If there is one thing that people in Lexington can certainly appreciate — especially this year — it's an undefeated streak. So, it seems appropriate that the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention would bring one of the most dominant forces in sports entertainment to town this weekend.
Bill Goldberg — who was simply known as Goldberg when he entered the squared circle — went on an unprecedented run in professional wrestling from 1997 to 2004 and became one of the sport's biggest names. He racked up a record of 173-0 before suffering his first loss, eventually becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion and later the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. His intense persona and explosiveness in the ring dispatched opponents one after another in often devastating fashion and eventually earned the wrestler his tagline "Who's Next?" (Wildcat fans can relate.)
"I was the Mike Tyson of wrestling," Goldberg said. "That was my intent."
While his wrestling persona may have had bad intentions, Goldberg, 48, never initially intended to make a career in wrestling. The Tulsa, Okla. native claims to have been "born in a football helmet" and played defensive tackle at the University of Georgia before being drafted by the NFL's St. Louis Rams in 1990. He made his league debut with the Atlanta Falcons, playing for the team between 1992 and 1994 before suffering a career-ending abdominal injury.
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Goldberg's inability to compete in the game he loved sent him into a downward spiral, but when the opportunity came to swap his football pads for wrestling trunks, it unexpectedly became his saving grace.
"At that point in my career, I was in depression because I got hurt playing pro football and that's the only thing I ever wanted to do in my life," he said. "I was getting a second chance." Most people in life aren't even given a first chance, he said.
After wrestling his last match and defeating Brock Lesnar at the main event at WrestleMania XX in 2004, Goldberg managed to parlay his wrestling fame into some acting in television and film. He once again donned football pads for his appearance in the 2005 Adam Sandler comedy The Longest Yard, was later a murderous Santa Claus in the horror comedy Santa's Slay and a prisoner in the 2007 action flick Half Past Dead 2.
But mostly, Goldberg's post-wrestling endeavors have revolved around his interests and hobbies. The car nut has hosted reality shows like The Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off, The History Channel's Automaniac and the DIY Network's Garage Mahal. He also served as a color commentator for mixed martial arts in both the World Fighting Alliance and Elite XC.
Now, Goldberg owns and operates a gym and Muay Thai/amateur boxing training facility from his home in California and can also add "podcast host" to his résumé. He launched his podcast, Who's Next? with Goldberg, in 2014. His guests don't tend to be pro wrestlers, but rather a mix of current and former professional athletes, mixed martial artists, musicians and television personalities.
Goldberg said not having guests on from the world of wrestling isn't a slight against "the business" but rather just a decision to talk with friends and people in professions he relates to.
"Part of the allure is to get the opportunity to talk to my buddies," he said. "In my heart, I'm a warrior. I'm an actual athlete. I always have been and always will be."
Goldberg has a few pending projects in the works, including a big decision with a "martial arts entity" that he would like to keep under wraps. Even though he wasn't able to fully pursue his passion of playing professional football, he's forever indebted to his years in pro wrestling for what it's done for his career and what it's allowed him to become.
"It gives me the opportunity to be a positive example wherever I can," he said. "I owe the business and the fans, for sure."