It was one of the biggest moments for WCW during the Monday Night Wars, when the undefeated monster Goldberg – arguably WCW’s greatest homegrown stars (from their time exclusively as WCW, not including any NWA stars they inherited) – dethroned nWo leader “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in front of 41,412 fans at the Georgia Dome in one of the largest non-PPV televised attendances in wrestling history (WWE had a special Saturday edition of Raw in February of 1999 at the SkyDome in Toronto that drew 41,432). On July 6, 1998, Goldberg ended Hogan’s 77-day fourth reign as WCW World Champion, 20 years ago today.
By all accounts, this match was a last minute booking, as Goldberg stated in an interview last year that he only found out about the match the week before, when he was watching that week’s edition of WCW Thunder. At the time, WWE had overtaken WCW in the ratings wars, after WCW had beaten them for an astounding 84 weeks in a row. This match momentarily swung the ratings back in WCW’s favor – it got a 4.8 rating to Raw‘s 4.0, and the Goldberg vs. Hogan match drew a then record 6.91 (nearly 10 million viewers) – but by the next week, the WWE regained control.
One of the biggest complaints many within the industry had with the match was that it was given away for free on Nitro rather than WCW’s next Pay-Per-View (which would have been the WCW/nWo Bash at the Beach a week later) – instead, at the next PPV, Goldberg faced nWo B-Team member Curt Hennig in his first title defense, in a squash match that lasted under four minutes. Goldberg’s World title run, although lasting 174 days, was hardly as noteworthy as his lead-up to the infamous Georgia Dome Nitro, with title defenses against the likes of Curt Hennig (twice!), Brian Adams, Meng, Al Green, Scott Putski, Rick Fuller and Raven. Only Sting, Diamond Dallas Page and The Giant (aka WWE’s Big Show) posed any major threat to Goldberg’s reign. To top it off, it ended in controversial fashion when Kevin Nash defeated Goldberg for the belt that December, after being tazed by Scott Hall.
In November of 2016, former WCW head Eric Bischoff defended the decision to put the Hogan vs. Goldberg match on Nitro instead of a PPV, when he appeared on an episode of Bruce Pritchard‘s Something to Wrestle With podcast, stating:
“I defend that decision. Let me be clear, the decision to put that match in the ring was my decision. Hulk called me and was passionate about the idea. I could tell he was really excited about it. I looked at it from a completely different point of view. I looked at that idea, your idea Hulk, and your reasons for wanting to do it. Which I agreed with. We did need to put that belt on a babyface. It was really over. That wasn’t the only reason I got excited about it. The reason I got excited about it is because it fit in to the formula that made Nitro so successful from the very beginning. It put some of your hottest stuff on television. At that time things were so competitive and we were starting to lose a little bit of ground. The minute you (Hulk) painted that picture and your psychology behind it. Which I thoroughly agreed with and do to this day. If the situation was exactly the same today I would make the same decision right now.”
In regards to the end of Goldberg’s WCW title run, Bischoff defended that decision as well, last January on his own podcast:
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 just 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 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…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.
On this week’s edition of the 83 Weeks podcast, with Eric Bischoff and Conrad Thompson, the two talk further about all the details behind the scenes regarding the historic Nitro match.
Just finished watching the July 6, 1998 episode of Nitro on the @WWENetwork in preparation for today’s podcast. What an amazing episode. Can’t wait for @HeyHeyItsConrad to try and pick this one apart! pic.twitter.com/L87XbRZObu
— Eric Bischoff (@EBischoff) July 1, 2018