Everyone loves a streak. The results in professional wrestling may be predetermined, and story is of greater importance than wins and losses, but this hasn’t stopped undefeated runs taking on the same gravitas that they do in other sports. Rocky Marciano’s undefeated career, Ed Moses winning 122 races in a row, Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2003-04, all captured the imagination of the viewing public. In Professional wrestling, there are two modern day streaks that stand above all others. The first of these, of course, is the Undertaker and his undefeated streak at WrestleMania. The second began innocuously enough, and was eventually ended by cattle prod. As you’re surely aware, I’m talking about Goldberg.
The first victim was Hugh Morrus (better known today as Bill DeMott). Squash match after squash match after squash match followed, and the Goldberg myth began to grow. He would enter the arena flanked by security guards, with entrance music that sounded like something out of The Terminator. He was a brute, but every now and then he would pull out some bizarre agility. He might have looked like a primal Steve Austin, but there was something genuinely unique about Goldberg. Nobody was able to put up much of a fight against him, but the one-sided matches maintained something of a captivating quality.
The streak would end up engulfing itself however, as it became clearer and clearer that the only thing that would defeat the man would be shenanigans. This is exactly how it went down, when after winning first the United States Championship and then the WCW Championship itself, Goldberg suffered his first loss to Kevin Nash at the 1998 edition of the Starrcade pay-per-view. A litany of bad guys tried to get involved, and it was Scott Hall masquerading as a security guard who would make the vital interference, shocking Goldberg in the chest with a cattle prod of sorts allowing Nash to pick up the duke. 173-0 became 173-1.
It isn’t this ridiculous ending that I want to talk about though. It isn’t really Goldberg himself that will dominate this piece as he did his opponents. There is one particular match during the streak that sticks in my memory like a beacon in the night. It was a squash match, make no mistake about it, but it was quite possibly my favourite squash match in history. Goldberg himself managed to look vulnerable and imperious at the very same time and the crowd were on the edge of their seats and at the back of their throats. I’m talking about the match that made the streak 75 and 0, and also gave Bill Goldberg his first championship title in professional wrestling. I’m talking about Raven v. Goldberg, April 20th, 1998.
Throughout the show, the match was continually hyped. Goldberg was seen preparing for the match in a series of increasingly hilariously homo-erotic snippets, and Raven cut not one but two promos building up to the match. Then it was time for the match. Raven came out first, not getting too much in the way of hype from that ring announcer bloke whose name I can never remember. Goldberg was hyped to the moon however.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, making his way to the ring. His hometown? Unknown. His weight? Unknown. His professional record? We all know’.
Raven didn’t stand a chance, obviously. But there are few professional wrestlers in history who have or had a better grasp on in-ring psychology than the then-leader of The Flock, and it was his nous that made this match so special. The bell rings, and Raven immediately places his United States championship belt on the canvas in the centre of the ring. Drawing a line in the sand, you might say. They meet mid-ring, and Gold berg starts jawing away at Raven. Raven turns, begins to walk away, only to immediately tackle the big man into the corner. From the very first moment, this match was at a high octane pace, the feeling of intensity ramped up by a raucous crowd. The action quickly moves to the outside, it’s made clear the match is being fought under Raven’s Rules, and Raven begins bumping his ever-loving butt off.
An attempted ankle-lock and a successful side-kick from Goldberg follow, before Raven introduces his equalizer to Bill’s strength advantage in the shape of a chair. Not many do hardcore like Raven did hardcore, and the chair is immediately put to use. Drop toe hold onto the chair, and you’ve got a two count for the defending champion. Emphatic kick-out, mind. Raven is in control now, and a chin-lock come sleeper has Goldberg on his knees. He’s back up however, and whipped into the turnbuckles where Raven comes in with a clothesline. This merely has the effect of waking up Bill though, as he begins to hulk up. Raven heads to the ropes, bounces off, but only manages to bounce straight into a huge spear. The crowd goes mental.
Of course, the Flock were always going to get involved, Sickboy, Kidman, and others are dispatched, and despite the ridiculous commentary claims Goldberg looks utterly dominant. One of the great things about the Flock, and there are similarities with the Wyatt Family today, is that they always managed to seem threatening despite not ever really getting much done. I don’t remember any Flock member outside of Raven or Saturn actually winning any matches, but they always had an unknown threat to them. Their unpredictability, or at least character unpredictability, kept them legitimate. So as Goldberg was swatting them away like flies, it only served to make him look stronger, not make them look weak and feckless.
Raven had enough by this point, and decided to flee through the crowd. No such luck though, as ‘the fans’ picked him up and dumped him back over the guardrail. Spear, Jackhammer, new champion. Goldberg was victorious, picking up his first belt in the process. The whole thing was over in less than five minutes. I can’t think of a better five minute squash match in the history of professional wrestling.
Short squash matches will always have a place in professional wrestling, and when used well they can be extremely useful. Whereas often you have situations like with Ryback last year, when it is merely the same match continuously, every now and then a grappler will come along who keeps the squash fresh. WWE have one of these men in their developmental ranks at the moment, in Alexander Rusev. Back to the match in debate, Raven might have had a couple of minutes of offence but there is no denying that this was a squash. Goldberg was made to look like an absolute beast, and a lot of that was down to Raven. There’s an argument for Raven being one of the most underrated wrestlers in professional wrestling history.
I can watch this match today and still enjoy it every bit as much as I did as a 12 year old in 1998. Re-watching it for this column was an absolute joy, truth be told. This is the best five minute squash in professional wrestling modern history.
That’ll do for now. How about you? Are there any five minute squash matches that you remember as fondly? What did you make of Goldberg and his streak? Did Sickboy ever win a match? It’s been a pleasure. Drop a comment in the lonely box below, or find me complaining about being in Wales on twitter (@pingvinorkestra). Have a spectacular week.