WWE Monday Night Raw “Legends Night” paid tribute to the legends Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Mickie James and many others. Like most WWE events since mid 2020, it was held at the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida with crowds watching through monitors rather than being there in person.
With monitors situated around the field along with a gigantic titantron, the WWE calls this set up the Thunderdome. But the legends as well as the current performers were at the event in person. The main event of Legends Night was the current WWE Champion Drew McIntyre vs the challenger Keith Lee. This match itself would have been legendary if not for the aftermath.
The Scottish Psychopath, McIntyre, and the Limitless One, Lee, fought a hard battle over the WWE Championship. In addition, WWE superstars from the past watched from the titantron. Both wrestlers threw so much punishment at each other. If you wanted to see the WWE equivalent of a heavy-hitting battle between DC’s Superman and Marvel’s Luke Cage, you were looking at.
Ultimately, McIntyre would win the match after executing his finisher, the Claymore Kick. Both gladiators, weary and beaten, gave each other a fist bump as a show of respect. Any wrestling fan, current wrestler, or wrestling veteran viewing the match, would argue that this match was a classic. At least I thought it was.
After Lee left, McIntyre grabbed a microphone to speak to the WWE Legends sitting in front of the titantron. But as he was about to speak, a theme from the WWE’s and WCW’s past emanated from the Thunderdome’s speakers. The multi-time heavyweight champion and WWE Hall of Famer Bill Goldberg appeared from the titantron as the WWE Legends were on their feet clapping. As Goldberg walked to the ring to confront McIntyre, the crowd at the Thunderdome chanted his name. It was as if the past was meeting the present.
Goldberg finally met the current McIntyre face-to-face. He praised the Scottish wrestler by saying that “there couldn’t be a better representative of the WWE Champion.” Goldberg told McIntyre that while he had size, speed, and athleticism, he did not have one thing: respect.
Gildberg insinuated that McIntyre perceived the legends as if they were washed up tired old men and women. Then he challenged McIntyre for the WWE championship at the Royal Rumble. McIntyre retorted that Goldberg was not the same as he was in the past. He further took a shot at Goldberg by saying that fighting him would be like fighting his dad. Goldberg mockingly laughed at the current champion and shoved him down the ring canvas at the close of the episode.
First off, I like Goldberg. I did not watch too many of his matches in WCW since I was mostly a WWE fan, but I got to see him in action on RAW around the year 2003. His feud with Triple H over the world Heavyweight Championship was his biggest highlight.
Many wrestling fans called Triple H’s run with the “Big Gold Belt,” the “Reign of Terror.” Fans did not like the idea of Hunter Hearst Hemsley having several reigns with the World Heavyweight Championship. Some fans asserted that the reason for Triple H’s reigns had to do with nepotism. Around 2003 and in real life, Triple H married Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. Triple H retained the title against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Scott Steiner, and Booker T. So, it was refreshing to have Goldberg win the title from the founding father of D-Generation X.
But this isn’t the year 2003. It’s 2021. The wrestling industry has changed and so have the fans and the performers. With the presence of the internet, wrestling fans have gotten smarter. In addition, the average performer does not necessarily have to be a body builder type to join the wrestling business.
I have to agree with Drew McIntyre that Bill Goldberg (as much as I admire him) is not the same Goldberg that dominated WCW with an undefeated streak. He is not the Sherman Tank that plowed through his opponents in RAW. He’s just an old soldier asking for another fight from a younger, stronger, and quicker opponent in one Drew McIntyre.
Perhaps this is WWE’s version of Frank Miller’s iconic (and awesome) graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” in which an old Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to become Batman and fight the mutant threat in Gotham City. But we have already seen the WWE do that story with Goldberg many times when he challenged Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2016, when he won the Universal title from Kevin Owens at WWE Fastlane 2017, and when he won the Universal title again, this time from the Fiend Bray Wyatt at WWE Super Showdown 2020.
The nostalgia was great when Goldberg returned to face Brock Lesnar for the first time in 12 years and beat him under 2 minutes. However, fans understand that the nostalgia act has worn off. No one wants to see legends duke it out; fans want to see new faces. They want young superstars to reach for Vince McMahon’s “brass ring.”
Current WWE superstar Ali’s rant about the legends on Raw Talk with fellow superstar R-Truth and Charly Caruso can echo this sentiment. Known for his acrobatic wrestling style, Ali remarked that an event like WWE Raw Legends night is what is wrong with the WWE. Ali questioned why the WWE should pay tribute for yesterday’s WWE Superstars for three hours. R-Truth responded that the show was for respect.
Ali responded by acknowledging that those same legends paved the way for him and the current superstars. But he then he rhetorically asked when was the brass going to let him walk on that path and why were superstars like him, Drew Gulak, Akira Towzawa, and many others were not on the show. Then he answered that the WWE basically clamors for legends like Hulk Hogan so many times. Charly Caruso, a WWE announcer, asked Ali if he heard the standing ovation for the legends. Ali sarcastically acknowledged the cheers and then asked this question:
“Why don’t you give us a chance?” Ali asked. “People that can contribute to this business further this company but no, no, no let’s push them all aside and let’s give three hours to people that can barely walk.”
Caruso and Truth responded that the reason that the legends could barely walk was because they had put their bodies on the line. Ali acknowledged that the legends paid their dues to allow the industry to grow and pave the way for performers. Then he asked once more when he got to walk on that path. He also noted that the WWE needed to change.
Whether Ali’s rant was a scripted or legit, it is very reflective of how many fans and wrestlers have been slowly turning away from the WWE.
Just take a look at how All Elite Wrestling (AEW) was founded.
AEW was established by a group of wrestlers who decided that they wanted to control their own narrative. They did not want backstage politics or some “legend” to dampen their ascension. The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), Kenny Omega, and Cody Rhodes decided to create AEW. And very soon, independent wrestlers (some the WWE probably rejected) and other under-utilized WWE wrestlers flocked to AEW. Notable performers were Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose), Miro (Rusev), Taynara Conti, and FTR (The Revival).
The oldest performers to have flocked to AEW were Chris Jericho, Matt Hardy, and Dustin Rhodes. And although Jericho was the inaugural AEW World Heavyweight Champion, the company focused more on younger talent. Jericho lost the belt to Moxley who then recently lost it to Omega. There has not been a wrestling legend, like Goldberg, who has challenged Moxley or Omega for the AEW Championship. Not one. And although WCW legend Sting debuted at AEWs “Winter Is Coming,” he did not challenge Kenny Omega for the title.
Going back to the Goldberg vs McIntyre feud, I think it would be unwise to put the title on Goldberg. It would not make any sense and it would take away the momentum that McIntyre has. Goldberg winning the title from The Fiend Bray Wyatt made no sense. Wyatt should have kept the title since a win over Goldberg would have given him more momentum. But the WWE had to give the title to Goldberg only for him to lose it to Braun Strowman.
The Goldberg vs McIntyre match is a bad idea. If the WWE hands over the belt to Goldberg, it will be the same result as Goldberg vs The Fiend; McIntyre’s momentum would sink. The best-case scenario in this match would be for Goldberg to put McIntyre over. It would have to be similar to Brock Lesnar defeating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 30. When Lesnar, defeated Undertaker and broke the Deadman’s Wrestlemania streak, it further solidified his character as the “Beast Incarnate” and “Conquer.” It was also a passing of the torch from a performer of WWE’s Attitude era of the 1990s to one of the Ruthless Agression era of the 2000s. If the WWE Champion goes over Goldberg, it would definitely bolster his star power as a wrestler.
If there is anything that this upcoming match and WWE Legends night should reminds us, it is that WWE should focus on their newer talent. It is no wonder why so many fans love NXT and Smackdown more than RAW. Both NXT and Smackdown show amazing matches whereas for me, RAW is just another soap opera due to too much drama and less in-ring storytelling. RAW’s ratings are plummeting and AEW is dominating the popular NXT in the demographic ratings.
If WWE wants to get it’s swagger back it will need to showcase younger talent. Fans will remember the legends like Goldberg. Didn’t WWE created their online network for that reason?