Richard Budden, head of giving and legacies at World Jewish Relief, selects wrestler Bill Goldberg as his icon…
GROWING UP, there was no shortage of Jewish role models if you wanted to be a doctor, accountant, scientist or politician. But what if, like most young people, you wanted to be a sportsman? In my case, specifically, a professional wrestler? The thought of a Jewish boy one day becoming a king of the ring seemed far-fetched.
But then came Bill Goldberg.
A 6ft 4in machine, he came through fire, breathing the smoke, beating his opponent with a huge spear (a rugby tackle-like move), before getting them up vertically and hitting his finisher – the jackhammer – sending the crowd wild as he scored the 1-2-3. And Bill wasn’t just making up the numbers.
He was the main event.
A giant who was undefeated for 173 matches. That’s why Bill Goldberg, the former American football player and star of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), was and still is my hero.
Wrestling has always been a passion of mine. It’s the ultimate good guy vs bad guy, hero vs villain – and in the late 1990s, it was at its peak. Former good guy and All-American Hulk Hogan had left the WWF (now called the WWE) for WCW and turned bad. He was no longer telling children to eat their vitamins and say their prayers.
He had taken over WCW and no one could stop him. No one that is, except this huge, previously-unknown Jewish guy.
Goldberg wasn’t your Jewish stereotype – he was big, he was strong, he was someone you and your friends could shout about.
Better still, he was my guy and I was one of his people. Goldberg went on a winning streak never before seen in wrestling. Then, in June 1998, he finally did it.
My hero beat Hulk Hogan, in a match watched by nearly 10 million people, and became the world heavyweight champion.
I still love wrestling and there are a surprisingly high number of Jewish wrestlers and others in the business.
But no one will ever be more successful than the man they call Goldberg!