By Chuck Carroll
Well, who saw that coming? No one.
Bill Goldberg returns to WWE to take on Brock Lesnar in a rematch more than a decade in the making. Certainly, this was going to be a bruising back and forth battle. The spears, jackhammers, F-5s and false finishes. Oh, plenty of false finishes. And then finally, after more than a half-hour one man would finally have his hand raised. That’s the way this has to go down.
And then it happened. Lesnar finds himself on the other end of a moment almost as shocking as his WrestleMania XXX win over the Undertaker. In less lightning fashion, Goldberg dominates and dismantles The Beast. Vince McMahon looked at his playbook, dialed up two spears and a jackhammer and executes a perfect two-minute drill that ends with a touchdown for WWE. Heck, it didn’t even take that long.
Nobody saw that coming. No one. Even the locker room was reportedly shocked by the “blink and you’ll miss it” main event. The convincing win gives WWE another beast to book. Internally, WWE is also hoping Goldberg will be able to end the recent ratings slide. Once unfathomable, Monday Night RAW has been hovering below three million viewers. So, can he do it? From all accounts, yes. His post-Survivor Series appearance delivered RAW’s best ratings in more than a month. The 8 p.m. hour, which featured Goldberg’s segment, attracted the most viewers.
The only remaining question: Who’s next?
The night after his shocking win Goldberg threw his name in the hat for the Royal Rumble and declared himself on a mission to chase one last title. Theoretically, that leaves 29 potential future candidates for his next feud. You can scratch off about 20 of those names rather quickly, however. You’re not going to see Goldberg feud with Kalisto, Titus O’Neil, Breezango, The Shining Stars or any of the like. Nor, will you see a program with James Ellsworth, although a spear to WWE’s most unlikely Superstar would be epic.
It’s unclear who will be joining Goldberg in the Rumble at this point since he’s the only name officially entered. But we can put together a solid list of potential entrants.
Roman Reigns: This matchup is unlikely, as WWE isn’t ready to pull the trigger on a heel turn for the former Shield member.
AJ Styles: This sounds like fun, but Styles is a SmackDown guy and Goldberg plays for the red team.
Seth Rollins: The matchup has serious potential, but a flawed storyline as Rollins remains on track for a showdown with Triple H.
John Cena: Who wouldn’t want to see Goldberg dish out a beating on Mr. Hustle, Loyalty and Respect? But beyond the brand differences it doesn’t make much sense to pit to super babyfaces against each other. Then again, we’ve seen WWE do this before with Cena vs. The Rock.
Kevin Owens: On paper, this is a strong possibility. Goldberg is chasing the title, and Owens is the one with the gold. I can’t see Owens retaining the title cleanly here. And if they don’t blow up the Canadian Connection, Chris Jericho could play a pivotal role in the match. But it’s also a stretch to think they won’t implode before WrestleMania.
The list could go on and on, but let’s jump to the two most intriguing names remaining.
The Undertaker: The Dead Man is certainly in the mix after resurfacing and declaring WrestleMania won’t be the only thing defining his career. PWInsider is reporting that there is chatter of The Undertaker facing AJ Styles for the WWE World Title at the Rumble. This sets up an intriguing scenario where Goldberg wins the Rumble match and challenges Undertaker for the title at WrestleMania. The brand extension rules wouldn’t apply with Goldberg having earned a title shot of his choosing.
But the most likely candidate?
Brock Lesnar: There is no way this feud is settled in a squash match. WWE could very well book this like the third installment in the Rocky series. After getting annihilated by Clubber Lang (played by WWE Hall of Famer Mr. T), Rocky goes heavy on the training. In the end, he comes back and reclaims his title. I can see this here.
So how does that third match play out? Lesnar is reportedly booked to participate in the Royal Rumble match as well. In many ways this is simple. Lesnar eliminates Goldberg to continue the feud and set up a rematch at WrestleMania. Only this time, Lesnar goes over in the bruising drawn-out battle everyone expected at Survivor Series.
But the proverbial card is always subject to change, and there is a long time between now and the big show in Orlando. All we know now is that Goldberg will be in the Royal Rumble. Beyond that, everything is up in the air.
So, who’s next? Who knows?
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.