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This Day in Wrestling History (Jan. 4): FINGERPOKE OF DOOM

Today’s TDIPWH will be presented in two parts. The second part will focus on New Japan’s annual January 4 Tokyo Dome show, known today as Wrestle Kingdom.

this day in wrestling history

18 years ago today on Nitro from Atlanta, Georgia (WWE Network link) , Hollywood Hogan defeated Kevin Nash in less than two minutes to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

The incident is forever etched in wrestling lore as "The Fingerpoke of Doom". The shady world title change capped off perhaps the most pivotal hour in the history of the Monday Night Wars.

It began with Hollywood Hogan returning to WCW for the first time since Thanksgiving when he announced he was running for President of the United States. Following the segment, Tony Schiavone, on orders of Eric Bischoff, gives away the results of the RAW is WAR main event taped about a week earlier:

"Fans, if you're even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, fans, do not. 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."

In the moments that followed, as many as 600,000 households switched from Nitro to RAW; though the match didn’t begin for another half-hour, those people stuck around to see exactly what Schiavone promised: Mankind—the once and future Cactus Jack—defeating The Rock for his first WWF Championship.

As RAW is WAR was taped that week, there was no overrun. But there was one on Nitro, something that had become commonplace on their show by the beginning of 1999. Just before 11pm ET, the introductions were made for the WCW world title match between Nash and Hogan (Jerry Lawler on commentary during the RAW main event took a shot at WCW for their late-starting main events).

As for the match itself, the two men circled and taunted one another. Then, as Hogan looked to strike Nash, Hogan lightly poked Nash in the chest and Nash took a prat fall. One three count later, Hogan, who had not wrestled since Halloween Havoc, was your WCW World Heavyweight Champion as Hogan, Nash, Scott Steiner, and Scott Hall all shared a hug. Turned out it was all an elaborate ruse on two fronts: (1) to ensure Goldberg never got his rematch, and (2) to reunite the two warring nWo factions as one.

The backlash was massive: not only had WCW bait-and-switched viewers and paying customers out of an advertised match YET AGAIN (it was originally supposed to be the rematch from Starrcade between Nash and former champion Goldberg, but Goldberg had been “arrested” earlier in the show and was not back in time for the start of the match), they had essentially hit the reset button on the New World Order. Even Mick Foley himself was upset over Tony Schiavone’s “butts in seats” comment, with Foley personally phoning Schiavone about it (it was then Mick learned that Tony was told by Eric Bischoff to make the comment).

In the end, the strategy cost WCW dearly. With the massive turnover in viewership, Nitro gave away the opportunity to win its first head-to-head battle with RAW since the night after Halloween Havoc in October; RAW would win the night quite convincingly with a then-record-tying 5.7 rating to Nitro’s 5.0.

WCW ended up losing viewers long-term as well; Nitro would only see a 5.0+ rating three times after the Fingerpoke of Doom, with a high of 5.7 on February 8 (RAW did not air that evening due to the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show). By the end of the summer of 1999, Nitro would never again see a 4.0 rating, going as low as 1.8 in April 2000. Needless to say, WCW’s Nitro never again caught WWF’s RAW in the ratings again.

10 years ago today, WWE signs Nattie Neidhart.

Nattie would eventually debut as Natalya. She is the first (and still the only) third-generation woman to compete in the WWE.

7 years ago today on RAW from Dayton, Ohio (WWE Network link), Bret Hart made his return to WWE.

Save for a pre-taped appearance in 2007, this was Hart’s first in-ring appearance in any capacity for WWE since the infamous Montreal Screwjob in November 1997.

Hart, appearing as the week’s guest host, publicly patched things up with Shawn Michaels, with the two agreeing to bury the hatchet and not be defined by the events of Montreal.

It didn’t quite work out that way with Vince McMahon; McMahon, feigning he too had agreed to let bygones be bygones, would kick Hart in the groin. Though the two have in reality been on speaking terms since Bret’s stroke in 2002, the kick was to set up a storyline between Hart and McMahon, culminating with a submission win for Hart at Wrestlemania XXVI.

7 years ago today on a live Impact from Orlando, Florida, Hamada and Awesome Kong defeated Sarita and Taylor Wilde to win the TNA Knockouts Tag Team Championship.

On the same show, ODB defeated Tara to win the TNA Knockouts Championship.

The extended episode (their second in less than a week) is most noted for the TNA debuts of Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Ric Flair, Orlando Jordan, Sean Morley, and the Nasty Boys and the returns of Jeff Hardy, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, and Shannon Moore.

For all the bells and whistles and confusing mess the show was (and it was), it did serve its purpose: a record 2.2 million viewers watched the show (peaking at 2.9 million viewers during Hulk Hogan’s debut), more than enough to convince Spike to move Impact to Monday night two months later... where they would see their lowest ratings in the show’s history. TNA has the full episode up on its Youtube channel here.

For the record, that evening’s RAW got 5.6 million viewers, their largest viewing audience since the night after Summerslam the prior August.

6 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Tuscon, Arizona, Kofi Kingston defeated Dolph Ziggler to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship.

1 year ago today, PWInsider reported that James Cox, best known to wrestling fans as James Storm, would return to TNA, possibly as soon as the first tapings of the Pop TV era in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Storm left the promotion last summer and briefly worked for WWE's developmental brand, NXT in the fall. In the end, it came down to money: Pro Wrestling Sheet reported WWE was only willing to offer less than $100,000 a year, while TNA countered with a fully-guaranteed $250,000 per annum, plus a portion of merchandise sales (his deal is guaranteed even if TNA goes under).

Storm would return at the next night's taping and reunite with his longtime partner Bobby Roode as Beer Money. On January 31, Beer Money won their fifth TNA tag team titles as a unit.

On the same day Storm returned to TNA, Taryn Terrell announced that she had left the promotion.

Terrell had been with the company since August 2012, first as a referee before transitioning full-time to a member of the Knockouts division. Terrell, who left the promotion briefly in 2013 due to her pregnancy, won the TNA Knockouts Championship in September 2014 and held it for 279 days, the longest in the championship's history.

In November 2015, Terrell claimed in an interview that her wrestling career had led to a life of sin, but she was beginning her journey as an “infant Christian”. Two months later, she announced she was leaving TNA—and the wrestling business altogether as it turned out—in a video:

"I just wanted to give you guys an update as to what is going on with me. I know there's been some speculation as to whether or not I would be returning to TNA and the answer is I will not be returning. I just wanted you guys to hear it from me rather than the rumor mill. It's just a personal decision. I hope that you guys had an amazing 2015. I know I did. Just an update as to what's going on with me: I got married to an incredible man. His name is Mr. Joseph Dryden, and he is a motorcycle stuntman extraordinaire. I couldn't be happier, you know, and this is sort of the path that my life is on now. TNA is just not the right fit for me anymore. I just want to say that they've been such an amazing company and I have made some incredible friends who are such talented wrestlers and I do hope you guys continue to tune in, I know they've changed over to Pop TV. God bless all of you guys."

Terrell appeared at Bound for Glory this past October during Gail Kim's induction into the TNA Hall of Fame. She's expecting her second child.

1 year ago today, MLW Radio and Wrestling Observer Radio both report that AJ Styles and “two to three” other members of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Bullet Club have given their notice with intentions to leave the company.

Meltzer went on to report that WWE may be in the process of raiding New Japan of their top talent, targeting former IWGP Heavyweight Champions AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura (who was their promotion's reigining Intercontinental Champion), and three-time IWGP tag champions Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson.

In the end, WWE would get them all; Styles would make his WWE debut later in the month in the Royal Rumble match, Nakamura would debut for WWE's developmental brand, NXT, in February and debut at NXT Takeover Dallas two days before Wrestlemania 32, and Anderson and Gallows would debut for WWE in April 2016.

The best of cSs on this day:

2016: Roman Reigns to defend WWE title in the Royal Rumble match (After successfully defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Sheamus, Vince McMahon announces his Reigns' next defense will be in the Royal Rumble match)

2015: WWE Network launch date in UK and Ireland set for Jan. 19, 2015 (After multiple delays, WWE Network will launch in the United Kingdom and Ireland in time for the Royal Rumble)

2014: TNA Impact leaving Universal Studios in Orlando again; future taping schedule uncertain (TNA's TV future uncertain after being unable to book shows at Universal Orlando)

2013: WWE Elimination Chamber 2013 poster features The Rock, CM Punk, John Cena and more (The Rock at the center of the Elimination Chamber poster leads to speculation regarding his involvement at the event)

2012: WWE Raw ratings for Jan. 2, 2012, mystery return man episode: Show averages 4.44 million viewers (Return of Chris Jericho and a CM Punk-Dolph Ziggler WWE title match not enough to attract viewers from the Fiesta Bowl game)

2011: Bracket Released for Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament (Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistar Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum one of four first-round bouts in the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix—nobody in the original bracket won; Daniel Cormier, Overeem's replacement, won, defeating Josh Barnett in the final)

2010: Impact ends with the un-NWO beating up Mick Foley, Raw ends with Vince McMahon kicking Bret Hart in the balls after feigning reconciliation (David Bixenspan sums up the first RAW and Impact of 2010 with the following: “TNA shot itself in the foot. WWE set up the WM buildup in solid fashion. The usual.”)

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