Mick Foley and Kevin Nash on Jan. 4, 1999: The night that changed wrestling

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January 04, 2013

On Jan. 4, 1999, WWE and WCW were in the midst of the Monday Night War. Each week, WWE Raw is War and WCW Monday Nitro battled head to head in an industry-wide clash for wrestling supremacy. As 1998 drew to a close, WWE had finally picked up momentum in the race for ratings despite airing a taped show every other week while Nitro always ran live.

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, 1998, in Worcester, Mass., WWE taped an edition of Raw to air the following Monday on Jan. 4. In the main event of that show, Mick Foley defeated The Rock to win his first WWE Championship, a moment widely considered to be one of the most emotional in wrestling history.

WCW, in an attempt to convince fans not to change the channel, gave away the taped outcome on air. Broadcaster Tony Schiavone even gave the sarcastic remark of, “Ugh, that’ll put a lot of butts in the seats.” At that very moment, 600,000 homes changed the channel and for years afterward, signs were seen in arenas with the words: “Mick Foley put my butt in this seat.”

Meanwhile, Nitro was airing from Atlanta’s massive Georgia Dome in front of almost 40,000 fans. WCW had advertised a highly anticipated Starrcade rematch for the WCW Championship with Kevin Nash defending against Goldberg. But in a shocking turn of events, Nash was instead defeated for the title by the returning Hollywood Hogan after a mere poke of the finger from Hogan onto Nash’s chest.

The combination of WCW’s “Fingerpoke of Doom” and Mick Foley’s emotional championship victory was seen by many as a spiritual changing of the guard in the Monday Night War. WWE Classics spoke with both Mick Foley and Kevin Nash about this historical night. Hear about the night that changed wrestling from the two men who lived it.

(PHOTOS FROM JAN. 4, 1999VIDEOS OF JAN. 4, 1999)

WWE CLASSICS: Mick, Jan. 4, 1999, was a big night in your career. What does that night mean to you?

MICK FOLEY: In retrospect, if people say it’s the night that changed wrestling, I’ll believe it. I’m happy to take that credit, but certainly think it was a night that changed people’s perception about me within the wrestling industry.

WWE CLASSICS: Why do you think that is?

FOLEY: When the taping results came out, and there was the instantaneous switching of hundreds of thousands of TV sets, I think I went from being a highly recognized role player to a leading man in WWE. I still sometimes wonder if I wasn’t just a very good role player, but at least for a period of time, the results begged to differ.

WWE CLASSICS: Kevin, what do you think about Jan. 4, 1999, as the night that changed wrestling?

KEVIN NASH: That was the night that changed wrestling? Oh, I disagree.

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