It was a late December night a few days away from 1999 when an undefeated Bill Goldberg defended his WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Kevin Nash. Goldberg was 173-0. Nothing could stop him. Not even Big Sexy. Or so we thought.
This is the true story behind the ending of the streak. In the end, it would all be for nothing.
Goldberg and Kevin Nash – The True Story Behind the Ending of the Streak
The sixteenth installment of Starrcade went down on December 27th, 1998. The show was a bit of a one-match card despite featuring the talents of Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, and DDP. On this show, it was all about the main event: Bill Goldberg defending his WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Kevin Nash.
Nash had secured his title shot at World War III by winning the battle royal. The world was ready to see this confrontation go down.
At this point, Goldberg had already won the United States Championship, as well as the top prize, and racked up a ton of wins.
“I’ll be perfectly honest with you,” Bill Goldberg admitted on WWE’s The Bump in late 2020, “one of the beauties of the streak was that it was organic. I didn’t know what was going on, and every time I went to the building, I thought I was going to lose.
“I always had to put myself in that position. I think the fact that it was organic, the fact that it grew, it had a mind of its own, and we listened to the crowd.”
The crowd must have indicated that it was time. At Starrcade 1998, Goldberg’s long-developed undefeated streak was finally conquered by Kevin Nash.
It was a pretty basic no DQ match. There was nothing to write home about until Scott Hall appeared and stopped Goldberg from hitting Nash with a spear by hitting Goldberg with a stun gun.
Obviously, Kevin Nash was able to pick up the win from there.
Goldberg was now 173-1. Even with the inflated television numbers (Goldberg’s actual win count during his streak lands closer to the 120-0 to 150-0 mark), it was one hell of a record he had built up. Goldberg was undefeated for 461 days.
That’s a powerful statement in wrestling. Crowd interest stayed with him long enough for that to happen. That shouldn’t be underestimated.
It was long enough that his first loss was a huge deal.
The Behind-The-Scenes Plan Behind Goldberg Ending His Streak
The pros and cons of giving it to Kevin Nash are still debated to this day. There was an idea behind it all, however, and it was to place the nWo back into the top heel position for Bill Goldberg to run through.
For those unaware, eight days after this, on WCW Nitro, we saw the infamous “Fingerpoke of Doom,” where Hulk Hogan poked a defending Kevin Nash on the chest during their WCW World Heavyweight Championship match. Nash threw himself down to the mat and laid down for Hollywood to pin him.
The fix was in. Nothing but heels succeeding. This was the beginning of the story, and Goldberg was supposed to fight back from there.
Kevin Nash has spoken about it many times, including to Sports Illustrated, saying, “It’s just like the Fingerpoke of Doom. People say that killed WCW. Well, no, it didn’t. How else were we going to put together a heel factory for Goldberg to run through?”
Nash continued, “The only thing that had any validity was the nWo, and the plan was to have Goldberg go through every one. He got pissed off, and then he eventually got hurt, but that was the original plan."
In reality, Goldberg wasn’t hurt until one year later, but that’s beside the point. It wasn’t a bad plan.
Say what you want about what the nWo turned into, but they were most effective as a heel group. They were able to build superheroes, as evidenced by Sting, Diamond Dallas Page, and Goldberg himself.
The New World Order was a big part of getting Goldberg to the top of the mountain. He had to defeat Scott Hall on the same night he beat Hollywood Hogan in the Georgia Dome, after all. It was their proven formula.
The nWo was the only way to go.
Goldberg spoke about Kevin Nash being the one to end his streak on that same episode of WWE’s The Bump, saying, “I look back on it, and I’ve been pissed off at my answers a number of times. That’s childish. The fact is that Kevin Nash was the perfect guy to do it at the time. It was the perfect time to do it.”
“I think the streak was losing some momentum,” Goldberg maintained, “and who am I as a professional wrestler to give my opinion? I’m not a booker. I’m just the guy who takes the story and tries to act it out in front of the crowd.”
In retrospect, Nash breaking the streak can probably be labeled a failure. It led us directly into the “Fingerpoke of Doom,” which is also connected to the legendary Mick Foley, Tony Schiavone “butts in the seats” moment that saw 600,000 viewers switch the channel from Nitro over to Monday Night Raw to see Mankind win the WWF Championship.
It’s one of the biggest moments in the fabled Monday Night War. The night Eric Bischoff and WCW fumbled so hard, they lost over half a million viewers.
It all comes back to the end of Goldberg’s undefeated streak.
Eric Bischoff himself went into the choice to end it on his podcast 83 Weeks, saying, "We had been talking about it, from what I can recall, for a couple of months. As I have touched on in previous shows, we were running out of guys for Goldberg to go through.
“Once we got to the point of whatever, it was 173-0 or whatever it was (laughs), it was that point where we had to start telling stories. We had to expand the storytelling process with Bill. We knew it had to be done."
Biscoff continued, explaining that Kevin Nash was picked for credibility’s sake.
“It was probably a couple of months previously that we started discussing it and getting serious about it. In terms of, ‘Was it always going to be Nash?’ No. We were exploring a lot of different opportunities. Because of what was going on and the sheer size of Kevin Nash, he was the most believable and credible to tell that story.”
There has to be an end game with an undefeated streak. At some point, somebody has to get a win over the monster. Nobody stays unbeatable. Somebody always steps up to conquer the beast.
It was the same thing with The Undertaker‘s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. There was no way to please everybody. Credibility was emphasized.
This moment, the end of Goldberg’s undefeated streak, has earned an interesting spot in history. The very next week played host to one of the most critically despised moments in professional wrestling history.
Had Goldberg stayed healthy and ran through the newly reformed nWo heel factory, would we think differently? Would we remember the “Fingerpoke of Doom” fondly as the starting point to a great story with Goldberg and Hollywood Hogan? Or would it be more of the same?
When you take what happened eight days later with the “Finger Poke of Doom” into account, Goldberg’s first loss was for nothing. There was no payoff. It was nothing more than an accomplishment for the Kevin Nash character and something to talk about in shoot interviews until the end of time for Kevin Nash, the man.
Wasted potential is the legacy of this story, which is quite the statement when you consider the men involved. Kevin Nash defeating Goldberg was never able to fulfill its true purpose. Nash passes the buck to Hogan the night after, and the situation only gets fumbled further from there. It genuinely is a story of what could have been.
Watch Goldberg and Kevin Nash Face-Off at WCW Starrcade 1998:
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