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411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Will Goldberg Defeat The Fiend for the Universal Title?

February 12, 2020 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Goldberg SummerSlam

Welcome to Round 1 of the 411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction Road to Wrestlemania Invitational Tournament!

I’m your host, Jake Chambers. I’ve gathered together 8 writers from 411mania who have all participated alongside me in the Wrestling Fact or Fiction column over the past few months, and I am pitting them against each other in a battle of wrestling smarts and wits, as they dare to explain what they think is totally factual or completely fiction for statements on pro-wrestling history, culture and current events. No middle ground will be tolerated!

Over the next few months, this single elimination tournament will feature the familiar format we all know and love along with a few surprises along the way. Polls will also be included so YOU can play a part in who advances to the next round (more on the voting at the end of the column). Now, let’s “tourn” it up and meet today’s participants.

Round 1, Week 4

Web show award-winning, master of rhymes, Ken Hill
vs.
Beloved tastemaking, winner of hearts, Len Archibald

Statement #1: You believe the right person will win in the upcoming Goldberg vs. The Fiend Universal Title Match at Super Show-Down.

Special Task: Please use as many common IWC phrases or cliches as possible when writing your response

Ken Hill: FACT – I can only imagine El Atomico, D2Kvirus, Ryan, and the others marking out over Len-Kennection coming to blows in the first round (Way to put the main event on first, Chambers-pot!)

I’ll give WWE credit for this, rare as that may seem. They wasted no time hot-shotting the feud with the simple angle of Goldberg getting the itch again for an in-ring return and having not gotten his rightful rematch for the Universal Title, which makes sense if you’re looking at things from a pure storyline perspective. It supersedes the whole “no automatic rematch” mandate handed down by the McMahons by a couple years, so Goldberg getting “grandfathered” in for an Universal Title match works here. Plus, it’s clearly a one-time deal in terms of a feud, so chill, fellow smarks.

Aside from all that, there’s no doubt as to the “right person”, i.e. The Fiend, going over here. He’s the hot ticket for WWE right now going into WrestleMania and has been built up in the business as a true wrestling monster: Indomitable, vicious, and damn nigh-invincible in terms of no-selling the best, brutal offense his opponents have had to offer. Goldberg should be no different; Bill knows well when he’s being booked to steamroll an opponent (Lesnar at Survivor Series ’16, Ziggler at SummerSlam ’19) or when he’s being used to put over/reaffirm another wrestler’s dominance (Lesnar at WM 33). This is clearly a case of the latter. Hopefully WWE has learned their lesson from his disastrous slog of a match with Taker last year and the company keeps things short with Goldberg getting his signature shots in before The Fiend ultimately goes over in an extended squash.

Len Archibald: FACT – The easy answer should be is that WWE won’t bury The Fiend by having Goldberg go over. They wouldn’t make The Field a Transitional or Paper Champion this close to the Showcase of the Immortals, even if it could be tempting: Goldberg is still a draw and would clearly pop the crowd at Sweet Saudi Money IV. But The Fiend is over, he gets reactions and has been booked as a world beater at this point. For this current story heading into WrestleMania, Goldberg is serving as a gatekeeper for Wyatt, placed in a spot to make Wyatt look good and give him the rub. Who would Goldberg face going into WrestleMania? He just returned from his vacay at Parts Unknown and demanded a match? Goldberg beating Wyatt would kill Wyatt’s momentum. It wouldn’t bury him, but it would be a nice 2 foot hole back to where Wyatt was before he was repackaged. So while I see a match where Goldberg may no-sell a move, hit his spots and tease a squash, The Field is basically treating Goldberg as a Jobber to the Stars whether through a Dusty Finish or a ref-bump. I am sure Goldberg will still be protected in the loss – I am sure we will not see a BFYTW finish. But plans can change, I guess.

Statement #2: WWF made a mistake by having the Ultimate Warrior defeat Hulk Hogan clean and becoming a double champion at Wrestlemania VI.

Ken Hill: FICTION – Hindsight makes it easy nowadays for any of us to say that Warrior winning was ultimately a mistake given his numerous shortcomings (One-dimensional character and promos, inability to work with a large variety of wrestlers outside of top guys like Hogan, Savage and Rude, etc.), but for all of that he was still one of WWF’s biggest commodities, if not THE biggest, at the time and was over huge with the fans. Hogan himself admitted he was on the decline going into the ’90s and needed time off for filming Suburban Commando anyway, and both he and Vince felt that Warrior’s time had come to slide into the role of #1 Face in the company while Hogan was away. Vince’s booking tactics were relatively simple at this time; if a champion couldn’t be on hand to defend their title, they’d go out on their backs to put over the new champion, thus Hogan putting over Warrior clean as a sheet.

If this question had started with something along the lines of “In hindsight…”, I might have been more inclined to say FACT, but all the circumstances and booking at the time had Warrior primed for the push to main event superstardom. Plus, Warrior’s reign can hardly be blamed for pro wrestling’s decline in popularity in the early 90s (Over-reliance on Hogan, shifting TV consumer tastes, increased competition from WCW, INTERNET, etc.)  so I don’t hold it against WWF for taking their shot when they had it.

Len Archibald: FICTION – My first defense of this is easy: I was there live, I loved it and I am not too fond of the idea that this memory would be erased. Look, this was a case of the WWF not knowing what made Warrior the guy, and instead tried to turn him into THE GUY:

Clearly this isn’t the first time the WWF tried to “alter” the image of their #1 babyface to act like Hogan (#lexexpress). But The Ultimate Warrior wasn’t Hogan. The reason most fans gravitated to him was because Warrior wasn’t Hogan. It was time for a change. Hogan had ran through the current crop of WWEs heels and was on his way to continue with his Hollywood “career”. The Ultimate Warrior was the next big thing. He went up the ranks, got stupid over and Toronto 1990 was the right place at the right time. Or it should have been. I can write a whole essay about the weird quasi-failure of Warrior’s Championship run in 1990. But that is looking back retroactively. In the moment, leading up to the moment, and the immediate catharsis afterwards all point that Warrior going over was the right call. I honestly would not change this version of wrestling history.

Statement #3: If you could see Ric Flair in his prime versus one wrestler today, in a PPV main event, it would be Adam Cole.

Ken Hill: FICTION – I almost laughed out loud reading this question. Not because of the subject matter, mind you, but I remember seeing an eerily similar question back in 2008 in an interview with Flair in WWE Magazine leading up to his eventual retirement, saying he would’ve loved to face John Cena, but the opportunity never came because their paths never properly crossed outside of a tag match or two.

Cole can certainly match Flair in the “uber cocky prick heel with equal top-tier talent” field, but if we’re talking about a primetime-age Ric Flair up against WWE wrestlers in the here and now though, my money would go towards seeing Naitch run up against WALTER. Not only would it be an absolute chop-fest that ends up shredding both mens’ chests like so much red, raw beef, but it would be a great recall of Flair’s classic with Vader at WCW Starrcade ’93: Would Flair win out with his technical mastery and grit like he did against Vader, or would WALTER outlast “The Dirtiest Player in the Game” with sheer power and brutal tactics?

Len Archibald: FICTION – The default answer for dream matches with current talent is 1) Daniel Bryan and 2) Brock Lesnar. Not that a prime Ric Flair vs Adam Cole wouldn’t be awesome, but the mystery of what kind of technical marvel Flair vs. DBry with Flair in full on “Nature Boy” heel mode or the David vs. Goliath matchup with a babyface Flair vs. Brock in full Ivan Koloff mode is too good not to consider. Imagine Daniel Bryan up against Ric Flair in 1989 after his feud with Steamboat, or immediately after surviving his grueling feud with Terry Funk, Brock Lesnar runs through the ropes and MURDERDEATHKILLS him. The promos between Flair and Heyman would be golden, just as I am sure the build between Flair and Bryan would be great. Brock will put his working boots on for those who he respects and Flair in his prime was considered only the best goddamn wrestler in the universe, so the match between the two could be epic (could Flair convince Brock to go 60 minutes like he would at his peak?) Speaking of, Flair/Bryan Iron Man? Yes, please. Adam Cole vs. Ric Flair would be great, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the top of my list.

¡SWITCH!

Statement #4: The WWE’s financial future is bright.

Special Task: Please write your response in the form of a poem

Len Archibald: FACT

Record Q4, record revenue,
Vince’s foothold on India and the Middle East overdue,
Global and digital – YouTube, FOX, other platforms additional,
We say WWE is dying but admit that the business is cyclical,
The numbers are visible, it’s gonna take a miracle,
To take WWE off of the pinnacle.
NBC/Universal C.R.E.A.M.,
Locked in for decades it seems,
UK, China and Spain,
And that WWE Network stream…
Riddle me this, bro? (Like Brock and Goldberg double-teaming on the Matt…)
Who pays their bills? Who buys the merch?
Who gets tix to WrestleMania, who got the new UE T-shirt?
Long as we shell out, WWE will pearl out,
Then, Now, Forever – in the trap, full of wrestling addicts with need,
Bray Wyatt isn’t the only one who doubles as a fiend.

Ken Hill: FICTION Shares Slammed

WWE’s stock is in free fall
Like F-bombs dropped on the XFL premiere.
WWE’s financial future seems foggy, but
Day’s Ffff-rustrastions came in crystal clear.

Vince is banking on the XFL sequel’s success,
Though the first’s ending was rather abrupt.
Unless he’s got a history degree in his pocket,
Vince’s mind and money will go WWE-rupt.

And now Vinnie’s stockpiling wrestlers
Locking them down like it’s Y2K-Twenty.
So if EC3 no longer rides the pine,
He can go and thank Y2J plenty.

Pennybags McMahon, stick to your WWE-opoly,
Keep it far away from any faraway land.
Don’t try to “curry” favor or it’ll end up
Like how you got sushi roll’d out of Japan.

Statement #5: The Mount Rushmore of Horrible (yet great) WWF Gimmicks is: Mantaur, Xanta Claus, The Goon, Max Moon

Len Archibald: FICTION – With all respects to Jake – I like his list (I could honestly see Manataur on a Mount Rushmore list like this), I have to go with some of the obvious, the insane and the total WTF. The Gobbledy Gooker is one of the most famous bad gimmicks – for me, the first “eye-roll” I ever gave as a young fan. Now the shit is hilarious looking back at the antics between Gooker and Mean Gene (and even far more hilarious when you catch little glimpses where it is clear poor Mean Gene believes – rightly – that he is above it. Giant Gonzales…Dude wore a onesie where his dick was airbrushed, spoke in “GRRs” and “AHHHs” and basically shit the bed with The Undertaker at one of the highest profile matches at WrestleMania. This shit was painful…but has anyone gone back? Try to find a segment where he basically chases Todd Pettingil into a one-camera horror movie. Goddamn so good. The Berzerker was basically Hacksaw Jim Duggan in a parallel universe if Duggan was a Viking. And it was amazing. Want to find a HARDCORE wrestling fan? Yell out “HUSS!” in a room and see who responds back (and prepare for the white coats if no one does.) Finally, The Red Rooster. THE RED ROOSTER. It’s Terry Taylor. He’s awesome. What do you do with him. TURN HIM INTO A ROOSTER. The madness is staggering. So, if I was going to create a Mount Rushmore of the Horrible-Yet-Great gimmicks of WWF, Giant Gonzales, The Gobbledy Gooker, The Red Rooster and The Berzerker is it.

Ken Hill: FICTION – It is absolute heresy to have a proverbial landmark of WWE’s worst and dimmest without including…

Gobbledy Gooker (aka Hector Guerrero) was the prime example of wasted buildup, with WWF promoting a giant mystery egg for weeks leading up to Survivor Series 1990. What would come out of it? A debuting superstar? A new tag team? Nope, what we got was a waste of a talented Guerrero in a flaking, molting turkey costume strutting around with “Mean Gene” to the tune of “Turkey in the Straw” and being showered with boos. There was absolutely no surprise when Gooker got the hook a month later. Max Moon stands out for similar reasons; the greatly talented man who would become Konnan in WCW was crammed into a pastel-colored, multi-wired suit straight out of a campy ’80s B-movie space flick and was hailed as a cyborg being from “the future.”

Xanta Claus, however, only had some brief infamy when it came out that it was pre-ECW Balls Mahoney in the gimmick, and Mantaur only serves as an once-in-a-blue-moon in-joke by WWE writers when they truly have no better material to work with, which is saying something nowadays.

If anything, with those two spots in mind, one should be for Mike Shaw, who not only took up a visually disgusting gimmick in Bastion Booger, but beforehand had taken up the on-screen role of “The Mad Monk” Friar Ferguson, which got him and WWF in hot water with the Catholic Church of New York. It certainly takes a special kind of man to be put through two equally perturbing gimmicks on different ends of the offensive spectrum, which leads me to say that Kane should definitely have the other spot of “dishonor” based on the numerous bad gimmicks he had to deal with in his longstanding career, like the “ho-ho-horriffic” Christmas Creature and Jerry Lawler’s “impersonal” dentist Isaac Yankem, DDS, as well as his initial unmasking in 2003, where he was adorned in ridiculous charcoal smears in an attempt to simulate third-degree burns. Thankfully, WWE immediately hand-waved the latter by stating that Kane had merely suffered psychological scarring from the fire, thus preserving the “unleashed, unmasked monster” role he was playing at the time.

Statement #6: A professional wrestler’s value is determined by how much money they draw.

Len Archibald: FICTION – Booker T’s recent podcast episode stated that The Revival should have taken the “reported” $700,000/year contact that was offered to each and that legacy isn’t as important. With all due respect to Booker T, it’s easy to make this kind statement as a 2-time Hall of Famer with a fully functioning and wildly successful wrestling academy and a lucrative side gig as part of WWE Commentary. But would Booker T have the same opinion if he didn’t have the legacy of being one half of one of the most prolific tag teams in history, a 5x WCW Champ, the LAST WCW Champ, and former KING (BOO-KAH)? Probably not. A professional wrestler’s value towards the promotion itself is how much they draw, because they’re a business…but that is one half of the equation. That wrestler must have a reason for people to pay that money to prove those metrics. So, whatever it is that gets people to pay is tied to their talent/legacy. If it is my in-ring ability that brings in fans, then my value is also determined by how well I am able to hold the attention of the fans with long-form physical storytelling. If it is my speaking ability, then I better hope I don’t have a sore throat. Circle of life, man.

Ken Hill: FICTION – Financial prospect is certainly a factor in determining a pro wrestler’s overall value; do certain wrestlers move the needle more than others in terms of merchandise, ticket sales, and PPV/Network buys and such? Are there wrestlers whose intangible qualities make them an indispensable asset and thus should be signed to more and more lucrative contracts? Certainly so. Take “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for example. His working-class antihero persona paved the way for the best business period experienced by WWE and professional wrestling in general with the rise of The Attitude Era. However, in a recent PWI article where he received a lifetime achievement award, Austin himself admitted he only got that opportunity because he convinced McMahon to give him a chance:

“I said, ‘Vince, you’ve got guys that are 6-10, seven feet, 310, 320 pounds. If you take my personality from me, I can’t compete…But if you give me my personality, I can compete with anybody you got.”

Initially, Vince wanted to dismiss a number of Austin’s early impactful promos that had backstage officials intrigued and “popping” for more, but Austin convincing him otherwise opened up the floodgates for Austin’s rise to mega-stardom by letting fans see the true value he had to offer: A look and voice of the blue-collar community, a badass sarcastic wit on the mic, and the ground-and-pound grit to back it up time and again in the ring. The fact that Austin remains in the conversation over a decade and a half after his retirement shows that the value of his overall presence, verbal skill and ring work stand the test of time as well as if not more so than his major role in WWE’s financial success.

You can’t chalk up a wrestler’s value and success purely according to their bank accounts, especially not nowadays where Vince is signing low-tier or entirely unused talent to lush, long-term contracts that more or less have them making a mint while on the couch at home. From a physical standpoint, that’s certainly not a bad gig, but it does little to boost one’s professional stock. If anything, it’s more indicative of Vince’s desperation to keep WWE talent off the open market and away from avenues leading to AEW, NJPW and the like rather than him seeing true value in said performers.

Voting

To determine the victor in each round, the SIX other participating writers will cast a secret vote, along with a SEVENTH, and potentially tie-breaking vote, that will got to the winner of the reader’s poll below.

Anybody can, of course, vote however they like, but I’m introducing these criteria to help guide everyone’s decision:

Persuasiveness = ability to convince you that the writer’s Fact/Fiction choice was the best opinion

Knowledge = demonstration of the history and theory of pro-wrestling (even if not an expert on the topic in the statement)

Use of language = eloquence of the written word; creativity, imagery, comparisons, tone, voice

Plus = mastery of the “Special Tasks”


A classic FoF match up from two familiar debaters, but who will move on?

Next week, we will have a special post-NXT Takeover Portland special, so come back to see the announcement of the winners from Round 1 and the match ups for the upcoming semi-finals.

Thanks to Ken Hill and Len Archibald for participating, and good luck to them on the Road to Wrestlemania and their quest for the coveted 411mania Invitational Tournament championship title!