Based off recent events, it’s fairly clear that Sting is going to be wrestling in a WWE at some point in the future, likely at “Wrestlemania XXXI”. Granted that point was pretty much obvious the second the crow sounded at “Survivor Series 2014.” This past week on “Monday Night Raw”, Triple H made the match out to be something like a showdown between WCW and WWE, basically ignoring the Invasion from 2001 (and who can blame him for doing that?). Today we’re going to take a basic look at Sting’s WCW career and why he truly was the franchise of WCW.
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that this is NOT meant to be a comprehensive look back at Sting’s WCW days as I certainly can’t cover that in three pages. This is meant as more of a highlight package for those of you who may not have been around for Sting’s time in WCW or may just want and/or need a refresher before his showdown with the Game at “Wrestlemania XXXI.”
As you probably know, Sting’s national coming out party was on March 27, 1988 at “Clash of the Champions” against NWA World Champion Ric Flair, kicking off a legendary rivalry. The match went back and forth for about 40 minutes (the announced time was 45 minutes but it didn’t last that long) with Sting holding Flair in the Scorpion Deathlock as time ran out, which was a common ending for a Flair title defense around this time.
While Sting didn’t win and it was clear that he didn’t quite have the offensive arsenal to make it through an extended match like this, the man had a charisma that hadn’t been seen in years. One of the best lines I’ve ever heard about Sting came from Magnum TA, who said that Sting had so much charisma that he didn’t know what to do with it.
If wrestling has taught us anything over the years, it’s that charisma can carry almost anyone past their limits in the ring. Sting isn’t the best in ring worker ever, but he can have a good match with the right opponent. This isn’t something you often think of though and he has his charisma to thank for that.
The feud with Flair would continue on and off until the very last WCW match ever in 2001. After the Clash match, the next big showdown took place at “Great American Bash 1990”, where Sting FINALLY won the World Title after taking several months off due to a horrible knee injury which would plague him for the rest of his career. Sting was officially the man and that was all that mattered.
And then he bombed as champion. I mean he REALLY bombed as champion, dragging the company down on top due to a combination of the money being in the chase (a very common problem in wrestling. See also Ultimate Warrior in the same year) and the absolutely dreadful Black Scorpion story taking up so much of his first title reign. Sting would drop the title back to the Flair in early 1991 but his day would come again.
He got the title back in early 1992 from a departing Lex Luger, and the results were the polar opposite. Sting basically spent 1992 feuding with every major heel in WCW, ranging from Luger to Paul E. Dangerously’s (Heyman) Dangerous Alliance (Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zbyszko and Arn Anderson, or as talented of a heel stable you’ll ever find this side of the Horsemen), Abdullah the Butcher and Cactus Jack.
This is where things get interesting and give us an important lesson for modern times. Sting’s second reign worked very, very well with the fans totally buying as the promotion’s new top star. The matches were better, business was booming and the fans embraced Sting as their new hero. The lesson for modern wrestling: just because a first reign goes badly, it doesn’t mean the guy is done. If you want more proof, just look at Bret Hart. His first reign was good but not great whereas his second was one of the hottest periods of his career. Don’t just give up on someone because they’re not instantly great.
I left someone off that list of rivals in 1992 because he deserves his own entry. In addition to all those people, Sting started his feud with Vader, who took the title off him in June. This kicked off a feud that lasted for over two years and almost never produced anything less than a great match. Sting vs. Vader is the quintessential hero vs. monster feud and it is still revered today. These two went at it in classic after classic, including my all time favorite match at “Starrcade 1992”.
Now why did this feud work? Among the great chemistry and natural talents on display, the feud worked so well for me because of how it started. Vader was this unstoppable force and he earned a title shot at Sting in the Omni in Atlanta. He proceeded to maul Sting from one side of the building to the other before getting disqualified, having broken Sting’s ribs and injuring some internal organs.
Wrestling logic 101 would say Sting comes back and wins the big rematch on pay per view. This rematch took place at “Great American Bash 1992” and went a bit better for Sting. Vader beat him up for about fifteen minutes, avoided the Stinger Splash and powerbombed him in half to win the title. Somehow this wasn’t quite as bad of a beating as it was the first time though and Sting didn’t break any bones this time. That’s an improvement right?
We’ll jump ahead to 1994 now as Sting is back on top, but there’s a big red and yellow shadow hanging over him. Sting had been having some troubles in 1993 as he was starting to slip (again, a lot of this can be blamed on some really bad booking choices), but he roared back to life with a feud against Flair over the double World Titles. The belts were unified at “Clash of the Champions XXVII”, but the focus was on Hulk Hogan, who was making one of his first major appearances at this show.
This kicked off the next major period of Sting’s career: playing second fiddle to Hogan as the fans really weren’t thrilled with the new hero but still got to see Sting fighting for the US Title. Once Hogan turned heel at “Bash at the Beach 1996”, Sting was immediately launched back up top as one of the main stars of WCW.
However, an incident in September 1996 caused some major problems. The New World Order had a fake Sting attack Lex Luger in the parking lot while the real Sting was in Japan. For some reason WCW forgot about Sting being on the other side of the world and accused him of turning his back on WCW. With the trust broken, Sting literally did just that on an episode of Nitro, saying that he would be popping around every now and then, but WCW could stick it.
What followed was the better part of a year of Sting wearing black and white and not saying a word to anyone while hanging out in the rafters of buildings. He FINALLY affirmed his loyalty to WCW by attacking Hogan at the end of “Uncensored 1997” and eventually agreed to face Hogan in the main event of the biggest show in company history, “Starrcade 1997”. What followed was the disaster to end all disasters.
The match should have been Hogan being led to the gallows for his crimes over the years. Instead he strutted to the ring, barely sold anything for Sting, pinned him with the legdrop off what was allegedly a fast count, had the match restarted by guest referee Bret Hart (referee for another match mind you) and eventually gave up to Sting to end the show. The title was then held up with Sting getting it in February, only to lose it in April. I’ll get off this topic now as this disaster is a long column of its own at some point. Short version: WCW shot themselves in the foot, leg, stomach, arms, neck, back and head in the span of 15 minutes.
Sting wouldn’t hold the World Title again for over a year, and that reign started and ended on the same show. I’ll end here because this is supposed to be highlights, meaning it’s probably a good idea to skip him as part of the NWO, nearly being eaten by dogs, a horribly stupid heel turn, being lit on fire in a human torch match and being attacked by an army of Stings from his own past. WCW was very strange in those dying days.
Overall, Sting is the embodiment of WCW. He started off as a hot midcard act and rose to the top of the company with nine World Titles plus at least every major title in the company once each. Sting was the one guy that never seemed like a threat to jump to the other company because he wouldn’t have felt right there. He was WCW through and through and nothing was ever going to change that.
I have no problem with the idea of Sting representing WCW one last time. Despite all his years in TNA, I never stopped considering him a WCW guy. It’s the promotion he became a star in and he never stopped being its biggest star. Yes Flair won more World Titles there, but Sting was and always will be the embodiment of WCW. Triple H may be stretching to say he is WWE, but without Sting, WCW would have been a very, very different place, and not in a good way.
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