Re-Writing The Book: The Fingerpoke Of Doom, Part 1


Welcome, welcome. Glad to see y’all. This week’s tale deals with, without a doubt, one of the most reviled moments in the modern age of wrestling. A moment that, many say, led to the downfall of an entire promotion. And, an outcome that will probably see me lynched by nearly every friend I’ve endeared on here so far. So with that, we ponder the ramifications that come from asking the question:

What if the “Fingerpoke Of Doom” title change never happened?

Our story begins on Monday Nitro. Kevin Nash is one week removed from winning the WCW World Title and ending Goldberg’s undefeated streak at Starrcade, thanks to the unexpected (and unwelcome) interference of Scott Hall and a tazer. Goldberg, looking for vengeance, has been arrested on trumped-up charges of stalking Miss Elizabeth, thus canceling the main event rematch. And, ever the opportunist, Hollywood Hogan has come out of “retirement” to take Goldberg’s place …

January 4th, 1999

Kevin Nash and Hollywood Hogan meet in the middle of the ring, with mere minutes remaining in Nitro. Once, these two men stood aside each other and brought down the black plague known as the New World Order, terrorizing WCW. But one-upsmanship and jealousy boiled over, and split the nWo in two, putting the two pioneers of a new era in WCW on opposite sides of the fence.

It is Nash who finally breaks the stillness, shoving Hogan back into the corner. Hogan feigns like he is going to punch, then exaggerates a simple poke in Nash’s chest. Nash drops to the ground, and Hogan makes a nonchalant cover. The announcers-and the crowd-are aghast at what’s going on, and the referee, obviously as confused as everyone else, begins to make the count.

But between the second and third drop of the hand, Nash unleashes another surprise, and kicks out. Hogan (and virtually everyone else) barely has time to get to his feet and register his dismay before Nash buries his big boot in Hogan’s gut. While the icon doubles over from pain, Nash grabs him, puts him in position and executes the Jackknife powerbomb in the blink of an eye. Hogan crashes into the mat, a heap of lifeless flesh and bones. Nash makes the cover, and the referee breaks free from his own dazed stupor, gets in position and makes the three-count. Scott Steiner, having accompanied Hogan to ringside, charges in, but freezes as Goldberg comes down the aisle like a crazed bull. Steiner bails, and he helps Hogan escape through the crowd as Goldberg slides in the ring and watches the nWo take off. Scott Hall climbs in the ring to celebrate with his buddy, but before he can get within handshaking distance, Goldberg turns and plows into Hall with a vicious spear. The crowd bursts with excitement, and Tony Schiavone almost has a seizure screaming about what this means for the upcoming Souled Out pay-per-view in only a couple weeks away, as Nash and Goldberg glare at one another.

January 11th, Monday Nitro

Nitro starts off with Kevin Nash in the ring, the world title dangling from one hand and a microphone in the other. When he begins to speak, he holds up the belt, but not with pride; more like a prosecuting attorney would hold up evidence to the jury.

“I won this belt a little over two weeks ago at Starrcade,” Nash begins, looking at the belt with more disgust then pride. “I did it by pinning Goldberg after my so-called good buddy, a guy I love more than anything, Scott Hall, tazered the living hell out of Goldberg. Scott, I said it two weeks ago, and I’ll say it again: you didn’t do me any favors, and you had to answer to someone about it. It’s why I let Goldberg spear you out of your boots last week; you deserved to have someone slap some sense into you, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna be put in a situation to do it. I don’t need your protection, Scott, and I sure as hell don’t want you making me look like someone that needs watching after. So, I had a little talk with the committee-the power of the belt, ya know-and they don’t much care for what’s going on lately, either, but it’s all too messy to just someone to get the shot. So, at Souled Out, there’s gonna be a match for the first crack at my belt, with Scott Hall and Goldberg. But this isn’t just any old match, boys, oh no,” he says, looking up and grinning. He points, then looks back down at the camera. “Up there? That’s where we’re hanging the tazer. Whoever can climb the ladder can use it any way they see fit. I’ll be waiting for the winner at Superbrawl.

“But, ya see, there’s another issue going, and I don’t think I’d be much of a champion if I didn’t make mention of it.” He pauses, grins that cocky Nash grin and adds (almost under his breath), “No, it ain’t you, Bam Bam, ya big load. No, my problem is you, Hogan. See, me and Hall, we came to this company about two and a half years ago, and we promised a revolution, a war if you will. I told that blow-dried Ken-doll Eric Bischoff that the measuring stick had changed when we stepped foot in WCW; that his collection of rare fossils-oh, I’m sorry, his ‘Big Boys’-couldn’t roll with us; not Flair, not Savage, not Anderson, not even you. And then you came to us, Hogan; you came to us and said ‘I see what side the winning team is gonna be, and the Hulkster wants in. I can help you make that impact.’ Well, you sure as hell helped us make an impact, Hogan … in the tag ranks! We do all the hard work, we risk life, limb and lawsuit to bring WCW to it’s knees, and how did we get repaid? Me and Scott get to screw with the Steiners and Harlem Heat and the Faces of Fear for two years, while you play air guitar and wrestle with a basketball player! Me and Scott threw away careers up in New York-a career where I was World Champion, and Scott wasn’t too far behind me-and we traded it in for that fat paycheck and the first-class airline seats and the limos and the champagne that you old timers worked so hard at keeping us from, and what did we get for all our hard work? We still sat on the sidelines and played second fiddle to one of the dinosaurs we came here to drive into extinction!” Nash saunters over to the ropes and leans against them, casting his gaze directly to the camera, as cold as the Antarctic shelf. “Hogan,” says Nash, suddenly calm, cool and collected, “you can flash all the handsigns you want; come out to Hendrix, run with guys half your age, do whatever it takes that lets you live in that delusional fantasy that insists you’re still the center of the business. Tonight, Hogan … tonight, I declare to finish the war that two Outsiders began two years ago, even if I have to do it by myself. Starting tonight, I pave over the road you left broken and filled with potholes, and bury you underneath the blacktop. Starting tonight, Hogan … the real Big Boys go a-hunting, and brudda! … You’re number-one with a bullet!”

The main event for Nitro sees Nash defend his World Title against Bam Bam Bigelow. Bigelow uses his size and deceptive speed to wear down Nash, hammering the champ with clubbing blows and punishing high-impact maneuvers. Nash finally manages to mount a comeback after countering a charge into the corner with a big boot, but before he can even think about putting the behemoth away, the music of Jimi Hendrix fills the arena, and out comes Hollywood Hogan and his nWo Hollywood. Nash turns to see the distraction, and starts to jawjack with his nemesis, giving Bigelow his window of opportunity. Bigelow clobbers Nash in the back, turns him around and picks him up for the Greetings From Asbury Park. As he is about to drop Nash on his head, Hogan slides in the ring, hands held out in front as if trying to calm down the Beast From The East. Hogan produces a microphone from his waistband, keeping one hand out, as if submitting to the monster.

“Hey! Hey! Bam Bam!” Hogan offers the hand for a shake, but withdraws when Bigelow only glares at it as if it were a pile of dogshit. “Ya know somethin’, brother, you and me, we got a lot in common. And it all starts with that man.” Hogan jabs a finger at Nash. “Why don’t you put him down and hear me out?” Bigelow regards Hogan with some suspicion, but slowly dumps Nash to the mat. Bigelow stands akimbo, listening with some impatience while Hogan spins his web.

“Ya see, Bam Bam, both of us want a piece of that piece of crud over there. But he owes me, you understand? I made him in this company. Before Hollywood Hogan made the New World Order, you were just a big dumb galoot that they didn’t want up north anymore! I gave you everything you have, and all I asked in return was you give me what was rightfully mine, what Goldberg stole from me last July. And what did you do? You stabbed me in the back!” Hogan looks back from Nash, who is pulling himself up in the corner, to Bigelow. “Let me have him at Souled Out, Bammer. You have my word-the word of the New World Order-that the first shot after I beat that mangy dog Nash for the WCW World Title will go to you.”

Bigelow is about to answer, but Nash stumbles forward and snatches the microphone out of Hogan’s hand. He is gasping for air and biting back pain, speaking through clinched teeth. “Are you … gonna trust this man, Bigelow? The guy … who left the WWF before he had to face Bret Hart? The guy who came to WCW … and filled it full of his buddies and sent Steve Austin to the WWF?” Hogan opens his mouth, but Nash’s voice comes out like the bark of a Pitbull. “Keep your mouth shut, you rotten old bastard! Was I talking to you?” Nash points to Hogan, looking Bigelow in the eye. “Are you gonna trust anything that guy says? He’s one of them! One of the guys who kept you from being anything more then a jobber at WrestleMania Four! One of the guys who buried your career and sent you to wallow in that barbed wire hellhole in Pennsylvania! Is this the guy you wanna trust your career to? I expect it from Steiner-he’s as dumb a stump anyway, but I know you’re smarter then that, Bigelow! Wake up and smell the screwjob!”

Hogan and Steiner answer not with words but with fists, and pound Nash into the mat. Bigelow backs away, not helping with the beating, but not defending Nash either, and Nitro fades to black with Hogan’s lackeys grinding the World Champion beneath their bootheels, Bam Bam watching in apprehension … and Scott Hall watching from the entrance ramp, silent and grinning.

January 17th, 1999: Souled Out

The mood of Souled Out is tense and nervous, after the previous Monday Nitro and Kevin Nash’s declaration of war against the “dinosaurs”. The comments seem to place Nash back in a role he once proudly wore on his tights: an outsider, railing against the system. With fan favorites like Flair, and reviled villains like Hogan, seemingly lumped into one category in Nash’s point of view, no one knows what to make of him, and what kind of role he might play at Souled Out.

Instead, it is one of the “dinosaurs” that launches the first strike: Hollywood Hogan.

Hogan comes out as Souled Out begins, carrying a manilla envelope and smiling like he just won the lottery, his entourage close behind. After his obligatory-and rejected-posturing in the ring, Hogan addresses the fans.

“In my hand, I hold the power to crush that bug who calls himself World Champion, Kevin Nash,” says Hogan. “In my hand, I got me to everything that Hollywood Hogan deserves. But, I need the WCW President Ric Flair to come out here and authorize it. So, Mister President,” he says obsequiously, “if you’d come out here, brah, and sign on this so we can get on with the show …”

Ric Flair comes out, watching Hogan with a cool, careful stare, climbing the steps to the ring. Hogan sends Steiner to hold the ropes for the President, and even offers a hand to shake when Flair is in the ring. Flair takes it nervously, all the time keeping an eye on the deceitful Hogan. “Ric Flair,” Hogan says, “lemme ask ya something. Did I ever get a rematch for my World Championship?”

An eyebrow arches on Flair’s face, and he utters a simple, “No.”

“Would you say that’s fair for a man of my stature? For a man who built this industry? For a four-time WCW World Champion?”

Again, Flair utters a mystified, “No. But-“

Hogan rips open the envelope and pulls out a contract. “Then I need your approval here, Ric Flair,” he gestures, “so I can buy Scott Hall’s slot in the number-one contendership match tonight!”

Flair’s eyes go wide. “And he agreed to this? To sell the shot to you?”

“He sure did. Call him out, if you like, but his signature’s on the paper, brah!” He pushes the document, and a pen he pulls from the envelope, into Flair’s hands, then turns around and leans over to give Flair a surface to write on. Flair hesitates, studying the contract. Hogan turns his head to look behind and see Flair reading the contract, waiting patiently. Finally, causing a vicious reaction among the crowd, Flair puts down the contract and signs it. Hogan turns after the signing is complete, re-offers his hand, and this time, Flair shakes it vigorously. “Then I suggest you go get your tights on, Hogan!” Flair barks as the crowd turns on Flair as if he has committed treason (and, in a way, he has). “Cause tonight, you’re wrestling Da Man, Goldberg!”

The main event, now without the ladder/tazer stipulation, begins with the same pervasive tension running through it as Hogan comes to ringside, playing his boas as air guitars. He is all smiles and confidence until Goldberg arrives on the scene; the chanting of the crowd, and the sight of the gladiator walking through the fireworks sends Hogan into nervous fits, yelling at the audience to be quiet (to no avail). Hogan is still ranting and raving and doesn’t notice Goldberg has eschewed his normal entrance routine, and is barreling to the ring at a sprinter-like run. Goldberg slides into the ring and crouches, the hunter waiting for his prey. Hogan comes around just in time to see Goldberg before the monster crashes into Hogan with a ferocious spear, crumpling Hogan like a plastic bottle under a car tire. The crowd is rabid, for they know what comes after the spear: the Jackhammer.

Then Scott Hall saunters out, and the mood is broken. Goldberg sees Hall coming down the aisle, and in his hands is a long black stick that Goldberg knows very well. Goldberg motions Hall to come to the ring, but before he can get too far, Nash runs down and rips the tazer from his hands. Nash barks at Hall, who stands there and doesn’t respond. Nash doesn’t see Lex Luger behind him, but knows someone is there when he feels fists crash into his back. Luger drags Nash towards the ring, with Hall backing away, taking part in neither saving nor killing Nash.

Meanwhile, Hogan uses Goldberg’s distraction to sneak out, gets a chair and whacks Goldberg with it. The referee calls for the DQ (thus sending the crowd into fits of rage at seeing a non-ending at a major event), but Goldberg absorbs the sneak attack and turns to stalk Hogan. Hogan tries to hold Goldberg at bay, taunting him, but Goldberg advances anyway … until Luger, having tossed Nash in the ring, nails Goldberg in the back with a forearm shot. The moment of shock is enough for Hogan to swing for the fences, and connect with Goldberg’s head, and this time, the rookie phenom goes down. Luger puts the boots to Nash, while Hogan humiliates Goldberg by hitting his legdrop over and over, until reinforcements in the form of Bam Bam Bigelow, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit and Perry Saturn hit the ring. Hogan and Luger clear out and hold off their cohorts, who have come down the aisle to protect them, and the pay-per-view draws to a close with the two groups yelling at one another across the arena, while Goldberg and Nash struggle to clear out the cobwebs, and Scott Hall watches both factions and stays right where he is: stuck in the middle.

January 18th, Monday Nitro

“Hail To The Chief” fills the arena as Monday Nitro starts out, ushering WCW President Ric Flair (and Arn Anderson) to the ring with gently falling confetti and streamers descending from the ceiling. Flair bathes in the pomp and circumstance-and ignoring the mostly negative reaction from the crowd, thanks his authorization of Hollywood Hogan’s undeserving title shot-for a minute, giving Schiavone and company time to wonder what all the fuss is about, before speaking.

“I’m Ric Flair!” he barks in his usual histrionic manner, “and I’m the President! Whoo! And what does that mean, double-A?”

Flair holds the microphone up to Arn, who is standing off to Flair’s side in his usual stoicism, mutters, “That means what you say goes around here.”

“That’s right! Whoo! I’m the boss! So right now, I want Hollywood Hogan and the nWo to come out here and face the boss!”

The theme of the New World Order cues up and Hogan leads his men to the ring, skipping their own normal entrance rituals and mannerisms. Hogan gets in the ring, leaving his buddies down on the floor, stepping into the President’s face. The two icons stare at one another, without so much as a whisper passing between them before their scowls melt into laughter and Hogan shakes Flair’s hand. Schiavone, as well as the crowd and viewers, are in shock (and even some of Hogan’s nWo cohorts are too). Hogan sketches a bow in deference to Flair as Flair prepares to speak again.

“As President of WCW, I’m here to inform you that …” Flair chuckles, and his voice takes on a tone of severe derision; “your World Champion, Kevin Nash, isn’t here tonight.” Flair looks to Hogan and Arn, who are doubled over with laughter. “I decided to have him banned from the event tonight, because I thought he might need some time to lick his wounds, after we embarrassed him last night.” The crowd boos this, stopping Flair from going any further. Once they finish their sneers (and a chorus of “asshole”), Flair breaks in with; “So do you wanna know why … you all wanna know why the Nature Boy gave Hollywood Hogan a chance at a title shot last night at Souled Out?” (to which Tony Schiavone utters; “You’re damned right we wanna know!”) “Well, I’ll tell ya why! I’m the President around here, Kevin Nash, not you! Just cause you wear that big belt don’t mean you make the matches or call the shots-you’re just some punk with an ego bigger than his brain-whoo! But this man …” Flair points to Hogan, who puts his hands up to himself in a “who, me?” gesture no one buys, and says, “this man is a legend. This man is an icon. Did he get his guaranteed rematch? No! And while the Hulkster and I may have had some differences, even I won’t deny he’s a legend in this sport, and he deserves more respect then that. He-“

Flair’s voice is drowned out by the music of The Four Horsemen. His attention whips to the entrance to see Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko enter the arena. Hogan urges the nWo to give the two a wide berth. Benoit and Malenko regard Hogan’s entourage suspiciously as they slide in the ring. Benoit, who has come with a microphone, wastes no time in getting down to business. “Ric … what’re you doing? Have you lost your mind?” Benoit holds up four fingers, first pointed up and asks, “Have you traded this”-Benoit tilts his hand sideways, the nWo’s “4-Life” gesture-“for this?”

Flair pats Chris on the chest gamely and says, “Chris, why don’t you just go back to the locker room? Hell, take the night off. This isn’t any of your business.”

While Benoit just stares in disbelief, Malenko takes the microphone. “Ric, how can you say this isn’t any of our business? Do you know what you’re doing here? Getting into bed with this … this … cancer?”

Hogan steps forward to defend himself, but Arn holds him back, whispering something to Hollywood. Hogan listens, then defers to Flair. “Do you know who you’re talking to, Dean Malenko? Do you know who we is? While you were still figuring out the difference between a wristlock and a wristwatch, this man was packing in 90,000 to see him body slam Andre The Giant! While you were watching cartoons on Saturday morning, I was putting on sixty-minute clinics with Ricky Steamboat all across this country! Me, and Hogan and Randy Savage and Lex Luger and Stinger and Arn, you owe us for where you are now, boy! If it weren’t for me bleeding all over myself in a cage against Harley Race … if it weren’t for Hogan nearly getting crushed by King Kong Bundy … or for the sacrifices we’ve made to make this sport so successful as it is now, disrespectful chumps like you wouldn’t be here to take advantage of it! Goldberg didn’t deserve that title shot, and Nash sure doesn’t deserve to be World Champion!”

“So you’re just gonna sell your legacy down the river,” Malenko says. “Just gonna let this vampire corrupt you because you don’t think you’re respected?” Malenko now holds up the four-fingered salute of the Horsemen. “I’ve wanted to be able to do this as a Horsemen since I set foot in this company-to call myself a member of the most elite stable this sport has ever seen-and you want to chuck all that in the garbage because of some prima donna who doesn’t realize he’s not wanted around here anymore.”

Now Hogan can’t help himself, and he tears the microphone from Malenko’s hand. “You just better watch yourself, little man, before I slap that stupid look off your fa-“

Malenko cuts Hogan off not with words, but with the exact deed Hogan threatened: a crisp slap across the cheek. The sheer unexpectedness of the smack sends Hogan staggering back (with Tony getting in plenty of ribbing for the six-six Hogan to have been sent reeling by the much-smaller Malenko). Flair steps in, shoving Malenko back into the ropes. Malenko bounces off the ropes, but uses the momentum to give Flair a nasty shove back, putting Flair on his ass. Hogan and Arn charge, and Malenko and Benoit take both down with punches, but the numbers game proves too much, as Luger, Barry Windham and Curt Hennig lead the charge to roust the young insurgents. But the onslaught quickly turns bak in favor of the youth, as Goldberg comes through the crowd and jumps in the ring, laying out people with kicks and spears. Soon, the reinforcements are swarming the ring; Bam Bam Bigelow, Perry Saturn, Wrath and Booker T all hit the ring, helping to turn the tide and kick Ric Flair’s group of veterans out of the ring.

Flair passes along word to the announcers that, due to their treasonous acts against his cabinet, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Goldberg will wrestle in a six-man tag against Hollywood Hogan, Lex Luger and himself, Ric Flair, in the main event of the night. The announcers harp on the fact that it seems a trap, and those fears are confirmed during the ring announcements, when Ric Flair announces a change to the rules of the match, making it elimination rules.

Dean Malenko is the first to fall to Ric Flair’s anointed “Administration”, eliminated via count-out thanks to the timely interference of The Administration’s newest member, Roddy Piper, who drags Malenko out of the ring knocks him unconscious with brass knuckles (all legal, thanks to a mid-match No-DQ rules change). Benoit is the second elimination, suffering a pinfall to Luger, aided by Piper holding Benoit’s feet, leaving Goldberg alone.

But Flair’s No-DQ rule backfires, as Benoit comes back to distract Flair, along with Saturn and Bam Bam Bigelow who occupy Hogan and Piper, leaving Goldberg to bring down Luger with a thunderous Jackhammer. Flair has little time to complain, or issue another rules change to salvage his game plan, when Kevin Nash comes through the crowd. Flair, seeing the seven-foot champion coming his way, forgets where he is and backs up into the “safety” of the ring … until he backs up into Goldberg. Nash steps in the ring (while Benoit, Malenko, Saturn and Bam Bam keep Hogan held back) and makes a gesture to Goldberg: May I? Goldberg nods and backs off; Nash grabs Flair by the hair, puts him in position, and drops Flair on his back with a Jackknife. Nash then motions the boys on the outside to throw Hogan in the ring, which they do, and Nash picks up the lifeless lump of Hollywood Hogan and proceeds to Jackknife him right next to Flair. Nash shakes Goldberg’s hand, then steps down to the floor while Goldberg adds injury to injury by hitting Flair with a Jackhammer before pinning him … then doing the same for Hogan. The Administration slink away, their night ruined, but no one in Flair’s group look the least bit ready to throw in the towel.

January 25th, Monday Nitro

Nash goes to the ring, all smiles over last week’s embarrassment of Flair, Hogan and their minions. But he no sooner has the microphone in hand then Ric Flair comes to the ring (sans music) … and, lurking behind him are ten armed policemen.

Flair takes the microphone from Nash’s hand. “Gimme my belt, Nash! Right now!” Nash blinks, shaking his head in disbelief. “Right now, Nash! Give it to me!” Nash mouths two words: For what? “For assaulting me, that’s what, big boy! For putting your filthy hands on me and assaulting me! You’re stripped of the title-now gimme the belt!”

Nash is aghast, and when he refuses to surrender the belt, Flair motions to the cops to come to the ring. The cops swarm in, and Flair barks at them; “I want him arrested! Assault, and theft! Confiscate that belt, and get him out of my building!” Seeing he is outnumbered-and that resistance will only make things worse-Nash drops the belt and allows himself to be led out of the ring in handcuffs, to a chorus of jeers from the crowd. Flair picks up the belt and tosses it over a shoulder, in time for Mean Gene Okerlund to come to the ring and question the deranged President.

“How can you justify stripping Nash of the WCW World Championship, Ric Flair?” Okerlund asks. “You brought it on yourself!”

Flair’s composed delivery is as chilling as a winter storm. “You’ll wanna watch yourself, Okerlund, before you find yourself on the unemployment line.”

“You’re mad with power, Ric Flair! And you’ve let Hollywood Hogan poison your mind!”

“No, no, no, Mean Gene. Hollywood Hogan woke me up. Do you know how long I’ve been in this business, Gene? I wrestled my first match in 1972, the same year as Roddy Piper. Savage started in ’73. Hollywood Hogan, he had his first match in ’78. You know how long it took us to get to the top? Took me nine years, Gene. Took Savage fifteen years. Took Hogan six years … and Piper’s never been World Champ.” And suddenly, the color rushes back into Flair’s face, and his voice quickly hits the high register. “And how long did it take Kevin Nash? Four years at best?!? Goldberg–his rookie year?!? How’s that fair? We busted our asses for years to build this sport into something these disrespectful brats would even wanna get into, and the thanks we get is a powerbomb? A Jackhammer? Not anymore … not while I’m President! Whoo!”

“But what about the World Title, Ric Flair? How do you intend to fill the vacancy?”

“Well, we’re gonna have ourselves a little tournament!” Flair holds up fingers to punctuate his statement. “Eight men will compete, and the finals will be at Superbrawl on February 21st in Oakland! Whoo!” Flair counts off a finger as he lists each man, which essentially (save for two) is a membership list of The Administration. “Hollywood Hogan! … Lex Luger! … Roddy Piper! … Randy Savage! … Curt Hennig! … Barry Windham! … Sting! … and Ric Flair! Ei-” The crowd drowns out Flair with boos; Flair glares at the crowd, sees a couple booing in the front row and points at them. “Your old lady’s only booing cause she’s gotta home with you instead of ridin’ Space Mountain tonight, buddy. Whoo! Now, as I was saying … Eight men, who have bled … sweat … broken bones … left families behind … made every sacrifice imaginable to get to the top. Eight men who all deserve to be called champion.”

“But we haven’t seen Macho Man Randy Savage in months!” Gene says. “And how do you know Sting even wants anything to do with your corrupt Administration?” The audience’s chant of Goldberg steadily increases in volume, and Gene points out the obvious. “What about Goldberg? Where’s his title shot?”

“Goldberg?!? You’re asking me about Goldberg? Goldberg blew his shot at Starrcade. Maybe in a few years, when he’s proven himself, he might get another shot. But right now … this company needs stability, this company needs order, and this company needs tradition. And that’s something that only me like me, and Hogan and Sting and the rest of my Administration can deliver–not these wannabes like Nash and Benoit! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m the President-whoo!-and I got work to do!”


The tournament begins on the February 1st Nitro, with the caveat that, should any of the men Flair has designated as “enemies of tradition” interfere in the progress of the tournament, they will be fired from WCW. Luger beats Barry Windham cleanly. Flair wins by forfeit against Randy Savage, who fails to show up (due to his ongoing injury. The second two matches, however, doesn’t go nearly as smooth.

Sting’s match against Curt Hennig begins with the offer of a handshake from Hennig. Sting takes it reluctantly, and is further surprised by the clean breaks and lack of cheating on the part of Hennig. Sting-who has yet to really respond to the overtures from the Flair/Hogan camp-is unsure of what to make of a fair-playing Hennig, not a man known for clean breaks and by-the-book wrestling. Eventually, Sting manages to defeat Hennig, who takes it like a man and offers another handshake, congratulating Sting on his victory.

But as Hennig walks down the aisle and back to the locker room, he bumps into an unexpected visitor: Chris Benoit. The two start to argue; words lead to pushes, and Benoit responds with a stiff slap. Hennig is winding up to strike when Sting comes from behind and steps in the middle. Hennig tries to strike at Benoit (who is baiting Hennig with taunts and moving in and out of his reach), but Sting pushes him back. Hennig tries to swing at Benoit again, but Sting shoves him back; Hennig’s jaw drops to almost comical levels of surprise, and he leaves, making a wide circle around Sting, who is blocking Benoit from giving chase. Sting admonishes Benoit for his behavior (warning him not to get too carried away, lest he want to end up jobless), then leaves.

The last first-round match, Hollywood Hogan versus Roddy Piper, progresses without incident all the way up to Hogan hitting Piper with the big legdrop; Hogan stands up and goes through his posing repertoire to annoy the audience … Only to be distracted by the music of the New World Order. All attention focuses on the entrance, where Scott Hall strolls down to ringside, microphone in hand. “Hey, yo!” he starts out, but the crowd is too confused to know what whether to cheer or heckle. “Hey … Hollywood … Piper. Do I got a surprise for the two of you!”

Hogan stares, confused, at Scott Hall, not registering the crowd coming out of their seats. When Hogan finally turns around, it’s too late; Kevin Nash doubles Hogan over with a kick and hits the Jackknife, then hightails it out of the ring. The ref signals for the bell, disqualifying Piper and giving Hogan the advancement in the tourney.

The crowd cheers as Hall and Nash embrace in a manly hug, two friends finally on the same page again. But the good vibrations don’t last but a second, when Ric Flair storms out. “That’s it! That is it!” Flair marches right up to Nash, getting within inches of him, leveling a finger in Nash’s face. “I don’t know how you got outta jail, big man-“

Hall butts his head in with the world’s biggest shit-eating grin. “I bailed him out,” he says matter-of-factly. Flair glowers at Hall, who puts his hands up and backs away, the shit-eating grin erased.

“I will not tolerate degenerate scum like you, disrupting my show, interfering in my matches, and making a mockery of these men and their legacies! You’re fired! Get out of my building!”

Nash’s eyebrows go up, as the crowd gasps in unison. Nash gestures to both him and Hall, and Flair nods vigorously. “Yes, the both of you-fired! Get out!” Nash and Hall back down the aisle, astonished, while Flair keeps repeating that Hall and Nash are fired and to leave the building (“cause I’m the President, whoo!”).

Ric Flair’s abuse of power continues on the next week’s Nitro, starting with Chris Benoit. Because he didn’t interfere in the progress of the match, Flair cannot fire him, but punishment isn’t expressly forbidden, and to that effect, Benoit is punished: a handicap match against the Windham & Hennig. And to further “sweeten the pot”, indefinite suspensions for Benoit & Malenko if he should lose. Meanwhile, Goldberg is put in a gauntlet match, with Brian Adams, Scott Norton and Scott Steiner, with the added stipulation that Goldberg must pin all three (no DQ’s or count-outs) if he wants another shot at Hogan. And, the featured matches for the evening are the semi-finals of Ric Flair’s sham of a tournament, with Hogan facing Sting, and himself facing Lex Luger.

Benoit takes an ugly beating from Hennig & Windham, but fortune smiles on him as a Windham lariat knocks Hennig out cold. When Windham tries another lariat, Benoit catches him and swings him into the Crippler Crossface, and Windham taps out. Likewise, Goldberg’s matches are brutal and taxing; Brian Adams falls the easiest (barely 30 seconds into Goldberg’s march), but the bullish Norton gives a much more difficult match. After seven long minutes (seeming much longer, as Norton controls a good half of the time), Goldberg is able to overpower Norton and pin him, but has little left in the tank for the fresh (and even bigger) Steiner. Steiner, however, doesn’t count on Goldberg’s will to win, and a second wind helps Goldberg get the better of Steiner … until, desperate to stop the monster, Steiner grabs a chair and blatantly blasts Goldberg in the head, causing the DQ. The crowd turns violently on the obvious attempt to protect Hogan, but Flair’s rules, fair or no, are the only rules the company has for now.

The semi-finals prove uneventful and, to the fans, of little interest, with Hogan beating Luger to move into the finals at Superbrawl (of little surprise to anyone), and Sting getting the best of Flair for the other half of the finals. It is after the match is over that ripples of curiosity start to move about when Flair offers his congratulations to Sting.

“Ya see! Ya see! This is what I’m talkin’ about!” Flair struts, caps it off with a whoo!, then points at Sting. “This right here … the Stinger … and the Nature Boy, once again, fighting for the gold! Whoo! By God, it don’t get better than this! One more time, Stinger, we’re gonna style and profile and walk that aisle, and do it like only you and I can! Whoo!”

Sting, however, doesn’t share Flair’s opinion, and lets his own opinion be known by leaving the ring and walking away. Flair barks at Sting from the ring while the announcers kibitz about what this all means as Nitro closes out.

But even though the finals of the tournament are set, the last Nitro before Superbrawl doesn’t fail to shake things up, right from the start, as Flair comes to the ring (flanked by The Administration) and calls out Sting for “a few simple questions.”

So blindsided is Flair by the re-emergence of Eric Bischoff instead of Sting that he doesn’t register it’s the former WCW President until Hogan is screaming at the top of lungs next to him. And the crowd is equally confused, for Bischoff is still a symbol of the machine that has tried to dismantle WCW for the better part of two years … but the man in the ring is doing more to run WCW into the ground than ever before.

“Are you having fun in my office, Flair?” Bischoff asks. “Are you having fun, playing with people’s lives and ruining careers and crushing the company I built into a juggernaut like a bug under your boot?” Flair opens his mouth, but can’t even get off a syllable. “Shut up, Flair! Just shut your damn mouth for once! When I took over this company, it was a joke. You couldn’t pay people to watch the crap that was on the air back then. But I turned it around, and even knocked the great Vince McMahon off his pedestal. It took me 3 long years and a lot of Ted Turner’s money to make this company into what it is today … and it makes me sick to see you kill off this company week after week, Flair. But I’m here to change all that.” Bischoff grins; it sends the crowd into hysterics, who are eating up Bischoff’s about-face with a spoon. “Effective immediately, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are reinsta-“

Flair is so irate, he is almost the color of blood. “You can’t do that; I’m the President!” He rips his sport coat off, throwing it down with dramatic flair. “You’re nobody, Bischoff! I’m the President! Hall and Nash are history!”

“Lemme tell ya something, Flair … you may be President, but you don’t know much about how things run around here.” Bischoff bends down to pick up a briefcase at his feet. He turns it to himself, opens it and pulls out two large, long documents. He sets down the briefcase again, then holds the contracts aloft, taking special care to keep them facing him and not the camera or the audience. “See these? These are the contracts for Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Contracted wrestlers for World Championship Wrestling can be terminated at any time, without prior notice; am I correct, Mister Flair?” Bischoff doesn’t give Flair a chance to answer. “Then, how, oh President Flair, can you terminate a wrestler”-Bischoff turns the contract around to face the crowd and the camera, with a familiar black-and-white logo at the top clearly visible-“who has a contract with the nWo?”

The crowd, like Flair, is in hysterics over the news (although the audience’s hysterics are much more elated, while Flair’s is an enraged denial). Bischoff doesn’t stop; “When I joined the nWo, I gave WCW wrestlers thirty days to convert their WCW contracts to nWo contracts; this included all current member of the New World Order, Ric. And since you can’t fire wrestlers who aren’t contracted to WCW, that means Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are reinstated!” Bischoff keeps talking, even over the roar of the crowd. “And any wrestler who wants to convert their WCW contracts to nWo contracts can get in touch with me. You’ll find I’m a firm but fair negotiator.”

Bischoff turns to leave, makes it halfway to the curtain, then stops and turns back, smile on his face. “Oh, I forgot something. I forgot something important. See, I got a lot of people on my roster, Flair … a lot of people I don’t want. And I’m gonna address all of them individually, when the time comes But there’s one contract of particular importance that I have to address right now.” Bischoff pulls out another contract from the briefcase and studies it. “Ah, here it is! Even got a thirty-day no-compete clause! Tough break, kid, tough break.” Bischoff walks up the aisle, stands at the base of the ring and tosses the contract in the ring. “Read it and weep, ya stupid bastard,” he says as he walks back to the entrance ramp. Flair picks up the contract; the Administration huddle together to pour over it. With the exception of Flair, the Administration are in fits of rage; Flair is wide-eyed with silent horror as he pours over the document. Bischoff stops at the entrance ramp. “Well, aren’t you gonna share with the group, Flair? Or maybe you’re a little confused, Flair? A littled rattled, don’t know what to do? Then let me make this real simple: the finals to your precious little tournament just went down the drain, because effective immediately, Hollywood Hulk Hogan-you’re fired!

To be continued …

No, you’re not being cheated out of the ending by this column’s illustrious history of abrupt and interrupted endings. The cliffhanger is intentional. Future columns will also have cliffhangers (the InVasion will be one of them … that’ll be a mini-series), so this’ll be something you might want to get used to. Plus, it makes these things easier to digest in one sitting, and gives them a feel like a real episode of Raw/Nitro/whatever (additional plus, off the record, you know how hard it is to write stories the length of Montreal or The Higher Power in one week?). So, hopefully, this minor format change won’t bother too much of ya … if I can pound out a full-length story in one week, all the better. If not, look at it this way: it gives me time to craft these things all the better, for each and every one of you. Man, I sound like a Vegas asshole saying that.

To Eric S: You were right. I heard Fat Tony screaming in my head when I typed the last sentence. And on an unrelated note, should you ever feel like getting into a metaphysical discussion regarding Hawking, quantum theory and such, look me up … quantum physics and general relativity is a hobby of mine (currently reading Hawking’s A Brief History Of Time for the first time, and loving it, even if it makes my head swim), and I enjoy conversing about it with someone who can talk the talk, not just nod along appropriately.

Go express some condolences/support for RD and Wrestlecrap. He’s a good guy who’s going through some bad shit, and needs a little love. Trust me, he’ll appreciate it. Plus, his website is funny as hell.

A world of thanks (as usual, but more so this week) to Kurtis for “lighting the candle of thought” that saw me through this one.

And that’s it for this week … with scant hours left in Nitro, how will President Flair fill the void in the World Title match? Who will join the nWo, will there be any more firings? What faction will Sting side with? And, looming in the distance, somebody returns … how will he fit in? Seven days until the answers are known …