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WHO: Wrestler of the Week - Sting


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Those of you who were around for SNKT know that we tried this as a regular feature for a while, but I wanted to bring it here and get it started again. Basically, I'll pick a random wrestler and we can discuss the highs and lows of their careers, the best, worst and most famous matches, how they'll be remembered -- that sort of thing.

 

Sting seemed like a good starting point because he's someone everyone knows. He started out in late 1985 in Memphis, teaming with Jim Hellwig (Ultimate Warrior) in a team called The Freedom Fighters. Memphis was a breeding ground for a lot of new talent around that time, so I guess that was the natural place to start. The payoffs were notoriously low, but they would hire just about anyone (and fire them, and hire them again in some cases). His most memorable feud there was with a fat guy heel named Phil Hickerson (who'd later be PY Chu-Hi in WCCW) who always commented that anyone could pump their bodies full of steroids and look the way they looked.

 

He jumped to Mid South at some point in 1986 and mostly teamed with Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner, having a few decent matches against teams like Chris Adams and Terry Taylor and the Fantastics. He eventually ended up breaking out from under Gilbert's shadow in 1987 when he turned babyface, a role he'd keep for (most of) the rest of his career. He was getting over on the undercard, but wasn't really someone anyone considered a future superstar. His energy made him stand out from the pack and while he bumbled in his promos, he had great charisma. It was around this time he started adding color to his face paint. He originally had black face paint when he first came in and was part of the Blade Runners tag team with Warrior. His name was Flash for a brief period before it was changed to Sting.

 

He wrestled in the opening six-man at Starrcade '87, but his first (and possibly most memorable) match was against Ric Flair at the first Clash of the Champions. In that match, Flair took a midcarder and made him a superstar, carrying him to a good, 45-minute match that won MOTY honors at the time, both in the Observer and Pro Wrestling Illustrated. I actually think he'd go on to have far better matches with Vader, but it was Flair who cemented him as a superstar.

 

The buildup to the first Flair/Sting match was quite good, even if it's gone largely forgotten. The NWA was doing "Ric Flair Night" in Raleigh, NC, with the Horsemen dressed in tuxedos honoring Flair. Sting politely asked for a title shot and JJ Dillon told him no and to go away. In a funny moment, Sting seemed to agree before attacking Dillon and "ruining" the occasion. Flair did a hateful promo vowing to never wrestle again unless he got a match with Sting. They ended up doing a match on Worldwide with the typical ref bump chicanery where Sting was obviously holding his own with the champion. Flair did a memorable promo around this time where he actually bladed himself during an interview because he was so furious at Sting for embarrassing him. So the stage was set for the big match at the Clash.

 

Sting floundered for much of '88 after the initial splash in the Flair match. He picked random tag team partners to go after the tag titles before settling into a feud with Barry Windham for the US title, with them having a match at Clash III where Windham got himself DQ'd to keep the belt. It was a good match, though, featuring the two hottest young wrestlers in the company at the time.

 

Another memorable angle around this time saw him get turned on by the Road Warriors, taking a hell of a bump off of the Doomsday Device and selling a neck injury before picking up a tag team partner to go after the belts. He and Dusty faced the Road Warriors at Starrcade '88 in another good match and Sting was incredibly over, but had still never won a belt.

 

He won his first belt in the company in March of '89, defeating Mike Rotunda for the TV title, before getting into a famous feud with the red-hot Great Muta for the remainder of 1989. Flair had started booking around that time and was booking with the idea of building up Sting for a big title win in 1990. He was rubbing shoulders with the main eventers on a regular basis, with the Flair/Funk and Sting/Muta feuds pretty much intertwined. Sting also won the Ironman tournament at Starrcade '89, a tournament that also featured Flair, Luger and Muta. He got a clean win over Flair and they teased a heel turn for the Horsemen, but they instead congratulated him on the victory.

 

On February 6, 1990, at Clash X, they shot a big angle to turn the Horsemen heel, and Sting was scheduled to win the World title 19 days later at Wrestle War. He was climbing the cage in the main event that evening to get to Flair and ended up fucking up his knee, resulting in him needing surgery and missing five months of time. This couldn't have come at a worse time for Sting, because he had all the momentum in the world and he was about to win the gold. Jim Herd pressured Flair to put over Luger in the interim, but Flair felt it was best to wait until Sting returned and refused.

 

He returned and defeated Flair at the 1990 Great American Bash, in a match that was supposed to shift the company into a new era where Sting was the new centerpiece and Flair was no longer the top guy. He was put in one of the worst storylines of all time where he had a masked man of mystery named the Black Scorpion gunning for him. This ended up pretty much killing whatever potential he may have had as a draw and the company looked to Flair to save the angle. Flair was revealed to have been the man torturing Sting all this time in a very anti-climatic plot twist, and Sting quietly dropped the belt to Flair on a house show just two weeks later. He was originally going to drop it here, but he asked that he at least win this match so he could salvage something out of the bad angle he had been given.

 

Sting spent 1991 as an upper card fixture, but wasn't anywhere near Flair or the title. He did participate in War Games at Wrestle War '91, a hell of a match most remembered for Sid nearly killing Brian Pillman with his powerbombs. He was one of four participants in the Sting & Luger v The Steiners match at SuperBrawl I, a match that won MOTY honors in PWI. The post-match angle also ignited a fairly hot feud with Nikita Koloff, which was blown off in quick fashion at the June Clash just a month later.

 

The office wanted to rebuild Sting and felt that feeding him a lot of hot heels in quick fashion would be the best way to do the job, building to an eventual big match with Lex Luger in 1992. He feuded with Cactus Jack and Abdullah the Butcher for the rest of the year and also won the US title around this time in a one-night tournament in Atlanta, beating Steve Austin in the finals in a match that always looked great clipped that isn't available in full sadly. The matches with Cactus at this point were very memorable as well. He ended up dropping the belt to Rick Rude at Clash XVII in November of '91, starting a feud that would continue for most of the next three years.

 

Sting finally had the big match with Luger at SuperBrawl II, where he won the title for the second time. While he was always over, he still wasn't the same Sting he was in 1989-1990. He was part of War Games in May of 1992 in one of the best gimmick matches of the decade before settling into a feud with Vader that would also be quite memorable. The duo produced three of the best heavyweight matches of the decade, at least in the US, at the Great American Bash, Starrcade and SuperBrawl III. Bill Watts had entered power by this time and was more focused on making Ron Simmons the top babyface, so Sting again fell down the card. He did have a feud with Jake Roberts though, culminating in a match at Halloween Havoc '92 that drew a great buyrate, comparatively.

 

Sting would have a cup of coffee with the World title once again in March of 1993, defeating Vader on a European tour, before dropping the belt again before the tour was even over, a mere six days later. He did manage to stay at the top of the card for most of '93, but WCW was abysmal that year.

 

Sting was definitely in his share of bad angles and vignettes in the early 90s, many of which happened in '93. While he had done the cheesy stuff with Robocop in 1990, in 1993, he did the White Castle of Fear videos for SuperBrawl III with Vader, a video with Davey Boy Smith for Beach Blast '93 where he was on a boat and Cheatum The Evil Midget blew up the boat, and he was also part of the Flair For The Gold at the August Clash where the Shockmaster tripped and fell in his debut.

 

Flair had left the company in 1991, but was back around by this time and the two of them had a memorable 40-minute match on WCW Saturday Night on 08/20/93. The next few years of his career saw him in the shadow of others, be it Flair, new arrivals Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage or the NWO. He had a few good matches and was still a key player, but he was no longer WCW's golden boy and underwent a much-needed character change in 1996, where Lex Luger doubted his loyalty in a brilliant angle where a fake Sting attacked Luger outside in a dark, rainy parking lot and Sting swore it wasn't him. He spent most of the next 15 months or so sitting in the bleachers wearing solid black, and he'd changed his look dramatically. He was probably more over than he was at any point in his career, yet he was not even wrestling at this point. They were building to an eventual Hogan/Sting showdown that was hyped incredibly well and had the wrestling world buzzing, to a point where it looked like Sting may finally reach his full potential.

 

That would come crashing down at Starrcade '97 when they fucked up one of the most easy finishes to book in modern history, and Sting was not going to be the top star he had been built up to be as a result. 1998 was spent floundering, as at one point he changed his face paint to a red color and joined the Wolfpack, which went against everything his character stood for for so long. He was out with personal issues for the last half of the year and returned in April of 1999 to find a WCW that had lost almost all the momentum it had when he left. They tried a Sting heel turn later in the year hoping they could shock viewers back into watching, but the turn didn't work at all, partially because WCW had overexposed their audience to big turns from top stars and partially because Sting's heart wasn't in it.

 

2000 saw him have some of the worst matches in history with Vampiro, but he did go out fittingly enough in 2001, wrestling Ric Flair on the final Nitro, the man who was ultimately his career-defining rival. He was synonymous with WCW for a long time, but he spent his career waiting on others to step aside so he could become the new top star, only for it to never happen.

 

I know this is a long post, but I was actually trying to be as brief as I could, so I skimmed over a lot. So now I'll turn the tables -- what are some of your favorite and least favorite Sting matches and moments, and how do you think he'll be remembered?

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Sunofugun man. That was an interesting read.

 

I completely overlooked the Blade Runners mention since I was about to chastise you for its omission. Speaking of the Blade Runners, that is my first recollection of Sting in any form.

 

I really don't have anything to add about his in ring accomplishments because I never really cared for him in the ring. The sole exception would be the Vader series but i always gave credit to Vader for those memories.

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Guest Some Guy

A few little semi-useful tidbits:

 

In a interview I heard with Sting he said that he decided he needed to change his gimmick one night while tagging with Hogan at the Cow Palaca and he heard Hogan get booed out of the building. He figured his time was coming soon and started growing out his hair.

 

He also said that he has no earthly idew why Starcade 97 went the way it did. He figured going into the show that he'd go over clean (as did everybody else in the world), but the night of the show he couldn't get a straight answer as to what the finish would be because Hogan wouldn't make up his mind. He said that Bischoff would come to his dressing room, tell him a finish, go back to Hogan's, and then come back with a different one, rinsh, lather repeat. He got so fed up that he didn't even care if he won, he just wanted to know the friggin finish.

 

On the botched fast count he said that he's heard rumors that the ref could have been paid off but he doesn't (read: doesn't want to) believe it.

 

He said that he had no problem stepping aside for Hogan in 94 but had more trouble doing so for Savage. He didn't elaborate, but I assume he figured that he and Savage were roughly on the same level in the industry and that he was a top guy in WCW so he should have been able to keep his spot. Hogan on the other hand was a much bigger star, so it didn't bother him.

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Guest The Man in Blak

It still blows my mind today how many plans got screwed up with Starrcade '97's wacky finish. Sting doesn't go over, Bret Hart gets inexplicably involved, and everybody but Hogan is irreparably damaged. For long-time Sting fans (and probably for Sting himself), this was supposed to be the culmination of years of loyalty and performance - Sting had done virtually everything the company wanted, to laying down for Vader to stepping aside for Hogan. Instead, the inmates ran the asylum and Sting - and WCW - sank for it.

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Those of you who were around for SNKT know that we tried this as a regular feature for a while, but I wanted to bring it here and get it started again. Basically, I'll pick a random wrestler and we can discuss the highs and lows of their careers, the best, worst and most famous matches, how they'll be remembered -- that sort of thing.

Just try not to pick Sable this time, aight?

 

Nice write-up on Sting, Loss.

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  • 2 months later...
Guest Hunter's Torn Quad

Sting was a decent, hard working wrestler from 1988 until around 1995, at which point he became terribly lazy, and started to phone it in, with only the occasional burst of effort. It?s hard to blame him really, because he went from being the franchise player of WCW to playing second fiddle to Hogan and pals, with no real major role until his Crow persona, and even then he sank back to the midcard once Hogan squashed it flat at Starrcade ?97. When he did eventually beat Hogan for the World title, he wasn?t put over, with the focus instead on Hogan and Savage?s issue, and he was reduced to being in the semi-main event at the very next PPV, Uncensored, after his World title win. If I was treated like that, I?d be tempted to mentally give up too.

 

In his athletic prime, from 1988 until 1993, Sting was a pretty good worker, but he needed to be carried to anything above average, and this is where it became glaringly obvious that Ric Flair was almost wrestling himself during their famous 45-minute draw. Without someone across the ring to guide him through his matches and control things, Sting was totally lost, because on his own, Sting couldn?t carry a tune, let alone an inferior talent to an acceptable match. I don?t think Sting has ever been in a good to great match that he either carried or was the major force in, and that?s really what has let him down when it came to being the figurehead of a promotion, because he?s never been able to play the part of the guy who is the centerpiece of things, because when he is in that spotlight, with nobody to make him look good, it?s made too obvious he?s not that great a talent, and he loses his heat.

 

His promos were another weak point of his, because they were never anything special. Sure, he rarely looked lost when in front of the mic, but he was also never able to capture your attention or make you feel like the match he was hyping was one you just had to pay to see. Behind the mic, he seemed like just another generic cartoon babyface, and don?t get me started on his lame ?It?s showtime, folks?, shtick, because that?s about all his interviews consisted of post-Crow persona, and it made for some terrible television.

 

His charisma was his undoubted strong point, but it was really his only strong point, and that was a major reason that Sting was never going to be able to be the centerpiece of WCW, or any promotion. What Sting needed to be a success was a strong heel to play off of, which is shown by the fact that his best programs were against super heels like Rick Ruder or Vader, whose personality and ring work could be an effective glue to hold Sting together, and make him look better than he really was.

 

Sting on his own couldn?t draw flies, but Sting and a strong heel could. Take away the strong heel, however, and Sting was pretty much left standing around with his thumb up his ass.

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Is Sting still active anywhere? I see he made appearances in TNA, and you'd think he might be interested in a WWE run since Shawn's Wrestling For Jeebus now.

Rock wanted to work with him at Wrestlemania this year, but that idea was turned down. It's a shame; I would have been interested in how it played out, and especially which one would play the heel. I think the door is always open for Sting to come to WWE if that's what he wants, but every year, he does get older and fades more and more out of the public conscience. The window is almost closed.

 

HTQ, you summed up Sting very well. Good job. I think Sting is in some ways Ric Flair's greatest accomplishment, because he took an energetic midcarder and turned him into a superstar by carrying him to a hell of a match early in his career. Vader would eventually top Flair in terms of matches they were able to have with each other, but no doubt, it was Flair who taught Sting how to be a babyface.

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