Sting is a wrestler who I have been blessed to follow since the beginning of his long career. Being a fan of professional wrestling for over 30 years, I have followed it from the thriving territory days all the way into the WWE-dominated era. In all these years, I have only had three workers whom I considered my ‘favorite wrestler.’ Those workers are Billy Jack Haynes (from growing up in the Pacific Northwest), Kevin Von Erich (when I moved to Dallas) and Sting, whom I first saw as a member of the Blade Runners, with Rock (who would eventually become the Ultimate Warrior). In hindsight, Billy Jack Haynes turned into a coked-out car salesman and Kevin Von Erich had to endure more tragedy than any human should ever endure. Ironically, he now sells bank notes in Hawaii.
Sting, however, is still here, and most importantly, he’s still relevant.
Though he does not have the athleticism that he once possessed, he still has the ability to draw in crowds with his mic work and still-intense in-ring ability. He has had epic matches in the last five years with Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, Abyss and Bobby Roode. Now that he is no longer able to challenge for the TNA World Title, one has to wonder if the New Main Event Mafia angle will be his last.
Let’s take a look at Stings past, his rivalries and his future.
UWF and Eddie Gilberts Stable
Living in Dallas, Texas during the mid-1980’s gave me a chance to experience that competition that would take place between Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling in Dallas and Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation out of Louisiana, formerly Mid-South Wrestling. Momentum changed quickly when the Fabulous Freebirds left WCCW for the UWF and immediately began programs with greats such as Ted DiBiase, Dr. Death Steve Williams and eventually Eddie Gilberts stable, which included Sting and Rick Steiner. By that time, Blade Runner Rock would move to WCCW becoming the Dingo Warrior under Gary Hart before Vince lured him to the dark side, thus becoming The Ultimate Warrior. Sting stayed loyal to the growing fan base in the south, a move that would lead him into NWA/WCW, where the Sting phenomena would roll for another 15 years. Clashes with Lex Luger, The Great Muta, Ric Flair and the other Horsemen made Sting an instant star. I remember specifically the ‘Black Scorpion’ angle, which truly began the ‘mind-game’ era in pro wrestling (The Black Scorpion turned out to be Flair).
This, in my opinion, is where things in WCW heated up, and Sting played a central figure in the legendary NWO angle. Hyping Hulk Hogan vs Sting was easy, and pulling it off at Starrcade 1997 under his new ‘Crow’ gimmick was going to be a way for WCW to measure up against the increasingly popular ‘Attitude’-era WWE. It worked, Sting became a bigger star than ever, and the NWO had their most formidable enemy.
The angle would go on too long, however, with Sting becoming a member of NWO/Wolfpack, leading to an eventual (brief) heel turn. Feuds with Goldberg, Nash, Luger and others would be the only bright spot in the fading WCW. When Vince bought them out, Sting moved on. Fans speculated whether or not he would finally head to WWE, but it never happened.
It was no surprise that Sting came to TNA, the surprise is that he stayed through it all. TNA management, specifically Jeff Jarrett knew that bringing in Sting to mentor the likes of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode and James Storm, would steer the company in the right direction. It worked, and it continues to work. It was heartbreaking to see the look on Sting’s face during Victory Road a few years ago when he was forced to work a quick ‘main event’ against the ‘barely-able-to-compete’ Jeff Hardy. There was pain there, disappointment and anguish from the star who himself was ecstatic about a main event match with the Enigma. Sting pushed for TNA to re-sign Hardy, and you could see it in his eyes that night that he may have regretted that decisionh.
NWA, WCW and TNA have tried to turn Sting heel, and it never worked. As the Road Warrior-wannabe in UWF, Sting was a feared heel, but once that angle faded and fans got to see the real Steve Borden, they loved him then, they love him now, and his true fans will love him forever.
Some of Sting’s most notable rivalries include,
Eddie Gilbert/Terry Taylor
This was one of Sting’s first real feuds, having been a subservient to Gilbert and his ‘associate’ Missy Hyatt, he was picked alive after Gilberts betrayal and alignment with Terry Taylor during a UWF TV Title match. After being saved by that late/great Gentleman Chris Adams, Sting tuned face as he and Adams feuded with Taylor and Hot Stuff International over the UWF Tag Team Titles.
Most people viewed the two as best friends who fought the NWO together in the late 1990’s, but truth-be-told, the two had some of the more athletic and brutal matches in pro wrestling history. Feuding, and then teaming, on and off until their post-WCW stint in the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico.
The Great Muta
From a pure wrestling standpoint, this was Sting’s best feuds. In the 1990’s, these two would go onto to have some of the most entertaining matches in NWA/WCW history, here and in New Japan. Not only were their matches legendary, the few times they tagged together were awesome displays of athletic ability, something seen in WWE during that time.
The angle between Sting and the newly-formed NWO is one that still gets talked about to this day. It was the transformation from the ‘good guy/surfer’ Sting to the much darker ‘Crow’ image. Hiding in the rafters, he brought nightmares to Randy Savage and the rest of the NWO, before winning the title from Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade 97.
Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen
This feud was more about Flair and the NWA/WCW World Title than about the rest of the Horseman. To make a long story short, Sting was another talent recruited to replace Ole Anderson in the Horsemen, only to be betrayed when he challenged for Flair’s World TItle. He and Flair would go on to have some of the best matches in pro wrestling history, with many ending in time-limit draws. Quite honestly, the TNA match between Sting and Flair was something that I wish had never happened for many reasons that I choose not to go into right now. To me, late 80’s, early 90’s Flair-Sting match-ups were on par with Flair/Ricky Streamboat, Steamboat/Randy Savage or any match featuring Curt Hennig.
Let me go on record and say that I am one of the few fans out there who hope that Sting retires from TNA without ever setting foot in a WWE ring. For one, does anyone believe that an Undertaker/Sting match-up at Wrestlemania would only end up with the continuation of ‘The Streak.’ Does any true wrestling fan believe that Vince McMahon would go in any other direction? Does anyone really believe that he could challenge for the WWE Title, WHC, or even the Intercontinental Title? A run at the US Title (which is he very familiar with) would just tarnish his image.
Sting is no longer at the top of his game, and has not been for a long time, but he still has the ability to get in the ring against some of the most talented workers in the industry and dazzle us with his spirit, enthusiasm and integrity. His presence in TNA is critical in their building process, and his presence among some of the younger stars like Wes Briscoe, Christian York and Garrett Bischoff. The only thing he would do in WWE is make Vince quick money, while also being buried by whomever he chooses to make an example out of ‘The Icon.’ TNA is in a position to keep him as long as he wants to stay and in whatever capacity he feels comfortable with, made obvious by his Hall of Fame introduction. Even a one match deal with WWE could tarnish what he has spent his career building.
Time may be running out for Sting. For the time being, I’m going to enjoy the emerging storyline between the New Main Event Mafia and the Aces & Eights. As TNA looks to for a push in the ratings, I hope to see a lot more from the Icon in the coming weeks and months. Because, when Sting decides to hang it up, expect him to do it the same way he performed for us- with grace, dignity, appreciation and the faith that can be read through the face-paint.