Sting – His Transformation and How He Rescued WCW From the nWo

For the better part of a decade, Sting was known as WCW’s beloved hero who never compromised his morals. He was colorful, charismatic, athletic, and larger than life. But despite his unshakeable loyalty, the arrival of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in WCW saw Sting wrongfully moved to the proverbial backburner which begged the question, where does our fearless hero go from here?

The summer of 1996 saw the formation of the nWo which shook the entire landscape of professional wrestling. The faction essentially dominated the company over the course of an entire year. Once again, Sting was seemingly lost in the shuffle and WCW was desperately in need of a courageous warrior who could humble the rebellious faction, now more than ever.

But remember, the only thing for sure about Sting is that nothing is for sure.

Throughout the timeline below, I will document the entire transformation of Sting and how he rescued WCW from the clutches of the nWo.

Sting attacks nWo member Hollywood Hulk Hogan at WCW Starrcade, December 28. 1997.
Sting attacks nWo’s Hollywood Hulk Hogan at WCW Starrcade, December 28, 1997. [Photo: WWE.com]

“Better than Batman, better than Superman, it’s Sting!”

– Bobby Heenan


September 9, 1996

During a match between Lex Luger and Rick Steiner, the Total Package signaled for the Torture Rack. Nick Patrick then appeared and motioned for Lex to follow him to the back. Sting’s voice was overheard interacting with Ted DiBiase.

Nash, Hogan, Hall and “Sting” all jumped Lex Luger.

How could WCW’s hero turn his back on his best friend? Even Arn Anderson noted that Sting had always remained the constant and this situation brought on a sick feeling in his gut.

September 15, 1996

At WCW Fall Brawl PPV, Ric Flair opted to forgo replacing Sting on their team in the War Games match against the nWo.

Towards the end of the backstage promo, Sting interrupted by stating, “It was not me on Monday Night!” Sadly, Lex Luger didn’t believe the Stinger in the slightest.

Note: Sting’s back was turned to the camera during his appearance which added to the foreshadowing of things to come.

Sting: “It was not me on Monday Night!” WCW Fall Brawl 1996.
Sting: “It was not me on Monday Night!” WCW Fall Brawl 1996. [Photo: retroprowrestling.com]
In the War Games match, Hall, Nash, Hogan, and “Sting” shared a 4 on 3 advantage and they capitalized on it.

As the clock counted down, the real Sting ran down to even the odds. After landing several Stinger Splashes, the real Sting asked Lex upon leaving the cage, “Is that good enough for you right there?” He then gestured with his arm to stick it.

Not surprisingly, the nWo emerged with their arms raised.

In a moment of bravery, Randy Savage threw Hogan back into the ring until the Giant came to the aid of the villainous leader.

As the sign pointed out, “This is nWo country.”

September 16, 1996

Sting on WCW Nitro, September 16, 1996.
Sting on WCW Monday Nitro, September 16, 1996. [Photo: Cageside Seats]
The next evening during Monday Nitro, Sting opened the show by sauntering down to the ring.

Whether it was intentional or not, Sting turned his back to the hard camera as he took a few moments to explain his actions at War Games and to clear the air.

Sting elaborated that last Monday Night, he was on an airplane from LA to Atlanta when he tuned into Nitro and witnessed his best friend being attacked by an imposter.

Furthermore, he brought up how fans, colleagues and best friends started to doubt the Stinger and jump to immediate conclusions. Despite pouring his blood, sweat, and tears for the company, no one believed him.

For all of the fans who never doubted him, Sting noted that he would stand by them if they continue to show their support.

As for the commentators, wrestlers and all of the best friends who did doubt him, “You can stick it.”

Addressing his future: “From now on I consider myself a free agent. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t see the Stinger from time to time. I’m going to pop in when you least expect it.”

Sting then exited the ring as the commentators were perplexed by what this meant moving forward.

October 21, 1996

Nearly one month later, Sting re-merged during the conclusion of a match featuring Fake Sting. His appearance was dramatically altered as he was dressed in black, wearing a leather trenchcoat, and wearing makeup that loosely resembled The Crow character.

Note: It was Scott Hall who originally pitched The Crow concept to Sting since his hair was already longer in length and much darker. This reimagination of the Sting character propelled him to new heights.

“Crow” Sting debuts wearing black and white. WCW Monday Nitro, October 16. 1996. [Photo: thewrestlinginsomniac.com]
Sting executed the Scorpion Deathdrop followed by a running elbow drop to the Fake Sting.

Members of the nWo entered the ring with Ted DiBiase acting as the mouthpiece. Ted welcomed Sting aboard and noted the faction was taking over.

Kevin Nash then quoted Jim Morrison by stating, “I think it’s time you break on through to the other side.”

Scott Hall then proposed that if Sting joined the nWo, there would be no stopping them in their pursuit of taking over WCW.

Sting’s response: “That right there, is your cheap imitation. You get what you pay for, don’t ya? The real Sting may or may not be in your price range. But the only thing for sure about Sting is nothing’s for sure.”

Portraying himself as a mercenary for hire, these would be the final words spoken from Sting for well over a year.

October 28, 1996

The night after Halloween Havoc, Sting was first seen in the rafters during Steven Regal vs Juventud Guerrera. It was a tad strange and already out of character for Sting to be wearing a black shirt with FX Studios on it. By now, his makeup fully covered his face which appeared far more menacing and devoid of emotion.

As Lex Luger was squaring off against Booker T, Sting re-appeared, but this time in the entranceway of a section. This prompted the Total Package to abandon his opponent and rush up to Sting. It’s clear Lex wanted answers.

November 4, 1996

As Monday Nitro kicked off from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Sting was seen lurking from above.

During a Jeff Jarrett promo, Sting was seen once again, but this time standing at the end of an entranceway of a section.

November 11, 1996

As Jeff Jarrett competed against Chris Benoit, Sting entered the ring and executed the Scorpion Death Drop to Double J.

What were his intentions here and why did he specifically target Jeff Jarett? Oddly enough, Sting hasn’t taken any interest in any nWo talent.

Later on in the program, Lex Luger was scheduled to compete against Scott Norton. In the far depths of the arena, Sting could be seen looking on.

Lex eventually took to the microphone and let viewers know he doesn’t have any answers related to Sting. Furthermore, Luger noted that WCW is at its darkest and while he proudly carries WCW on his shoulders, it’s far too much weight for one man to carry. Additionally, Lex admitted that he made a mistake by not trusting Sting, but apologized and urged his best friend to return to aid WCW in the battle for supremacy.

Ted DiBiase with Vincent appeared in the crowd and made an offer for Sting to join the nWo.

One thing is for certain, both the nWo and WCW believe that Sting is the difference-maker who could easily tilt the undeniable advantage for either side. At this point, it’s a race to convince the Stinger to draw a line in the sand.

November 18, 1996

Gene Okerlund was in the middle of the ring asking Lex Luger about his incredible momentum as of late. As the interviewed carried on, Sting could be seen hopping the guardrail with a baseball in hand. He walked up the ring steps and entered through the ropes.

An inquisitive Lex Luger repeatedly asked Sting questions that were not responded to. Instead, Sting placed the end of the back on Luger’s chest and proceeded to nudge him back. Perhaps most perplexing of all, Sting then handed the bat to Lex and promptly exited the squared circle.

As Gene Okerlund returned to interview Jeff Jarrett and Ric Flair, Sting was watching on from the rafters.

November 24, 1996

In the midst of competing against the Giant, Sting interrupted Jeff Jarrett’s patented strut to hit the Scorpion Death Drop.

On commentary, Dusty Rhodes and Bobby Heenan adamantly believed that Sting had aligned with the nWo.

Backstage, Gene Okerlund asked Lex Luger about Sting’s recent actions. Lex also concluded that based on his tactics, colors, and mannerisms, it’s likely that Sting is affiliated with the nWo.

November 25, 1996

On the episode of Nitro following World War 3, Sting intervened in the Rick Steiner vs Big Bubba Rogers match by executing the Scorpion Death Drop on the Dog-Faced Gremlin.

Could this be a red herring or is Sting specifically targeting WCW talent in retribution for their lack of loyalty when he was perceived as a traitor?

December 2, 1996

Nitro kicked off with Scott Steiner calling out Sting to ensure he doesn’t plan another cowardly act against his brother, Rick. Meanwhile, Rick Steiner asked Sting to finish what he started tonight. Sting appeared in the crowd and nodded in acceptance of the challenge.

Rick’s request was granted.

With nWo members on commentary, Rick Steiner eventually stood in the middle of the ring as Sting casually climbed over a guardrail and eventually entered the ring.

Rick Steiner addresses Sting on WCW Monday Nitro, December 2, 1996.
Rick Steiner addresses Sting on WCW Monday Nitro, December 2, 1996. [Photo: thewrestlinginsomniac.com]
Sting tossed his black bat to the side as he turned his back to Rick. Steiner took advantage of the opportunity by clotheslining the Stinger from behind and forcing him to the outside. Scott then threw Sting back into the ring.

 

After not defending multiple punches from Rick, Sting ducked an attack to land the Scorpion Death Drop.

As Scott cared for his brother, Sting effortlessly pushed him out of the way with the black bat and pointed it directly at Rick. In an eerily similar situation to Lex, Sting nudged Rick backward with the bat and then proceeded to hand the object over. Before Rick could swing, Scott intervened and stood in the way.

Sting then marched towards the back but paused to address Nash, Bischoff, and Hall on commentary. As the three begged for Sting to come over, our mysterious figure slowly raised his bat and pointed it at the trio as they sat in collective silence.

Sting then exited through the crowd.

December 16, 1996

A video package centered on Sting aired featuring Bonnie Tyler’s song “Holding Out for a Hero.”

I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night

He’s gotta be strong

And he’s gotta be fast

And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero

Yes, WCW desperately required a hero more than ever before as they continue to lose the overwhelming battle to the dominant and treacherous nWo.

As Scott and Rick Steiner stood in the middle of the ring, Sting swiftly worked his way through the audience. Emerging from another area of the arena was an imposter Sting who was vastly different from the version just shown on camera.

The obviously fake Sting was a little too cordial with the brooding original, which rapidly escalated into a tense showdown.

As Sting’s tossed their bats to the Steiner’s and turned away, our original Sting executed the Scorpion Death Drop to the rip off artist.

Tony Schiavone theorized this was a direct message sent to the nWo courtesy of our mysterious vigilante.

After Big Bubba Rogers showed his true colors by defecting to the nWo by betraying the Dungeon of Doom, the lockerroom cleared with both sides going toe to toe.

Amongst the chaos, Sting marched down to the ring. Arn Anderson and Mongo McMichael both attempted to attack Sting to little avail as the onlookers simply stopped in their tracks. Rey Mysterio suffered a similar fate after he jumped onto Sting’s back, but was quickly thrown off.

Sting did not strike one member of the nWo.

December 23, 1996

As Rick Steiner and Jeff Jarrett competed to have their arm raised, the Fake Sting entered the ring in an attempt to attack Double J that fell short.

During an intense showdown between Roddy Piper and Hollywood Hogan, nWo members ran down to assist their leader by holding the Rowdy one. As the reinforcement numbers grew, the real Sting could be seen watching calmly from the rafters.

December 29, 1996

Starrcade was WCW’s flagship event and one of the matches featured the Giant against Lex Luger.

After Lex tossed the crooked Nick Patrick to the side, he successfully picked up the Giant into the Torture Rack until Syxx broke it up.

Meanwhile, Sting slowly entered the ring, pushed Patrick aside with the bat, dropped it and proceeded to whisper inaudible words to both competitors. Sting then dropped the bat and promptly left the ring.

A low blow and a few well-placed strikes with the fallen baseball bat lead Lex Luger to get his arm raised.

Was this simply a coincidence that Luger won or was this part of Sting’s plan to even the odds?

While every member in the nWo stood across from the Giant, chaos ensued with an angered monster defending himself against former comrades. Expectedly, the obvious numbers advantage worked in nWo’s favor as they brought the Giant to his knees with Hollywood Hogan landing vicious chair strikes.

After walking away from the Giant’s fallen body, Sting emerged from the crowd and stood over his body. Once again, Sting was whispered into the Giant’s ear while a giddy nWo couldn’t contain their excitement on commentary.

Sting then turned and aimed his bat at the nWo while they gleefully stated it was a point of approval.

As the vultures attempted to pick apart the Giant, the bat left behind served as a trusted aid in holding off his foes.

January 13, 1997

Hacksaw Jim Duggan made his way to the down the entrance ramp to be interviewed by Mean Gene waving a WCW flag while also carrying his trademark 2 x 4. As he entered the ring, Sting rushed in from behind to execute the Scorpion Death Drop.

Did he target Duggan due to his alliance with WCW?

January 20, 1997

Dressed in all black, Randy Savage brought a chair and decided to sit in the middle of the ring

This marked the very first time Sting descended from the rafters. As DDP once remarked in reflection years later, “He felt like a superhero who could fly.” The iconic visual of Sting quickly being lowered past the Chicago Bulls 1992 Championship banner will always put a smile on my face.

Related: Sting Recalls the Scary Moment He Almost Died Repelling in WCW

Sting repels from rafters for the very first time on WCW Monday Nitro in Chicago's United Center, January 20, 1997
Sting repels from rafters for the very first time on WCW Monday Nitro in Chicago’s United Center, January 20, 1997. [Photo: Captured from the WWE Network]
When Sting found stable ground, he immediately pointed his bat at Savage and marched towards the ring. In a very intimidating fashion, Sting circled the chair and placed the tip of his bat under the chin of the Macho Man. After nudging Savage, Sting handed him the bat and proceeded to once again turn his back.

Instead of pummeling Sting, Savage decided to toss it back. The proverbial game of chess was over. Sting exited through the crowd as the Macho Man tagged closely behind.

Tony Schiavone wondered, “Is he walking out with the nWo? Is he turning his back on WCW? What the hell is going on?!?”

Even at 11 years old, my hunch at this point was that Sting was simply testing his former allies to determine their loyalty, but I found myself constantly second-guessing this theory. Having been a Sting fanatic for years, I adamantly believed that he would never turn his back on us. Not when we required his bravery now more than ever before.

February 10, 1997

Following in the footsteps of Savage just two weeks prior, DDP wandered down to the ring with a chair and microphone in each hand.

DDP: “You know, it’s pretty obvious that DDP’s got a big ole’ bullseye in the middle of his forehead. Cause of that, I’ve got something to say. I’ve never been accused of being the smartest guy and this might be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, but I come out here tonight to make a statement. And the statement is I’m tired of running. If something’s gonna happen, let’s have it happen right now.”

Who was DDP challenging?

The camera panned to Randy Savage (who had been blackballed from WCW by Bischoff) and Sting both making their way to the ring through the crowd.

Sting confidently tossed his bat to Savage who taunted and teased DDP by sauntering around the chair while sporadically tapping it. Savage then threw the back to Sting who proceeded to nudge DDP.

Backing Dallas into the corner, Sting made his move and nearly hit him with the back, but pulled back at the very last moment. Sting then presented the back to DDP, who stood still and opted not to attack either man.

In his moment, Diamond Dallas Page displayed his unshakeable loyalty and clearly earned the respect of both Savage and Sting.

February 17, 1997

An arrogant Hollywood Hogan with his spray-painted WCW World Championship strolled down to the ring the various members of his faction by his side.

As Eric Bischoff grabbed the microphone, he brought up Roddy Piper but frequently stopped to marvel over Hogan’s hotshot posing.

As the crowd started to erupt, Sting and the Macho Man Randy Savage entered the stage.

Bischoff mostly ignored the duo and continued to mock Piper. “He’s not half the man that you are!”

As Sting made his march to the ring, Savage acted as the voice of reason and convinced him to turn around.

February 23, 1997

During the main event featuring Piper vs Hogan at the Cow Palace for Superbrawl VII, Savage made his presence at ringside.

Piper forced Hogan to pass out to the Sleeper Hold, but the celebration was cut short after the referee noticed Hogan’s legs were conveniently placed under the ropes. With their back turned, it was Savage who pulled Hogan underneath them.

Savage proceeded to hang Hogan brass knuckles while the referee was distracted. Hogan proceeded to land a vicious uppercut to pin Piper and retain his WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

Acting as the Fixer, Macho Man immediately entered the ring in an effort to grab the brass knuckles to hide any wrongdoing.

Savage then spray painted nWo on Piper’s chest and followed up with his picture-perfect elbow drop, not once, but twice.

Does this mean Sting and Savage are no longer on the same page?

February 24, 1997

The following night during Nitro, The Giant and Lex Luger squared off against Harlem Heat.

Eric Bischoff ran down with a microphone in hand: “We’ve got a little problem here, but it’s a real simple one to fix.” Members of the nWo joined him in the ring.

He pointed at Lex Luger and deemed him out of order notes those tag-team championships belong to The Outsiders.

Furthermore, Bischoff claimed Luger did not have a doctor’s release to compete and even utilized his cast in the match. The boss then demanded that Luger and the Giant forfeit their newly won Tag-Team Championship titles.

Luger: “Not so quick. You would have to carry me out on a stretcher just to hand this over. I’m so sick and tired of your political positioning. Your little moves here and there.”

The Total Package then noted he would hand over his title to The Outsiders only if all titles were defended at Uncensored.

Eric agreed to the terms and Lex handed over both belts.

At this moment, Sting then marched down to the ring from the entrance ramp. As he entered the ring and stood in the middle, Sting suddenly turned towards Hollywood Hogan. The World Champion then embraced Sting with a hug as the mystical figure stood in silence.

Hulk Hogan and Sting embrace on WCW Monday Nitro, February 24, 1997.
Hulk Hogan and Sting embrace on WCW Monday Nitro, February 24, 1997. [Photo: uproxx.com]
As the show concluded, Sting stood with the nWo with Bischoff’s hand on his shoulder.

 

Why didn’t Sting reject the hug? It was clear he had either chosen to align with the nWo or was simply waiting for the opportune moment to strike while Hogan was alone.

Patience is a virtue.

March 3, 1997

In the original home turf of WCW which is Atlanta, Sting accompanied the faction to the ring during an interview segment.

The quote, “Keep your friends close, but enemies closer” started to weigh heavily on my mind.

The nWo reappeared with the Steiner’s, Luger and the Giant in the ring. Outnumbered, Piper along with his friends proficient in various disciplines emerged from the crowd.

Nitro concluded with the fans loudly chanting, “We want Sting!”

March 10, 1997

From Panama City Beach, the nWo appeared in the ring to announce Dennis Rodman as the newest member of their group.

Without being forgotten, Bischoff reminded Hogan to present Sting with the official nWo shirt. Hogan placed the shirt of Sting’s shoulder while he remained unemotional.

March 16, 1997

Every great story starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.

As Luger lifted up Hogan into the Torture Rack, Savage entered the ring to strap the Total Package in the eyes leading Hollywood to eliminate him with the nWo defeating WCW.

After members of the nWo, including Dennis Rodman, picked apart Luger’s lifeless body, they exited the ring since the job was completed. Or was it?

At the tail end of the Uncensored PPV, Sting rapidly descended from the top. A visibly nervous Scott Hall entered the ring and was hit in the mid-section by Sting’s bat. Kevin Nash was taken out by a strike to the back of his left knee while Savage was struck after leaping off the top rope.

Sting hit Savage with a Scorpion Death Drop while Hall and Nash suffered the same fate. The Stinger then proceeded to pick up his bat and point it directly at Hogan.

A shaken up Hogan yelled, “Put the bat down, I’ll kill ya!” Sting followed this plea.

Hogan cautiously walked back down to the ring with Rodman by his side. Sting gave Hollywood his back, but once he returned around, Hogan threw a punch that was blocked and countered. Sting executed the Scorpion Death Drop onto Hogan which was the exclamation point on the Uncensored PPV.

The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man. Sting’s heart chose WCW.

March 17, 1997

Mean Gene interviewed Lux Luger and the Giant who noted that the light at the end of the tunnel is much brighter now than Sting returned home.

During a match between the Steiner Brothers and Harlem Heat, the entire New World Order ran down to interfere and cause mayhem.

Luger and the Giant ran down to even the odds, which eventually caused the nWo to clear the ring. As they began to re-group, there was an explosion up above and Sting once again descended from the rafters.

As Sting climbed the middle rope, his eyes were locked on Hollywood Hogan while raising his trademark black bat and pointing at him to call his shot.

Hogan’s reaction was priceless as he yelled to Buff Bagwell, “He’s pointing at me! He’s pointing at me!”

March 24, 1997

A video package aired highlighting Sting’s alliance with WCW.

Note: Many of WCW’s video packages were slightly over the top

March 31, 1997

Yet another video package aired which was essentially an advertisement for Sting’s scorpion t-shirt.

Note: Sting and Steve Austin were the biggest merchandise sellers of 1997

April 7, 1997

An injured Diamond Dallas Page marched out to the ring with a microphone in hand who proceeded to call out Randy Savage for physically assaulting his wife.

Upon calling out Macho Madness, he appeared on crutches with Hogan and his comrades not far behind.

To even the odds, Sting came down from the heavens again to cut off the nWo at the tail end of the ramp.

Sting descends from the Heavens on WCW Monday Nitro, April 7, 1997. [Photo: uproxx.com]
Bobby Heenan: “Better than Batman, better than Superman, it’s Sting!” Yes, he really was a modern-day superhero.

The ever-resourceful Sting tossed a bat to DDP and also kept one for himself as the nWo backed off.

April 14, 1997

During a match between Lex Luger and Kevin Nash in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, the nWo got involved just as Lex was gaining momentum. This brought out DDP, who suffered a similar fate to Lex’s and the Giant who acted as a distraction.

Sting made his way down the entrance ramp with three baseball bats, which were handed out to his WCW partners and the fourth bat for himself.

After taking out Nash, the nWo cleared the ring as WCW stood tall, with bats in hand.

May 12, 1997

Eric Bischoff took to the ring and introduced the Fake Sting. The real Sting came down and dropped his imposter with the Scorpion Death Drop directly in front of Eric.

Wisely, Bischoff retreated through the audience before Sting could exact more revenge.

May 19, 1997

Eric Bischoff made his usual entrance where he showboated with a giant smile on his face.

To summarize, Eric noted that he made attempts to contact Sting to little avail. Furthermore, Sting will never face Hogan and should simply worship the ground Hollywood spits on.

Likely having heard enough, Sting emerged from under the ring and hit the Scorpion Death Drop on Eric Bischoff.

Note: Eric’s reaction when Sting grabbed him from behind should not be understated. Also, this may have been the only occasion where Sting’s neck was painted too.

 Sting grabs ahold of Eric Bischoff on WCW Monday Nitro, May 19, 1997.
Sting grabs ahold of Eric Bischoff on WCW Monday Nitro, May 19, 1997.

May 26, 1997

Nitro kicked off with the nWo entrance theme playing as Eric and Hollywood Hogan opened the show.

Hulk’s recognizable bleached mustache was absent in favor of the dyed black beard.

Hollywood defended the honor of his brother, Eric Bischoff and promised to break the Stinger in half.

Later on in the program, the two returned to call out Sting, but not without checking under the ring just to be certain.

The Fake Sting emerged from under the ring with a bat lifted high in the air. He forced to bow down for Hulk and worship the ground he spits on.

Meanwhile, the real Sting was lowered from the rafters precisely behind Eric where he was dropped by the Scorpion Death Drop.

A visibly rattled Hollywood Hogan turned around and saw his worst nightmare standing before him. When walking backward, Hogan tripped over the Fake Sting. The Fake Sting was hit with a bat and was the second victim of a Scorpion Death Drop.

Hogan returned with a bat alongside Hall, Nash and the gang. Realizing he was outnumbered, Sting latched onto the line and was lifted back up to the rafters.

June 23, 1997

As Scott Hall and Randy Savage were jointly picking apart DDP, Sting appeared in the audience which stopped the duo in their tracks.

After Sting made his way to the ring, Hall and Savage fled to avoid a confrontation.

June 30, 1997

Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Randy Savage faced the team of Lex Luger, the Giant & DDP.

All members of the nWo collectively came out to attack Team WCW.

Tony: “How many times have we seen the exact same thing play out on our television screen?”

After a Fake Sting made an appearance in the crowd, the authentic Sting rappeled from the rafter to save his outnumbered brothers.

Note: Raven and Curt Hennig also made appearances to the conclude the show

July 14, 1997

The Giant realizes (duh!) that it was Kevin Nash dressed as Sting who attacked him with a bat last night during Bash at the Beach.

Gene Okerlund interviewed Lex Luger who officially challenged Hollywood Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Not long after, members of the nWo circled in the ring with a potential Sting imposter appearing, but after ripping off the wig and mask, it was, in fact, the REAL Sting.

August 4, 1997

Mean Gene interviewed JJ Dillion who stated that he sympathized with Sting and further noted he doesn’t question his loyalty to WCW.

Unfortunately, no one from WCW management has been able to speak to Sting for over a year, so therefore, they have no idea what he wants. I’m sure most found this baffling since Sting repeatedly pointed at Hollywood Hogan.

In his hands, JJ held a signed contract for Sting to face a free agent but requires one final signature. Right on cue, Sting rappelled down from the rafters.

Dillion presented an opportunity to face Curt Hennig, but Sting didn’t seem too overjoyed and promptly ripped up the contract.

Strike 1, JJ.

August 11, 1997

In an act of déjà vu, Mean Gene once again interviewed JJ Dillion in an effort to present Sting with yet another signed contract.

Sting descended from the rafters into the audience and eventually made his way into the ring to hear the new offer.

As JJ Dillion proposed the name Syxx even Mean Gene sounded puzzled and dismissive of this idea. How is this a better offer?

Expectedly, Sting ripped up the contract and shoved the remaining pieces into JJ’s blazer.

Strike 2, JJ.

Mean Gene asked who Sting wants and he gestured towards the audience as they yelled Hogan’s name.

August 18, 1997

Is the third time a charm? JJ Dillion stood in the middle of the ring with Mean Gene and noted his embarrassment over the past two weeks.

Confusingly, JJ clearly hasn’t been listening to the audience and would prefer Sting to simply tell him what he wants. Perhaps even more shocking, JJ created an ultimatum that Sting has 72 hours to come forward or they must be forced to professionally part ways.

Once again, Sting entered the ring through the raucous crowd.

Upon confronting JJ, Sting grabbed him by the tie and pointed at the audience as they screamed Hogan over and over again.

Sting entered the outside of the ring to grab a sign that simply stated, Hulk vs Sting.

Due to his general lack of awareness, I’m surprised JJ was still employed.

August 21, 1997

At Clash of the Champions XXXV, the nWo was in the ring together and with pieces of paper falling down, Eric Bischoff asked the fans to wish the group a happy birthday.

Dark ominous music started playing (which later became Sting’s theme) and the lights began to flicker. High up in the rafters, a spotlight was shining on Sting as he watched over the nWo with a vulture on his arm. A child providing the voice-over, inspired by the movie The Crow discussed a wrong that must be righted.

The lights suddenly turned off. When they were turned back on, a vulture was perched on the top rope as members of the nWo appeared to be stunned.

Sting vulture at WCW Clash of the Champions 35

But what did this cryptic message mean? Perhaps it was a warning that the end is near.

August 25, 1997

Eric Bischoff joined Mean Gene and noted that it’s a shame the WCW ship is going to have to sail without the Stinger.

JJ Dillion was on the line because he apparently can’t be troubled to appear in person, but he did promise to make Sting vs Hogan happen before the year’s end.

Bischoff attempted to make flimsy excuses that Hogan’s rigorous schedule would not allow for an unexpectedly match against Sting.

The crowd erupted and Sting made his way towards the ring with a purpose. When he entered, Sting grabbed Eric by to ear, who fell to his knees and begged for mercy, while a Hollywood Hogan t-shirt was revealed. Sting then covered Eric’s face with the shirt and nonchalantly kicked him down.

For the first time in over a year, a smile appeared on Sting’s face knowing that his vision of justice will soon be served.

September 1, 1997

Eric Bischoff bragged that Hollywood Hogan single-handedly sent Sting to the rafters for refuge. Breaking his heart and taking his soul.

Hogan took the microphone with a riddle of sorts: “Riddle me this. Riddle me that. Who is hell is Sting without the big black bat?”

Hollywood proceeded to take several jabs at Sting’s wrinkled up trenchcoat and questioned why he earned a shot without even wrestling a match.

When the crowd chanted, “We want Sting” Hogan claimed, “I want Sting.” History dictates otherwise.

JJ Dillion came down to the ring but was met with a right hand and leg drop from Hogan. To add further embarrassment, Eric Bischoff stray painted the infamous nWo letters on the back of JJ’s white dress shirt.

It’s clear that both Eric and Hogan were drunk with power and not taking Sting’s challenge very seriously.

September 8, 1997

Hollywood Hogan stated that he’s the man and offered to put the title on the line of Sting appears.

Not long after, an obvious dummy Sting was lowered from the ceiling and came crashing to the floor. Initially, Hogan expressed concern and asked for help, but then carried the dummy into the ring and went for a pin.

Eric Bischoff revealed his referee shirt and counted 1…2…3 declaring Hollywood Hogan the winner.

While this segment was intended to mock Sting, it came off as rather juvenile and half-witted.

September 29, 1997

Sting on WCW Monday Nitro, September 29, 1997.
Sting on WCW Monday Nitro, September 29, 1997. [Photo: WWE YouTube channel]
Continuing with his trend of unadvertised appearances, Sting was seen standing high above with the fans.

Shortly after, Eric Bischoff stood in the middle of the ring and invited Sting to Halloween Havoc.

In our main event, The Giant faced The United States Champion Curt Hennig until members of the nWo ran down to interfere.

Right on cue, Sting came marching down to the ring with his bat. As the nWo cleared the ring, Sting dropped his bat and welcomed a fistfight. With the nWo reentering the squared circle, Sting threw punches and kicks at a feverish pace and cleared house. For the first time in over a year, he even landed one of his signature moves, the Stinger Splash.

Note: The reaction to Sting initially throwing a punch was deafening and one of my single favorite moments in WCW history.

October 13, 1997

In what I strongly consider to be one of the most exciting segments in pro wrestling history, Eric Bischoff confronts the “junior, wannabe commissioner” Roddy Piper and noted he must pay for recent actions and pointed on Savage’s neck brace.

After Piped grabbed the microphone and gestured to throw fists, the cavalry arrived in the form of Konnan, Scott Norton, Buff Bagwell, and Vincent.

Not long after, a noticeable Sting poster made his way down to the ring with a wig and white mask. This imposter then turned his attention to Piper and attacked him with a bat. Upon removing the white mask, the imposter was revealed to be Hollywood Hogan.

On commentary, Tony Schiavone pleaded with the WCW roster to intervene and rescue Piper.

Later on, Piper came back down with the intention of handing the United Stated Championship over to Diamond Dallas Page. Sadly, this moment was never meant to be as Hollywood Hogan barged in along with Syxx, Konnan, Scott Norton, Scott Hall, Vincent, Buff Bagwell, Randy Savage, and Eric Bischoff.

Piper was mostly held against the corner and whipped with Hogan weight belt while Savage proceeded to land 3 elbow drops onto DDP’s fallen body.

Sting was spotted in the audience and fought through the crowd in order to get to the ring. As that was transpired, the camera panned to another Sting with the same intentions. That’s right, two Stings! A third was spotted in the crowd while a fourth walked down the entrance ramp.

An army of Stings! WCW Monday Nitro, October 13, 1997.
An army of Stings! WCW Monday Nitro, October 13, 1997. [Photo: WWE.com]
All of these Sting’s had one thing in common, they were imposters wearing wigs and the white mask that Hogan sported earlier in the evening.

Bobby Heenan did his best Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine.

This imposter “Sting Army” was quickly disposed of while the nWo commanded the center of the ring. By this point, there were roughly six in total.

After a seventh made little impact, there were three additional Sting’s simultaneously walking down the entrance ramp. With two climbing into the ring, there was one who slowly sauntered up the ring steps.

Buff Bagwell wound up and threw his best right hand, but the Sting he struck did not budge. As Tony Schiavone called, “I believe we have found the REAL Sting!” Buff was then dropped with a Scorpion Death Drop with the wig and mask removed to reveal our dark warrior.

Upon this discovery, the nWo retreated with Hogan being the first to back peddle.

October 20, 1997

Bischoff, Savage, and Hogan all stood in the ring while Hollywood shamelessly self-promoted some TNT movie he starred in.

An imposter Sting with a fake wig and mask slowly made his way down to the ring while two entered from behind with one locking Hogan in a sleeper hold while the other punched Macho Man. The two revealed themselves to be Piper and DDP who collectively punches Bischoff.

Members of the nWo ran down and knocked one imposter Sting down while aiming their attention to DDP and Piper. A cage was lowered trapped all men in the ring.

As the cage was nearly fully on the ground, Sting descended from rafters to take out takes out the nWo army.

The trap backfired.

October 27, 1997

Hogan, Savage (dressed as Sting) and members of the nWo all teamed up on DDP. Sting came to the rescue by first entering the ring and hitting Vincent with the Scorpion Death Drop.

Upon revealing the bat, Sting quickly tossed it to the side and welcomed a fight. Curt Hennig, Scott Hall, Scott Norton, and Konnan all came up short.

Once again, Sting continues to have the nWo’s number.

The next day, a press conference was held for Starrcade, which saw Sting interrupt Hollywood Hogan. As Hogan claimed Sting was scared, the bat was slammed down on the table as our dark warrior stared Hogan in the eyes while signing the contract.

Sting will challenge Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Starrcade. The prevailer of good, will look to complete his mission of justice.

November 10, 1997

Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff revealed a poster for an upcoming film that Sting (Steve Borden) is set to star in and felt he was merely using this match as a ploy to further his movie career.

Later in the evening, Hollywood Hogan appeared in full wrestling gear to challenge Sting that challenge was met with Sting rappelling from the rafters to confront the World Heavyweight Champion.

Sting threw the bat away, but this proved to be a costly mistake as the nWo members showed up and brutalized him with a 10 on 1 advantage while utilizing the title and bat as weapons.

This was the first time Sting showed any signs of weakness in well over a year. It was concerning to say the very least as evil began to regain momentum.

November 24, 1997

An incredible commercial aired promoted Sting vs Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade 1997. Without a shadow of a doubt, this was undoubtedly their most effective piece to date as it offered remarkable production value.

During Hogan vs the Giant, Kevin Nash (dressed as Sting) attacked the Giant’s cast covered arm with a bat adding further insult to injury.

A mannequin Sting was lowered from the rafters and came crashing through the ring. After witnessing a similar spot in an episode weeks prior, it was already repetitive and stale.

December 8, 1997

During this episode of Nitro from Buffalo, New York, the lights repeatedly turned off multiple times throughout the evening.

When the lights came back on the second time around, the Macho Man was left laying with a Sting mask covering his face.

As we fast forward to DDP vs Scott Hall, the nWo made their presence felt by getting involved.

Once again, another Sting mannequin came crashing through the ring. This time around, the mannequin turned out to be the real Sting as he fought off all members with Hogan and Bischoff looking on from the outside.

Somehow, the members of the nWo didn’t notice despite actually placing him upon the ropes.

December 28, 1997

Hogan and Sting face-off at WCW Starrcade 1997.
Hogan and Sting face-off at WCW Starrcade 1997. [Photo: ringthedamnbell.wordpress.com]
In one of the most anticipated matches in pro wrestling history, Sting challenged Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade 1997 for the World Heavyweight Championship. A victory over Hogan would diminish the nWo’s power and shift influence back to WCW for the first time in nearly two years.

While our vindicator got his arm raised, it certainly wasn’t the monumental victory he deserved as the match was riddled with errors.

Referee Nick Patrick was supposed to make a fast count with Bret Hart (the special guest ring enforcer) re-starting the match, but instead, he counted at a normal rate while Sting was cleanly pinned.

Yes, the most historically significant moment in WCW’s history was tainted due to politics. We will save that frustrating discussion for another article, I digress.

Before the timekeeper could ring the bell, Bret Hart intervened by punching out Patrick and throwing Hogan back into the squared circle.

Sting hit two Stinger Splashes while also taking out Buff Bagwell and Scott Norton.

With Hogan on his stomach, Sting flipped him over and locked Hollywood in the Scorpion Death Lock. Pointing at Bret Hart, Sting urged him to watch closely as Hogan verbally submitted. Hart signalled for the bell which meant we had a NEW World Heavyweight Champion.

The wrong was righted.

In arguably the most memorable visual of the evening, an elated Sting leaped into the arms of his best friend Lex Luger followed by The Giant. It was if to acknowledge, WE did it. WE regained control.

Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock once noted that he “enjoys playing the audience like a piano” which played into his desire to manipulate audience emotion. Despite many blunders and misfires in the months and years that followed, the story of Sting’s transformation was the closest the promotion ever got to achieving a masterpiece.

When a man’s heart is full of deceit…

It burns up, dies…

And a dark shadow falls over his soul…

From the ashes of a once-great man, has risen a curse…

A wrong that must be righted…

We look to the skies for a vindicator, someone to strike fear into the black hearts

of the same man who created him…

The battle between good, and evil has begun…

Against an army of shadows, lies a dark warrior…

The prevailer of good…

With a voice of silence…

And a mission of justice…

This is Sting.

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Chris Toplack
Chris Toplack is a contributor for Pro Wrestling Stories. He is a corporate trainer, voice-over artist, former host of "The Signature Spot" (@TheSignatureSpot), and current host of The Pro Wrestling Stories Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisToplack.