WWE

One-on-one with Goldberg

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Before Bill Goldberg makes his much-anticipated return to the ring to face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series (LIVE this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on the WWE Network), I had the chance to chat with him about the work he’s been putting at the gym, his emotional return promo, who his son plays as in WWE 2K17 (available now on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360), UFC 205, Conor McGregor and the injury that he suffered on Monday night.

When you made your return a few weeks ago, you could see the emotion pour out as you walked through the curtain. What was it like to make the long walk through the back and out to the ring again?

“It’s terrifying you know … it’s … (pauses) … you’re coming back 12 years removed and trying to give people the same thing they loved before. It’s terrifying. Father time is not very receptive to keeping your body in the utmost shape once you reach a certain point in your life. Things don’t heal like they used to.”

“I just thrust myself out there man, with a very short period of time to get prepared. I’m never going to be happy. I’m never going to be satisfied. I just wish I would have had a little more time [to train], but it is what it is and you make do with what you’ve got.”

It still looks like you’re in very good shape though. Is there anything you’ve done to specifically train for this match on Sunday?

“Man I’ve trained three times a day, three days a week and then two times a day the remaining four days a week. I haven’t had a day off. I mean I’m doing PR now. I got here [NYC] at 1:30 in the morning after the show last night [in Buffalo]. I went to bed at three. I got up at 6:30 this morning to do this PR tour and then I’m flying five hours home this afternoon and I’m going to work out tonight.”

“The problem is that you’re trying to accomplish 50 things at once and it’s just not physically possible to give yourself the proper time to recuperate after all of these workouts. You know, I felt the ill effects of that when I tripped in the ring during my second appearance. I realized that I hadn’t had a day off in six weeks and I trained legs two days before that. It’s a logical explanation you know, but it’s a conundrum that’s quite difficult. You want to use your time wisely, but there’s only so much that you can shove in at one time and it becomes counterproductive. You become hurt and you’re exhausted. I’ve felt that over the past couple weeks.”

“You know five days removed from going up against one of the baddest dudes on the planet, I don’t want to be feeling like that. I’m terrified. I want to satisfy the people. I want to make my family proud of me, but at the end of the day, I’m never going to be able to satisfy myself. I just want to do it to where I can look myself in the mirror and be appreciative of the work that I put in and the performance that I did.”

Do you think that the moment you slipped in the ring it was your body telling you that it’s time to take a break?

“Oh God yes. Absolutely…”

It was at this point that I heard Goldberg say to someone from WWE: “Do we have a couple minutes extra or no?”

Guy from WWE: “Yeah we do”

Goldberg: “I’m going to jump out and buy my son something from there.”

Guy from WWE: “Sure, yeah.”

Goldberg: “I’m sorry dude, you’re going to have to keep this interview going as I buy my son some Legos.”

Well, if you say so.

You showed so much emotion in your first promo back that doesn’t seem to exist in the product anymore. How were you able to channel it and express it with the microphone?

“Man, I was just trying to be myself. I truly was. At the end of the day, that’s something that I haven’t been able to do in the wrestling ring. I put myself under so much pressure to be that monster all of the time. In my situation right now, it’s not a detriment to have a heart.”

“That’s one of my strong suits, but at the same time, I will rip your face off if you do something that I don’t like. The reigns between the two are very admirable, I believe. I think it shows that I’m diversified. I’m not just one guy. I’ve added a little dimension that I didn’t have in the past. I don’t know how to explain it, I really don’t.  I’m still horrible at them [promos]. I’m just trying to do what I do.”

Do you think the added dimension comes from the added life experiences that you’ve had?

“I think so. I think all of the things I’ve done over the past [few] years translate positively into my mic skills. Whether it’s life experiences or work experiences.”

So what was it like for your son to see you in the ring?

“It was the coolest thing in the world man! It was as cool as it can be. I’m greatly appreciative that I have the ability to be that guy. It’s really cool.”

Has he played you vs. Brock on WWE 2K17?

“Yes he has and unfortunately, he likes to play as Brock.”

Does he!?

“(Laughs) Yeah.”

Why does he play as Brock, what does he like about him?

“I don’t know, you’re going to have to ask him.”

The first time you faced Brock back at Wrestlemania 20, the crowd hijacked the match. Do you feel like this is an opportunity at redemption to deliver the match in proper context?

“In a way yes, but the unfortunate thing is people look at that match differently because of the situation that we were in. They don’t appreciate the fact that we really did put on a decent match I believe. I truly do. I don’t think I need redemption man. I really don’t. At the end of the day we give 100 percent in each performance and sometimes we can’t control the situation surrounding what’s going on and we have to do our best and that’s what we did.”

Have any of the younger guys come up to you for advice?

“Ah, not yet. I haven’t been there long enough to make them feel comfortable with me yet. I’m there for them man. I’ll give them as much advice as they ask for.”

Did you get a chance to watch UFC 205 over the weekend?

“Oh yeah, absolutely.”

What do you think of Conor McGregor’s rise?

“I think it’s indicative of the culture we have now. If you want something…..”

It was at this point my phone connection cut out with Goldberg for what felt like an eternity.

In reality, it was just 10 seconds.

“…for title shots when other guys have for their lives, but then again you have to look at the star power. You have to look at the big picture. You have to look at the money that this guy draws. I don’t like the kid. I don’t like the kid’s attitude, but I greatly appreciate his ability to be that guy. He’s working everybody and he’s doing a heck of a job. At the end of the day, the kid can back it up.”

“So, as much as I don’t appreciate some of the brash things he does, I greatly appreciate the fact that he’s one hell of a fighter and he’s even a better promoter.”

Was there anyone else on the card that stuck out to you?

“I would say that the dude who beat Weidman … (pauses) … what’s his name?”

“Yoel Romero”

“He’s an absolute freak of nature. Now I’m not real appreciative of the walk he did around the ring afterwards and what that likened itself to, but as far as raw talent and the viciousness of that kid, man he’s unbelievable.”

“I love Weidman and what he fights for. He’s a great kid. There’s a lot of great guys and girls who work in that company.”

I interviewed Weidman last year and he was one of the nicest guys I’ve met.

“He’s top notch man. They don’t make ‘em any better than him. He does it the way it should be. He does it the way I do it. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more important than your family. You live and you die to provide them with experiences and the ability to live life to its fullest and he’s a guy who takes it by the horns and I love him for it.”

“Renzo Gracie is an extremely close friend of mine and the things Renzo has told me about Chris are unbelievable.”

You told Brock “you’re last,” is this really the last time we’re going to see you in a WWE ring?

“I’m sure acting like it. At the end of the day, it’s all that I’m concerned about. I take one day as it is.”

“My body feels horrible. I tweaked my shoulder last night [on Raw], but that doesn’t mean in five days that I’m not going to come out kicking ass and taking names like I always do.”

Follow me on Twitter @ScottDargis

Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque opens up about WarGames and returning to the ring at Survivor Series

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This weekend is going to be a busy one for Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque.

On Saturday night he will be behind the scenes producing a match that hasn’t been seen in 19 years at NXT TakeOver: WarGames, which will stream live around the world on WWE Network at 8 p.m. ET.

And then on Sunday he’ll make his televised return at Survivor Series as a member of Team Raw in the five-on-five elimination match against Team SmackDown. (You can stream his return live around the world on the WWE Network starting at 7 p.m. ET.)

I had the chance to chat with HHH about how the return of WarGames came about, what makes the Undisputed Era special, and how long it took him to get comfortable in the ring again during his recent stretch of matches overseas.

Me: There have been rumors of a ‘WarGames’ match under the WWE umbrella for a long time now and after almost two decades we’re now just three days away from witnessing one. Walk me through the process of how we got here.

HHH: “For me ‘WarGames’ has always been a very viable concept. It wasn’t just a name, it was a branding of a match that was meaningful in WCW. It’s something I’ve always had interest in. I’ve always liked the concept as a fan.

As we move forward with NXT, it’s really started to become its own brand. We’ve had opportunities to do different things, whether that is ladder matches, or cage matches. But there was an opportunity that came along, given the weekend with Survivor Series and given the position [NXT] is in to brand something out and create something that NXT could own.

It seemed like the perfect time to bring it out, so I dusted it off. Throughout the years, I was aware of Vince’s feelings about it. There were some things about that match that he liked and there were some things about the concept that he didn’t necessarily think worked, especially in today’s world.

So I brought it back up to him and we walked through the process and I said here’s the way I think we can make this match work for us and he liked it, agreed with it, thought it worked great for NXT and was real happy to do it. So here we are.

When you do this, the goal is not to go backwards. My goal isn’t to make people go, ‘oh is this as good as it was back then?’ I want to put a slightly different spin on it, so that it begins again and takes a life of its own because it can’t be what it was.

I grew up watching it in the Dusty [Rhodes], [Ric] Flair, Four Horseman vs. the world sort of iteration of it and this cannot be that. It has to be today’s version of it. Hopefully it’ll be something that our fan base really enjoys.

I think the NXT fans are going to love it. I know the talent is very excited about it. When we announced the match and word began to spread on the Internet, a bunch of main roster talent came to me and said, ‘oh my God, you’re doing WarGames? Anyway I can do something in that?’

For me, it’s also a cool nod to Dream [‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes]. It’s cool that his vision is able to continue.”

How long did it take you nail down the format of this iteration of ‘WarGames’?

“In terms of creative or …”

More the structure. It’s one of the more complicated matches in the industry in terms of laying it out, so how did you get to a point where you felt comfortable with how the match will work?

“There is some complexity to it, even though there are some people saying, ‘But it’s three teams, it isn’t the same as it originally was.’ The thing is we don’t have the Four Horseman, with a manger, to make a five-man team. It convoluted the concept to me if you hogedpodge things together.

When the stories logically go to the next place and they just kind of connect together, that’s when they’re the best and I feel like that’s how this happened. Once we knew we were going to do it, it organically started to come together. You have Authors of Pain, you have Sanity, you have the Undisputed Era. There’s a three-way thing that is combustible and needs to be solved inside a double cage … what other way would you solve it? (Laughs)

So you organically get there and then there were some logistical ways to figure out the issues that were created by the concept. For example, someone could say, ‘well, why doesn’t the rest of the team just run out and try to get into the cage?’ Well they can’t because they’re in this other cage.

Hopefully this becomes a yearly event. Is this exact iteration of what we’ll see in the future? I don’t know. I hope so, but if there’s something in this that doesn’t work, then we’ll tweak it a little and try to perfect it.

Everything goes through its little changes in the beginning and then where it ends up you just kind of naturally end up and you forget about those little changes that happen over time. When you go back and look at them 10 years later you might go, ‘oh my God, I forgot that they started it that way.’

I’m really excited. I know the NXT locker room is really excited about doing this. There’s something really cool about being a part of something that’s historic, but making it new and making it the future. I think it’s a good opportunity. I think everyone is feeling the weight of that.

The TakeOver events are always kind of special for the NXT talent because they’re not often and they really encompass the storylines together, but this one seems to have more weight than normal, even for the people who aren’t in the ‘WarGames’ match itself.”

And that’s going to make them want to step up their game.

“Absolutely. Fan excitement combined with their excitement all leads to making magic. There’s been a lot of greatness surrounding this match in the past and they want to make sure that they not only live up to that, but also make it their own.”

What have been some of the production challenges that you’ve faced with the unique setup of a show with a ‘WarGames’ match on it due to the presence of the second ring?

“There’s a difficulty to everything because it doesn’t line up the same way. You set up your lighting rig, you set up your ring and it’s all based on centers and everything is structured a certain way and now you add in a second ring to that and you add in a cage that is going to hang and lower around two rings.

We had to build a whole new cage setup. We have to light differently. We had to arrange our ticketing differently. All of it is slightly different that require some logistic challenges.

The great thing about WWE and our team … I’ll go out on a limb here and say … that we have the best live event team anywhere. They see something like this as a challenge and they just go for it.”

The Undisputed Era has been the focal point of NXT since the ‘TakeOver: Brooklyn III’ show. What gave you the confidence in Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O’Reilly to ‘give them the ball and see where it goes?’

“I think they’re talented guys. You’re never 100 percent sure with anybody who walks in the door, but there are certain talent that you see come in who have an innate ability right away.

Are there things we have to work on with them? Absolutely, they’re learning every day.

The one thing I liked about those guys and why I was confident in ‘giving them the ball right off of the bat’ is because when we spoke and talked about things, they absorbed it. They’re sponges. They’re students of this. They want to learn.

They’re not walking in the door going, ‘I know, I know how to do this.’ They’re walking in the door going ‘Wow, I have this opportunity to work with Shawn Michaels at the Performance Center, or with Terry Taylor, or this person, or that person.’ They can learn TV production from all of these different people. They are wide open to it.

To me, that’s what makes you successful. It’s the guys that walk in going ‘ah, I got this’ that make it difficult. When you have someone who just wants to be a student, wants to learn and wants to, no matter how good they are, just take their ability to a whole other level.

In this business, you constantly have to be willing to morph, grow, and think differently because it’s the nature of the beast. There are guys who have that hunger and desire to constantly evolve and you can see it from the first time you speak to them.”

Shifting gears a bit; you’re back in the ring and have worked quite a bit over the last month. It made me think about the adjustment period athletes, who have been away from their sport for a while, deal with when the bright lights are shining on them again.

How was your adjustment period while working on the overseas tour? Did it hit you as you walked through the curtain after hearing the first few beats of your music, or was it after the bell rang and all of the eyes were on you again?

“When I went to Santiago, Chile to do the first show, I hadn’t stepped in the ring to do anything since WrestleMania. That’s a long time. You think that you remember how to do everything and in your mind, you’re the same as you were the last time you were there.

Just taking that first bump in ring is jarring. It’s like riding a bike, you don’t really forget how to do it and if anything in your mind you go, ‘oh yeah, I still remember how to do this’ and then you get back into your groove. That’s not to say there isn’t rust, but the positive thing for me as opposed to some of the years when I haven’t done this for six, eight, 10 months and is that my first match back wasn’t at WrestleMania in front of the biggest audience that we’re going to have. That’s a whole different world of pressure.

I’m not saying Santiago, Chile isn’t important, but it wasn’t a televised event. There’s a lot less pressure, so you can relax a bit and be yourself a little bit more. If the opportunity arises you can twerk, you can do whatever.”

Or you can work with The Shield and give the fans a once in a lifetime experience.

“Yeah … and I can tell you the one thing that has happened to me this time is that I’m having a different level of fun.

Sometimes when you’re in the throes of getting ready for WrestleMania, it’s fun, but it’s so much pressure. You’ve got the world leaning on you and you’re leaning on yourself. You’re putting the pressure of, ‘man, I hope I can still do this.’

People forget at the end of the day that we’re just people. We’re human beings. No matter what persona you put on, when you go to that ring, you have doubts and fears just like everyone else. Anyone who says they don’t have those things is lying to themselves.

When you can go do it in this environment, it makes you go like, ‘yeah man, this is the coolest gig in the world.’ Yeah, you get beat up and it sucks to knock the rust off, but it’s a lot of fun.”

The five-on-five Raw vs. SmackDown match at Survivor Series has a throwback feel in the sense that there are a lot of fantasy matchups that can be teased. 

What does it feel like knowing you’re going to step in the ring again with Shane McMahon, Kurt Angle and John Cena, and alao have the opportunity to work with Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura for the first time?

“There’s this crazy part of me that goes through the past few years and thinks about stepping into the ring with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, someone who came through the [development] system when I was beginning to take it over. And then I think about Seth [Rollins] and now doing this at Survivor Series.

I haven’t been in the ring with Kurt Angle in a long time. Same goes for Shane and even Cena.

I think about the phone conversations with [Finn] Balor about coming in. It’s a crazy thing to think about and it’s something I’m very excited about. You go back to the whole having fun part of the job and this is just cool.

Whenever I’m looking at talent, even when I’m developing NXT guys, I can’t help but look at it from a performer’s point of view. I did an interview a few years ago when Nakamura was first coming in and they asked me if there were guys I would like to wrestle and I was like yeah, I’d like to wrestle him. Am I planning to do it? No, but it would be awesome if I could just fantasy book it in my head. Now I’m going to be able to actually get in the ring with him.

I’m going to get to step into the ring with Bobby [Roode], which I think for a lot of fans there could be some cool moments there, but I think there are also some cool moments for us.

I have a bond with any of the guys and girls who came through our system and to be able to step into what we actually do with them is like a whole other level of cool.”

So, I would say one of the more anticipated matches in a long time is taking place this Sunday when AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar square off. 

The build for the match has taken me back to the root of my fandom as I feel like a little kid again who is excited to see these two meet for the first time. I was wondering if there was a match, and it could be this one, that gets you excited to just sit back and watch it as a fan and not as the vice president of WWE.

“Sometimes people ask me about when we’re booking and writing NXT and in a lot of ways I just book stuff that I want to see [as a fan]. 

Like I go, ‘man that match really intrigues me, how am I going to get there and how am I going to make it even more interesting. Like how cool would that be. Ooh those two will really go at it and stylistically they’ll tear it up.’ This is one of those matches to me.

Brock Lesnar is a once in a lifetime athlete and it’s hard to not say the same about AJ Styles in some ways. With AJ, you go back five years ago and some people never thought he would even be here.

When you ask me about going back to being a fan, I think about a lot of this card that way. I’m excited to watch Cesaro and Sheamus vs. The Usos. I know it’s not the first time ever, but man they always awe me with something new and different.

You go back to the WarGames show, I’m looking forward to Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas for the NXT championship. I can’t wait to see that match! I know the level both guys are going to take it to.

I look at the Kairi Sane vs. Peyton Royce vs. Ember Moon vs. Nikki Cross four-way match for the NXT women’s title and even though I’m writing it, as a fan I’m like ‘I can’t call that one.’

In some ways you get into that fantasy booking thing in your head and you just put it on paper and try to make it the best you can make it. To me, it all comes from being a fan.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE Will Celebrate Raw’s 25th Anniversary on January 22nd

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Monday Night Raw is turning 25 next year and on January 22nd, WWE is going to have one hell (yeah!) of a celebration.

Raw will air live on the USA Network from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and also from the Manhattan Center, the venue where Raw debuted way back on January 11th, 1993.

Superstars from Raw and SmackDown will appear at both sites, with Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and other WWE legends scheduled to appear at the Manhattan Center. It should be noted here that the Undertaker and HBK appeared on the very first episode of Raw.

“We look forward to celebrating this unmatched milestone with our fans around the world, but 25 years only marks the beginning of WWE surprising, delighting and entertaining generations to come,” said WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon.

Raw is the longest-running, weekly episodic program in U.S. primetime TV history.

Tickets for both venues will go on sale starting this Friday through all Ticketmaster outlets.