The Fingerpoke of Doom is the common nickname for a pivotal 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.
In the storyline, champion Kevin Nash was scheduled to face Goldberg in a rematch for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Goldberg was undefeated until Nash beat him for the title, and this was going to be their anticipated rematch. However, Goldberg was arrested mid-show and accused of "aggravated stalking" by Miss Elizabeth (he was originally going to be accused of rape, but Goldberg refused to go along with that particular storyline). He was released when Elizabeth couldn't keep her story straight. Meanwhile, Hollywood Hulk Hogan returned to WCW after a hiatus and challenged Nash to a match, which Nash accepted.
The match started with the two men circling each other. Hogan then poked Nash in the chest, and Nash quickly fell to the mat on his back. Hogan then covered for a pin, and was declared the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion. After this occurred, Scott Hall (who accompanied Nash) and Scott Steiner (who accompanied Hogan) entered the ring and celebrated with Nash and Hogan to reunite the nWo. After their actions, Goldberg ran out and attempted to clear the ring, only to be jumped by Lex Luger (who turned heel). Goldberg was then handcuffed to the ring ropes and tasered by Hall before having 'nWo 4 life' spraypainted on his back. The show ended with Hogan and Nash spraypainting 'nWo' on the title belt.
The Mankind Giveaway
On the same night, the arch-rival WWF aired a taped match directly opposite Nitro on RAW in which Mick Foley (as Mankind) won the WWF Championship from The Rock. Eric Bischoff ordered WCW announcer Tony Schiavone to give away the result of the match before it aired, in which Schiavone sarcastically added "That'll put some butts in seats!" Bischoff’s decision was in retaliation, as Vince McMahon had Jim Ross give away the Nitro result on a Raw live voiceover (word about the scheduled finish had leaked out over the Internet). Within minutes, Nielsen ratings showed that several hundred thousand viewers switched channels from Nitro on TNT to RAW on the USA Network, then switched back for the last five minutes of Nitro after Mankind won the title, suggesting that had WCW not given away the RAW main event results they would have been the ratings victor on that night. The final ratings for the night were 5.7 for RAW, and 5.0 for Nitro.
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). In retrospect, many observers inside and outside the pro wrestling business noted that this storyline turned off numerous fans for several reasons:
- It devalued the WCW World Heavyweight Title by having Nash simply lay down and drop it to Hogan with zero effort.
- The nWo by that time was very overdone. Reforming it made many fans even more tired of it.
- nWo Wolfpac became the "elite" group, yet WCW continued to allow nWo Hollywood (which was dubbed the "B-Team") to exist despite the lack of fan support for the latter.
- By this time, WCW had developed a reputation for consistently putting heels over faces, no matter the circumstances. This incident reinforced that perception in the minds of many fans.
- Bischoff and WCW failed to perceive that fans would prefer to see a match like the Rock-Foley one instead of theirs. (In his book, Sex, Lies and Headlocks, Shaun Assael wrote of the incident, “Thousands of viewers switched to see two of the hardest-working men in the business instead of two of the laziest.”)
- Goldberg was a huge fan favorite because he represented something fresh and new for WCW. By having the nWo beat him up like any other person gave the impression (which was building for months) that Goldberg was never going to be the number one figure in WCW. Fans felt that, no matter what, Goldberg was going to be put on the backburner for Hogan and Nash forever and their interests would always come before all else, including the fans and even the company's best interests.
- The only positive that came out of the incident was how effectively Goldberg fought other members of the nWo. When nWo members were celebrating their reunion, Goldberg had just reached the arena and he was told by somebody in the backstage as to what actually just happened between Nash and Hogan. He ran toward the rings where he confronted Hogan, Nash, Hall, Steiner and Bagwell. He had the better of them until Luger entered the scene, presumably to help-out already dominating Goldberg, but instead Luger attacked him and placed him in the Torture Rack, allowing the nWo to assault Goldberg.
- Another thing which has been largely unnoticed was how poorly WCW executed a match that could have been a big draw. Vince McMahon once made a reference to the incident by commenting that the Hogan-Nash encounter deserved to be in a Wrestlemania or Starrcade placing which would make the company millions of dollars. Instead WCW management opted to book the match on Monday Nitro and the poor execution and length of it only added insult to injury.
- The only other time Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash were pitted against each other was at Road Wild 1999, where Hogan successfully defended his World Title in a Retirement match. The match was not highly regarded in terms of impact, build-up or quality wrestling.
- Many internet fans or smarks saw this as a vulgar display of backstage power since it was well known that Nash was the booker in WCW and Hogan had a creative control clause in his contract.
- Several times throughout the night, the WCW announce team talked about how they had a "real main event" and how the main event for the show was what "wrestling was all about."
- Also damaged was the credibility of the company itself, which did not present the match that had been advertised (a Goldberg vs. Kevin Nash rematch from Starrcade '98), as well as what was perceived to be an underhanded way of selling out the arena for that night's telecast. Strangely enough, WCW would continue to use this bait-and-switch type of booking until their eventual demise in 2001.
While the Fingerpoke of Doom was far from the only factor in the downfall of WCW, the circumstances surrounding that event and that night may well have been the most pivotal factor of all.
- Following the incident, WWF fans would bring signs to shows that said "Mick Foley put my ass in this seat!"
- When asked about the Fingerpoke incident, Kevin Nash once replied "If Hogan had given Goldberg the Fingerpoke of Doom, it would've killed him!" Nash has made fun of himself for the same thing as a result of an injury he sustained on WWE RAW in 2002 just from running.
- In an episode of Raw that aired in summer 2005, Christian, Chris Jericho, and Tyson Tomko were in a tag match against Shawn Michaels, John Cena, and a mystery partner. When trying to guess who the mystery wrestler was, Chris Jericho suggested Kevin Nash, to which Christian responded "Na, he'd tear a limb just picking up the phone", a possible reference to the event. The mystery partner, coincidentally, was Hulk Hogan.
- The incident is partly mentioned in WWE '13 in an Attitude Era mode video cutscene. Before the player relives the match that saw Mick Foley become WWF Champion, the narrator mentions WCW's attempt at dissuading viewers from watching RAW that saw them switch over to it instead. Whilst the actual Fingerpoke itself isn't shown partly due to it featuring Hulk Hogan, who was then a personality on Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, Schiavone's spoiling of the match's outcome as well as its immediate effect is mentioned.