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The slogan for Survivor Series is "Fantasy warfare come to life" which is funny for a couple different reasons. For starters, the headlining match is Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar, and it isn't really a fantasy match because it already happened once before—a match at WrestleMania XX that is memorable for being awful and the crowd booing both men. In addition, a match is generally called a "fantasy" or "dream" match because there is good reason. The Big Show vs Andre the Giant is a dream match because Andre the Giant is dead. Bruno Sammartino vs John Cena is a dream match because Sammartino is in his 80s.
But despite those issues, WWE has once again gone full-throttle on pushing a match between two part-time wrestlers as the special attraction at Survivor Series and in a lot of ways it is the only true match of consequence on the entire show. My personal stance on this is simple: I really don't want to see the match and I think WWE could be better served by having actual full-time talent in the most heavily hyped match. I have no interest in seeing Goldberg ever wrestle again and it is clear WWE is doing this because he is one of the few nostalgia acts they haven't brought back and bled dry yet.
One thing I cannot deny though is that the feud has been pretty interesting. Goldberg came back on RAW several weeks ago in Denver and came across really well with the live crowd. His reasoning for coming back was one part reality and one part storyline; he wanted one more match because his wife and son did not know him as a big wrestler and he wanted them to experience it once. He also said that he was tired of Brock Lesnar making excuses for losing to him back at WrestleMania XX and wanted to settle the score once and for all. In doing so Goldberg came across as the best babyface WWE has had since Daniel Bryan, someone that was genuinely happy to be loved by the audience and also had a lot of ass-kicking charisma. The crowd was likely to pop big for a nostalgia act, but Goldberg made them excited for something beyond his mere presence appearing once more in a wrestling ring. For a guy that was never known as a great promo during his career, Goldberg ended up cutting one of the best ones of 2016—which is an indicator of just how poor the quality of promos has become.
The program hit a snag when Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar came out for a promo and tried to become the heels in the feud. The crowd loves Lesnar and will never really boo him, if he didn't become a heel after ending the Undertaker's streak he is never going to be a real heel. In fact, WWE has put more effort in getting Lesnar over as a kick-ass babyface hero than for anyone else not named Roman Reigns. The very idea that the crowd is going to boo Lesnar is laughable, no matter how likeable Goldberg is some fans are always going to be cheering for Brock. Why wouldn't they? He has been the most entertaining guy in the company for YEARS.
On Monday WWE produced a good video package complete with promos that hyped the match pretty well. Brock is pretty much allowed to say whatever he wants in these little bits and it is in those moments that his personality really shines. Like most great characters, Lesnar's character in WWE is really just an extension of himself. He is allowed to say that WrestleMania XX didn't matter because he was done with wrestling and didn't give a s--t because he REALLY was done with wrestling and didn't give a s--t. Whatever momentum they lost during the poor Heyman promo they regained with that video package.
WWE brought back Goldberg for a couple reasons, mainly because the fundamental principle for their big shows is now that they need a special attraction match featuring wrestlers that don't work regularly. Goldberg was willing to do the match and WWE had not exploited fans' nostalgia for him to the fullest extent.
However another necessity to bringing in Goldberg is that WWE has really boxed themselves in when it comes to booking Lesnar. Lesnar has been so unstoppable that the people that could realistically defeat him can be counted on one hand. Booking Lesnar as an unstoppable machine has made him the popular act that he is—but at the same time they may have booked him a little bit too strong. You can't just book him with anybody because the fans will never buy them hanging with Lesnar. He essentially squashed Randy Orton at SummerSlam—and who has a bigger resume of success than Orton? If Orton didn't stand a chance against Lesnar who does? Three of the names in WWE whose reputations would allow them to stand-up to Lesnar (The Undertaker, Triple H and John Cena) have already completed feuds with Lesnar, making that shortlist even shorter. That is why they really had to go outside the box to find a suitable opponent for Lesnar.
I don't think he is going to lose to Goldberg, but sooner or later Lesnar is going to have to do a clean job to someone fresh. His act is still really cool; but it is beginning to get the slightest bit stale. For some fans they are tired of his "suplex city" gimmick and the aspect of watching one large man effortlessly throw around other large men in glorified squash matches can only be entertaining for so long. Even if he wins at Survivor Series the match will move Lesnar one step closer to his expiration date.
While the build-up has been good, the match itself is still going to be a struggle. Lesnar is an underrated performer as far as the storytelling he can exhibit in a match; but in a lot of ways he is still a one-trick pony. Goldberg is going to be a difficult opponent for Lesnar because with the exception of his match against Reigns it will be the first time Lesnar isn't working with a veteran opponent that can lead the match. Goldberg hasn't worked in over 12 years and wasn't necessarily a great worker when he was in his prime. The match is going to be carefully laid out, but I would expect a short main event and it is likely there are going to be some noticeable mistakes.
The actual quality of the match doesn't matter as much as the crowd's reaction to it—that will be the true measuring stick of success for these two. Their match at WrestleMania XX wasn't a technical disaster, but is remembered as colossal failure because the audience openly rejected it. In 2016, I actually think the crowd is going to make the match a success. There has been some concern about the match taking place in Toronto because the Toronto fans have been notably hard to predict and they are likely to dislike Goldberg because he is still blamed for ending Bret Hart's career. That is okay, because even if they boo Goldberg I think they will definitely cheer for Lesnar, which long-term is the better result anyway since Goldberg is largely viewed as a one-and-done nostalgia act. Remember, the match at WrestleMania XX bombed because the crowd hated BOTH guys; as long as they cheer for Lesnar they should be fine.
I was skeptical about WWE bringing back Goldberg, but the crowd has reacted well to him and even if he his jeered at Survivor Series it will still seem like his return has been a success. The real question in the fallout of the match is what is next for Lesnar? The current rumor is for Lesnar to face Shane McMahon at WrestleMania next year; which would just be a delay of the inevitable. Eventually Lesnar has to lose and him facing Shane is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Ideally a new wrestler, preferably Shinsuke Nakamura or Samoa Joe will emerge and defeat him; but that would require WWE to actually elevate a newer talent to the same level as Triple H, Cena and The Undertaker; something they have been incredibly reluctant to do.
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