In 2017, workers demolished the Georgia Dome, one of the most treasured venues in professional wrestling history. Truth be told, the Georgia Dome should have collapsed on this date in 1998 when Bill Goldberg defeated Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The fans in attendance lost their minds, throwing objects into the ring, screaming and stomping to the point where one could almost hear the foundation of the Georgia Dome cracking.
Goldberg was an unlikely star. He had the look of a muscular madman down to a science with his bald head and tribal tattoo. He wasn’t a great talker, but he did know one phrase: “Who’s next?” At that point, Goldberg was undefeated in the ring, the holder of one of the most celebrated winning streaks in wrestling history.
With a record like that, it was only a matter of time before Goldberg would face heel champion Hollywood Hulk Hogan. As the leader of the nWo, Hogan had been chewing the scenery for weeks. Hogan used to be a Real American, the leader of the Hulkamaniacs, the blonde-haired surfer dude who always beat the odds and, often, his opponents. Goldberg was something different, though. He didn’t seem to feel pain. His opening pyro bounced off his chest like tiny bullets. Goldberg was the number one contender for Hogan’s title. The match between the two was inevitable.
But no one expected it to happen on broadcast television. WCW fans would have gladly paid pay-per-view money to see that confrontation. Instead, the company gave that thing away for free. Being the heel, Hogan was a cheating machine. During the match, Hollywood Hogan threw Goldberg out of the ring and beat him with a chair. There was choking. There was a shot to Goldberg’s yambag. Most of all, there was outside interference.
While Hogan was leg-dropping Goldie from Atlanta to Hades inside the ring, Hogan’s nWo crony Curt Hennig came strolling down the ramp, ready to help Hogan retain the title. But behind Hennig were Diamond Dallas Page and NBA superstar Karl Malone. Malone made a lot of appearances in WCW. It was weird, and I’m sure there was some promotional tie-in behind Malone’s journey into the business, but wrestling makes strange ringfellows. Watching the Mailman give Mr. Perfect a Diamondcutter on the floor of the Georgia Dome was thrilling nonsense.
If you watched WCW regularly, you knew how this was going to end. Goldberg speared Hogan, knocking him on his back. Goldberg picked Hogan up for his signature move, the Jackhammer. Referee Charles Robinson slid in for the three-count… and new.
Bill Goldberg became, according to announcer Bobby Heenan, the first undefeated man ever to win a world championship. It was a big deal. It’s still a big deal. Hogan and Goldberg are two of the most recognizable wrestlers in the world. Goldberg’s win signaled the beginning of cracks within not only the nWo, but WCW itself. Arguably, the company pulled the trigger on that match too early. Should they have waited for a pay-per-view and made some serious cash? Perhaps. Worse business decisions would follow, leaving WCW open for purchase by the WWE in 2001.
In all, Goldberg won a whopping 173 matches before being pinned. Goldberg wound up losing the title to nWo member Kevin Nash after Scott Hall zapped Goldberg with a cattle prod. That was an ignominious way for Goldberg’s streak to come to an end. But for one tiny moment in 1998, Bill Goldberg was the king of everything. His victory over Hogan remains one of the most exciting moments in professional wrestling.