Ever since his days as a WWE and WCW superstar, Bill Goldberg has liked getting out of his comfort zone.
His wrestling character was invariably hard-nosed and physical, shrugging off injuries (both real and kayfabe) over his years in the ring. He’s made forays into film and TV, appearing in The Longest Yard in 2005 and playing a guest role on The Goldbergs. He even starred as a demonic Santa Claus in the film Santa’s Slay. (“That’s the best movie in the entire world,” he tells Muscle & Fitness. “Don’t downplay that movie.”)
His next move is armed combat—specifically, hosting the new TV series Forged in Fire: Knife or Death, which premieres Tuesday, April 17, 2018 on History.
“I have a fairly extensive background in martial arts, [but] I’ve never dealt with a blade before and it’s very interesting to me,” Goldberg says. “Unless you grow every day as a human being, you’re standing stagnant and you’re spinning on a wheel.”
In Knife or Death, master blade-makers must complete a series of obstacle courses using their blades—knife, katana, cutlass, etc.—as quickly as possible. Imagine American Ninja Warrior or Ultimate Beastmaster, but with swords. That’s Knife or Death.
Joining Goldberg is Tu Lam, a U.S. Special Forces veteran with decades of armed combat experience.
“After [Tu] and I spoke on the phone, I [said], ‘We don’t need to interview any more people’—it was an instant connection,” Goldberg says. “To be able to sit next to such an honorable man, such a skilled man and such a humble man at the same time, who has served our country and put his life on the line for people… You can’t get much more honorable than that. It was a true pleasure and honor of mine to sit next to the guy, let alone be able to befriend him.”
Knife or Death contestants face several devious obstacles. At one point, they must chop through a block of ice. One of the toughest challenges, however, seemed innocuous: cut through a fish in a single stroke.
“It seems anticlimactic to say the fish is one of my favorites, but it truly was the big man in the room,” Goldberg says. “It took down more competitors than any other obstacle. It didn’t seem to be that difficult by any means—but it was that anticipation, because you’ve seen so many people fail when you thought they would’ve gone through there so easily.”
Which raises the question: Did he think he could complete the course?
“Oh hell, I could do that!” he says. “I mean, it’s just picking up a new craft of studying and coming to the fight with the most capable weapon and knowing the proper technique. At the end of the day that’s it. I mean, you can learn how to do that, you can learn how to compete. It’s not reinventing the wheel.”
Hosting Knife or Death isn’t Goldberg’s only recent accomplishment: He was formally inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
His most memorable moment from that hall-of-fame career? Competing against Hulk Hogan in the Georgia Dome on July 6, 1998, in the famed WCW Nitro Match that electrified the wrestling world. “[I was] in front of the people that I played football alongside,” says Goldberg, who played college ball for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. “That was a very special night. It was surreal to say the least.”
Ultimately, Goldberg admits he’s never afraid to take risks, regardless of how things turn out. “At the end of the day we all would like things to be perfect, but this world is not perfect. The bumps and bruises along the way definitely mold you as a human being through experiences that you go through. Without the bad there wouldn’t be the good.”
Even if the bad takes the form of an un-hackable dead fish.
Forged in Fire: Knife or Death premieres Tuesday, April 17 at 10PM ET/PT on The History Channel.