Tony Reid – The former WCW World Heavyweight Champion, the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, one of only three men to hold the ‘Big Gold Belt’ in the WWE and WCW and just an iconic figure in pro wrestling, television and movies Mr. Bill Goldberg… Goldberg how are you doing?
Bill Goldberg – “Tony, I’m doing great especially since you started off the introduction by saying the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, because that is what I remember.”
Tony Reid – Well, we all know the “Big Gold Belt” is by far the coolest belt in the history of pro wrestling. You held it and held it well for a good period of time.
Bill Goldberg – “I appreciate it. It was an interesting venture to say the least. It was a time in my life when I had a lot of fun, had a lot of strange things going on but I had a great time.”
Tony Reid – When you were rehabbing the injury suffered during your NFL career, you began power lifting and training in martial arts. Do you ever wonder where you would be today if you hadn’t taken Sting’s advice and given pro wrestling a shot?
Bill Goldberg – “The reality is although it (MMA) would have been a great opportunity back in the day, there was no money. The guys who put the sport on the map, the Gracies, the Shamrocks, the Fryes… Randleman, Coleman…Those are the guys that put it on the map, unfortunately they paved the way but were not in it long enough to reap some of the benefits given now. I probably would have been in that situation. If you compare Brock (Lesnar) and I, Brock is a lot younger than me even though we retired at the same time from pro wrestling, we were at two totally different parts in our lives. Here is a guy who wants to go out and play professional football and football was ten years behind me. To be in the right place at the right time for wrestling, yeah I was but for MMA I couldn’t have been there at a worse time. Look at Danny Hodge, talk about a bad ass wrestler, you have to go back 50 years but just imagine if he was around when MMA started. I would have done it; in the beginning I had the largest MMA gym in the country. Right when I got into the wrestling business I started taking martial arts seriously. Unfortunately the gym got pushed to the side because I wasn’t there to control things. (Kevin) Randleman, (Don) Frye, (Mark) Coleman, Randy (Couture), they all trained at my gym. They had trained at my place prior to starting their respective gyms. So, I have been around it for a long time. I am a firm believer that Dana (White) is well, I don’t want to say prophet but we both knew it (MMA) was going to work.”
Tony Reid – So you spoke about having a number of elite guys training at your gym back in the day. Can you share a story from those days?
Bill Goldberg – “Not in the gym but over in Japan I remember, I was represented by a guy that was also representing Coleman and Frye at the time. All I can say is that we all went to a late night establishment, they had fights coming up and I had a wrestling match coming up. Now, I could take my time out on the town less seriously than they could but you would never have known it by their condition that night, by any stretch of the imagination. Those days are way behind us, but back on that particular night Goldberg tried to get Coleman out of a bar at 3:00 in the morning because he had a fight coming up in a few hours.”
Tony Reid- You based your WCW persona, do some degree, on a mixed martial artist. Do you feel that authenticity helped get you over in a day and age when many guys had long, bleach blonde hair and crazy outfits and personalities?
Bill Goldberg – “Lets be honest, I had some good foreshadowing, and I knew it was going to work. I was such a big fan of MMA and the UFC that I went to probably two out of the first ten UFC events. I truly believed that if I liked it, not to say that in an egotistical way, then everyone was going to like it. I knew it was going to be the next big thing. I knew I had a passion for the martial arts, I knew that, being a 300 pound defensive lineman that I had the mentality to mix it up with the real moves in pro wrestling. I used to go back and watch UWF tapes, most people don’t even know what UWF is…For a guy who went out every Sunday and went 100 miles per hour, gave 150% and head butted 350 pound offensive lineman I think I was the perfect guy to take that character. I bought about $5,000 worth of tapes and just started studying guys like Oleg Taktarov, who was one of my idols because of his use of Russian Sambo. I had never seen Sambo before, so I thought if I start throwing some Sambo moves in people will think that, number one, that’s real and two it looks like I’m killing the guy. I tried to take specific moves from anybody that I thought was in possession of a move that could get over in the wrestling world without hurting someone. 90% of my moves came from the UWF. I wanted to be able to not blur that line between non fiction and fiction that 99.9% of the guys on TV were doing. I wanted to come up with a character that makes me proud of who I am. I can’t act like I’m punching a guy in the face. If I hit a guy in the face with my hand I’m going to light him up and there is probably going to be blood. With the gloves you get the tearing and ripping of the skin. There is probably going to more blood coming from a guy hitting a dude with the gloves on. That was one of my ways of trying to cover up the fact that what we were doing was fiction.
That’s something else I want to point out, man, being in the football world, the wrestling world and the MMA world, I truthfully believe the largest percentage of good people are in MMA. The level of accessibility and the down to earth nature is what separates MMA from other sports. NASCAR is pretty much the same way in that the drivers are very approachable during the event. It’s the people’s sport, really.”
Tony Reid – Do you remember the first combat sports event that you ever watched?
Bill Goldberg – “The UFC started it for me. I had taken different martial arts individually but I had never seen a competition like that. I had seen Pancrase prior but it really didn’t grab me like the UFC did. Truthfully, I believe and this is a whole different conversation, but part of me likes the old UFC platform best. Reality is that you can’t be stuck in that world anymore and for people to compete you have to be well rounded. But for me it was like Street Fighter back in the day. You see Gracie come in there against a guy that is 200 pounds heavier and choke out the guy in 45 seconds. You always have the element of surprise in there. Back then you didn’t know what was going on. For me, that was the pinnacle of the sport. Obviously, nobody was making money but fan wise that was extremely fun.”
Tony Reid – What are your thoughts on the current state of MMA?
Bill Goldberg – “As much as I love MMA, it is killing the traditional martial arts. That is why I have a Muay Thai gym and not an MMA gym. I want to try to do my part in keeping the traditional arts relevant. I know they are going away but how many high school or college kids do you know that are training in one singular discipline? It’s just not happening. What I am most disappointed with is that the traditional concept of martial arts has been lost. That is the building block of mixed martial arts, respect and all that stuff.”
Tony Reid – You have stated that you researched a great deal of martial arts in the infancy of your wrestling career. Where are all of those tapes/DVDs now? In watching all the events you watched then, who struck you most and what style did you relate to most?
Bill Goldberg – “What I did is I kept all of them and now I co-own a Muay Thai gym here in Oceanside, CA called Extreme Power and the tapes are all there. I wanted to show the co-owner who is an 8th degree dan and a monster in that world, as well as the other guys at the gym a few different styles to expand their games and open their minds to different styles and techniques. They (the tapes) definitely didn’t go to waste!”
Tony Reid – Who are your favorite fighters (past or present) to watch as a fan of the sport?
Bill Goldberg – I used to love watching Wanderlei (Silva) and most of the guys during the PRIDE days. Dan Henderson is a machine, man. To see what he is doing at his age is beautiful, it’s wonderful. I am a fan of most of these guys because of their personalities, not necessarily because of their fighting styles. I love watching Melvin Manhoef. Whether he has the right mentality for success or not, that kid goes out to blow you up. Wanderlei used to be the same way. Guys just can’t go in there and go crazy anymore but I used to like watching a lot of the PRIDE guys.
Tony Reid – There is a long and growing list of fighters turned wrestlers and wrestlers turned fighters. To what do you attribute that crossover appeal?
Bill Goldberg – “Well, it’s a hard transition to make whether it be from pro wrestling to fighting or fighting to pro wrestling. There are some guys that could make it an easier transition than others, guys that have a character or personality in the MMA world already, Quinton Jackson could do it in three seconds. He has that personality. As far as wrestlers going into fighting, well, that is a whole different story. The years that they trained to be involved in wrestling could have been used to train in mixed martial arts. That puts them behind the 8 ball, no matter how old or young they are. It’s time that’s kind of wasted. I don’t know if it’s a realistic transition from pro wrestling to MMA because some of the wrestlers might believe they are tougher than they are. Although, if you get ahold of a guy back in the day and it’s was an option, I guarantee you the Steiner Brothers and Meng and the Barbarian would have made a huge splash in the MMA world. I don’t know of a human being alive that could take out Meng in his prime. I really don’t. One story I remember was when it took like 13 guys to get him out of a bar with Ric Flair. He was pepper sprayed and laughed at the cops and broke the cuffs right in front of them. This was a totally different human being.
You look at a guy like Jon Jones, he was athletic enough to have been able to pick and choose a sport to excel in and he chose MMA. Now you are seeing guys that have the athletic ability to be able to play any sport that are foregoing that opportunity to take up MMA. I think that’s the new breed. They are going to come in and its going to be a totally different story. We are starting to see that now.”
Tony Reid-So, I can’t let you go without getting a WCW/Pro Wrestling story from you. You will go down as one of the most iconic figures in the history of the industry. Can you share a story with us that the masses haven’t heard?
Bill Goldberg – “It’s really hard to look back and find truly wonderful stories of my time in the industry. The best time in my entire athletic career, excluding me being drafted in the NFL, was the night when I beat (Hulk) Hogan. And it wasn’t because I beat Hogan; it was because at the end of the night all the guys I played pro football with on the Atlanta Falcons wanted to be me. They came out to the ring, they wanted the limelight and they wanted to help me. I had Chuck Smith, Cornelius Bennett, Jesse Tuggle; I mean that was very cool for me. All I ever wanted to do was be a pro football player. I unfortunately got hurt, I didn’t have the ability to excel and be the player I wanted to be and I had to give it up. That’s all I ever wanted to do. I did the pro wrestling because I had to. I became fond of it, but at that point in time the guys who I revered more than anybody in the world wanted to be me. So, that was some real poetic justice for me.”