Don’t do this: The Fingerpoke of Doom

With our show reviews usually being posted the morning after the show airs, Thursday is categorically our off day, but some of us here at the 1/8th Nelson dislike going an entire day without mentioning something about wrestling.  So I came up with an idea.

As much as I like to complain about TNA, they are not the only ones who have ever made questionable decisions in wrestling.  Through its illustrious lifespan, professional wrestling has given us some of the most ludicrous moments TV has to offer.  So on Thursdays, we’ll be going back through the archives and look at some of these things, in a bit I’m naming Don’t Do This: A Lesson in Questionable Booking.  And yes, I’m aware Wrestlecrap does it better.  Shut up.

To kick things off this week, we’re starting big: one of the biggest turning points in WCW history…and not in a good way.

My friends, I give you the dreaded Fingerpoke of Doom.

WCW: January 4, 1999

WCW had started quite possibly the best storyline (received, at least) in wrestling history when it created the New World Order in 1996.  Originally thought to be a WWF invasion, the move by Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and a “shockingly” turned heel ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan was ratings gold for WCW’s flagship show Monday Nitro.  Suddenly, it was cool to be a wrestling fan (like that would last).  WCW then launched an epic story in which the nWo successfully got WCW to turn on its longtime star Sting, causing him to leave in a huff and abandon WCW when it needed him most.  Several months later, Sting would reappear with a drastic change in look and demeanor.  The war began anew and went on for about 9 months before it looked like the big show of the year – Starrcade – would mark the end of the nWo storyline.

But WCW didn’t want to end the storyline.  The nWo was their cash cow and, as history would later prove, they really had no other idea what to do.  So the Sting vs. Hogan title program would be stretched out another two months before Sting would finally definitively win the belt, only to lose it two months later to Randy Savage, who a day later lost it back to Hulk Hogan – and the nWo was on top again.  But the whole thing was getting stale.  The nWo had defeated WCW’s biggest gun.  There was no war anymore.  What to do now?  Simple!  More nWo.

So Kevin Nash and Randy Savage broke off into a splinter nWo called the Wolfpac, sporting a red variation of the nWo logo.  With them came perennial midcarder Konnan, the formerly perfect Curt Hennig (and Rick Rude, of course) and for no particular reason, both Sting and Lex Luger – since nothing says awesome like taking the other side’s biggest guns.  The other major WCW players – Giant, Bret Hart and half of the Steiner Brothers, Scott – jumped in with Hogan, and that was it for WCW.  But there was two times the nWo!  Who needs WCW?

This feud, starting in April, lasted the rest of the year, but WCW began slipping in the process.  Fans were starting to notice the new direction of the WWF and following the much more interesting likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock.  Panic led to the sudden elevation of unlikely star Bill Goldberg, who had a gimmick of unstoppable wrecking machine.  He went from the United States Champion destroying jobbers to suddenly the World Champion destroying jobbers.  Hulk Hogan would take the loss but still stay on top of the roster, having ‘high profile’ matches with the likes of Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone and Jay Leno.  Yes, that Jay Leno.

And you know what?  Half of these things will turn up in this column again.  God bless you, WCW.

But finally came Starrcade 1998.  Kevin Nash, now booking for the company, decided that he should be the one to end Goldberg’s staggering undefeated streak.  And since everyone at WCW loved a bad idea, everyone got on board.  Nash won the 60 man battle royal of World War III and got his title shot against Goldberg.  The end came when Scott Hall, who for a great amount of time had been estranged from his friend Nash, showed up and nailed Goldberg with a cattle prod.  That led to Nash’s win – WCW had a new champion.

But being the good guy, Nash didn’t want it to end that way.  On Nitro the next night, he told Goldberg that the next week he could have a rematch so this could be done right.  And led us to January 4, 1999.  You might think that was a lot of setup, but there’s a reason for explaining all of that.  Just stick with me.

The show kicked off with Goldberg being arrested for assaulting nWo member Miss Elizabeth.  The commentators began questioning whether he could possibly make it back for the match.  Nash blamed Hulk Hogan for the incident, as Hogan – who had (wink, wink) retired to run for President – just happened to be present at the show.  Nash called Hogan out to take the title shot, and here’s where things got awful.  Perhaps we should have seen something coming when Nash came out accompanied by Scott Hall, whom he had claimed had worked independently at Starrcade.  Nash and Hogan met face to face, and then the match was suddenly over.  Hogan poked Nash with a single finger, sending Nash flailing to the mat.  Hogan pinned him and it was done.  Hogan was champion again the nWo, both red and white, laughed the whole thing off as if that had been their plan all along.

See why I gave all the leadup?  It’s because none of it mattered. Now if you’re irked that you took the time to read all that, imagine taking the time to watch all that over the course of 8 months.

If WCW was to be believed, the whole nWo vs. nWo bit was an elaborate plan to get the belt back on Hulk Hogan.  Except that Hulk Hogan was the champion when the whole mess started.  The Wolfpac had splintered off because he robbed Randy Savage of the title.  But Randy Savage had been out on injury for months, so we didn’t have to think of that.  And what of Sting and Lex Luger?  Sting had been out on injury himself since October, and without Sting to be his moral compass, Luger was free to join up with the bad guys, all the sense that made.  Konnan, now quite popular with the fans, was tossed out of the group to go start his own stable.  Goldberg was beaten down and would never again see the WCW Championship.

But there was a bigger problem.  The nWo vs. nWo feud had completely buried WCW.  All of the big names had joined one faction or the other.  The only WCW loyalist remaining, DDP, had spent a large chunk of the year teaming up with celebrities.  Of course you couldn’t do WCW vs. nWo anymore.  So where do you go once you have your big group together?  Exactly.  Some house cleaning was done, booting both the Giant and Curt Hennig, but the former quickly jumped ship to the WWF and the latter went on to do his own thing.  Finally, the nWo began drifting apart.  Hulk Hogan began a face turn with the help of Ric Flair and eventually went on the shelf for knee surgery, pretty much ending the whole thing.

But the legacy of the Fingerpoke of Doom would be the very symbol of the decline of WCW leading to its end just two years later.

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