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31 Days of Wrestling (12/16/16): Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, Survivor Series

Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. It's that time of year again when we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match a day for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling this calendar year produced for us.

Today, we look at what was probably the most buzzworthy return in a year full of them.


2016 has been a funny, funny year in wrestling for returns.

In the past calendar year, we've seen Bob Backlund, Mick Foley, Daniel Bryan, Shane McMahon, "Showtime" Percy Watson, The Headbangers, The Spirit Squad, Jinder Mahal, Luke Gallows, Curt Hawkins, Mickey James, Tajiri, and The Brian Kendrick make their way back to WWE programming.

Some of those names have long been afterthoughts in the minds of most wrestling fans—novel surprises at the least, great one-offs at best. Seeing Shane and D-Bry running SmackDown Live is a joy we never knew we wanted. Mick being back on WWE programming in general is a great thing as well. But when it comes to the in-ring work of the aforementioned talents, we weren't expecting all that much. Sure, some of these guys have a lot left in the tank. Then again, some were just brought in to do the job for up-and-coming talent. We didn't expect 5-star matches out of Tajiri in the CWC, after all, or even The Brian Kendrick to be as good as he is with the Cruiserweight division. These returns came in with tempered expectations, leaving enough room for moderate surprise when they exceed them.

And then we had Goldberg.


We would be remiss if we didn't talk about the return of Goldberg. When WWE 2K17's first promotional materials came out, the idea of having Goldberg as the featured wrestler of the year was inoffensive. The man was a legend in his own right in WCW. He would certainly be a fun character within the confines of a video game. He hadn't been involved with wrestling since leaving the company after WrestleMania XX. Bill Goldberg rode off into the sunset on his own terms. Sure, the match was horrible, but as far as we were concerned, Goldberg was done with WWE, done with wrestling. All that was left for him was to come back for a few episodes of RAW to promote the video game, get his Hall of Fame induction, and that would be enough.

And then, Paul Heyman threw down the challenge for one more match.

Heyman knew Goldberg was the last unavenged loss on his client's resumé. This was supposed to be a cake-walk of a match compared to what Brock has been through since his own return. This was The Beast Incarnate's match to lose. This was the Brock Lesnar, who in his most recent appearance, brutally forced open a gash in Randy Orton's head. This was the same man who, for the better part of two years, has suplexed anything, and everything in his way simply because he wanted to. This version of Brock Lesnar never looked this dangerous.

In contrast, Goldberg was off living the quiet life of a family man, uninvolved with the day-to-day affairs of the wrestling world. Objectively speaking, the 49-year-old Goldberg didn't stand a chance against this Brock Lesnar.

And of course, Goldberg accepted the challenge.

Goldberg claimed to have one more Spear, one more Jackhammer in him.

And at Survivor Series, that was all he needed.



So maybe it was two Spears in actuality, but that's not the point.

It was shocking to see Brock go down as easily as he did, but this result goes far beyond pure shock value. What Goldberg achieved in under two minutes will reverberate well into the impending WrestleMania season. With the loss, Brock Lesnar is no longer the MMA behemoth who takes joy in toying around with sports entertainers.

In storyline, Goldberg has shown that Brock can be beat, that Brock is not the same beast, not the same conqueror he once was. Whatever gets lined up for Brock afterwards isn't as much of a foregone conclusion as it once was, which is more than we can ask for from a squash match like this. As for Goldberg, it seems as though he has enough in him to make it to the Royal Rumble match. After this performance, maybe a few more Spears and a couple of Jackhammers won't be so bad.

*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2016.

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