Before the dismal death of WCW in 2001, despite the company's main event scene being filled to the brim with veterans hogging the spotlight in the ongoing WCW vs. now feud, there rose a solitary new star, Bill Goldberg. Trained by WCW's controversial Power Plant, Goldberg would arrive on the scene on an episode of Monday Nitro in late September of 1997 in what would be the first of many squash matches. As weeks grew on, the announcers wove a tale of Goldberg's ongoing streak and in the eyes of many fans, Goldberg was a beacon of light breaking through the usual weekly story of long, rambling now promos and false hopes of "WCW" stars being able to squash this powerful, but quickly growing stale threat. "Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection" is a marginally successful offering of the seven year career of Bill Goldberg through his WCW reign, to his brief run with the WWE following the former company's purchase and gutting by Vince McMahon.
Unlike other superstar-centric releases, namely the recently released "Triple H: Thy Kingdom Come," "Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection" is little more than a string of key matches (and even that's debatable) loosely held together by brief narration for the shakiest of context in both WCW and WWE history. There's no sit-down with the man himself to set the stage, let alone any sort of hard-hitting biographical insight into one of the more iconic stars to come out of the latter years of WCW. The first of three discs in the set covers the in-hindsight, somewhat laughable "streak" which to the less-than-observant fan of the time increased immensely in size from one week to the next, with little context to where the wins were coming from. Although the final count would be 173, there is some evidence indicating it was more along the lines of 140-odd matches, which included non-televised house shows. Yes, 140 or so wins is impressive, but the 30-40 extra matched added as padding in many ways feels like a betrayal towards fans, as if without that boost it wouldn't have been as believable. Semantics aside, the majority of these early matches from his debut against Hugh Morrus to his unfortunate destruction of Raven (who was just making a name for himself in WCW) to take the US Title, were by-the-book squash matches. Exciting at the time and in context of the greater storyline, but when revisiting them, they are just plain boring. Thankfully, once we get to his World Title match against "Hollywood" Hogan on Nitro and the ensuing title defenses, the match quality does increase, that is until we hit the head-shaking awful streak-ending Starrcade '98 match against Kevin Nash.
Disc two covers the generally mediocre latter part of Goldberg's WCW career, culminating in a pitiful no-DQ tag match with Goldberg and trainer Dewayne Bruce against Lex Luger and Buff Bagwell. The second disc really serves as a reminder of how dismal WCW's final years were and notably absent from the collection is his Starrcade '99 match against Bret Hart which ended with a botched kick from Goldberg that was the key factor in the end of Bret Hart's in-ring career. Goldberg's career would sit on hold until 2003, in which he'd make his debut in WWE, right into a feud with The Rock. Their match at Backlash opens the third and final disc of the set and in many ways, despite the repetition in style, the third disc contains the most matches that hold up on repeat viewing, with the 2003 SummerSlam Elimination Chamber being a major highlight. The disc concludes naturally with the WrestleMania XX send-off match against Brock Lesnar, a train wreck that backhandedly, sums up the Goldberg phenomenon: overrated hype and the capper to Goldberg's career was not the win over Lesnar, but a post-match Stone Cold Stunner. Both men were set to leave the WWE at the time and the NYC fans were well aware of the fact, chanting more for special referee Steve Austin and jeering both men with taunts of "you sold out." I understand why the match couldn't be omitted, but its very much makes the entire viewing experience an anemic one.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen is more in fact 1.33:1 OAR material with graphical sidebars. Visual quality is on par with the video origin of the footage, with the WWE material looking much better than the WCW material in terms of natural color balance. Minor compression artifacts are persistent throughout, though the footage looks arguably better than when it originally aired.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio doesn't offer much in terms of dynamic range considering the matches are all firmly rooted in the stereo days of pro-wrestling programming. That said, the mix is generally clean and captures the spirit of the original broadcasts well.
"Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection" is really for fans of the wrestler and fans only; those who can still remember exactly how most of his matches went. He was a product of his time and ultimately his legacy is built more around in-ring presence than skill (I'd have loved to seen the Nitro match against William Regal, where Regal seemingly broke kayfabe and put Goldberg through some technical paces before taking the job) and in a three-disc set, there are honestly, a handful of matches worth revisiting. If you've never seen the man in action or want to verify just how poorly Goldberg's career has held up, a rental is going to suit you just fine. Rent It.