Raven vs. Goldberg (WCW Monday Nitro 4/20/98)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Lance Garrison over on my Ko-fi account. As of this writing commisions are still open, they’re going for $10 a pop.

I have a special place in my heart for a squash done well. Just last year, I spoke incredibly highly about one of the spiritual successors to this match, MJF vs. Wardlow. It’s one of the best matches of 2022, and I still love it to this day.

That match had the benefit of months of personal investment though, whereas I’m dropping into an episode of WCW Monday Nitro. Luckily, whoever the kind soul that posted this to Dailymotion was made sure to include a few of the segments in the episode that lead up to this title match. It’s basically just a series of backstage shots demonstrating how each participant prepares for the match. It’s a hilarious visual that sees Raven remains huddled up in a dark corner of the arena, mumbling about “drowning in the seas of indifference.” Meanwhile, elsewhere, Goldberg’s in an actual locker room just literally flexing.

We all know how this is going to go.

The thing with forces of nature squash machines like Goldberg is that the limitations of working compressed matches with a limited range of offensive maneuvers presents great creative opportunities for their opponents. For your lowest of the barrel squash guys, it’s a question of pure mechanics. How great can you bump and how dead can you sell in a few seconds of TV time? For someone a little higher up on the card like Raven, there’s a little more opportunity here. How can a genuine threat be posed to the undefeated behemoth?

Raven’s approach comes in a few layers here. For one, he starts hot, attacking the challenger right at the bell by driving him into the corner and even hitting a sweet dropkick. Then, there’s the stipulation. This match gets wrestled under Raven’s Rules which allows Raven to seize control with a sneaky chair attack. This also allows for the final test to Goldberg’s mettle, a number’s game. Raven’s Flock provide a series of run-ins in the finishing stretch.

But of course, Goldberg rocks and these things do not matter.

Raven attacks first, but an attempt to bring things to the outside only allows Goldberg to repeatedly whip him into the barricades. Props too to Raven here, he flings himself into that steel and then writhes in agony on the floor to put over the power with which Goldberg threw him. It’s just a wonderful moment of stoogery from the champion here. The weapon attack buys Raven seconds, but not much more than that. The interference from Raven’s Flock do nothing for the champion, but they’re perfect bump providers for the domineering challenger. It also gives us a delightful call by Schiovane on commentary: “No stop sign’s going to stop him!”

Goldberg dispatches the nerds and Jackhammers his way to the WCW United States Title.

This is the kind of wrestling I’ve really come to gravitate towards in recent years. Something so laser focused in its aims. It all boils down to “make Goldberg look awesome” and that’s something that can be done in an extremely tight five or so minutes. In the end, Goldberg looks awesome, and Raven and his flock perform their roles to pitch perfection. Mission accomplished.

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