DALLAS (NEXSTAR) — This weekend, Bill Goldberg, one of professional wrestling’s biggest stars from decades ago, steps back into the ring at 54 years old to compete for a championship.
It’s a move World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) hopes brings eyeballs back to an industry that’s struggled to keep its viewership during a pandemic that has emptied arenas.
As we’ve seen in the movie and television industry, nostalgia sells — and Bill Goldberg is a beloved throwback for many fans of sports entertainment. In the late 1990s, there weren’t many wrestlers hotter than World Championship Wrestling’s Goldberg.
The former college football standout burst onto the scene in 1997 going 173-0 at the beginning of his career — including a victory over Hulk Hogan in front of tens of thousands in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. He was one of the industry’s biggest stars at one of the peaks of the professional wrestling business.
Twenty-four years later, television audiences are much smaller for professional wrestling and in-person crowds are non-existent due to the pandemic. However, WWE hopes the former star has enough left in the tank to create a buzz at Sunday’s Royal Rumble event.
The big question: Can he be the 30-year-old version of himself at 54? Goldberg admits he’s not the same athlete he was more than two decades ago but argues he can still entertain crowds.
“I’m gonna show the world that Goldberg is still walking around and walking with a very heavy footstep, because I’m gonna put this foot right up Drew McIntyre’s ass,” Goldberg said in an interview with Ryan Satin of Fox Sports.
McIntyre is the much younger WWE champion Goldberg will face on Sunday. At 35 years old, he’s likely at the pinnacle of his career and in peak physical condition.
“He’s the face of a new generation. He is. I really can appreciate a lot of the things that he’s done,” Goldberg noted.
Even in a business where the winner is predetermined, there’s an expectation that the performers put on a top-notch show and compete at a high level. As you can imagine, that takes top conditioning, cardio and strength.
All eyes will be on the 54-year-old Goldberg Sunday to see if he can keep up in the fast-paced, action-packed world of professional wrestling — and provide the spark WWE fans are looking for.
The Royal Rumble streams Sunday night beginning at 7 p.m. EST on WWE Network.