Date: September 4, 2000
Location: Reunion Arena in Dallas, TX
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Kayfabe Memories, Armpit reader Troy Anthony
Bill Goldberg was an instant star in the wrestling business, getting over huge virtually from his debut on WCW Monday Nitro in 1997. By the middle of 1998, he was their top babyface and could’ve been the breakthrough star they needed to compete with the WWF and their rapid ascension under Steve Austin.
When the WWF overtook WCW in the Monday night ratings war in the Spring of 1998, the only reason WCW stayed as competitive as they did that year was the success of Goldberg that the company lucked into. If not for him, WCW would’ve lost the war earlier than they did.
By the year 2000, Vince Russo was in charge of creative, and the company completely collapsed under him. He totally mishandled the Goldberg character, and an angle he booked where Goldberg broke a limousine window ended up injuring his arm very badly and keeping him out of action for weeks. Goldberg was also turned heel, and he himself had problems with Russo once he saw how utterly inept he was.
Still, he remained their top star as WCW sank to the bottom depths of the sea under Russo. Evan Karagais was a young, ripped, handsome cruiserweight from the WCW Power Plant training center. With his long dreadlocks and underwear model body, he was put with Shane “Hurricane” Helms and Shannon Moore as a group called 3 Count. The 3 Count gimmick was one of the rare bright spots of WCW towards the end, thanks to Jimmy Hart and his input in their theme song and boy band persona that made them easy pretty boy heels. Karagais was also managed by Madusa for a brief period, and had an inexplicable in-ring feud with her.
Prior to the September 4 Nitro show, Goldberg was hanging out backstage talking to someone, with his hands in his front pockets. Karagais went up to him to shake his hand, and probably wishes he hadn’t.
There are two versions of what happened next.
One version is that Goldberg didn’t extend his hand, possibly because his hand was occupied or because he didn’t see or notice him. Karagais made a comment to the effect of, “It’s ok, you don’t have to shake my hand,” more as a joke than anything. Goldberg felt like he was dissing him and asked him to leave. Karagais thought he was joking, and joked back by not leaving. He then grabbed the neck of Karagais and scared the living daylights out of him, ripping his necklace off in the process.
The other version, given as an eye witness account by the Insane Clown Posse, is that Goldberg did extend his hand. But since Goldberg’s hands were in his pockets and kind of cupping his balls, Karagais jokingly said something like, “Whoa, it’s ok, I don’t need to shake your hand,” like his hands were dirty from touching his private parts. Goldberg took offense to that and grabbed him by the throat, lifted him up over the guard rail, and threw him down. Karagais slid on his butt, got up looking scared, and jogged off.
Whichever version is accurate, Goldberg later apologized to him. Karagais apparently didn’t accept his apology, which only made Goldberg more upset.
A lot of the boys told Karagais to keep it quiet so that word wouldn’t get out about what happened, fearing Goldberg would be reprimanded for what was clearly an unjustified assault. ICP said that Karagais was asking them what he should do, and they said, “Nothing!” He asked them if he should sue Goldberg because they were witnesses, and they jokingly denied they didn’t see anything and wouldn’t back him up to upper management.
As for why Goldberg snapped so easily, it’s believed he was short tempered after a long flight from England to Dallas, combined with his overall attitude at the time since he was so frustrated with Russo and WCW in general.
There was never any heat or shame on Karagais, as everyone recognized he was in no position to retaliate. For starters, Karagais was an underneath cruiserweight with no political power, while Goldberg was the company’s biggest star. Secondly, Goldberg was 8 inches taller than the 5’-7” Karagais, and probably 50 pounds heavier. He had nothing to gain by fighting back. He’d most likely hurt his career and his face, and he actually had an acting career before WCW, so he needed his face.
If anything, WCW tried to appease Karagais because they knew Goldberg was in the wrong and they didn’t want word getting out. On the Thunder show, an angle where Kronik was scheduled to lay out 3 Count was changed to Kronik being the ones laid out. They were not happy when they saw that it was changed, which is laughable in hindsight given that no one watched Thunder and it made no difference to either team anyway. Kronik likely just didn’t want to sell for men half their size.
WCW was out of business six months later, anyway. Karagais did get picked up by the WWF, though he wasn’t used much. WWF didn’t buy Goldberg’s contract, as he was too expensive and chose to sit out and get paid in full for doing nothing at home. They did bring him in later on, but never used him correctly.