WrestleMania XX – Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar vs. The Internet
There are very few things that have had as much influence on wrestling as the mainstream dawn of the Internet in the early 2000s. From the meteoric rise of the dirt-sheets, to the pedantic over-thinking of forums, the secrecy of “the business” was dead as soon as most wrestling fans had an Internet connection in their homes. And its first two big victims were Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar.
I said big, and they really couldn’t have come much bigger. Bill Goldberg was perhaps the one single thing WCW had even done right from a talent-scouting standpoint, and, in the late 1990s, his only equal in terms of popularity was Stone Cold Steve Austin himself. In the other corner was the man many had deemed to be the future of professional wrestling personified; Brock Lesnar, a man with a star look if there ever was one. One of the biggest stars of the ’90s vs. one of the biggest stars of the ’00s, what could go wrong?
Then the Internet got involved.
Although the WWE attempted to keep it to themselves, the information had leaked that both Lesnar and Goldberg intended to leave WWE within the coming weeks. This wasn’t part of any storyline and it was never openly referenced on WWE programming, it was a corporate secret.
And EVERYBODY found out about it.
Things weren’t helped by WrestleMania XX’s location, New York City, New York. If there was ever a crowd that was reading all the insider gossip, it was this one. Along with fans from Chicago and Toronto, New Yorkers are notorious, perhaps even infamous for their abject refusal to play along with wrestling promotion’s expectations of how fans should react to things. The city’s reputation for being contrary eventually reached such levels that WWE based at entire series of pay-per-views around it; ECW’s One Night Stand, in which the fact that the native New Yorkers ripped apart anything and everything they took a disliking too, irrespective of how it was presented on television, was actually used as part of the storyline.
And so, given this attitude, it’s not surprising that the New York fans turned on this match almost instantly, booing absolutely everything that happened, ignoring the match, and amusing themselves by singing dismissive songs. Goldberg won, not that anyone would remember, because his win was met with total hostility. As the chants of “Hey, hey, goodbye” grew ever louder, the only possible way to salvage the moment was for Stone Cold Steve Austin, the match’s special guest referee, to deliver stunners to both men, a goodbye from WWE that seemed almost merciful compared to the fourth-wall-breaking brutality of Manhattan’s finest.
And that’s perhaps the best place to end the list, with talk of Brock Lesnar, a man who, despite his unceremonious departure, was having his name chanted on RAW this week without so much as a mention. And why? Because of leaked information on the internet of course. The very thing that booed him out of wrestling is the thing that’s cheering him back. What can I say, wrestling’s a strange business.