10 Thoughts on…The Match that changed WCW forever (and
Professional Wrestling along with it)
Sting vs Hogan
There simply are not a lot of matches that can take that title. But I firmly believe that Sting vs. Hogan at Starrcade 1997 can take that title and run with it. It all started on a September night in 1996.
Sting was scheduled to be a part of WCW’s team against the rising to power nWo at Wargames ’96. For weeks, the nWo had been running ad campaigns saying that Sting
had defected to them. This was a brilliant story as how was it that the nWo could gain instant and sustaining credibility? Have the franchise of WCW join them. It was rumored for weeks on television, but nobody believed it, regardless of the bulk of WCW’s WarGames alliance constantly question Sting about it. The fans weren’t buying it, and when it came down to the match itself, it was a fake Sting that came out with the nWo. The fans knew it, and anyone with half a brain could tell that this was not the real franchise of WCW. But WCW’s team bought into it. The announcers sold it as Sting had finally sold out and the rumors were true. In the end, the real Sting came out, yelled at his teammates, dismantled the nWo and left. Struck dumbfounded, as faces tend to be, they were beat down by the nWo and ultimately defeated. So began the year long buildup to this match.
Nobody saw Sting for months. There were rumors floating around about his absence; a fight with Bischoff, steroids, etc. But the real reason Sting was gone was a move of genius on Bischoff’s part. I know, those words don’t go together often, but hear me out. This was a simpler time, before everyone was on the internet scooping storylines and contract situations of certain wrestlers, like, well, Nash and Hall, the two prominent jumps to WCW (nWo) that year. So instead of having Sting just simply show up after a week and proclaim that he was in fact WCW for life, he went unseen for months. This went to the point where even wrestling insiders had no clue what was going on. Was he jumping to the then WWF? Had he quit wrestling all together because his friends didn’t believe him? Nobody knew. Except Sting and Bischoff.
The wait to find out from Sting began on a Nitro in early 1997. The nWo was in the ring beating down whoever was in the main event, (it was Luger) as they usually were. Then looking down from the rafters was finally STING! But this was a different Sting. As up until this time he had bleached blond hair, dressed in colorful outfits, and had, you know, a personality. This was all gone. A darker Sting was seen. Gone was the blond hair, replaced with dark black long hair. So with the outfits, as he was dressed in a long black trench coat. In another stroke of genius on Bischoff’s part, black and white face paint. Why is this important asks you the loyal reader? These were the official colors of the nWo! Now the rumors on the part of fans and announcers alike were going wild. Had he really defected or was this simply coincidence?
The months went by and Sting would appear here and there to interfere in matches, either with the nWo or with WCW guys, just to fool the fans. He never struck either side though. This is key. This kept the story suspenseful and intriguing, which would culminate at Uncensored that year. Several months of wondering what side Sting had chosen were answered. The main event was the usual bull with the nWo, (it was already getting old) and they scored the victory. As the show was getting ready to go off the air, the camera panned up and repelling from the ceiling was Sting! He made absolutely no bones about what side he had chosen as he unceremoniously beat the hell out of the nWo. One by one they went down. Nash, Hall, and The Giant all went down to the baseball bat. Finally, it was Sting and Hogan in the ring. The crowd’s anticipation was palpable. Hogan took his best shot, and Sting absolutely flattened him with the bat. Hogan dropped like a sack of potatoes as Sting raised his arms in the air.
The funny thing is that this took place in March. If you read the title you know that Starrcade is where Hogan and Sting actually met. That was in December. So this brings me to why this match changed wrestling forever: the build. Had Bischoff blown his wad and had them battle at Slamborree, the next PPV, he probably would have done gangbusters on PPV buys. But in an amazingly farsighted view of the wrestling landscape, he gambled that he could hold off until Starrcade and pop the biggest butyrate in history. He was right. Starrcade did huge numbers, in the area of the 2’s, which in PPV speak, especially in 1997, is unheard of. So why did it change wrestling forever, onto the match…
- After a year or so of dramatic, flying from the rafter’s entrances, Sting simply walks out. To very slow theme music at that. The crowd, myself included watching on PPV, was confused. This was the biggest blow off match in a long history of them, where was the enthusiasm? Where was the pumped up Sting we were used to seeing? For all that led up to this, this was a very disappointing start.
- Hogan’s entrance, of course, takes 728 hours, as he plays air guitar with his idiotic weightlifting belt, and heckles with the fans. He seems to not even have that much concern on his face. Again, going back to the yearlong build to this match, he had been petrified at even the slightest mention of Sting. Here he just does his usual thing and pays no mind that Sting is even his opponent.
- This is how I see this match going: the big stare down, Sting beating Hogan from pillar to post for about 5 minutes, stinger splash, scorpion death lock, done. The title is Sting’s. The nWo comes to an end in a blaze of glory from the biggest face of WCW’s fight against them. But as you will see, Hogan’s ego comes into play AGAIN and this is not our expected blow off of the biggest feud ever.
- The match does not start with the BIG stare down, at least not one on the par of say, Andre vs. Hogan at WM III. In fact, the match starts with Hogan grabbing a headlock. Huh? That’s your big start? To the biggest match in history? The fans are already restless 3 minutes into them being in the ring.
- This is the slowest, plodding blow off in history. I realize that it involves Hulk Hogan, not exactly Ric Flair (or even David Flair for that matter) in the ring, but come on. Sting finally gets some punches in and throws Hogan out. Here it comes, the big move. He’s going to dive onto Hogan! But no, Sting just stands there. He does nothing, allowing Hogan to play to the fans more and slowly climb back into the ring. This happens twice.
- I must say, I honestly think that a horribly deteriorated Andre was a better opponent for Hogan than Sting. And that is not a knock on Sting. It’s a knock on Hogan. See, with Andre, Hogan was able to use his plodding offense to eventually subdue his much bigger opponent. And at the end, Andre, graciously I might add, allowed Hogan to slam him for the (as far as the WWF was concerned) first time in history. This added drama to the match. Could Hogan really slam Andre as he had done to King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, and so many other big men in the sport? But here, Hogan was the bigger (in stature) man. So his offense, which calling it that is blasphemy to begin with, was boring.
- Another gripe: Hogan controls the match the entire time. I know that in general the heel calls and controls the middle portion of the match, but this SHOULD have been different. Again, Sting should have decimated him and pinned him in less than 5 minutes. Instead we get a series of Hogan headlocks and the dreaded back rake that he had begun using all too often.
- Nick Patrick is the referee, so you know some nWo shenanigans are going to take place. They shouldn’t. Not in this match. Not ever really, but that’s another article. And sure enough, the infamous “fast count’ that wasn’t fast takes place. Hogan hits his stupid leg drop and Patrick drops down to count: 1, 2, 3!!!!!!!!! What? What just happened? Not only did Hogan maul Sting, he won! See, Patrick was supposed to fast count Sting, and it would be another nWo screw job, but he just casually counted to 3, and Hogan got up to celebrate. And that’s where another mistake was made.
- Bret Hart, fresh off of the other biggest moment in wrestling history, The Montreal Screw job, came out to protest. He yelled at the top of his lungs that this was “bullshit” and that he wasn’t going to let this happen again. Without being the referee in charge, or any referee for that matter, restarted the match. This made no sense. Here in 2012, we can sit back and say, “Well, it IS WCW, so whatever.” but back then it was just another dagger that killed this match.
- After the bogus restart, Sting FINALLY does what he should have done: namely beating the hell out of Hogan, Stinger Splash, Scorpion Death lock, and Hogan taps. Sting wins the title, no muss, no fuss. But there was so much wind taken out of the sails of the fans, not to mention confusion. When various WCW wrestlers crowded the ring to celebrate with Sting, the fan didn’t know what to think. Was that it? Or were there more shenanigans to go around? A puzzled crowd, in wrestling anyways, is never a good crowd.
So why is this match so looked at as the one that changed the industry forever? Well, the answer is more complicated than we can really imagine. What if Sting had won clean, beaten Hogan to within an inch of his life, and killed the nWo for good? What kind of direction could WCW have gone? The possibilities are endless.
The product wouldn’t have gotten stale so fast, that is for damn sure. Goldberg, like he did, would have ascended to the top, taken Hogan’s place COMPLETELY and the nWo would have been phased out for good. Instead we got more nWo B.S. for the next ~3 Years~! Could The Four Horsemen have regained their prominence without the nWo and Hogan constantly taking up the top of the card? Absolutely, if you judge the reaction they got when they reformed late in 1998. (Which we conveniently covered last week!) Others would have ascended the ranks, the old guard would have been phased out slowly, and a new generation would have carried WCW into the next millennium.
So again, why is this the most important match in wrestling history? It killed WCW.
Sting vs. Hogan Part 1
Sting vs. Hogan Part 2
Note: There is no ending video on the ‘net as of right now. When I find the ending, I will post it.
Tags: 10 Thoughts, Bret Hart, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, Nick Patrick, nWo, starrcade, Sting, Videos, WCW, WWE