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What if something happened in the past that changed wrestling history forever? Putting on our fantasy booking hats and using educated guesses, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories will look at different "What If" scenarios to give you a blow-by-blow analysis of how one change could have drastically altered the wrestling landscape.


By Canadian Bulldog

One of the most impressive records in professional wrestling happened between 1997 and 1998, when WCW's Bill Goldberg had a win-loss record that was listed as being 173 and 0. The streak built Goldberg into a legitimate star and household name, one that is in demand as he prepared to make his long-awaited return to the ring.


And even now, some 18 years after the streak ended at the hands of then-WCW booker Kevin Nash, people believe the record was ended prematurely and that Goldberg could have become a much bigger star by remaining undefeated.


Nothing that Goldberg accomplished ever came close to his 97-98 run, including his heel turn in 2000, his jump to WWE in 2003 and his retirement from the ring about one year later. But what would happen if WCW hadn't ended the streak?


The Back Story

While many final wrestling fans remember Bill Goldberg's WCW World Title match against Kevin Nash at Starrcade 1998, it's usually for the wrong reasons.


For one thing, the match wasn't particularly good; not a great sign given it was the main event for WCW's biggest annual pay-per-view. Second, the interference of Disco Inferno, Bam Bam Bigelow and Scott Hall was puzzling, given all three where heels and Nash and Goldberg were both positioned as babyfaces (at least during the match).  


And of course, Nash winning the match, whether due to unusual circumstances or not, ruined the best thing WCW had going at the time - an undefeated streak for a star that fans were still continuing to rally behind.


When Nash turned heel and reunited with Hall and Hulk Hogan weeks later, it completely diminished Goldberg's loss and quickly became just another heel turn angle, something that happened in WCW almost on a weekly basis.

Rewriting The Book


In our alternate Book To The Future universe, Goldberg isn't booked to lose to Nash. To get the eventual reunion of the nWo (which on its own wasn't the worst idea ever), Hulk Hogan returns on the January 4, 1999 episode of Nitro... which is actually what happened. Hollywood Hogan claims Goldberg stole "his title" the following summer and he's appalled that Nash, not him, got the title shot at Starrcade. This prompts Nash to confront The Hulkster and he challenges Hogan and a partner of his choosing to a tag team match against Goldberg and Nash.


Hogan accepts the challenge, and he and partner Scott Hall battle Goldberg and Nash in the main event of the Souled Out PPV. At that event, WCW pulls the trigger on an nWo reunion, having Nash turn on Goldberg, reuniting Big Sexy with Hall, Hogan, Lex Luger, Scott Steiner and others, and spelling sudden doom for "Da Man"


The following month's PPV sees the long-awaited Goldberg-Hogan match and, even with the interference of the nWo, Goldberg still retains his championship.


Still undefeated, Goldberg defends his championship against a variety of challengers over the next couple of years, including Bret Hart, Scott Steiner, Randy Savage, Sid Vicious and many others. But he never loses. And does the successful winning streak manage to keep WCW alive in the long run?



Reality Check


As amazing as Goldberg's winning streak was, WCW was still destined to fail. Many critics have mentioned a variety of mitigating factors that ultimately killed the company, not limited to standards and practices at Turner Broadcasting, Vince Russo's writing style, and of course, AOL-Time Warner not wanting to keep the property on its television networks.


So while our scenario avoided the Starrcade debacle and the fingerpoke of doom that ensued, neither could prevent Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation from buying WCW in 2001.


One Major Difference


When McMahon acquired WCW for pennies on the dollar, he didn't actually need any of its top stars to follow suit.


For one thing, the brand had been badly damaged in many fans' eyes by then, to the point where most observers didn't put the two companies on the same level any more. And the top WCW stars were working under Turner-negotiated contracts that the WWF couldn't have justified.


One major difference in our scenario, though - they couldn't have passed on an undefeated Goldberg.


Think about it - a once-in-a-lifetime athlete that hadn't lost in four years by this point? It's too good an opportunity not to pass up. Had Goldberg been in that situation come 2001, there's no doubt the WWF would have backed up the truck and paid him whatever he wanted. There would have been at least a dozen "dream" matches had that happened to pit Goldberg against a wide variety of WWF stars. 


Goldberg's signing with the WWF immediately after the WCW buyout was a game-changer in many ways. Instead of the March 26, 2001 Nitro ending with a lame segment between Vince and Shane McMahon, Raw could have advertised a main event "confrontation" between WrestleMania X-7 opponents The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. That was, after all, the main event for what was at the time the biggest WrestleMania ever.


As The Rock makes his way to the ring, he's jumped in the aisle by a man never seen on WWF television before. A surprised Rock has been injured the week before his big match by..... WCW's Bill Goldberg.


Now THAT'S WrestleMania!


On that week's SmackDown, a hesitant Vince McMahon hands Stone Cold Steve Austin The Rock's WWF World Championship. After all - the title needs to be defended at WrestleMania, and Austin won that year's Royal Rumble to become number one contender. (Behind the scenes, The Rock was leaving after WrestleMania anyways to begin his Hollywood career).


McMahon orders Austin to defend his newly-captured championship against Bill Goldberg that Sunday at WrestleMania - WWF Champion vs. WCW Champion. The ultimate WrestleMania main event.

Even though the match was rushed to PPV like no other before it, the dream match scenario leads to a record 1.3 million buys on PPV (as opposed to the 1.04  million buys it had it in reality) as hundreds of thousand& gos of wrestling fans are attracted by the late-breaking main event.


Fans and critics alike are genuinely shocked when Austin is pinned, although the match is marred by interference from WWF owner Vince McMahon and WCW owner Shane McMahon, kicking off the InVasion angle in grand fashion. WrestleMania X-7 goes off the air with Bill Goldberg holding both the WWF and WCW World Championships and giving the WCW invaders some incredible momentum.


Goldberg's undefeated streak continues for some time. He defeats Austin again in the main event of the InVasion PPV, and turns back the challenge of the returning Rock at that year's SummerSlam. Over the next year, Goldberg is a fighting unified champion, battling the likes of Kurt Angle, Booker T, The Big Show and Rob Van Dam.


Hollywood soon becomes enamored with Goldberg and coaxes to follow The Rock into having a movie career. After a successful title defense at WrestleMania X-8 against the returning Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Goldberg is once again jumped by the nWo (coincidentally, right as his one year contract expires), has to vacate the championship and is quickly written out of storylines. The nWo feud with Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin and others as Goldberg insists he is retired from wrestling.

By WrestleMania XX, Goldberg returns to action (which in reality was his final WWE match before this year's Survivor Series) and challenges The Undertaker to a special streak vs. streak match. Although the Triple H/Shawn Michaels/Chris Benoit World Title match is the final match on the show, Goldberg-Undertaker is the true main event. 


In their one and only meeting, The Undertaker pins Bill Goldberg cleanly, ending an undefeated streak that lasted an unprecedented seven years through two major wrestling promotions, and wildly accelerates Goldberg's induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

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