Published on July 16th, 2016 | by Joey Finnegan0
STING: ‘Coming to the Land of the Giants’
How the Greatest Wrestler Never to Have Performed for the Company Made his Unlikely Journey to the WWE
World Championship Wrestling was bought by Vincent Kennedy McMahon on March 23rd, 2001. One of the few constants in WCW was The Man Called Sting. Sting had numerous classic matches, won all sorts of titles, drew immense crowds, did big business with nWo, you name it.
Everyone knows about the Stinger. He was a big deal. That’s why it boggles the mind that he never came to the WWE.
Not for fourteen years, anyway.
STEVE BORDEN (STING) on why he didn’t initially come to the company:
“I talked with Vince McMahon. He was really good to me. but I just got this feeling that – put it this way – all the guys from WCW that went to WWE when the acquisition happened – by then – there wasn’t a real WCW because, for so many years, WCW was Hall and Nash, you know? It was Hogan, it was Savage, it was Sting, it was Luger, it was the Steiner Brothers.
You know, a certain package of guys that were gone, and you know, the package that he had left had dwindled down to a small group of guys who, really – great wrestlers, phenomenal talents, but they weren’t with WCW for all these years, and you know, mainstay kind of names and all that. Then I was watching what he was doing, storyline-wise, and he’d have WCW against WWF, and that hostile takeover thing.
That whole deal there. I’ll never forget Booker T making his first appearance on their show and he came into the ring, and he’s making this big huge fight, and guys are flying all over the place. Then The Rock comes into the ring and The Rock is hitting guys, guys are flying all over the place, and then they come back to back, and he turns around, and they look at each other, and The Rock looks at Booker T and he says, ‘Who are you?’ That one little comment is all it took to just bury somebody – in my opinion – bury somebody like Booker T.
Let’s let the world know that you’re a WCW guy and you’re a peon here. It was going to require lots of work for Booker T to come back, and he did, ’cause he’s a talented guy, and after all the years I put into wrestling at that point, it just seemed like a gamble to me. I didn’t trust how I would be used.”
Aside from not being a fan McMahon’s creative usage of former WCW talents, negative dealings with attorneys, the company’s onerous live schedule and the content of its programming also played key roles in his decision not to jump ship to then-WWF at the time.
Instead, Sting toured Europe with the World Wrestling All-Stars. By 2003, he signed a contract with Total Nonstop Action. He debuted on their one-year anniversary show and stayed with them until 2014. Sting’s work in TNA is a subject for another piece. It includes matches with names like Rob Van Dam, Hulk Hogan, A.J. Styles, ‘The Monster’ Abyss, Christian Cage (Christian), Ron ‘The Truth’ Killings (R-Truth), Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, and more. Far too much to go into without feeling like we shortchanged some aspects of over a decade of work.
It all came to an end after Sting lost a match with Ethan Carter III due to interference from Magnus. In response, Sting challenged Magnus, who was the TNA World Heavyweight Champion, to a ‘Title vs. Career’ match for the January 23, 2014 episode of Impact Wrestling. Sting lost, and his contract was terminated.
So began negotiations that would eventually lead to Sting walking through the doors of World Wrestling Entertainment for the very first time. It started off first in dribs and drabs. Sting first appeared in a WWE Network production on April 15, 2014, sharing a story of his former tag team partner The Ultimate Warrior, who had recently died. This marked Sting’s first non-archive appearance on a WWE-branded show. A few days later, WWE Home Video DVD and Blu-ray announced The Best of Sting, calling for a September 2014 release. On July 14, Sting appeared in a vignette on Raw to promote the video game WWE 2K15, in which he was featured as a pre-order bonus character in both his ‘Crow’ and ‘Surfer’ (pre-1996) incarnations. That same day, WWE began selling official Sting merchandise. On July 24, Borden made his first public appearance for WWE, in full Sting garb, as a surprise guest at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International. The event was held to announce WWE’s upcoming line of Mattel action figures, in which the company’s first ever Sting figure would appear. Prior to that appearance, Sting gave his first interview with WWE.com, which was released later that day. On August 4, WWE announced Sting as a guest on the WWE 2K15 “Roster Reveal” panel, which took place on August 16 in Los Angeles. All of this lead up to November 23rd, at the age of 55, Sting interrupted the main event of Survivor Series to cost Team Authority the match, officially marking the first time Sting ever stepped foot inside a World Wrestling Entertainment ring.
This moment still gives us goosebumps. With Sting’s arrival to the WWE, it led to the removal of Authority power. Not for long, though. One attempted murder later, The Authority was back in charge of things. The clear path from here was Sting vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 31. It became official after the inaugural FastLane pay-per-view.SCOTT HALL on Sting’s match against Triple H at Wrestlemania 31:
“I was there and obviously involved in his match at WrestleMania last year. We were rehearsing the match in Cali last year at Levi Stadium, and it’s the Kliq and the New Age Outlaws out there, and we all know each other. And then there’s Sting, who doesn’t know anybody. He’s an outsider. I just think he never felt comfortable there. Being hurt was an answered prayer for him–just let it end.
You need to remember that Vince is never going to go with something he didn’t create. But we didn’t get anything done at the rehearsal the night before, so WrestleMania day, there were tents in the parking lot set up with rings for rehearsal. So we’re all in there again, and I’m next to Hulk on the ring apron and Triple H is going over the match and then he goes, ‘OK, he’ll break the sledgehammer, then I’ll hit him with the sledgehammer, and cover him, 1-2-3.’ I looked at Hulk, and Hulk looked at me, and I was thinking, ‘Sting, what kind of lawyer do you have, bro? You’re coming in the door doing a job? You weren’t even guaranteed to go over?’ That’s Vince just reminding you who won, even if he’s going to make money the other way.”
Personal opinions about the finish aside, there’s no denying that Sting vs. Triple H was a show-stealing spectacle. For a while, it also looked like one of the last times we’d see Sting in a WWE ring. He did this interview segment the next night on Raw, and for a while later, nothing followed after that. Not until the night after SummerSlam 2015.
Seth Rollins and Triple H thought they were going to unveil a statue. Instead, The Architect got a black and white ass kicking. That episode of Monday Night Raw ended with Sting holding up the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, something a lot of people never thought they’d see.
From that episode of Monday Night Raw where Stinger, for one time only, held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship above his head, Sting tormented Seth Rollins over the statue he stole (and later destroyed). The end game was Night of Champions 2015, where Seth Rollins wrestled two matches in a double main event. First, he defended his recently won United States Championship against John Cena. The Doctor of Thuganomics picked up the W, taking back his prized US title.
Seth tried to bounce after that, but Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect got in his way, forcing him to stay and defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Sting. This was a good match, which is forever marred by the fact that it was Sting’s last. It was a Bucklebomb that did it. Seth’s busted it out on who knows how many occasions and didn’t do anything different with Sting than he did with any of the countless other guys he hit it on.
It was a matter of wear and tear. Sting was 56 years-old at Night of Champions 2015. That’s not a normal 56, either. That’s a pro wrestler 56. Keep in mind, the man started his professional wrestling career in 1985. This was 30 years later.
Shortly after the event, WWE.com interviewed Sting to help fans get a handle on what happened to him.
“Were you aware of exactly when your injury occurred during the match?”
STEVE BORDEN (STING):
“Oh, yeah, definitely. Both times into the turnbuckle. First time was like a whiplash. [pause] It’s my fault, bottom line. I know better. The second time, I went up into the air and back toward the turnbuckle like that, I thought, “Well, that’s not going to happen again,” and it did. The second time was worse.”
“At this point, what’s your prognosis, both short-term and long-term?”
“Bottom line, I had tingling, numbness down both arms, all the way to my fingertips. And then, later in the match, I just fell wrong, whatever it was, and this time [the tingling and numbness] went down both arms and into my legs, and I couldn’t feel my legs too well. They just felt like rubber. I don’t know how to describe it. I had to go down on all fours there for a minute, get my composure. I was a little … I was worried.
Long term, well, I’m just going to take care of the short term first and see how the long term might play out.”
Those who saw it know that it was quite a scary incident.
“The referee, the doctor, they’re all in there talking to me: ‘Are you OK? What’s going on? Can you continue? Are you all right? Tell us what’s happening.’ And the whole time, I’m just thinking, ‘Oh, man, not now,’ I mean, I want this to be good, you know? And if it ends up being the last thing I ever do in the ring, I don’t want to go out like this.”
At a time when he should have been worried about his health, all he could think about was delivering for the fans. This injury sparked a conversation about Seth Rollins possibly being reckless, further egged on by Bret Hart’s curmudgeonly comments.
Even Sting harbors no ill will towards Seth Rollins, and certainly never accused him of being reckless.
“How would you describe competing against Seth Rollins?”
“The biggest pleasure. I’m honored. After 30 years and working with some of the best and some of the greatest, [Rollins] is, I’m telling you, he’s got to be the best I’ve ever worked with. I mean, this guy has it. And I think he’s just scratching the surface on what he will do. I’ve never seen somebody as talented. He’s working two [matches] on Raw, two [matches] on the pay-per-view, he’s involved in every other segment and it’s physical. He’s got guys coming from every angle. There’s a lot on his plate. He’s carrying a lot, and he’s handling it. He’s proven he can do it. I’m just glad I had a chance to work with him. He’s the kind of guy who could be in there with a broomstick and make something very interesting happen, a match that people would love somehow.”
“That’s incredibly high praise coming from Sting.”
“Really, I can’t say enough. He poked his head in the ambulance and said, ‘Man, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what happened.’ I said, ‘Seth, don’t worry about it. It’s not your fault.’ And he, for 15 minutes, he said, ‘I just wanted to tell you what an honor it was, what a pleasure. I can’t believe I had a chance to get in the ring with you and work with you. I was you for Halloween when I was a kid.’ He was on and on about it, but man, this young guy, he doesn’t have any idea how much I appreciate being able to work with him.”
The diagnosis on Sting was cervical spinal stenosis – the same injury that retired Edge forever.
For months, the question of Sting’s future hung over the heads of the WWE universe. When Bray Wyatt and Undertaker looked to be rekindling their feud heading into Survivor Series 2015, people thought Sting would join. The idea of a big classic Survivor Series style match with Undertaker, Kane, Sting, and Finn Balor vs. The Wyatt Family was a popular fantasy booking scenario for a while.
Then the show came and went. No Sting.
Finally, on the 2nd of April, at the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, Steve Borden, The Man Called Sting, officially announced his retirement, conclusively closing the door on his 30 years in the business of professional wrestling and his 465-day stint in the WWE.
STEVE BORDEN (STING):
“You’ve heard me say it before – you’ve heard me say it for years – that the only thing that’s for sure about Sting, is nothing is for sure…until now. On this very night, at this very moment … I’m going to finish my wrestling career under the WWE umbrella … and I am so proud of that. I am officially going to retire tonight.”
As he said this, a ‘Thank you, Sting!’ chant sounded out. Sting, soaking it all in, took a moment to grab his trademark bat and put on a pair of sunglasses.
Sting Announces his Retirement from Professional Wrestling at the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame:
Talking with Jonathan Coachman of ESPN following his Hall of Fame induction and retirement, Sting had this to say on retiring:
“It was a difficult moment for me because you have the crowd chanting, ‘One more match’ and I wanted that one more match. It is time, for several different reasons, but it was hard to do after 30 years.”
Whether Steve Borden opens a bottle of face paint again or we get ‘one more match’ from him is yet to be known, but one thing is for certain, Sting is one of the greatest performers to ever grace the squared circle. He was heavily regarded by colleagues as a professional and well-respected locker room leader. Diamond Dallas Page once said, “No one did it better than Sting, nobody.” Even Hulk Hogan once said he feels that Sting should be mentioned in any conversation regarding the top 10 greatest pro wrestlers of all time. Sting was a prominent influence on industry veterans such as Kurt Angle, Kane, Bill Goldberg, AJ Styles, Goldust, Bray Wyatt and Tyson Kidd, and was the favorite wrestler of Jeff Hardy, Cody Rhodes, Shelton Benjamin and so much more. His impact on professional wrestling is undeniable and we thank him for three decades of putting his body on the line and for thoroughly entertaining us.