Welcome to Edition 3 of this series where we find the WCW attempting its own version of Game of Thrones.
When it comes to consequential disasters, they don't come much more obvious than the ol' Fingerpoke of Doom (or FoD for short). While the Austin/Hart match was just a horrible accident and the ECW PPV had some sort of warped logic behind it, on the face of it the FoD is idiotic in the extreme. Nothing about it makes any real sense. You had Kevin Nash- the guy who had snapped Bill Goldberg's streak at the biggest PPV the WCW had to offer (admittedly winning dirty, but still winning) just giving up his belt to Hogan in order to reform the nWo. I mean, the whole thing reeked of WTF?
Ok, deep breath...I'll try to explain this rationally.
Bill Goldberg was the World Heavyweight Champion coming into Starrcade 1998. Was he a great wrestler? Not really. Great talker? Nope. What he was though was a guy that had the look and presence of a massive star. The WCW production team had done a brilliant job building him up as a man to be feared and looked on in awe as he cut a swathe through the competition- so much so that by the time Starrcade 1998 he was 173-0.
Alas streaks, according to JBL at least, are made to be broken.
So Starrcade ended with Scott Hall stun gunning Goldberg in order to allow Kevin Nash to powerbomb Goldberg and get the 1,2 and 3 as well as the Big Gold Belt. So one would assume that Goldberg would get his revenge on Big Sexy right?
Hulk Hogan had retired from professional wrestling and was gearing up to make a tilt at the Presidency (yes, this is the sort of story that WCW was willing to tell folks) but was coaxed into a match with Nash for the World Heavyweight Championship after Goldberg was arrested falsely for stalking Miss Elizabeth (and if you think that was bad, it was originally going to be rape).
The match went on as the main event, with Scott Steiner in Hogan's corner and Scott Hall in Nash's corner- which was apparently supposed to be a huge surprise despite the fact that HALL HELPED NASH TO WIN THE BELT!
Sorry, deep breath...
Anyway, Hogan poked Nash in the chest, Nash went down like a sack of spuds and Hogan covered him for the win. Afterwards- Nash's Wolfpac and Hogan's Hollywood factions of the nWo reunited while beating the tar out of Goldberg as well as shocking him with the same stun gun that had incapacitated him at Starrcade.
Kevin Nash has stated that by taking the streak off Goldberg and re-uniting the nWo, the crowd could get behind him through the chase again. There would be some merit in this reasoning had the nWo not soon turned on each other once again as well as injuring themselves- thus forcing WCW to dump that storyline and consign Goldberg to the midcard until October.
However, even if the nWo stayed fit for Goldberg to feud with, was it really the right thing to do? The whole FoD and surrounding angles seems to fly in the face of elementary booking. Let's begin with the fact that Goldberg had a streak going. Instead of putting somebody new, and young over by having them defeat Goldberg for the championship and thus making a new main event player, WCW decided to give it to somebody who was already almost 40 with world titles already to his name.
Then, to top it all off, instead of having Nash run roughshod over the competition as a monster heel or a leader of the nWo Wolfpac as World Heavyweight Champion WCW decides to let Nash lie down for Hogan and take the pin so that Hogan can have the title back and the nWo can reform. Wouldn't it ever enter Nash's mind that perhaps he has a reason to hold onto the title? Is he just that in awe of Hogan that the guy can just turn up after a month and Nash will hand it over no questions asked?
In essence it seemed the WCW was saying to its fans that the best reason to break Goldberg's streak that they could think of was to put over a wrestler who didn't need it, so that he could hand the belt to another wrestler who didn't need it so that they could reform as a stable that everyone had already seen a year ago.
Feel the excitement!
This was also compounded by the fact that on Raw Mick Foley had won his first WWE Championship. Putting aside the derogatory comments from Tony Schavoine, there is no doubt that those who tuned in to Raw saw a moment that was truly special- the ultimate symbol that the WWE was prepared to acknowledge hard work and loyalty wherever it came from. Foley had those in spades and to see him win his first title and the crowd's reaction was nothing short of moving.
Those who switched to see the WCW main event afterwards would have seen a group of people who saw the belt as less important that their little prank- something that no doubt felt all the more irritating after seeing how much it meant to Mick Foley moments ago.
Nobody who was involved from this has come out of it well. It looked selfish at the time and now looking back with the implosion of WCW it looks even worse. It is strange that two moments in wrestling history that are so diametrically opposed should happen on the one night. What's ironic about it is the fact that WCW's comments about Foley winning the title showed how much of a tin ear Bischoff had developed to the average wrestling fan- believing that the sizzle of Hogan and Nash would win out over the substance and occasion of a Foley title win. It would be this lack of substance that would continue to get WCW into peril in the years to come.
Despite what Bischoff, Nash and Hogan may say, the FoD was a symbol of everything that was wrong with the way WCW approached the fans in its later years. With too much reliance on the nWo and a total inability to look for the next big thing the FoD showed fans that while WWE was willing to open doors for superstars, WCW seemed to slam them shut. Its mentality would be reflected in the ratings wars, where fans soon got tired of seeing the same old guys hog the main event spots while WWE made new stars and pushed them to prominence. Finally, it also showed that while the WWE were going to the well with new ideas, WCW was going back to try and squeeze more blood from the nWo stone.
That concludes today's edition. I will take tomorrow off in order to savour Wrestlemania but stay tuned next time where we examine what happened when two men decided that wrestling skills was secondary to body building.