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The Fingerpoke of Doom is the common nickname for a storyline in American professional wrestling history that happened on January 4, 1999 on WCW Monday Nitro, the flagship show of World Championship Wrestling. The show took place at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. This event is considered by some as one of the pivotal broadcasts that led to the downfall of WCW during the Monday Night Wars.[1]

Contents

Setup

In the storyline, WCW World Heavyweight Champion Kevin Nash was scheduled to face Goldberg in a rematch for the title. Goldberg had previously been undefeated until Nash, with interference by Scott Hall, beat him for the title at Starrcade eight days before the January 4 Nitro. Supposedly unaware of and unhappy with Hall's interference, Nash came to Nitro the night after Starrcade and told Goldberg he would get a rematch next week. However, Goldberg was (kayfabe) arrested mid-show and accused of "aggravated stalking" by Miss Elizabeth (he was originally going to be accused of rape but refused to go along with that particular storyline).[2][3] He was later released when Elizabeth could not keep her story straight. Meanwhile Hulk Hogan, who had "retired" two months prior, showed up for the first time since his retirement shortly after Goldberg's arrest. Nash interrupted to say that everyone was promised a title match and offered Hogan the match since Goldberg was not going to be able to wrestle. Hogan accepted despite only having street clothes to wear. Hogan and Nash had huge storyline heat prior to this point; Hogan was the leader of the villainous nWo Hollywood faction (which wore black and white) while Nash helmed the fan favorite nWo Wolfpac faction (which wore black and red). A match between the two leaders of the rival nWo factions proved to be something the fans were interested in, as the segment drew the highest rating in weeks. Come main event time, Hogan came out to the ring accompanied by "Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner, ironically with the latter in his wrestling gear. As Nash made his entrance, his former tag team partner Scott Hall entered as well in a Wolfpac T-shirt and reuniting The Outsiders in the process.

Match

The match started with the two men circling each other. Nash tried intimidating Hogan by pushing him hard into the corner. In retaliation, Hogan then faked a punch and poked Nash in the chest, and Nash quickly and dramatically fell to the mat on his back (in the book The Death of WCW, RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez compared Nash's fall to "getting hit in the chest with a cannonball").[4][5] Hogan then covered him for a pin and was declared the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion.

After this occurred, Hall and Steiner entered the ring and celebrated with Nash and Hogan to reunite the nWo.[6][7] Goldberg then reentered the building, running to the ring to attack the nWo, only to be jumped by Wolfpac member Lex Luger (marking his place in the reunited nWo) and then beaten down by the rest of the group. As the show ended, the nWo handcuffed Goldberg to the ropes, repeatedly shocked him with a taser, and spray-painted the letters "nWo" on his back. While Goldberg, who was now the only major star representing WCW, was being assaulted, the fans started chanting for the wrestler Sting to come to the rescue. Sting had been out of action since Halloween Havoc in late October 1998, after suffering from an (kayfabe) injury at the hands of Bret Hart. For a time, it seemed as if history might be repeating itself with a returning Sting, the historical savior of WCW, taking on a new, revived, and united nWo. However, by the time Sting returned to television in late March, the new nWo storyline had already fizzled out due to members' injuries.

Mankind incident

Airing opposite Nitro this night was the edition of WWF Raw is War in which Mick Foley (as Mankind) won the WWF Championship from The Rock.[8] As per their procedures at the time, the WWF had taped this particular edition of Raw six days in advance of the program's airing. Earlier that night, armed with knowledge of what happened, WCW revealed the results of the taped WWF show on their broadcast. On orders from Eric Bischoff, WCW announcer Tony Schiavone gave away the result of the match before it aired, saying "We understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here one time as Cactus Jack, is going to win their world title" and sarcastically added "Ugh, that's gonna put some butts in the seats." Within minutes, Nielsen ratings showed that several hundred thousand viewers switched channels from Nitro on TNT to Raw on the USA Network,[9] many of whom wished to see a guaranteed title change and/or a title victory by the exceedingly popular Foley. After Mankind won the title, many fans then switched back to Nitro (which still had five minutes of air time left), suggesting that WCW had a show that the fans wanted to see, and could have emerged the victor that night had they not given away the RAW main event results. The final ratings for the night were 5.7 for Raw and 5.0 for Nitro. Over the year following the incident, many WWF fans brought signs to shows saying "Mick Foley put my ass in this seat."

Impact

After this episode, WCW's TV ratings steadily went down, only reaching a 5.0 rating or higher twice (it drew a 5.7 on February 8, 1999 because of a Westminster Dog Show-induced RAW pre-emption on the USA Network). In retrospect, some observers inside and outside the pro wrestling business noted that this storyline turned off numerous fans for several reasons.[10][11]

First of all, it devalued the WCW World Heavyweight Championship by having Nash simply lie down and give it to Hogan with no effort; the future title reigns of non-wrestlers such as actor David Arquette and WCW head writer Vince Russo were a testament to how far the title's prestige had fallen.

Meanwhile, as a result of trivializing months of storylines between two largely divided sides of the nWo just to see the group come back together, the hierarchy of the nWo became sorely over-developed. Now there was an "elite" group sporting the black and red of the Wolfpac, along with a sardonically labeled "B-team" of midcard jobbers wearing the black and white of the by-then increasingly unpopular Hollywood label. Scott Steiner and Buff Bagwell joined the "elite Wolfpac" while Konnan was thrown from the group. Sting, a former member of the real Wolfpac, had been on hiatus during the nWo reunion and did not partake in the villainous "elite" stable upon his return. Over just the next few months alone, constant defections and injuries would collapse the super-group from the elite top to the bottom of the B-team. Bret Hart, Scott Steiner, The Outsiders, and Jeff Jarrett's new "silver and black" version of the nWo in late 1999 would only last a few months itself, as would the original group's WWF/E revival in 2002 after the buyout of WCW. Thus, the Fingerpoke of Doom moniker became very apropos for the storyline, which in effect "jumped the shark" for and killed all the progress and momentum in the nWo name.

Also, by this time, WCW had developed a reputation for consistently putting villains over fan favorites, no matter the circumstances, which this incident more than reinforced, specifically because Goldberg was a fan favorite juggernaut, who many fans perceived as a huge threat to the nWo. Reinforcing that perception even more, Goldberg was mercilessly and completely beaten down by the group, following which his back was spray-painted with the "nWo" logo. Some fans saw this as a sign that Goldberg was going to be buried and pushed onto the back-burner for the newly-reformed (yet tiresome) nWo. In fact, it took Goldberg nearly a year to win another singles title in WCW (he won the WCW United States Championship for a second time in October 1999), and he did not win another world championship until he joined WWE in 2003.

The event damaged the credibility of the company itself, which did not present the match that had been advertised (a Goldberg vs. Nash rematch from Starrcade '98); in fact, several times throughout the night, the WCW announcing team talked about how they had a "real main event." This was perceived to be an underhanded way of selling out the Georgia Dome for that night's telecast.

Criticism

Vince McMahon once made a reference to the incident, commenting that the Hogan-Nash encounter deserved to be held at WrestleMania or Starrcade, which would make the company millions of dollars; instead, WCW management opted to book the match on Monday Nitro (notwithstanding the fact that it was also reduced to a plot device for the sudden reunion of the nWo).

In WrestleCrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling, RD Reynolds says of the match, "That was that. Fans had been burned one time too many by WCW and the nWo. From that point on in 1999, ratings steadily dropped for the company".[9]

After it happened, many online wrestling fans saw it as a vulgar display of backstage power, since it was well known among fans that Hogan had a creative control clause in his contract and Nash was a booker.

Nash, however, refutes that he had anything to do with the booking of the incident. In an interview with RF Video, Nash said that Goldberg is the one who caused that rumor to be spread and that he had not begun booking until February 1999. In The Rise and Fall of WCW, Goldberg said that the Fingerpoke of Doom was Nash and Hogan playing their own games in the wrestling world.

Legacy

Quipped Nash later, "If Hogan had given Goldberg the Fingerpoke of Doom, it would've killed him!" in reference to Goldberg's propensity to get himself injured doing routine things at that time. Nash has also defended the incident by claiming that any Nash/Hogan matches would have been terrible.

Shawn Michaels referenced the incident in a 2005 feud with Hogan, asking, "So wadda ya gonna do when the Heartbreak Kid won't lay down for you?"

References

  1. ^ Fritz, Brian; Christopher Murray (2006). Between the ropes: Wrestling's Greatest Triumphs And Failures. ECW Press. p. 41. ISBN 1550227262.  
  2. ^ Davies, Ross (2001). Bill Goldberg. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 52. ISBN 0823934950.  
  3. ^ "BWE Uncovered: Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2006; Plus More!". Sporting News. 2006-09-01. http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/Big%20Sooners%20fan/tag/TSNrecognition. Retrieved 2008-05-22.  
  4. ^ Alvarez, Bryan; R.D. Reynolds (2004). The Death of WCW. ECW Press. p. 172. ISBN 1-55022-661-4.  
  5. ^ Davies, Ross (2002). Kevin Nash. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 80. ISBN 0823934926.  
  6. ^ "The NWO: a history". Wrestling Digest. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCO/is_1_4/ai_86127538/pg_2. Retrieved 2008-05-22.  
  7. ^ "Kevin Nash". SLAM! Wrestling. http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/Bios/nash.html. Retrieved 2008-05-22.  
  8. ^ "History of the WWE Championship: Mankind's first reign". WWE. http://www.wwe.com/inside/titlehistory/wwechampionship/3044541411. Retrieved 2008-05-23.  
  9. ^ a b Baer, Randy; R.D. Reynolds (2003). Wrestlecrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 201. ISBN 1-55022-584-7.  
  10. ^ Online World of Wrestling
  11. ^ Wrestling in a Bottle: Unforgiven Predictions and the Lowdown on Randy Orton's Face Turn







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