Bill Goldberg will be doing an interview on SportsCenter tonight with former WWE commentator Jonathan Coachman. It should be but isn’t always noted that this 9pm ET interview will be on ESPNEWS, not the flagship channel, which will be broadcasting MLB playoffs, or even the deuce.
[UPDATE: Goldberg was non-committal when asked about whether he would ever return to the ring. He gave many reasons he’d want to — his kid and wife have never seen him wrestle in real-time — but also said he didn’t want to tarnish his legacy. Net in net, it sounded like he could be convinced.]
The spot is nominally to promote WWE’s new video game, in which Goldberg’s appearance marks his first affiliation with the promotion since 2004, but ever since that deal was formalized rumors have been running rampant that it was a precursor to his returning to the ring.
Last night, rumors gave way to reporting:
While J.R. isn’t a traditional reporter, he kind of hedged his tweet, and the storyline in WWE is always subject to change at the whim of Vince McMahon, this would, from the outside, seem to qualify in the “there’s about a 95% chance this happens now” category.
On social media, Goldberg didn’t confirm or deny J.R.’s report:
Survivor Series takes place November 20th in Toronto, and WWE, by virtue of doing a three-night stint there with the PPV, NXT, and Raw, is trying to make it feel major.
Goldberg’s spot tonight will be an interesting barometer on WWE’s relationship with ESPN. If there is an announcement that he’s returning to wrestle Brock Lesnar, who he had an underwhelming match with at WrestleMania 20, why wouldn’t he make that on Raw, whose ratings have been cascading at a frightening rate? Or, if it’s going to be with ESPN, why not make it on the mothership where people actually watch?
ESPN does weekly interviews on ESPNEWS (which again, aren’t viewed by many people), and has built sets at WrestleMania and SummerSlam (which are exposed to their mass audience). In August, ESPN launched a new WWE vertical on its web site that, thus far, has lacked teeth.
ESPN’s coverage of WWE has come under a lot of scrutiny in the wrestling media, and from its own public editor, though he was criticizing its general newsworthiness, and not the network’s coverage, which to put it kindly has not yet done any original reporting that could be qualified as investigative.
“If you’re gonna cover them, you cover them like you would anything else, and they don’t,” longtime wrestling reporter Dave Meltzer told Richard Deitsch on a podcast in late August. “Will they down the line? Will they evolve into it? Who knows? Right now, do they? No. If you look at what they do, there’s no depth to the coverage. There’s no real investigative work to the coverage.”
Meltzer then talked about how you have to reconcile the partnership with the real coverage, something ESPN deals with for the leagues it has broadcast right for. “Wrestling gets a pass for so many things,” he said. “Because real reporters would never cover it because it’s beneath their dignity, and the people who cover it so often are fans that don’t want to see the negative of it.”
There are some dogged reporters out there, but ESPN has not as of yet brought any of them into the fold with their coverage.
In any event, it will be interesting for wrestling fans to see what Goldberg says tonight.