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The Monday Night Wars
April 30, 2012 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Historians of the war consider it to have been lost in what became known as the Fingerpoke of Doom.

WIKIPEDIA:
In WrestleCrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling, RD Reynolds says of the match, "That was that. Fans had been burned one time too many by WCW and the nWo. From that point on in 1999, ratings steadily dropped for the company." ... According to wrestling writers Brian Fritz and Christopher Murray, the event insulted fans, upset viewers, and alerted other wrestlers in the company to problems in the company. They draw a direct link between the title change and the drop in ratings that took place in its aftermath. R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, authors of the book The Death of WCW, also draw this link, stating that the January 4 incident "more than any other, started the ball rolling towards the company's inevitable doom". They believe that the "now-legendary" event made the episode "the single most destructive Nitro in the history of the company" and call it a "disaster of epic proportions". The New York Daily News stated that the match "is widely considered the beginning of the end for WCW".
posted by Trurl (46 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are historians of this stuff ?
posted by Flood at 11:55 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are historians of this stuff?

Takes +16 years and $185,000 to get the degree, but yes.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:56 AM on April 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


The willfully suspending disbelievers love their theater, just not when it gets too theatrical.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:57 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


WrestleCrap is an excellent read. I miss their old site, but the book was well worth the purchase.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:01 PM on April 30, 2012


After reading the various Wikipedia links and watching the YT video, I still have no idea what's going on, either in the metaverse of WCW/WWF or the meta-meta-narrative of what was happening behind the scenes at WCW. How esoteric can you get?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:05 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


The willfully suspending disbelievers love their theater, just not when it gets too theatrical.

See also: Every other form of fiction.

See also also: Politics.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:06 PM on April 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


And Ted Turner somehow pops up... WWF WTF?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:07 PM on April 30, 2012


I want to know what brand of lozenges the announcers use, that allows them to spend hours screaming in incredulity.
posted by fatbird at 12:11 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Disney and Warner Bros. could make a killing launching wrestling leagues themed after their respective comic book superheros.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:15 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't stand professional wrestling, but I love the terminology associated with it. The slang pulls from the languages of vaudeville, carnies, con-men and magicians all to maintain the illusion.
posted by rh at 12:17 PM on April 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


So.. how does this work these days? Are they quite open about the fact that it's a scripted performance? Is there like a whole scene where people discuss season finales, cliffhangers and other TV drama like elements? Are the wrestling writers and producers well-known people, or is it all kept a bit in the dark, and is the pretense that this is real part of the appeal?
posted by Harry at 12:27 PM on April 30, 2012


Check out the "illusion" link in rh's comment, Harry.
posted by griphus at 12:35 PM on April 30, 2012


So.. how does this work these days?

This article is a good description of the current "Reality Era".
posted by Trurl at 12:38 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


@Apocryphon: Deadpool actually had a Team Up issue with The Thing, where they both got involved in a Wrestling Match...
TO THE DEATH!!!

@Harry: It really depends by who they're marketing towards at the time. The overall idea these days is much like say...Santa, or the Tooth Fairy. Everyone over a certain age knows The Secret, but won't spoil the thing for the kids.
This is why wrestling nerds collectively lost their shit when A Bunch Of No Names(and Daniel Bryan) showed up on Raw after their joke of a reality show was over and proceeded to wreck the shit out of everything, because it was like pulling off Santas beard, and choking him with the large plastic candy canes.

I'll do what I do in every wrestling thread, if you're curious at all, watch tonight. Some of the show will be shit, and you'll never want to eat at Subway ever again, but there should be some interesting stuff on.
Or you could watch some Chikara
posted by WeX Majors at 12:41 PM on April 30, 2012


Historians of the war consider it to have been lost in what became known as the Fingerpoke of Doom

Surrender immediately or face the toenail of catastrophe, you swine.....
posted by gallus at 12:43 PM on April 30, 2012


I like to look at wrestling as participatory theater. You can't have a successful show unless the audience is both complicit and invested in the action.

Sometimes this means genuinely believing that what you're seeing is real: how many kids cried last night when Brock Lesnar bloodied John Cena? And sometimes this means appreciating the performance as a performance. You don't need to believe that you're watching a real power struggle play out on stage to appreciate the spectacle of The Lion King, and you don't need to believe that Sheamus is really half-dead to appreciate the cunning

The best performers can get the people in the second group to act like those in the first. Say what you want about John Cena, but that's what sold the main event at last night's WWE pay-per-view. That's why Vickie Guerrero is such a valuable asset.

The Fingerpoke of Doom wasn't the turning point of the WCW, but it insulted the second group and flummoxed the first, and that's not how you run a show.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:51 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Finger Poke of Doom basically was this strange metameta attack on the very institution of what we cared about just so people would talk about WCW instead of WWF for a few weeks. The descent of WCW started before then, and continued forward to D**** A******** winning the WCW Heavyweight Title about 18 months later. Why care after all of that?

Wrestling is a LARP. Customers pay to play the role of "sports fans." The wrestlers pay (financially at first; physically thereafter) to play the role of "fighter." Everyone involved knows that we're all playing pretend, even though there is a bunch of real emotion and real physical action surrounding everything. But when the thing we all care about -- the Big Gold Belt and all it represents -- is devalued ... why do we care?

I was in the business for a while, and I mentioned this to some friends of mine in the business. They really, really hated it. I've been a larper for a while also, and the same thing is true there... *shrug*
posted by andreaazure at 1:00 PM on April 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


to appreciate the cunning

Uh ... I may have passed out here. The ref checked my arm and I didn't respond.

I meant "Bryan's cunning strategy." I think.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:02 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


> what brand of lozenges the announcers use, that allows them to spend hours screaming in incredulity.

AC/DC brand.
posted by jfuller at 1:14 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wrestling is a LARP.

That's brilliant. It's like some sort of ponzi scheme of pure imagination: if everyone plays along it's self-sustaining, but the prize at the very top is revealed to be valueless, it all falls apart
posted by mhoye at 1:15 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The finger-poke was just rubbing the "smarks" nose in what everyone knew; that Hogan and his cronies ran the entire promotion. It is considered the end of the Monday Night Wars because WCW basically kept driving itself into the ground afterwards; there was never another upswing.
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:18 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wrestling is a LARP.

Oh wow, that's perfect... I wish I had heard that years ago, so I could viciously tease all of the wresting fans I knew who would have been thoroughly offended by that incredibly accurate description.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:19 PM on April 30, 2012


If you like wrestling, I can't recommend the documentary Memphis Heat highly enough.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:21 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like any soap opera, professional wrestling has its good storylines, its bad storylines and its get-the-hell-out-of-here completely incredulous storylines. Sometimes the latter goes so far over the line that it wraps around into awesome -- who WOULDN'T want to watch an octogenarian give birth to a rubber hand?

When wrestling errs, it usually errs by digressing too far away from the central plot point of concern: The Belt. Someone is The Champ. Everyone else wants to take that away from The Champ, and one guy at a time gets a shot at it. There are personal feuds, there are undercard belts, there are other things going on, but if The Belt isn't treated as being of importance, you're not running a wrestling show, you're running Jersey Shore with fewer fistpumps.

This is why Ric Flair was considered the legend that he was, because he was the absolute epitome of the villainous champion. Brash, arrogant, but with undeniable talent to back it up; he could beat anyone one-on-one but ALSO make it look like anyone, whether it was some regional challenger in the old days, a nobody given a one-time title match or a rampaging superstar, could come THIS CLOSE to pulling off an upset and taking The Belt. And so the quest to find SOMEONE who could Beat The Man and thus Become The Man went on for another week. A simple storyline with a thousand variations, but it was both plausible and fun to watch.

The Fingerpoke of Doom turned that whole scenario on its ear. It was far from the only cause, but it was an extremely visible symptom that WCW had ceased completely to be about Pursuing The Belt and was simply now the Hogan And His Many Friends Show.
posted by delfin at 1:31 PM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Having damned near absolute zero knowledge of wresting, the full article on The Fingerpoke of Doom manages to be informative, amusing, and confounding all at once.

Choice quotes:

The show ended with Goldberg being handcuffed to the ropes, repeatedly shocked with a taser, and having "nWo" painted in red and black paint all over his back.

This makes me see professional wrestling as a prophetic tale rife with political allegory... I now want to read a bunch of pro wrestling recaps completely devoid of context, to see if it paints some dystopian horror of things to come.

Continuing on:

As the nWo was doing this a loud "we want Sting" chant erupted from the fans in the Georgia Dome, hoping that Sting would come to rescue Goldberg and even things up for WCW.

The only Sting I know would be the "musician" - and while I'm assuming that the wrestler Sting is a different person, I really don't want to educate myself otherwise because that is a fantastic mental image.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:32 PM on April 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's just like the last 10 minutes of Lynch's Dune.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:35 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The only Sting I know would be the "musician" - and while I'm assuming that the wrestler Sting is a different person, I really don't want to educate myself otherwise because that is a fantastic mental image.

Totally different guy. But would it help your mental image if I said that at this point in time Sting was basically just a re-branded knock-off of The Crow?
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:37 PM on April 30, 2012


There's actually an entire book by the Wrestlecrap editors about what happened to WCW. It's called The Death of WCW. It's quite funny at times, but it's also like watching a slow-motion train wreck.

Here's the thing. Part of what makes wrestling work is that sooner or later, the bad guys get their come-uppance. The whole WCW vs. NWO storyline remains one of the most interesting things that have ever happened in wrestling, but it ultimately killed WCW because the payoff never happened. Hogan never lost the title (well, he did, but by that point things were too broken). Main-event after main-event were random pairings of NWO guys vs. random pairings of WCW guys, and most of those matches ended in sloppy run-in brawls.

And the reason why the payoff never happened was because behind the scenes, Hogan, Hall, and Nash were essentially running the company. Their expensive guaranteed contracts all had "creative control" clauses, and they didn't understand that they were the bad guys.

Sometime around 97 or 98, back when a lot of people were watching both WCW and WWF every week, a friend of mine pointed out that the problem with WCW was that it was too realistic. And in real life, stories often don't have very satisfying endings.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:01 PM on April 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


This makes me see professional wrestling as a prophetic tale rife with political allegory. . .

Stephyn Dobyn's The Wrestler's Cruel Study is a pretty whacky novel where the central conceit is that professional wrestling is a purposeful reenactment of the Sumerian mythos. The fight in the ring is literally the continuation of a battle between ancient gods.
posted by Think_Long at 2:11 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: who WOULDN'T want to watch an octogenarian give birth to a rubber hand?
posted by joe lisboa at 2:13 PM on April 30, 2012


Metafilter: who WOULDN'T want to watch an octogenarian give birth to a rubber hand?

That's what lured me, in but the Katie Vick / necrophlia angle was what made me stay.
posted by Dark Messiah at 2:23 PM on April 30, 2012


re: Katie Vick, I caught this tweet last night by chance, unaware that the corpse of Katie Vick was tweeting from beyond the grave, and it completely made my night:

From @WWEKatieVick:
Daniel Bryan is still a way better boyfriend than Kane. #ExtremeRules
posted by jermsplan at 2:28 PM on April 30, 2012


Yes, The Death of WCW is required reading for students of the period - as well as a fun read. In addition to documenting the almost Dada-ist incoherence of their booking in the declining years, it's a useful business lesson in how there's no competitive advantage large enough that it can't be derailed by human folly.
posted by Trurl at 2:33 PM on April 30, 2012


Oh, man. The NWO era of WCW was that point in college where I briefly got back into pro wrasslin'. I loved the NWO. When I saw the finger poke I laughed my ass off - I was won over completely. I stopped watching anyways for other reasons, but I think I'll hunt down this book.
posted by charred husk at 3:25 PM on April 30, 2012


delfin: When wrestling errs, it usually errs by digressing too far away from the central plot point of concern: The Belt.

Interesting to note that current thinking (and booking) in WWE, even with such stalwarts as Jim Ross, is that belts don't matter any more, and that the business would do better without them. I think it can be taken as read that the business in question is no longer that of wrestling - you hit it on the head with the Jersey Shore reference.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 4:59 PM on April 30, 2012


Will people please get off the case of not liking wrestling? I can think of no one my age (32) who grew up in America and was not exposed to WWF and WCW. The fact is that it was always going to be a war. I would say the best WCW vehicle was the Sting Army. I didn't even know about it really until 2006, because I didn't have cable until I was in college so missed the storyline then. I stopped watching wrestling after the death of Chris Benoit and how WWF responded. I am sure Eddie Guerrero died of an overdose. I would love to see some regulation around performance enhancing drugs. WWF is probably a toxic organization. It seems to say now that wrestling has peaked. This is only a history lesson of modern media. I wish it were accompanied by the business cases related to the WCW franchise.
posted by parmanparman at 5:18 PM on April 30, 2012


uncleozzy: how many kids cried last night when Brock Lesnar bloodied John Cena?

So, the last I saw of Brock Lesnar, Alistair Overeem dropped him at UFC 141 after which he retired. Somewhere between then and now I stopped reading any MMA news at all and so had no idea he'd actually picked up a contract with the WWE.

So how does his time in MMA get spun in the WWE narrative that he's back to professional wrestling? Or does it?
posted by mph at 5:44 PM on April 30, 2012


mph: It won't because WWE doesn't own UFC
posted by parmanparman at 5:51 PM on April 30, 2012


They're not acknowledging any details, but he wears his MMA gear in the ring and last night's match--his only match since his return--was almost entirely ground-and-pound. Very little "pro wrestling."

If Lesnar were any good at all on the mic, if he could play any role besides unbeatable monster or psychotic prima donna, he could be something really special. As it is, he's a pretty good short-term attraction, though.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:28 PM on April 30, 2012


Interesting to note that current thinking (and booking) in WWE, even with such stalwarts as Jim Ross, is that belts don't matter any more, and that the business would do better without them. I think it can be taken as read that the business in question is no longer that of wrestling...

Oh, Vince McMahon is both extremely proud of himself for building the world's foremost wrestling empire and extremely uncomfortable that it is a WRESTLING empire, with all of its lowbrow connotations. The euphemism of choice is "sports entertainment," because that's easier to package into getting Hollywood figures into a WWE ring and WWE personalities into movies and TV et al. and waste money trying to get his wife into the Senate

The WWE goes in cycles to an extent as to how much actual wrestling takes precedence. The days of plumbers wrestling Jerry Lawler's dentist and hillbillies challenging savages from Parts Unknown are pretty much gone from prime-time TV. Even so, a lot depends on who's being pushed at a given time; they're pretty good at playing to their talent's strengths and masking weaknesses.

...you hit it on the head with the Jersey Shore reference.

In more ways than one.
posted by delfin at 7:06 PM on April 30, 2012


Lesnar is a really private person; he was at his peak, IMO, when Heyman was his mouth-piece. Even in the UFC, he was a total recluse -- giving few if any interviews -- and rarely said much.

The only time he really broke out of his shell was when he curb stomped Heath Herring and went on his amusing -- though very inappropriate -- rant about how Bud wouldn't give him sponsorship money and how he was gonna "go home and get on top of [his] wife". That was it; otherwise Lesnar was a man of few words.

Dana White had a lot of good things to say about him, especially his ability to keep his mouth shut and stop media leaks in his training camp.

Death Clutch is his MMA brand, as far as I know; I don't know if he's an owner, but wearing their gear isn't a big stretch. (It possibly could also fulfill sponsorship-for-airtime deals Lesnar worked out prior to retiring.)

Brock is an attraction; I doubt he has the patience to stick it out full-time in the WWE. He's got the drawing power to pick his shots; he's very unique in that regard, for a guy who didn't grind out their whole life in the business.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2012


Here's a picture of Sting the wrestler with Sting the bass player. If you don't know which one is which, this bit of explanation should remove any ambiguity: Sting is the one holding the bass.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 8:51 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


how does his time in MMA get spun in the WWE narrative that he's back to professional wrestling? Or does it?

mph: It won't because WWE doesn't own UFC


Not necessarily true. Ken Shamrock had a fairly successful run in WWE while he was in his prime as an MMA fighter. They didn't mention UFC by name, but made no secret of the fact that he was a mixed martial artist, a "real fighter" and thus someone to be feared.

(similarly, genuine Olympic style wrestlers like Kurt Angle have gotten pushes in professional wrestling, while highlighting their success in "legitimate" sports)

Ironically, Shamrock sustained more injuries in the WWE than in his UFC career.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:23 AM on May 1, 2012


If Lesnar were any good at all on the mic, if he could play any role besides unbeatable monster or psychotic prima donna, he could be something really special.

I have a feeling that a Goldberg-style Monster push would be very successful with Lesnar.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:25 AM on May 1, 2012


Looks like someone's been learning a few plays from the best fighting game ever.
posted by Drexen at 4:21 AM on May 1, 2012


a Goldberg-style Monster push would be very successful with Lesnar.

That's how he was first presented, and it worked very well. But as noted in a linked article above, monster pushes only work for one roster member at a time - at present WWE is booking 3-5 "monsters", with more to come.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 7:13 AM on May 1, 2012


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