Decimating competitor after competitor, Bill Goldberg built up an impressive 173-0* win streak during his first 552 days in WCW. Scoring wins over the likes of Meng, Curt Hennig, Raven, Scott Hall, The Giant (Paul Wight), Sting, DDP, and even Hulk Hogan propelled the unstoppable rookie to main event status. 231 days into his streak, however, a competitor went out and made the monster look mortal on live television. That man? William Regal.
Here is how it all went wrong that fateful night in El Paso.
A Stiff Night in El Paso
On the card that evening, we had:
- Steve McMichael vs. Glacier
- Konnan (w/ Vincent) vs. Norman Smiley
- Disco Inferno vs. Yuji Nagata (w/ Sonny Onoo)
- Chris Jericho & Eddie Guerrero vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. & Dean Malenko
- Juventud Guerrera vs. El Dandy
- Bill Goldberg vs. Steve Regal
- Chris Adams vs. Louie Spicolli
- Saturn vs. Ultimo Dragon
- Booker T (c) vs. Raven (w/ Lodi & Saturn) in a WCW World Television Championship Match
- Randy Savage vs. Hollywood Hogan
- The Steiner Brothers vs. The Outsiders (Kevin Nash & Scott Hall) (c) for the WCW World Tag Team Championship
Behind the booth were Bobby Heenan, Mike Tenay, and Tony Schiavone, with Dave Penzer on ring announcing duties.
With a card like that, the match-up of Goldberg and William Regal (then known as Steve Regal) could easily be overlooked. Nevertheless, it ended up becoming the most exciting match and for all the wrong reasons.
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Regal made his entrance first, and as soon as the crowd heard the opening of Goldberg’s theme, they lost it.
It is never any less fascinating to see just how over Goldberg was during this time in his career. The “Goldberg” chants echoed out moments later. The bell then rang, and the onslaught began.
Regal was all over Goldberg the entire time. To his credit, that was the point of the match. During the entrances, the commentary team said that “this will be the stiffest test for Bill Goldberg.” They weren’t lying.
William Regal Opens Up About His Disastrous Match Against Goldberg
In his book Walking a Golden Mile, William Regal lends credence to the idea that the match was supposed to be a real test of toughness for the Bill Goldberg character.
“Those were my orders for the match,” Regal wrote, “to go out and have a competitive six-minute match with him. He was to win in the end. We laid out this match in front of the people in charge.”
On how things went once the bell rang that night, Regal recalled, “I got into the ring, did one or two moves on him, and he did nothing back. I did one or two more with the same comeback from Goldberg: nothing. That’s how it went on.”
Regal continued, “I had to keep attacking him to keep the match going. I was opening myself up for him to retaliate, and he wasn’t taking the openings. I was even telling him to do this or that, and he just wasn’t doing it. I don’t know what his excuses were for the match. All I know is that he’s blamed me publicly for it.”
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Watch: Goldberg vs. William Regal (Steve Regal) on WCW Nitro:
Watching Goldberg and William Regal face off in the embedded video above, you can see how Goldberg looked a bit lost and out of his element out there. He had only been around the business for 231 days at this point but got pushed to the moon after minimal training. It would show plenty of times, and that seems to be what happened here.
Goldberg became overwhelmed by the offense and couldn’t get his head on right to realize he was being given chances to fight back. He had done mostly 90-second matches until that point, so this was unfamiliar territory for him. The only real positive thing to say about Bill’s performance here is that he manages to hold his own on the mat with Regal at several points.
At one moment in the match, Regal grabbed a rope break and then kicked Goldberg in the face as he was pulling back. You can see Goldberg didn’t know what to make of it.
Bill Goldberg Gives His Take on the William Regal Incident
The man himself, Bill Goldberg, obviously has his own version of the story, which holds more water than an outside observer. He was asked about it on June 23rd, 2016’s episode of The Steve Austin Show.
“How can you paint anything other than resentment on that match other than that?” Goldberg began. “The office didn’t tell [Regal] to go out there and try to take advantage of me and beat up a guy who had no idea what the f*** was going on! Dude, ask Regal. I have no idea. I just know he tried to kick my face in a couple of times, and I was just giving him my face.”
Goldberg continued from there with, “At the end of the day, I still don’t know. It’s all good. He’s a shooter (a wrestling term that describes a wrestler with a legitimate fighting background). If that made him feel better, then fine, but I don’t get it. I’d love to f***ing scrap with him right now. It’d be beautiful. I’d have loved to at the time, too, had I known what he was going to do, but at the end of the day, it was resentment.”
WCW was not exactly known for its positive culture, and their locker room has since been widely regarded as cut-throat and awful. Resentment from William Regal could have easily played a role here. After all, he was coming off a 7-week suspension at the time. That said, Regal has never admitted that resentment was the reason behind what transpired in the ring with Goldberg.
Rather, Regal has held to the opinion that he was doing what he was told: go out there, have a competitive match, and set up a retaliated attack by Goldberg before taking the 1-2-3. In the end, Goldberg misread his cues and got lost. A rookie mistake.
Stories like this fascinate us as it gives us fans a glimpse behind the curtain. The reality of the situation here though is that things did not go to plan between two men live on national television, and Goldberg has held a grudge towards Regal ever since.
Did William Regal, the now-beloved figure in wrestling, take advantage of a green wrestler? Was Goldberg simply unprepared for the match like posited? Many questions about this match remain, which is why this story has followed the two ever since.
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On an evening that featured many legends, the story of the night wasn’t Hollywood Hogan being jealous of Macho Man or Rick and Scott Steiner winning the WCW World Tag Team Championship over “The Outsiders” Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. No, the legacy of the 2/9/1998 episode of Monday Nitro will forever be Steve Regal, Bill Goldberg, and their competitive match that went wrong.
*The streak is one of the most famous storylines in wrestling history, but the actual record isn’t as impressive as the one repeated on WCW TV at the time. No one really knows what Goldberg’s actual record was across all televised WCW shows and untelevised house shows, but it’s generally accepted that 173-0 is an inflated number. Wrestling fans have argued for years over Goldberg’s actual record, and a few of his peers have even admitted that the number was likely falsified as a way to make him look even more impressive. According to WCW payroll documents, Goldberg wrestled a total of 159 dates before losing to Kevin Nash, therefore his actual win count during his streak lands closer to the 120-0 to 150-0 mark.
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