By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Triple H © vs Goldberg 9/21/03
WWE Championship Match
Though the bloom was somewhat off of the rose after the mismanagement of Goldberg during the tail end of WCW, he still felt like a wrestler who was worth investing money in. As one of the few success stories as WCW stagnated and floundered, he was fondly remembered by both sides of the divide, with many WWE wrestling fans likely to have at least been privy to the spear and Jackhammer assault of the former footballer, if not outright enjoyed it. Whatever their feelings, when Goldberg came into the promotion, he was going to make a splash.
It probably isn’t that surprising that an undefeated Goldberg since his WWE debut would eat his first pinfall loss in a match involving Triple H. Sure, it was an Elimination Chamber match and Ric Flair would pass HHH a sledgehammer to get the deed done, but what should have been a significant moment that could have been used to help someone get over was somewhat thrown away to a man who didn’t need it.
What it did spark was a rivalry that would lead Goldberg to the gold. The following pay-per-view, Unforgiven, would be the site of Goldberg’s only title reign in his first run with the company – a damning indictment arguably of the Goldberg in WWE experiment as a whole. In a move that only seemed to highlight the eventual result, Goldberg would put his career on the line for a shot at the WWE title that was around Triple H’s waist.
Following on from a semi-main that saw Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross lose to the team of Al Snow and The Coach, the crowd were at least able to get fired up after that tour de force to get behind Goldberg with their chants as the two men stared at each other from across the ring. However, with a match that was always going to be about pushing the ‘epic’ nature of the contest, the fans would quieten significantly between the high spots. A press slam by Goldberg had the cameras flashing, but some arm work left them cold.
With Triple H in a position where he could lose the title via countout or disqualification as well as pinfall or submission, the champion wasn’t able to run and hide and this saw Goldberg dominate the earliest exchanges. Ross and Lawler debated whether Triple H could win in a one on one contest, only for a high knee to counter a spear attempt and put the Cerebral Assassin in control. A shove into the ringpost had Goldberg down at ringside and allowed the assault to continue with impunity once he beat the count to get back in the ring.
The ringpost continued to work as a legal way for Triple H to amp up his offense, with a trip followed by several collisions with the knee and the steel. The knee became the target for the champion: two chop blocks set-up a figure four leglock that saw Triple H utilise the ropes for leverage behind the referee’s back. In an odd reversal of the norm, Goldberg actually pulled Triple H away from the ropes and towards the center of the ring, though a reversal of the hold only led to the hold getting broken and Goldberg taking a kneedrop to the face.
A second knee was blocked, with Goldberg finally mounting some offense with a slam and a whip that sent Triple H up and over the turnbuckle. Busted open following a collision with the steel steps, Triple H used a referee bump to hit a low blow and use the sledgehammer on Goldberg. A second attempted blow left Triple H open for a spear, with Goldberg finishing him off with the Jackhammer. The fans popped for the Goldberg victory, drawing more attention to the significant lack of noise generated during the rest of the match.
Goldberg was never really designed for long matches and the ‘epic’ match that Triple H seemed to crave was unattainable in such a short (relatively, at fifteen minutes) time. Instead, we got slow heel offense, bleeding and weapon shots for little reason outside of shenanigans, and a Goldberg finishing sequence that was over as anything. Rather than put Goldberg over, it seemed to initiate a holding pattern that would be broken when Triple H regained the title less than three months later.
A further three months after that, he left the company having lasted only a year.