WWE Turning Point: Analyzing Historical Impact of Mankind's First WWE Title Win

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WWE Turning Point: Analyzing Historical Impact of Mankind's First WWE Title Win
Credit: WWE.com

When Hulk Hogan defeated The Iron Sheik to become WWE Champion on January 23, 1984, it was a moment that will be forever etched in time.

The same can be said about Ultimate Warrior defeating Hogan at WrestleMania 6 or Steve Austin defeating Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 14.

Each of these title changes were momentous moments for the company as each ushered in a new era in sports entertainment.

But the night Mankind became WWE Champion for the very first time will always be as important as any title change in WWE history for an entirely different reason.

January 4, 1999 is the date WWE officially recognizes as the night the title changed hands. However, Mankind actually won the belt from The Rock on December 29, 1998.

The match took place in Worcester, Massachusetts during the height of the famous "Monday Night Wars." At that time, it was WCW who enjoyed the most success, largely because their show, WCW Nitro, was taped and Monday Night Raw was pre-recorded.

WCW had everything in their favor at that time.

They had a roster full of big stars. They had the nWo. They had Goldberg, who ran an undefeated streak up to 173 straight victories while becoming as popular as any Superstar in the entire industry.

WWE did their best to put on quality content, but WCW had all the answers—hence why they won the ratings war 84 weeks in a row.

What would it take for WWE to finally turn the tide? Apparently, putting the WWE title on Mankind a.k.a. Mick Foley.

At the time, Mankind had been battling Vince McMahon and his Corporation for months. He was cast as an underdog who had just about everyone in the crowd behind him, but he couldn't quite get over the hump created by McMahon and his hand-picked WWE Champion, The Rock.

The match was contested under No Holds Barred rules. The Corporation was at ringside, as was D-Generation X. But as things broke down, it was Austin who came out to give Mankind the assist he needed.

After smashing The Rock over the head with a steel chair, Austin placed Mankind over the champion and a three count was registered. The crowd went wild.

Everything that followed made it even better: From the reaction of McMahon to the post-match speech by the new champion, it was a special moment.

The following words from Michael Cole: "Mankind has achieved his dream, and the dream of everyone whose been told, you can't do it" have to be considered one of the top sound bites in WWE history.

But the biggest impact this match made may not have even been to WWE, but rather WCW.

Trying to take advantage of the fact that Monday Night Raw was recorded and Nitro was live, WCW commentator Tony Schiavone was instructed to give the result of WWE's main event away before it happened on television.

This was during a time where the internet wasn't as prevalent as it is now, so there were hundreds of thousands of fans who had the result spoiled for them.

But that didn't deter them from watching it happen.

The ratings indicated that some 600,000 people switched over to the USA network to watch Mankind become champion. It was one of the biggest mistakes WCW ever made.

After dominating for nearly two years, WCW never won the ratings war again.

WWE needed a shot in the arm, and Mankind's title win is where it came from. Schiavone's comments didn't hurt either.

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WWE capitalized on it, seemingly growing stronger every week following that particular episode of Raw. Soon, it would be WCW scrambling for answers on how to top their competition.

But that would never come to fruition. Less than three years later, WCW would no longer exist—at least as a company separate from WWE.

Mankind's title win not only marked one of the greatest nights in the career of Foley, it also marked the beginning of the end for WCW.

Had they kept on the roll they were on, worrying only about their product and letting WWE fend for themselves, is it possible that we would all be watching WCW Nitro on Monday nights today?

Instead, Eric Bischoff chose to concern himself with antagonizing his bitter rival, and it blew up in his face.

While many fans will always remember the time Hogan pinned The Sheik with the legdrop or Mike Tyson making the three count as Austin defeated Michaels, they'll easily forget that January night in Worcester.

However, it should be considered as important as any title change in WWE history.

 

*** Next week, Turning Point takes a closer look at WWE's purchase of WCW ***

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