 seconds to win he universal championship at Fastlane, which set up the WrestleMania rematch. Lesnar gained storyline revenge in a beautiful disaster of a five-minute match that was heavyweight pro wrestling at its finest.
While Gage, still in grade school, hasn't been able to eloquently verbalize to his father exactly what the experience has meant to him, Goldberg said all he has to do is watch his son's face.
"All I have to do is see him in real time, see him being introduced as Goldberg at driver introductions for NASCAR on Fox last weekend," Goldberg said. "Those opportunities are priceless and I don't need him to give me any positive affirmation that he has had a wonderful last 12 months. All I have to do is sit back and remove myself and see the smile on his face and hope that these are memories that will last a lifetime, and hopefully -- ultimately -- that he's proud of his dad."
Although Goldberg doesn't rule out an in-ring return for the right situation, he admits it's not likely. Yet his reputation as a cool dad inside his own house should only increase with his new show, "Forged in Fire: Knife or Death," which premiered last week on History. It takes the country's most experienced edged weapons experts and puts them through grueling and insane obstacles in a show that has been called a cross between "American Ninja Warrior" and "Fruit Ninja."
So who (or in this case what) is next for Goldberg?
"What's next is trying to garner as many fans as we can for the second episode to duplicate what our premiere did," Goldberg said. "I've been getting a lot of congratulatory emails and phone calls that we debuted well on Tuesday night but you are only as good as your next venture and next episode. It's not a time to rest on our laurels by any stretch of the imagination. It's time to ramp it up and get enthusiasm on board.
"At the end of the day, being able to garner the fanbase from the existing hit show 'Forged in Fire' is awesome. It is a very large niche in today's society, but what we're doing expands that. Truthfully, our show is not concentrating on the blade as much as the person who yields it. The blade can only be as good as the person who is doing the cutting. No matter what tool or implement you bring to the fight, you have to know how to use it to the best of your ability taking your body into consideration."
Despite a lengthy background in martial arts, Goldberg doesn't have a ton of history wielding sharp weapons, but he considers himself a credible analyst to the athletic technique needed to navigate the course. He also revealed how he nearly ruined his WWE comeback before it even started by the edge of a blade.
"The problem with my comeback was that, and I never made a big deal about it, but in [June] of that year I almost cut my leg off with a chainsaw," Goldberg said.
Four months before he returned to Raw in October 2016 to announce his comeback, Goldberg spent Father's Day in the emergency room. After a tree had fallen into the yard of his Southern California home, Goldberg slipped while trying to cut it and nearly severed his leg. As it turned out, the chainsaw incident was just one of the speed bumps he endured from a physical standpoint on his way back into the ring at age 50.
"Four weeks after [the chainsaw], in the middle of August, I get a scope that I tore my meniscus on the opposite leg," Goldberg said. "And then six weeks later, I'm training to come back after 12 years to wrestle Brock Lesnar in my underwear in front of millions of people. So I was caught between a rock and a hard place from the beginning. Oh, and let's not forget that my first match was supposed to take place in January and was moved up to [November]. So, yeah, it was tough."
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