Date: April 7, 2003
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Calgary Sun, Inquisitr.com, Dirtsheetnetwork, Armpit readers Scott Ryan Czasak, Ronnie Pruitt, & Geoffrey Joseph
Chris Jericho and Bill Goldberg had heat dating back to their WCW days, so when Goldberg came to WWE in his first week and expressed his thoughts on Jericho, it ended up as getting physical. And the result may surprise you.
Turn the calendar back to 1998, when Jericho was an entertaining, talented mid-card talent. He actually had a much better look and personality than he had years later in WWE when he cut his hair and started wearing trunks instead of long tights. Even though Eric Bischoff was smart enough to hire Chris Jericho in 1996 (based on a recommendation from Dave Meltzer), he wasn’t smart enough to recognize he had main event level talent. He instead listened to guys like Kevin Nash and Bill Goldberg, who felt he was too small to wrestle with the larger men. So he instead wrestlers mostly cruiserweights.
In the latter part of 1998, Jericho started a mini program with Goldberg that the fans started to get into. Jericho said that Jimmy Hart always told him you can measure what’s really getting over by what the fans chant and what they write on the signs they bring to the matches. The theory is that they’re doing it on their own, and not being programmed to react a certain way, and so that’s why it’s a real barometer of fan interest. Jericho agreed, and by that measurement, his feud with Goldberg was getting over.
Just as it started to pick up steam, Jericho was told the plan on Nitro was for Goldberg to squash him in 30 seconds. He refused, saying why not drag it out further and make a bigger deal out of it, since fans were into it and they could draw some money with it. They had invested far too much TV time to just do a quick squash. In hindsight, it’s mind boggling WCW booked that finish, and Jericho said it was one of the key reasons he decided to leave the company.
As a result of Jericho’s refusal to lose as told, he had a meeting with Hulk Hogan, Bill Goldberg, and Eric Bischoff. All three basically yelled at him at first, and finally Hogan asked him what he wanted to do. Jericho suggested he’d cut a promo on Goldberg in the ring, and the split screen would show Goldberg in the back looking incensed. Finally as Jericho would walk to the back, he’d gloat to the crowd, and then when he’d turn around, Goldberg would give him the spear of the century in the middle of the aisle. You then build to a PPV match.
Hogan thought it was a great idea, and the others agreed. And they did in fact do something like that, with the spear remembered as being very brutal and the bump looked like it really must’ve hurt Jericho to take. They were supposed to do a PPV match, but Jericho said Goldberg didn’t show up and said he wanted to go hunting that day instead. So Jericho ended up wrestling Bobby Duncum Jr and his match with Goldberg never happened. This was probably World War 3 in 1998, in which Jericho did wrestled Duncum. But Goldberg was also on that show (not in a wrestling role), so the hunting story doesn’t add up unless someone’s timeline is a little off.
Jericho was fed up and rode out his contract until it expired, after which he left for WWF and became a much bigger star there. WCW was a sinking ship and WWF was on the rise, so that helped. On his first night in the company, he had a dueling promo with The Rock that is one of the WWF’s most well remembered promos. But Jericho definitely faced rough political waters in the WWF, as HHH didn’t feel he was ready. However, they did give him the Unified title in 2001 and he eventually became a much bigger star there than in the WWF.
Monday Night Raw – Milwaukee, WI (April 7, 2003)
In 2003, Goldberg finally reached a deal with WWE and signed a one year contract. After some buildup, his on-screen debut was set for Monday Raw on April 7. Goldberg did a segment with the Rock midway through the show. In the main event, Jericho and HHH took on Booker T and Shawn Michaels. As the match was going on Goldberg was in the gorilla position (watching through the curtain in the back) with Kevin Nash, saying how Jericho can’t sell and is a piece of sh*t, among other things. Another version is that Goldberg did say those things, but that it was in reference to Jericho’s recent match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania, not the match going on at Raw.
It’s believed Hurricane Helms overheard this, and with prompting from Nash, told Jericho what Goldberg said. It immediately reminded Jericho of his days in WCW, but his own star had risen in that time, and he felt his comments were out of line. He thought to himself, “F*ck this, I’m not going through this again with that guy.”
Riled up, he went up to Goldberg in the dressing room and said something to the effect of, “Hey man, you got a f*cking problem with me? You can’t be talking sh*t, it’s a different world now.” He dared Goldberg to say those things to his face. Goldberg got up from his chair and accused Jericho of burying him on the internet. Jericho said he didn’t even have time to go on the internet and bury him, and that he didn’t give a f*ck about that. And it’s true that Jericho is on record saying he avoids much of the internet because it’s too negative for him and that he’s a positive person.
Words escalated and eventually Goldberg put his hand on Jericho’s throat and roared much like his character on TV does. This is consistent with what he did to Evan Karagais three years prior, as he put his hand on his throat too. Jericho slapped his hand away and that tussled for a bit before Jericho got him in a front facelock and took him down in a sprawl.
Jericho said he learned from his bouncing days in Calgary that when you force a guy’s chin into his chest, you prevent him from breathing and he’ll eventually pass out. He was also afraid Goldberg was going to get up and kill him. As brave as Jericho was for standing up to Bill and confronting him, he was still a good five inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than Goldberg. It was similar to DDP’s fight with Scott Steiner, where DDP had him in a front facelock and kind of seemed surprised by it, and tried to keep him there as long as possible to prevent any strikes (and coincidentally, DDP said he also learned the front facelock from his bouncing days).
Goldberg did get up, but Jericho was able to drag him down again. He had seen a Japanese magazine that Funaki had brought to the arena earlier that day, and the magazine had a picture of a guy using a leg scissors while in a front facelock. Jericho remembered that picture at that time, and scissored Goldberg’s leg.
Goldberg was able to get up again, and shoved him through a door to where some fans were. A few lucky fans got to see the scuffle first hand. The two went back inside and were pulled apart. Helms and Christian were each holding one of Jericho’s arms, so when Goldberg broke free from his pack, Jericho was screaming at them to let go because without his arms, he was defenseless.
As Goldberg got near, Jericho tensed up his face to prepare for the punch. But instead, and to his good fortune, Goldberg only grabbed his hair. Jericho’s arm finally broke free, allowing him to pie face Goldberg back. He screamed at Goldberg, “Stop it, you’re being a goof!” Goldberg replied, “Your mother’s a goof!”
Booker T was there and said, “Did you just say his mother was a goof?? That’s the worst insult I’ve ever heard in my life!”
In another interview Jericho gave years later, he gave a version that was similar, but used the word “assh*le” instead of “goof.”
The two then argued some more, with Jericho saying things have changed now, and that “I don’t care if you beat me up every night, I will still fight you because things aren’t going this way. If you’re smart, you’ll like me because if we ever have a match I can make you look like a million bucks for I can make you look like sh*t, and you’ll never know the difference.” They eventually shook hands before leaving the building, as this all happened after the show was over.
Jericho felt bad for Goldberg, because it was his first week there and probably didn’t want to be getting into any physical confrontations. He said most big guys can’t fight because they’ve never really fought before, having to rely on intimidation while smaller men are used to letting it all out. He said there will never be a rematch, and it will always be 1-0. He said if Bill wants to go again, he’ll run away just so he can have it stay at 1-0.
In reality, if it happened today, it wouldn’t be good for Jericho because Goldberg has done extensive training in MMA just for fun. Even back in 2003, Jericho is lucky it didn’t end differently. A locker room environment is much different than a ring, but in this instance and on this night, Jericho got the better of it and became a hero to the boys in the back for it.
Vince McMahon later texted Jericho and said, “What happened at Raw?” He replied that they got into a fight. Vince wrote back, “I know, I can’t believe you beat up Goldberg, you really need to text me stuff like that!”
Fellow Canadian Bret Hart wrote a column in the Calgary Sun praising Jericho. On Goldberg, he said, “He’s the guy who accidentally kicked me in the head in December 1999, causing my career-ending concussion. He kicked me much like a wild bucking horse and nearly knocked my head off my shoulders. I still, even now, have a tear in my neck muscle the size of a quarter that will never heal to prove it.”
Regarding the tussle, Hart wrote, “Goldberg did everything he could to shake Jericho off but no doubt all those long sessions in the dungeon paid off for Jericho. He choked Goldberg outright in the dressing room floor, in front of everybody. A reality check for Goldberg that’s been long overdue.”
Neither Jericho nor Goldberg were disciplined, but probably were told to never let it happen again. The two did work a program together later that year, and there no problems then and there remain no problems between the two today. At least publicly, that is.