The first ever Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg match was not the big hit their following matches were. They first battled in a blockbuster match at Wrestlemania 20 (Stylised as “Wrestlemania XX) which pitted two of the most dangerous stars in WWE history, in what should have been a dream match for the fans. However, they completed rejected the match in the most hilarious way.
Before the bell even rang, the fans were completely apathetic to watching Lesnar taking on Goldberg. They booed both men on the way to the ring and once they entered they gave them not a minutes respite. The crowd sang “na na na na hey hey hey goodbye” for the bulk of the match, no matter what either men could do.
The only man in the match who got a positive reaction at all was the referee. To try and save the match, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was appointed as the special guest referee, a year after he had his last match a year prior, at Wrestlemania 19. He brought his quad bike riding, beer swilling personality to the match and despite the love of the crowd was unable to stop the crowd from completely derailing the fight.
However, it was not just the fans that ruined the match. Both Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg refused to take it seriously, wrestling a boring, basic match not befitting of a Wrestlemania spectacle. This disappointed the WWE fans and ruined a potential dream match. However, each man had a good reason for their reactions to the crowd and their performance in the match.
Bill Goldberg, the former WCW Champion, had only signed for the WWE one year prior. He had come into the company with great fanfare and excitement, and was put immediately into a feud with the biggest star in the industry – The Rock. Throughout the year he would be put into huge matches with the likes of The Rock, Triple H and Chris Jericho and was built up as one of the top stars in the company, although he wouldn’t see it that way.
Bill Goldberg decided before the event that he wasn’t going to extend his WWE contract. He had only signed for a year in 2003 and did not like the way his career had been in the company. Despite winning the World Heavyweight Championship, he was not happy with the way WWE was treating him or his character. He compared the treatment he was given by WCW, where he was considered the most popular wrestler in the company and was able to do whatever he wanted, and decided it wasn’t for him. WWE took that personally and began to feature him less and less, not even featuring him on the promotion for Wrestlemania or on the go-home show for the event.
Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar was just burnt out with wrestling. He had achieved everything he could in the WWE in such a short time, winning the King of the Ring, WWE Championship and the Royal Rumble, as well as main eventing Wrestlemania in just his first year in the business. He had other goals in life to follow and wanted to take his chance to play in the NFL, which he nearly did when he was cut last minute for the Minnesota Vikings.
He also was sick and tired of the WWE travel schedule. He had bought his own plane and bus to make the travel from town to town as easy as possible, but the time away from his home and family became too much. He loved wrestling but hated the grind that came with it, leaving because of the insane WWE schedule on his body. He would later return to the company on a reduced schedule and become one of the biggest stars in wrestling history.
Goldberg won the match between the two, but ultimately nobody really remembered. It was forgettable, boring and with both men leaving the company straight after, ultimately meaningless. The only reprieve was seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin back in a WWE ring, drinking beer and feeding stunners to every man, woman and child who stepped into the squared circle. Aside from Austin, the match was so boring because neither men wanted to risk their futures by doing too much and getting injured, so kept the match safe and simple, much to the chagrin of the paying public.
Austin spoke about why he thought the match did not resonate with the crowd, and how Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg did not give the match the fans expected, or deserved, from the too men, calling it “boring.
“It was little boring and crowd knew that both guys were leaving. It was pretty hard crowd. I think the crowd expected was those two guys just to pound the sh*t out of each other and it didn’t really happen like that.”
Lesnar and Goldberg would later fight again, at Survivor Series 2016 and Wrestlemania 2017. These matches were short, explosive and exactly what the matches needed to be. If the bout at Wrestlemania 20 had been like this, it would have been much better received and more fondly remembered.