This Sunday at the WWE Royal Rumble, 54 year old Bill Goldberg will challenge Drew McIntyre for the company's World Championship. It's not the only high profile match Goldberg has had recently. One year ago at WrestleMania, Goldberg faced Braun Strowman in a Universal Championship defense (Goldberg had won the championship from "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt at Super ShowDown). That match had originally been planned to be Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns, but Reigns pulled out of WrestleMania due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contracted for two matches per year with WWE, Goldberg will begin to fulfil his 2021 obligations by facing Raw's top star at the Rumble. In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Goldberg admitted that age does prevent him from doing some things in the ring these days.
"It's really tough. My mind wants my body to do things I just can't do anymore, but I've still got it in my eyes and in my mentality," Goldberg said. "As long as I can get my body as close as I can to where I was or to what is acceptable right now, I think physically my ability to perform will surprise a couple of people. I don't know 10 people who are my age who can do what I can do and I take pride in that. If you know anything about me, I take it very seriously. I'm always going to be Goldberg, that's just me. It's still marketable, there's still a place for it."
It's been 23 years since Goldberg's peak of popularity in 1998. To put his age into perspective, he is now more than 10 years older than Hulk Hogan was when he formed the nWo during the summer of 1996. At that time, WWE liked to joke about Hogan's age on their shows, often pointing to rival WCW as relying on talent past their prime. The tables have now turned, with a man in his mid-50s challenging one of the promotion's biggest stars in a title match at one of the biggest shows of the year.
Since his return to WWE in 2016, Goldberg has also seen his character shift from his heyday. He spoke about that with Yahoo.
"The one thing I wanted to do, and [Undertaker] may have pointed part of this out character-wise, is protect the character throughout time," Goldberg said. "You can't move backwards from what's been done in front of millions of people, so in protecting that character, I never wanted to be humanized. You end that mystique.
"Bringing my family into the fray only made sense because it made sense in the story and it made me human. Therefore, I've allowed them to do things that I never would have imagined I would do during my wrestling tenure and that's let them come to my house, let them video me backstage. Those are things that humanize you and detract from your character if you are a Mike Tyson who feels no pain, has no emotion, goes out and destroys people. Hopefully, it has painted the right picture to pass positive judgement upon myself."