Fingerpoke of Doom
The nickname Fingerpoke of Doom (FPOD) refers to an infamous incident in American professional wrestling which occurred on January 4, 1999 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, during a live broadcast of Nitro, the flagship show of World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
The incident occurred during the main event of Nitro, featuring WCW World Heavyweight Champion Kevin Nash, who was the leader of the Wolfpac faction of the New World Order (nWo), and Hollywood Hogan, the leader of the Hollywood faction of the nWo, with whom Nash and his group had been feuding since April 1998 when the original faction split up, and Hogan had retired from wrestling. The Wolfpac faction were babyfaces (fan favorites), while the Hollywood faction were heels (villains), as was the original nWo.
The match saw Hogan poke Nash in the chest with his index finger, prompting Nash to theatrically throw himself onto the mat and allow Hogan to pin him; the victory marked the reunion of both nWo factions into one villainous group. During the same broadcast, WCW announcer Tony Schiavone gave away the results of World Wrestling Federation (WWF) rival program's Raw Is War (which was taped earlier, while Nitro was live), revealing that wrestler Mick Foley (as Mankind) was set to win the WWF Championship. Although this revelation was meant to deter Nitro viewers from switching to Raw Is War, it instead reportedly prompted 600,000 viewers to change channels in order to see Foley's victory with the help of Stone Cold Steve Austin, with most viewers only tuning back in to Nitro when there were five minutes left in the broadcast. The incident was named "The Fingerpoke of Doom" both for Nash's over-selling the finger poke, and for the negative ramifications the incident had for the company as a whole, with some wrestling journalists crediting it as the beginning of WCW's ultimate downfall and loss of the Monday Night Wars.
The match was directly related to a controversial main event that occurred at Starrcade in December 1998, during which Kevin Nash pinned Goldberg to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. At the time of the match, Goldberg had been undefeated in his WCW career; and his defeat came about due to the interference of Nash's former tag team partner Scott Hall.
The following evening, Nash professed dissatisfaction with Hall's interference, and offered Goldberg a rematch for the following episode of Nitro in Atlanta. However, Goldberg was kayfabe arrested halfway through the three-hour Nitro at the Georgia Dome and accused of "aggravated stalking" by Miss Elizabeth (Goldberg was originally to have been accused of rape, but refused to go along with that particular storyline). Although Goldberg was later released when Elizabeth could not keep her story straight, he would not make it back to the arena in time to compete against Nash; it was noted in The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez that the entire skit was proven to make no sense after it was revealed that the police station was across the street from the Georgia Dome.
Meanwhile, Hollywood Hogan, who had declared his retirement one month prior, showed up for the first time since his "retirement". At the time, Hogan and Nash had been on-screen enemies since April 1998, when Nash broke away from Hogan's nWo stable in order to form his own rival faction, nWo Wolfpac; Nash became a fan favorite, and Hogan the villain while continuing to lead his own nWo faction, nWo Hollywood. In Goldberg's absence, Nash offered the title shot to Hogan, although Hogan professed to only have street clothes in which to compete. Hogan nonetheless accepted the offer.
Hogan came out to the ring accompanied by "Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner, who had taken over the leadership role in nWo Hollywood. Nash came out next, then revealed a surprise to Hogan and the crowd by stopping at the end of the entrance ramp and pointing backwards. The surprise was Hall, who had been a part of nWo Hollywood for most of the last seven months and who entered wearing a Wolfpac T-shirt. This marked the reunion of The Outsiders, who had broken up as a tag team at Slamboree in May 1998.
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 hinted at punching Nash only to poke him in the chest. Nash fell on his back in a theatrical manner, which has been compared to "getting hit in the chest with a cannonball". Hogan then covered him to get the pinfall 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 signify the Wolfpac and Hollywood factions were reuniting again. As Hogan had done before each time he had won the title since August 1996, he spray-painted the belt's faceplate with "nWo". However, to signify the reunion with the Wolfpac, Hogan used red spray paint. Meanwhile, the dissatisfied crowd began pelting the ring with food and other debris.
Goldberg then reentered the building and ran to the ring to attack the reunited nWo members. Wolfpac member Lex Luger followed him, appearing to assist him, but instead jumped Goldberg from behind and showed he was also part of the reunited nWo. Goldberg was handcuffed to the ropes, repeatedly shocked with a taser, and had "nWo" painted in red and black paint all over his back. As the nWo was doing this a loud "We want Sting!" chant erupted from the fans in the Georgia Dome, hoping that Sting would come to rescue Goldberg and even things up for WCW. However, Sting had been out since Bret Hart attacked him at Halloween Havoc in October and would not appear again until March 1999; by that time the nWo reunion story had largely petered out in favor of Ric Flair taking control of WCW, and most of the nWo members had been sidelined due to injuries.
After Nitro went off air, team members of the 1999 Super Bowl bound Atlanta Falcons came to Goldberg's rescue.
Airing opposite Nitro this night was the episode of Raw Is War in which Mick Foley (as Mankind) won the WWF Championship from The Rock. As per their procedures at the time, the WWF had taped this particular episode of Raw Is War six days in advance of the program's airing and even acknowledged the title change on their website immediately after the taping had concluded. Earlier that night, armed with knowledge of what happened, WCW announcer Tony Schiavone, who was acting on orders from Eric Bischoff, gave away the result of the match before it aired:
"Fans, as Hollywood Hogan walks away and you look at this 40,000 plus on hand, if you're even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, fans, do not, because 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".
Within minutes, as shown by Nielsen ratings, several hundred thousand viewers switched channels from Nitro on TNT to Raw Is War on the USA Network. After Mankind won the title, many fans then switched back to Nitro, which still had five minutes of air time left. The final ratings for the night were 5.7 for Raw Is War and 5.0 for Nitro.
The next week on Raw Is War, there were signs in the crowd that said: "Mick Foley put my butt in this seat".
In WrestleCrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling, R.D. 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".
WWE refers to the match as "one of the most scandalous title changes of all time" and states that "shocking does not even adequately describe this moment". According to wrestling writers Brian Fritz and Christopher Murray, the event insulted fans, upset viewers, and alerted other wrestlers in the company of problems. They draw a direct link between the title change and the drop in ratings that took place in its aftermath. In The Death of WCW, Reynolds and Alvarez expand on this link, stating that the January 4 incident "more than any other, started the ball rolling towards the company's inevitable doom". They believe that the "now-legendary" event made the episode "the single most destructive Nitro in the history of the company" and call it a "disaster of epic proportions". The New York Daily News stated that the match "is widely considered the beginning of the end for WCW".
In an interview with RF Video, Nash claimed that he had nothing to do with the booking of the incident. When discussing what RF Video refers to as "infamous one finger pin with Hogan", Nash said that Goldberg was 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 incident was Hogan and Nash playing their own little games against the wrestling world. Furthermore, Reynolds and Alvarez contended in The Death of WCW that the actions of Hogan and Nash from the time Goldberg beat Hogan in Atlanta until their own match in the same venue six months later, including the match itself, were part of an ongoing plot between the two wrestlers.
In his autobiography, Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Hulk Hogan rejected the idea that the Fingerpoke of Doom was pivotal in WCW's fall. He claimed that "watering down the whole concept" of the New World Order by splitting the group and creating spinoffs such as the Latino World Order and an inability to compete with the WWF's more risqué "Attitude style" were more responsible for WCW's downfall.
Eric Bischoff's autobiography Controversy Creates Ca$h includes a chapter entitled The Turning Point That Wasn't. In it, Bischoff claimed that singling out the Fingerpoke as the reason WCW went under to be an over-simplification. He did acknowledge that people switched from watching Nitro to Raw Is War after Schiavone's remark about Foley winning the WWF Championship, but claimed that "the tide had turned so significantly that us talking about one match didn't matter".
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