The tail wagging the WWE this spring appears to be the people who just put out the new WWE 2K17 video game. How else to explain why the wrestling company's top draw, Brock Lesnar, is getting lined up to face 49-year-old, long-retired wrestler Bill Goldberg next month? WWE isn't exactly acknowledging that Lesnar-Goldberg II is a promotion for a video game, but it's painfully obvious. Lesnar is the cover athlete for the new game. Goldberg is the game's pre-order bonus character. Their face-off will most likely be at the Survivor Series on November 20 in Toronto.
Goldberg hasn't worked directly with WWE in years, but has been promoting the WWE 2K game for months. Deals for the video game series are often worked on outside of the auspices of WWE, according to top wrestling reporters. The game publisher Take Two reaches out to stars from the past on their own. In recent years, that outreach led to WWE 2K games featuring Sting and the Ultimate Warrior, neither of whom had a working relationship with WWE. The latter had such an acrimonious split with WWE years ago that the wrestling company made a DVD trashing him. But the game company's deals with both wrestlers led to WWE featuring those talents on their TV shows, and the same appears to be happening with Goldberg, who left WWE on sour terms 12 years ago.
Goldberg, a huge star for defunct WWE rival WCW in the late '90s, had a one-year run in WWE that ending ignominiously with a plodding match against Lesnar at Wrestlemania 20. Goldberg was given the win in a fiasco of a match that was loudly booed by a Madison Square Garden crowd who were furious at Goldberg and Lesnar for both planning to leave WWE. News had leaked prior to the match that Lesnar was quitting WWE to try to play pro football.
Last week, Goldberg appeared on ESPN to be interviewed by anchor Jonathan Coachman, an ex-WWE employee himself. ESPN's on-air coverage of pro wrestling this year has been farcical and fake, and the interview really just served to hype the storyline idea that Goldberg would like to wrestle Lesnar again. Maybe he could beat him again and whatnot.
Then, last night on WWE's Raw show, real-life Lesnar friend and storyline wrestling manager Paul Heyman challenged Goldberg to a match on Lesnar's behalf. Goldberg is slated to appear on the show next week to respond to the challenge.
Goldberg and Lesnar in the new WWE 2K17 video game
According to respected wrestling reporter Dave Meltzer, the WWE is forgoing promoting the match at bigger shows in 2017 in favour of staging it during the post-release hype cycle for WWE 2K17. As he wrote in last week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
The match is part of a campaign to kick off sales for the video game, which will be released on 10/11. The belief is the best time to have the match is to capitalise on the release date period of the game, in the sense the company will be promoting Goldberg vs. Lesnar, the match at the same time the heaviest promotion of video game, with Goldberg and Lesnar as the two most high profile characters, will be promoted. Because the video game release is a key component on why Vince McMahon greenlit the match, that is why it's at Survivor Series, instead of Royal Rumble, where WWE has a 60,000 seat stadium to fill in San Antonio and would need whatever special attraction they can get.