In Defense of…
By JP Prag
THE FINGER POKE OF DOOM (Part 1 of 1)
Hello kids, and thanks for coming back to In Defense Of…! Last week, we just finished up the case of Kevin Nash, which can be read in Issue #7, Issue #8, and (the most amazing fact to date) Issue #9! I’m sure the big man can now make low grossing movies in peace.
And in case you were wondering about the verdict, with 89.7% of the vote, Kevin Nash has been found:
Thanks for all who voted and sent feedback along. I was very worried about this case, and was glad to see the result. But I tell you, I’ve think I spent more time responding to people then I did writing this week’s case. Hopefully that won’t affect it anyway!
Speaking of this week’s case, perhaps you didn’t read about Kevin Nash, the Elimination Chamber, or even Eric Bischoff. Maybe it’s an incredibly questionable booking decision that brings you here today. So, for those new to the concept, this article has a pretty simple premise:
Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum wrap. Certain writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!
And that’s what I intend to do.
Me? I’m the one and only JP, and I am no where near the internet on this Independence Day weekend! But hopefully you are, so you can read about this:
Some dame walked into my office and said…
This actually comes from my friend Rick. He loves the Finger Poke of Doom, and puts it over like the most deadly move of all time. If anyone ever says it was stupid, he’ll go through all of the ways the finger poke hit certain pressure points and shuts down the nervous system. Try arguing with him about why this isn’t a legitimate devastating move, I dare you!
Well, insane kayfabe aside, the Finger Poke of Doom is oft lamented as the prime example of what was wrong with WCW. I, and Rick, and probably Dan, disagree. The Finger Poke of Doom actually made perfect sense from all perspectives, progressed storylines for a year, and—most of all—was good for business. Ready to find out why in only one issue? I know I am!
On January 4, 1999, newly crowned President of WCW Ric Flair announced a rematch from Starrcade: New World Heavyweight Champion Kevin Nash vs. the man he defeated for the title, Goldberg. Seemingly unknowingly, Nash won the match after Scott Hall hit Goldberg with a tazer to finally end the undefeated streak. Not wanting to lose his Wolfpac love with the fans, Nash accepted the match, and everything was in place.
That same night, Hollywood Hogan was set to make a special guest appearance after being in semi-retirement for months and toying with the idea of running for President of the United States, just to stick it in Jesse Ventura’s face. Meanwhile, without his presence, the nWo Black and White had fallen into a disarray of B-stars and the Wolfpac was nothing more then a coddling piece of WCW, not the great machine the nWo used to be.
What had happened to the nWo of the past? They were a separate organization set to take over WCW, but those days were behind. They had become the establishment, as could be seen with co-branding, and were soon to lose everything, even then their own PPV Souled Out. The nWo was lost… or was it?
Behind the scenes, the best of the best got together. Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Lex Lugar, Scott Steiner, and Buff Bagwell came up with a plan to get rid of Goldberg (who had truly driven Hogan away), turn the nWo back into a dominating force, and keep the rabble in the nWo busy so they would not hinder the real work being done.
The plan was set into motion before Starrcade, but this would be their shining moment.
Miss Elizabeth went to the Atlanta police and got Goldberg arrested for sexual misconduct towards her, as she feared for her safety. Everywhere she went, Goldberg was there! Of course, Goldberg countered that that’s because they travel around the country together. But Elizabeth said that even when she went to the gym at home Goldberg was there waiting for her. Goldberg said that was because he owned the gym. Oh well!
But this kept Goldberg busy enough. While away, Kevin Nash said Goldberg got screwed at Starrcade, and was getting screwed by Hogan now. He asked President Flair for a match against Hogan that night, and Flair gave the go ahead. Later, Hogan came out for a special interview to announce his VP candidate, but said the situation with Goldberg made him sick. What also made him sick was Kevin Nash thinking he was scared of him. So he decided to have “one last match” that he owed to his fans.
And everything was set.
The main event came. Steiner came out with Hogan. Nash came out alone, and then pointed to the back and Scott Hall followed. 40,000 fans in the Atlanta Dome were on their feet screaming. The tension could be cut with a knife. They stared each other down. Nash shoved Hogan. Hogan came back with a punch. He pulled it. And then he hit the most devastating move in wrestling:
THE FINGER POKE OF DOOM!!!
Hogan covered for the One-Two-Three and the championship!
And the plan was set in motion.
The Logic of Wrestling
People say, what was the logic of Nash dropping the title to Hogan after just winning it? Why would he do that?
Well, look at it from his character’s perspective. Through the nWo to the present, the Kevin Nash character has cared about one thing: making a lot of money. Remember when the nWo had a match for the entire gate of a live event? Or how they always pushed the t-shirts?
And that’s what Kevin Nash was noticing. Wolfpac sold decent, but was reaching its saturation. It was nothing like the nWo of the past. He didn’t have the clout anymore that he used to, and was now really a part of WCW taking their terms instead of dictating his own.
He needed to refocus and get back into a power position. He knew one man who could do that for him: Hulk Hogan.
But what could Hogan to gain from this? He was already rich beyond most, and had nothing to prove in the sport. Wasn’t he going to run for President?
Well, Hogan had decided that he needed more time before that happened, and realized that he only had so much time left in the business. He wanted one last shot at the top, but feared one thing: Goldberg. How could he get the title off of Goldberg yet never have to face him? That’s where this plan turns genius.
You see, when a champion loses his title, he generally has an automatic rematch clause in his contact against the person that beat him. Well, that meant that when Nash beat Goldberg, Goldberg had the right to ask for the rematch on Nitro. But since he was unable to make it, Hogan got the match. When Hogan won and became the new champion, Nash became the defacto number one contender. Now he was the former champion who could exercise a rematch clause whenever he wanted! Except, being in a team, he never would! So now Hall and Nash could keep Goldberg busy for months to come, while Hogan was off to celebrate with the gold.
Meanwhile, the nWo got to reform into a powerhouse unit, but things were just getting underway.
The Rash Decision
But despite the starkness of the devious plan, members of the IWC still believe that this was an on-the-fly booking decision. That all of the events leading up to the Finger Poke and afterwards were just out of the booking committee’s behind that day. Look, though, at the long term focus WCW was trying to put in:
Refocus the forces
WCW had split into a ridiculous number of factions, all filled with people no one cared about. The first step was to set up the elite nWo, then start to dismantle the rabble in the black and white. At the same time, they had President Flair get rid of the lWo so that there would be certainties about who was on what team, and how the storylines were going. Keeping everything fractured into groups that people could not get behind was not helping anyone, and this was the start of the new direction of WCW.
Drawing out the point
At this point in time, WCW began to set the pace for where things were going for months. For instance, the antics of Hall, Nash, Hogan, and the rest of nWo led to Flair’s eventual insanity and the heel turn for the Horsemen. Looking back, the seeds were built for everything, and the storylines all began to intertwine again into something special.
As time went on, WCW did not try to bury the Finger Poke or pretend it never happened. It came up again, especially when Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan started feuding. A lot of it began with Hogan implying the Finger Poke was real, and he had totally devastated Nash. Torrie Wilson, of all people, was speeding along the process and using the Finger Poke to ebb Nash into turning on Hogan. WCW did not just try to make things happen for no reason at this point, they wanted the long story to continue.
GOLD! And Newbies!
And let us not forget about the gold. The World Heavyweight Championship obviously took a lot of precedent, and good stories evolved into surrounding the title, leading up to Hogan’s loss to Flair at SuperBrawl. At the same time, there was an excellent Tag Team tournament, with Hall and Nash trying to remind everyone how good they were. The Television title got a lot of shine from Steiner now being in the top of the nWo. Also, just coincidentally, the cruiserweights were getting a lot of air-time, and were often getting beat up by nWo members. This actually led to the nWo was being used to elevate new stars, most notably Rey Mysterio and Konnan. Both were treated as legitimate threats to the nWo, and were given the proper ball to run with. Of course, let us not forget that within the nWo that said Steiner was on the rise, and was soon to take a Booker T with him.
The Finger Poke of Doom did not lead directly to all of this, but it was the forefather for things to come. It was the necessary step to set WCW’s direction in the coming months, and those months were planned to some detail. There was no rashness to this choice, it was all played out exactly as it was meant to.
You remember my good friends, the Numbers?
How did this new direction and focus effect WCW? Well, since this is a corporate we are talking about, let’s look at things in quarters (3 months/12 weeks). Let’s start out with the Nitro ratings:
January 4, 1999 5.0 | Finger Poke of Doom
January 11, 1999 5.0 | Post Finger Poke people are still back in full force
January 18, 1999 4.4 | A slight dip that was the harbinger of doom then, now higher then last week’s RAW rating.
January 25, 1999 5.0 | Back to where it was. Whew!
February 1, 1999 4.7 | On no! Another drop!
February 8, 1999 5.7 | Wow, largest rating in the longest!
February 15, 1999 3.9 | Oh my, WCW is going out of business next week!
February 22, 1999 4.8 | Ummm… nevermind. Let’s wait out the rest of the quarter
February 29, 1999 4.3
March 8, 1999 4.4
March 15, 1999 4.3
March 22, 1999 4.0
Well ok then. For the entire quarter, WCW averaged a 4.6 rating. And look at the ratings right around the Finger Poke of Doom. People were not turned off by it, as the IWC would have your believe. All of these old stereotypes for what is a good and bad rating from the past have stopped us from seeing what is plain in numbers: people were entertained and tuned back in. They wanted to see what would happen next.
Over the next several months, the WWF picked up a lot more steam and WCW started to stall again. But that does not mean the Finger Poke of Doom drove away the fans. Quite the contrary, looking at the immediate numbers the following week, we can see they were quite interested in what was going on.
Taking an interesting turn, we can also check the Thunder ratings. And wouldn’t you know it: The January 7, 1999 edition of Thunder immediately following the Finger Poke of Doom was the highest rated Thunder EVER with a 4.3. This followed up with a 3.9 and two weeks at 4.2’s. So for a month with the Finger Poke of Doom, the average WCW rating for its two main shows was a 4.5. I would say that that meant people were not turned off at all, and that the Finger Poke of Doom did not just increase interest in Nitro, but in WCW overall.
The Death of WCW
Yet we hear all the time how the Finger Poke killed WCW. During my research, I often found people who said the Finger Poke of Doom brought WCW to its end, and several people wrote in with the same comments every time I brought it up. It seems that to these people, the finger poke happened, and everyone ran to WWF the next week, and WCW was immediately out of business.
Let’s clear the air. WCW died on March 26, 2001, a full two years and nearly three months after the Finger Poke of Doom. As a matter of fact, by that point in time, neither Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan, nor Eric Bischoff was really involved with WCW anymore (although Bischoff was trying to purchase it before AOL-TW pulled the plug on an actual show!). There seems to be this magical gap in memory that life went on for a long time, and WCW was profitable for quite a while after this event, too.
But as we just saw with the ratings, the Finger Poke did not only NOT drive away the fans, it led to some of the highest rated Nitros and Thunders on record. Those involved saw that what they had done was good for business, was good for WCW, and that meant it was the right thing to do all along.
One More to the Pin
With a simple push to the chest, wrestling history was changed in one night. The Finger Poke of Doom was the culmination of a plan to change the direction of WCW, and accomplished so much in one little touch. Some would have you believe that this was a horrible mistake that immediately caused the end of WCW. But the numbers show the opposite, as fan interest rose across the board in WCW with the Finger Poke of Doom. It was talked about, it was watched, and it made money in the long run.
The Finger Poke of Doom rarely has had anyone talk about all of the positives it has done. Instead, simple idle lines about it have tarnished reasonable thought for too long. Step back and look: The Finger Poke of Doom was amazing. It wasn’t the horror that the IWC has claimed for so long, but was an enjoyable and shocking moment in wrestling history; a moment that will be remembered for a long time to come. So instead of wallowing in some supposed tragedy that never happened, let us remember how to enjoy the moment as it was.
The defense rests.
Well everyone, that wraps up our fourth case, and in one issue to boot! So what do you think?
IN THE CASE OF THE IWC VERSUS THE FINGER POKE OF DOOM, THE FINGER POKE HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF CAUSING THE DEATH OF WCW, DESTROYING ENJOYMENT IN WRESTLING, AND BEING ONE OF THE WORST SWERVES IN WRESTLING HISTORY THAT SENT THE FANS AWAY IN DROVES.
YOU THE JURY FIND THE FINGER POKE OF DOOM:
And even though it is an American holiday, that does not mean you get time off to not cast your vote.
Next week we take a shot at more questionable booking as I look into Dusty Rhodes: Head Booker. Will I be able to prove the American Dream was a great man with the book, or will my article end in a Dusty Finish? Only one way to find out, and that’s to tune in next week for In Defense of… Dusty Rhodes: Head Booker (Part 1 of 2).
Looking for something to do between now and then? Don’t forget about our CONTEST!!!!
I’m looking for a cool banner logo to put at the top of my article.
Here’s the rules/prizes:
* Design a jpg/gif logo of no more then 100K that you will send to me and give up all rights and claims and ownership to
* Be able to host the logo or have a place to host the logo for an indefinite amount of time that can handle the bandwidth of 411mania
* Nothing on there can be illegal or facetious and must include the name of the column (with the triple dots) and my name
* The winner will get two prizes:  You will get whatever you want plugged to death by me (with the exception of something incredibly illegal or downright sick) and  You can have me defend something completely ridiculous in a one shot issue. That’s right, you could ask me to defend Tommy Dreamer drinking toilet water or Chucky being the guy who was stalking Rick Steiner or Mae Young giving birth to a hand or the Red Rooster as a credible gimmick or Jerry Flynn getting a match at Starrcade, or any other such fun thing!
* All entries must be received by the end of Issue #10… which is this issue! So get cracking, ‘cause I need to pick a winner before next issue. I’m not telling you when the cutoff is, but let’s just say that I like to finish my articles early, so you better have that thing ready for me soon!
And don’t forget: the next time you read some throwaway line out there presented as fact, challenge it. The truth matters, and you have a right to know.
Know a particular person, event, organization, storyline, etc… in wrestling history that needs a defense? E-mail the One and Only JP at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be glad to hear your case.