By Mike Mooneyham

Sept. 7, 2003

Bill Goldberg’s long-awaited WWE heavyweight title run is expected to begin Sept. 21 at the Unforgiven pay-per-view in Hershey, Pa. That’s the night when the former WCW champ – barring injury or a last-minute swerve by company officials – should finally wrest the coveted strap from Triple H.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley has drawn considerable criticism over the past year for what detractors have called a stranglehold on the title. While that assessment may be partially true, the pickings have been slim as far as credible successors.

With Triple H still recovering from a groin pull and badly needing time off the road, a title change seems to be in the best interest of all parties involved. The nod naturally goes to Goldberg, the performer who was most responsible for WCW’s tremendous success in the late ‘90s, but who also was around for its cataclysmic collapse a short time later.

Goldberg’s expensive arrival in New York thus far has failed to live up to expectations, although the company’s much-maligned creative team has taken steps in recent weeks to elevate Goldberg and justify not only his upcoming title reign, but also his extravagant salary. Writers came just short of pushing Goldberg to his previously accustomed gargantuan levels when they had him destroy the competition at Summer Slam, although they came up just short of pulling the trigger and awarding him the title at that event.

With the stipulations for the upcoming pay-per-view (Goldberg will retire if he loses) clearly signaling that Goldberg will emerge this time with the gold, fans will finally get their wish of seeing the former Atlanta Falcon footballer spear, jackhammer and pin Triple H for the world heavyweight crown. Goldberg’s more distant future, however, is a bit hazier.

While it appears that WWE has made the commitment to have Goldberg carry the ball, there are lingering signs that the company isn’t 100 percent sold on him. Aside from the statement that Linda McMahon made several months ago that his impact at that time was “disappointing,” until recently Goldberg has been made to look much less invincible than the powerhouse he portrayed in his glory days in WCW.

Even last week, a graphic on the WWE Web site promoting the Unforgiven pay-per-view overlooked Goldberg in favor of photographs of Triple H, who has been used sparingly on the road due to his injury, and Steve Austin, who isn’t even an active wrestler due to a career-ending neck injury. A couple of weeks ago Goldberg made his ring entrance via what looked to be a backstage storage closet.

Goldberg, however, should be used to that kind of treatment from politically charged management. Backstage maneuverings at the now-defunct WCW ensured that he played second fiddle to Hulk Hogan even after defeating the Hulkster for that organization’s world title at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in 1998 in front of the largest crowd in Nitro history.

Goldberg and Triple H are expected to do a dry run at a Raw brand show tonight in Chattanooga for their upcoming pay-per-view match.

Helmsley, who deserves kudos for working through an extremely painful injury, did a rare job for hometown favorite Jerry “The King” Lawler at an Aug. 29 house show in Memphis pitting Triple H and Ric Flair against Lawler and Shawn Michaels.

– WWE will throw a bachelor party for Triple H following the Sept. 16 Smackdown in Raleigh.

Raw performers, in Columbia for a nationally broadcast show the night before at the Carolina Center, have been invited to extend their work week an extra day and attend the bash, which will be the last show before Unforgiven on Sept. 21. Some have jokingly dubbed it as “a party invitation you can’t refuse,” alluding to the fact that Triple H’s considerable political power is expected to reach new heights when he and Stephanie McMahon, the boss’s daughter, are married Oct. 25 in New York.

– Maven (Maven Huffman) is expected to join Evolution later this year. The group will be headed by Randy Orton and possibly Ric Flair in a J.J. Dillon-like manager role, and will feud with a babyface Triple H.

– Last week’s Raw drew a 4.3 rating. It was the show’s best number since May 12.

– Top bouts at the Survivor Series PPV look to be Vince McMahon vs. The Undertaker in a Buried Alive match and Goldberg vs. Triple H in a WWE title rematch. There are long-term plans for Kane to move to Smackdown where he will join McMahon and Brock Lesnar in a feud with a group headed by The Undertaker.

– The McMahons and their writing staff apparently have decided to extend creative license and throw logic out the window when crafting their storylines. Nowhere has it been more obvious than the ongoing Kane angle. The lack of any credible follow-up to the character being thrown in a fiery dumpster indicates that McMahon is gravitating more toward the “entertainment” aspect of his product at the expense of wrestling – or logic.

Apparently fans are expected to blindly buy into this concept of weekly “entertainment,” although in the long run it’s sure to drive away fans who prefer to invest some emotion into their programming choices. For now, though, fans are likely to see more of the same as long as numbers creep upward.

– Al Snow and Jerry Lawler may be added to the Unforgiven singles match between Jonathan Coachman and Jim Ross. Quite naturally Ross is not overly keen about stepping into the ring, especially in a bout destined to be “bowling shoe ugly,” but as usual it’s McMahon’s decision and not his.

– “They say time heals everything. I’m not so sure about that,” Tom Prichard recently lamented on the WWE Web site. The former wrestler and current WWE trainer was referring to Superstar Billy Graham’s recent appearance at Summer Slam.

“But as time marches on, I see miracles happen every day,” said Prichard. “Maybe Superstar Billy Graham can make peace with the ones he hurt the most. It could happen
They say time heals all wounds, but I’m not so sure.”

Graham hurled a number of charges at WWE during the company’s steroids and sex scandals of the early ‘90s, but later renounced some of his claims, admitting he made them as a result of bitterness over being released by McMahon several years earlier.

“Superstar ruffled quite a few feathers over the years,” said Prichard. “Who’s to say he should be forgiven? Nobody really. It’s up to the individual, I guess. I saw a lot of mixed emotions, as some guys said hello and others walked right by. I have seen how this business has evolved from the ‘60s up to now. I have met some of the guys I watched growing up and got a rude awakening. Others have been a pleasant surprise. Superstar Billy Graham strikes me as a man who knows he made some costly mistakes in life. He did what he did and can’t take any of it back.”

Graham spent the evening backstage conversing with old friends such as Ric Flair and the McMahon family and meeting new ones such as Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. WWE Confidential conducted its two-part series on Graham in Phoenix on Aug. 22 and 23. The first part was scheduled to air Sept. 6, followed by part two the following week.

– Mike Nova will defend his Carolina Pro Wrestling title against Xavier Knight Saturday at Sterett Hall on the former Charleston Naval Base. Bell time is 7 p.m.

Tickets are available at Words Unlimited at 200-A North Main Street in Summerville and Charleston Health and Fitness at 7671-A Northwood Boulevard in North Charleston. Tickets are $7 at the door and $5 in advance; children 12 and under are $5. For more information, call 810-5601.

– Bodybuilding legend Lee Haney and wrestling great Greg “The Hammer” Valentine will highlight Miles Road Baptist Church’s “It’s All About Jesus” crusade Sept. 21-24.

Valentine, son of the legendary Johnny “The Champ” Valentine, will share his life story on Sept. 23. Haney, an eight-time Mr. Olympia and one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, will share his testimony on Sept. 24. The programs begin at 6 p.m. on Sunday and at 7 p.m. the next three evenings. The church is located at 816 Miles Road in Summerville.

– NWA-TNA will offer its one-cent pay-per-view Wednesday night on In Demand. Highlights will include:

Jeff Jarrett and Sting vs. Sean Waltman and AJ Styles; Raven vs. Jarrett vs. Styles for the NWA title; Raven vs. Jarrett; Raven vs. Shane Douglas; and Styles vs. D’Lo Brown in a cage match. It also will be announced that Roddy Piper will be coming in for the Sept. 17 show.

– A Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling show drew nearly 300 fans to the old Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg on Sept. 2. In another added touch from the past, the original wrestling ring light was pulled out of storage for the bouts.

The show-stealer, according to reports, was a solid old-school opener between Mid-Atlantic favorites George South and David Isley. The card, highlighted by Dusty Rhodes vs. Sonny Siaki, also featured Buff Bagwell, The American Eagle (Jackie Fulton) and Gary Royal. Rick Steiner and Bobby Eaton were no-shows.

– Former WCW performer Emory Hale, who broke into the business under the tutelage of Jimmy Hart, is being treated in the intensive care unit of Tampa General Hospital after developing pneumonia stemming from a recent kidney transplant. Hale reportedly needs a respirator to breathe.

– Randy Savage has dedicated a song on his new rap CD to Hulk Hogan. “Every time I call him out, the dude has 101 reasons why not to fight the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage,” he told “I know the fans are demanding it, especially when you get to the hip-hop culture. We got him boxed in right now, and I think the fans want to see Hogan and Savage fight it out one more time … Hulk Hogan, I’m calling you out and I’m begging you, for once in your pathetic lifetime, be a man and answer the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage’s challenge.”

– Joanie Laurer (the former Chyna) will sing backup and play the drums on a CD entitled “2X CENTRIX” which will feature singer Reggie Benjamin on lead vocals. The CD is scheduled for an Oct. 7 release.

Laurer is using the name “Chynna Doll” for the musical endeavor. The CD has been described as hip hop with a mix of rock.

– A “Wrestling Legends” pay-per-view will air at 8 p.m. today on DirecTV. The one-hour show will feature Dusty Rhodes’ NWA title victory over Harley Race in 1981 at the Omni in Atlanta, a Ric Flair profile, Jerry Lawler vs. Kamala, Randy Savage vs. Austin Idol, the original Gorgeous George vs. Frankie Talaber, Rick Rude vs. Dutch Mantel and Ron Bass vs. Mike Rotunda.