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Fingerpoke of DOOM

January 4, 2017

18 years ago today on Nitro from Atlanta, Georgia, Hollywood Hogan defeated Kevin Nash in less than two minutes to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

The incident is forever etched in wrestling lore as “The Fingerpoke of Doom”. The shady world title change capped off perhaps the most pivotal hour in the history of the Monday Night Wars.

It began with Hollywood Hogan returning to WCW for the first time since Thanksgiving when he announced he was running for President of the United States. Following the segment, Tony Schiavone, on orders of Eric Bischoff, gives away the results of the RAW is WAR main event taped about a week earlier:

“Fans, if you’re even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, fans, do not. We understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here one time as Cactus Jack, is going to win their world title. Ha! That’s gonna put some butts in the seats, heh.”

In the moments that followed, as many as 600,000 households switched from Nitro to RAW; though the match didn’t begin for another half-hour, those people stuck around to see exactly what Schiavone promised: Mankind—the once and future Cactus Jack—defeating The Rock for his first WWF Championship.

As RAW is WAR was taped that week, there was no overrun. But there was one on Nitro, something that had become commonplace on their show by the beginning of 1999. Just before 11pm ET, the introductions were made for the WCW world title match between Nash and Hogan (Jerry Lawler on commentary during the RAW main event took a shot at WCW for their late-starting main events).

 

As for the match itself, the two men circled and taunted one another. Then, as Hogan looked to strike Nash, Hogan lightly poked Nash in the chest and Nash took a prat fall. One three count later, Hogan, who had not wrestled since Halloween Havoc, was your WCW World Heavyweight Champion as Hogan, Nash, Scott Steiner, and Scott Hall all shared a hug. Turned out it was all an elaborate ruse on two fronts: (1) to ensure Goldberg never got his rematch, and (2) to reunite the two warring nWo factions as one.
The backlash was massive: not only had WCW bait-and-switched viewers and paying customers out of an advertised match YET AGAIN (it was originally supposed to be the rematch from Starrcade between Nash and former champion Goldberg, but Goldberg had been “arrested” earlier in the show and was not back in time for the start of the match), they had essentially hit the reset button on the New World Order. Even Mick Foley himself was upset over Tony Schiavone’s “butts in seats” comment, with Foley personally phoning Schiavone about it (it was then Mick learned that Tony was told by Eric Bischoff to make the comment).

In the end, the strategy cost WCW dearly. With the massive turnover in viewership, Nitro gave away the opportunity to win its first head-to-head battle with RAW since the night after Halloween Havoc in October; RAW would win the night quite convincingly with a then-record-tying 5.7 rating to Nitro’s 5.0.

WCW ended up losing viewers long-term as well; Nitro would only see a 5.0+ rating three times after the Fingerpoke of Doom, with a high of 5.7 on February 8 (RAW did not air that evening due to the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show). By the end of the summer of 1999, Nitro would never again see a 4.0 rating, going as low as 1.8 in April 2000. Needless to say, WCW’s Nitro never again caught WWF’s RAW in the ratings again.

 

 

 

Mac, The Notorious Eddie. “This Day in Wrestling History (Jan. 4): FINGERPOKE OF DOOM.” Cageside Seats. Cageside Seats, 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 04 Jan. 2017.