After a 12-year hiatus from which many believed he would never return, WCW icon Bill Goldberg made a sudden and bombastic WWE comeback. Goldberg’s return to pro wrestling was met with millions of screaming fans and the adulation of his peers, which was somewhat surprising considering the general response the wrestling community had given Goldberg in the past. He was always wildly popular with fans, but backstage, people had trouble accepting the level of success Goldberg received in such little time. This problem ran rampant throughout his epic winning streak in WCW, and might have even gotten worse during his first run in WWE, making it all the more impressive how smoothly Goldberg has transitioned himself back into the role of a dominating monster seemingly adored by all.
This isn’t to say Goldberg hasn’t made any friends during his time in wrestling as well, though. It wouldn’t have been possible for Goldberg to become the phenomenon he was without significant support from his co-workers, helping the greatest rookie sensation in wrestling learn through matches, feuds, and advice concurrent with his meteoric rise to the top. Keeping the surprises coming, a couple of Goldberg’s best friends were also the people who have complained about him the most, and yet whatever public issues they shared seemed only to embolden their relationships. Less surprising may be the fact quite a few of Goldberg’s closest allies in WCW were also the people to beat him or at least came close to doing so. Keep reading to learn about 15 wrestlers you had no idea were friends with Goldberg.
15. Curt Hennig
Ten full years before Goldberg’s ran roughshod from the midcard to main event of WCW, Curt Hennig dominated WWE with a winning streak of his own. Starting in the fall of 1988, Hennig would go undefeated for over an entire year, with announcers referring to it as a “perfect record” in honor of his nickname, Mr. Perfect. Hennig eventually lost to Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania VI and would continue losing on occasion from there, but he remained a big deal in wrestling throughout the ‘90s regardless. In fact, Hennig was such a big deal that he was Goldberg’s first official challenger after the winning streak lead him to the WCW World Championship. Unsurprisingly, Hennig came up short in his every attempt, losing at Bash at the Beach 1998 and again the next night on Nitro, but the matches were still amongst the highest profile of his long and impressive career. Hennig may have earned the honor through his friendship with Goldberg, which Goldberg later attributed to Hennig’s sense of humor, along with his willingness to help out rookies when he believed it would be good for business. If that was the case, Hennig picked the perfect student with Goldberg.
14. Bret Hart
This entry may come as a pretty big shock to fans of Bret Hart or WCW in general. For well over a decade since the incident happened, Bret Hart has been blaming Goldberg for ending his career with an errant kick to the head at Starrcade 1999, a mistake Goldberg himself openly admits to having committed. The two had been in an on-again off-again feud for about two months prior to the incident, which saw Bret defeat Goldberg a number of times by pin fall and far screwier means, as well as the duo winning the WCW Tag Team Championships as partners. These couple months together don’t sound like enough to have superseded a career ending injury, but according to both Bret and Goldberg, the bond between them was never broken even after Goldberg forced Bret into retirement. Granted, definitely some leftover resentment whenever Bret brings up the incident during interviews, and Goldberg has gone on the record to say he felt horrible about the ordeal. However, these statements also often include the caveat that the two have always been friends, a major detail most wrestling news sources leave out of the story.
13. Bobby Heenan
Okay, we admit it, humanoids: Bobby Heenan never plainly stated that he and Goldberg were particularly good friends. Fellow announcer Mike Tenay has claimed as much, but The Brain is always distracted talking about something else related to Goldberg when the subject arises. There are many theories as to why WCW went out of business in the pathetic fashion it did, with Heenan’s personal theory definitely part of the problem. The Brain believes the failure of WCW directly relates to them having Goldberg lose and end the streak, something he absolutely never would have done. Heenan has gone so far as to argue Goldberg’s streak should’ve gone 3,000-0, a feat that would have taken approximately 17 years at the rate he was going. This doesn’t necessarily mean the two were eating lunch together every day, but it does paint a picture of Heenan as one of the biggest Goldberg supporters in history, something that definitely helped WCW fans connect with Da Man during his streak.
12. “Diamond” Dallas Page
Especially since his career ended and he started helping those in need, “Diamond” Dallas Page is quite possibly one of the most popular men in wrestling. Practically no one has a bad word to say about DDP, and included in that bunch is Goldberg, a person Page became particularly close to during their time at the top of WCW. DDP was at ringside when Goldberg won the WCW Championship, and the two would later engage in a number of classic matches, most notably their title bout at Halloween Havoc 1998, which many consider Goldberg’s all time greatest match. In contrast to Bobby Heenan’s beliefs on the matter, in retrospect DDP has revealed he always thought he should’ve won the match, something WCW booker Dusty Rhodes apparently agreed with him on. However, other WCW executives disagreed at the time, and Goldberg picked up the victory that night. Page later earned a modicum of revenge by winning a 4-way match with Goldberg, Sting, and Kevin Nash the next year on Nitro, though he didn’t specifically defeat Goldberg in doing so. More importantly, they remained friends through it all, which is probably why their feud lasted longer than the average for Goldberg.
11. Scott Steiner
While quite a few of the wrestlers on this list had a surprising win or two over Goldberg, Scott Steiner is still unique in that he’s perhaps the only wrestler to outright annihilate Goldberg in the course of a single match. The beating took place at Fall Brawl 2000, when Steiner defeated Goldberg in a no disqualification match that somehow managed to be a classic of the genre even despite interference from Midajah and Vince Russo. Worse than some weird distractions was that Goldberg got his win back in under five minutes two Nitro’s later. More important than any of that, Goldberg and Scott Steiner had been friends backstage since long before their feud, with The Steiner Brothers amongst Goldberg’s most preferred travelling companions. More than a full year prior to Goldberg’s WWE return, he made his general return to wrestling by showing up to spear Steiner at a handful of Legends of Wrestling events, showing their union wasn’t one to soon fade with Goldberg’s career. In recent months, Steiner has been complaining about Goldberg resuming his relationship with WWE, perhaps a sign this friendship is nearing an end. However, he and Goldberg exchanged some trash talk prior to the LOW appearance and Goldberg treated it like it was kayfabe, so that may be the case this time, as well.
10. Rick Steiner
Almost everywhere Scott Steiner is to be found, his brother Rick isn’t far behind, though in the case of Goldberg, it may have been the other way around. According to Rick, he and Goldberg hit it off pretty much from the day Goldberg walked into the company, due largely to Goldberg’s desire to become one of the greats. Rick claimed Goldberg always asked lots of questions he found himself more than happy to answer. Goldberg returned the favor by introducing Rick to some Georgia football players, and the two have remained strong friends ever since. Inside the ring, Rick feuded Goldberg before Scott, as well, culminating in a match at Road Wild 1999. Unlike his brother, Rick fared no chance against Goldberg and was quickly dispatched. They also once competed as a tag team earlier that year, against the tandem of Rick’s brother and Buff Bagwell. In contrast to his brother, Rick merely wished Goldberg luck upon his WWE return, specifically hoping his friend doesn’t forget his age and wind up injured like their former co-worker, Sting.
9. Sid Vicious
WCW loved bringing up Goldberg’s previous career as a player for the Atlanta Falcons, although they never quite explained just how heavily this affected his time in wrestling. The obvious ways in which a background in athletics can help a wrestler aside, Atlanta is also where WCW was headquartered, meaning wrestlers and the Falcons would occasionally run into each other and interact outside of their respective sports. According to Sid Vicious, this was the case with him and Goldberg, which is how the two became friends several years before they ever crossed paths in WCW. They finally did so in 1999, when Sid made his return to the company with the promise he was “The Millennium Man,” mimicking and/or mocking Goldberg’s streak in an attempt to intimidate his friend. The two squared off a handful of times, most notably at Halloween Havoc and Mayhem, both matches seeing Goldberg summarily defeat Sid with increasing ease. Their friendship only grew stronger in real life as things escalated in the ring, something Sid attributes to Goldberg having been one of the kindest and nicest people in wrestling.
8. Arn Anderson
Having friends looking out for you is helpful in any profession, and if those friends are respected legends, there’s no limit to just how helpful they may be. Arn Anderson had the help of a future legend when he started out, receiving what he called invaluable advice from Ted DiBiase in the early ‘80s. Anderson asked DiBiase how he could repay him, and DiBiase replied that Anderson should pay it forward and help out a rookie of his own when he was in position to do so. Anderson picked the best rookie possible in doing so, selecting Bill Goldberg upon his arrival to WCW in 1997. Chances are the decision was heavily inspired by the fact 1997 was also the same year Arn Anderson retired. While this means he and Goldberg never locked up in the squared circle, Double A was nonetheless able to impart constant pieces of wisdom to Goldberg outside the ring, specifically helping Goldberg with writing and performing his promos. Goldberg also needed a little help in the ring when he first started out, something Arn constantly gave him pointers on. Proud though Arn was of Goldberg’s in-ring exploits, the Enforcer referred to Goldberg’s incredible kindness to the fans as the thing he’s most proud of having been a party to.
7. Booker T
Outside of Goldberg and perhaps “Diamond” Dallas Page, there’s little argument to the fact Booker T was one of the biggest stars created entirely by WCW. The main difference between the two is that Booker’s rise to the main event was a slow and gradual process taking somewhere in the neighborhood of seven years, while Goldberg needed only a little over seven months to go from a complete unknown to World Champion. Regardless of how it happened, they reached the top almost at the same time, with Booker earning his first piece of glory only two years after Goldberg and at a time Goldberg was still one of the top stars in WCW. Because of this, it was only a manner of time before the two did battle. In fact, it was barely two weeks after Booker defeated Jeff Jarrett for the WCW Championship that Booker and Goldberg squared off, and despite a false finish and a bit of interference, Booker cemented his rise to the top by beating The Man. In Booker’s autobiography, he discussed needing to fight for the moment, since Goldberg apparently didn’t want to lose even though he and Booker had long been good friends. Ultimately, something must have convinced him, and luckily it wasn’t enough to destroy the friendship either way.
6. Kevin Nash
Perhaps even more shocking than Bret Hart having appeared on this list after Goldberg ended his career is the appearance of Kevin Nash, the man who will forever go down in history as the first person to officially defeat Goldberg in WCW. Despite Nash and especially his close friend Scott Hall having complained at length about Goldberg since then, at the time, Goldberg actually seemed perfectly content with the idea due to the fact he and Nash were friends. Goldberg regularly includes Nash when listing off the people in WCW who helped him the most, though he never gets specific about it, and always appears to have a twinge of regret in doing so. Prior to whatever negative comments Nash made about Goldberg, the two were confirmed to have been regular traveling partners, so it isn’t a total surprise some friendship blossomed between them, but the level to which it crashed and burned still makes it a shock the two ever got along at all. Outside of the ring, Nash and Goldberg have also appeared in a movie together, the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard.
5. Lex Luger
Given how much of an honor it was to even defeat Goldberg once, imagine how big a deal it should have been when Lex Luger retired him at WCW Sin in 2001. There were a few factors preventing it from even making a dent in history, most importantly that WCW was out of business less than two months later. There were also the other two participants in the match, Buff Bagwell and DeWayne Bruce, a career jobber thrust into the role due to his status as Goldberg’s primary trainer. It was nonetheless fitting that Luger be the one to end Goldberg’s WCW career, considering that he was one of the people who started it several years earlier when Goldberg was rehabbing an injury and between teams in the NFL. Luger was with Sting and the two spotted Goldberg at a gym they owned, soon convincing him to leave his football dreams behind in favor of boundless glory in the squared circle. Between Luger and Sting, Goldberg would actually become closer to The Icon, so on that note…
As previously mentioned, Goldberg’s career in pro wrestling began in earnest when he started frequenting Main Event Fitness in Atlanta, a gym owned by Sting and Lex Luger. The two repeatedly tried to goad Goldberg into the ring, only for him to refuse, firmly believing his football career was far from over. Soon, however, Goldberg started observing Sting and the way he handled his family life along with his career, and realized that on Sting’s example, pro wrestling might in fact be the perfect life for him. Perhaps due to this connection, while Goldberg and Luger didn’t start locking up in the ring until late 2000, Sting allowed himself to become one of the highest profile opponents Goldberg faced during his initial streak. In September of 1998, Goldberg retained his WCW Championship by defeating Sting on an episode of Nitro. Outside of Hollywood Hogan, who Goldberg defeated for the belt in the first place, Sting was without a doubt the biggest name Goldberg had yet to conquer, a fact they would revisit multiple times over the next few years, often with similar results.
3. Brock Lesnar
Despite the fact Goldberg’s entire career was based upon defeating his opponents in 90 seconds or less, his total squash victory over Brock Lesnar at the 2016 Survivor Series will likely go down as one of the most shocking moments in WWE history. Most surprising of all is that it was apparently Lesnar’s idea, although once you look a little bit deeper, that strange piece of information might serve to explain the whole thing. Lesnar was also Goldberg’s final WWE opponent in 2004, and the two had been talking about wanting to revisit the match ever since it happened. The most important reason in their desire to go at it again seemed to be a deep friendship, with Goldberg often stressing that although he rarely watches wrestling in his personal life, Brock is one of the few people he’s always highly respected and been a huge fan of. Though this list makes it clear Goldberg made dozens of friends during his time in wrestling, Brock is the only close ally of his in WWE today, so it really seems almost obvious that his friend would do him the huge favor of bringing him back into the company with great aplomb.
2. The Rock
Goldberg’s second run in WWE may have already proven more successful than his first, but that doesn’t mean his time in the company was entirely forgettable. The best moments of Goldberg’s initial WWE run arguably all occurred at the start, when he forcefully made his debut the night after WrestleMania XIX to attack The Rock. Goldberg then engaged in a short feud against The Rock culminating in his first official WWE victory at Backlash, something that was rumored to have been part of a much bigger plan, ripped to shreds by The Rock’s movie commitments. Regardless, what little time they had together was still extremely important to Goldberg’s WWE career, most notably because it was The Rock who had been pushing so hard for Goldberg to enter the company to begin with. Goldberg himself had been adamant about never wanting to go to WWE, seeing it as a waste of money during the Invasion and a pointless endeavor any time after that. Eventually, The Rock must have convinced him it was at least worth it to go one on one with the Great One, and the rest of the year happened to pan out in his absence.
1. Steve Austin
During the Monday Night Wars, the ultimate dream match of virtually every wrestling fan alive was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin versus Bill Goldberg. Standing neck and neck as WWE and WCW’s top stars during the period when the two companies were achieving greater ratings than ever before due largely to the cutthroat tactics of their bosses, Austin and Goldberg nevertheless became friends when they finally met, and the friendship apparently never faded. The dream match never did happen due to Austin’s injuries, though they would wind up in the ring together a number of times during Goldberg’s initial WWE run. Both have been open about wishing a match could have happened at some point, though Austin’s neck pretty much leaves that entirely out of the question. This hasn’t stopped the alleged friends from light feuding amongst each other, having recently both made shoot comments to TMZ about one another’s drinking habits, but it would be reasonable to take the subject of this feud and view it more as a sign the two are still close than anything else.