It’s no secret that fans aren’t exactly thrilled with the way that the WWE has used Sting since his debut at Survivor Series in the latter part of 2014. The wrestling community has been almost unanimously outspoken with their disappointment in both his Wrestlemania 31 match with Triple H and his short-lived feud with Seth Rollins, the latter of which may have bestowed upon him a career ending injury.
Sting himself has been very vocal in the past about the distasteful way in which former WCW wrestlers were treated upon their arrival to the Vince McMahon’s global wrestling empire. Longtime fans of the Stinger might have been taken aback by his views and statements, however, as the Icon has a history marred with poor booking, ridiculous storylines, and controversy. A company man to the highest degree, Sting has taken every poor decision in stride, even at the risk of sullying his legacy.
History is not kind to the Stinger, a man that Ric Flair claims, “Could’ve been bigger than Hogan.” With enough research (and a small donation to the McMahon family of $9.99) one could find him involved in enough wrestling atrocities to fill ten “top-ten” lists. This list will focus on ten of the most widely known and often criticized situations that found Sting holding the short straw, effectively harming his character and reputation in the process.
10. The Insane Icon
In the mid-summer of 2011, Sting snapped. The most level-headed of superstars, the Icon’s psyche began to unravel after he lost his World Heavyweight Championship to Mr. Anderson at TNA’s ninth annual Slammiversary pay-per-view. Over the next few weeks, he began a transformation into a character similar in both in appearance and ideology to Heath Ledger’s Joker from the Dark Knight film. He spent the next several months feuding with Hulk Hogan’s heel stable, Immortal, before being relegated to a red suit clad authority figure and having quite possibly the sloppiest match of the year with none other than the Hulkster himself.
The sudden change in Sting’s character and appearance was a move that your average fan neither expected nor wanted. It wasn’t the fact that the idea of changing or enhancing Sting was farfetched, as Sting had experienced an amazing career revival in the mid-nineties by doing just that. The crow iteration of Sting has become one of the most beloved superstars of all time, and the handling of his transformation into the Insane Icon character fell flat. The TNA writing staff must have been aware of this fact, as the gimmick was scrapped after a few months.
9. The Victory Road 2011 Fiasco
Victory Road 2011 was indeed a dark day for TNA wrestling. The main event of the evening, a match that saw TNA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy take on Sting with the latter’s title on the line, will go down as one of the most embarrassing moments in professional wrestling history. It would seem to be a plausible pairing, two of the most interesting and charismatic characters in wrestling history meeting up with the prize on the line. There was an extra ingredient in the formula, however, as Jeff Hardy arrived at the arena visibly high with no signs of sobering up by the main event.
With Eric Bischoff unable to find a suitable replacement for Jeff Hardy, he was sent to the ring for his confrontation with Sting. Bischoff subsequently made his way to the ring to attempt to diffuse the potentially volatile situation, visibly speaking to both Sting and Hardy. When the bell rang, Hardy spent quite some time attempting to pander to the crowd, completely ignoring Sting and the match already underway. Sting was visibly upset and made the choice to end the match before things got even worse. He dropped Jeff Hardy with the Scorpion Deathdrop and literally pinned Hardy on the ground as he struggled to kick out of the pin. The entire exchange lasted eighty-eight seconds, causing fans in attendance to very audibly chant “This is Bulls@*&!”, to which Sting responded with “I agree!” The match did no service to Sting’s less than impressive career in TNA. He walked out of Victory Road that night as the World Heavyweight Champion, but he did so knowing that he would be remembered by fans for taking part in such a mediocre and embarrassing moment in wrestling history.
8. The Introduction of Hogan to WCW
One can hardly mention the name of the Stinger these days without also mentioning the fact that he was “The franchise of WCW”, and rightly so. Sting was WCW’s golden boy for much of the 90’s, the top dog in a company not shy on big names. No one was more over with the fans, and no one was booked in higher profile matches than he was. Things would change for Sting in the summer of 1994, though, as Hulk Hogan, the most recognizable performer of his time, made his way to the company where Sting was the man.
Upon Hogan’s arrival, Sting was relegated to the role of a supporting character. Even when feuding with Hogan, he was made to look like the weaker of the two. Sting never achieved the same success that he had before Hogan arrived on the scene. Even as The Crow iteration of his character, he was never made to look stronger than Hulk Hogan, mostly due to Hogan’s infamous creative control clause that effectively gave him free rein in regards to his storylines and booking. Rather than continue to build the company on Sting, the flagship star, they put all of their eggs in the Hulk Hogan basket, and Sting was left coming up short for the remainder of his WCW career.
7. The Dog Attack
1999 was not WCW’s best year. The NWO angle had lost steam, Goldberg had been defeated, and Sting, along with Rick Steiner, was involved in one of the worst match finishes in wrestling history. Booked as a falls count anywhere match at The Great American Bash, the latter part of the match saw Sting, who’s makeup had been noticeably smudged off during the match, drag Rick Steiner to the backstage area. Once in the back, Sting was able to mount an offense for a short period of time, only to be attacked from behind by Tank Abbott. What came next was so out of left field, that no one saw it coming.
Standing off to the side of the brawl was Rick Steiner’s brother, “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner (AKA the most eloquent man in wrestling history.) As Sting was attacked by Abbott, Scott could be seen waving someone, or something in. That something turned out to be two Dobermans, who after several camera cuts, pounced on Sting, whose makeup had mysteriously been reapplied, and whose hair had mysteriously turned into a wig. The video feed proceeded to alternate between pre-recorded shots of Sting, who had somehow wrapped a rag around his hand to presumably avoid a bite, and fully applied makeup Sting as they were attacked by the first two Dobermans and a Rottweiler that Scott brought in shortly after.
Sting was eventually subdued and possibly devoured by the group of canines. As he was being presumably torn apart, we are treated to a crowd shot and Tony Schiavone monologue, which was really only a segue into a reemergence of the Steiner brothers in the ring, with Rick having his hand raised, and Scott deliver a riveting promo. One has to question how such a popular and well-respected performer such as Sting would wind up in such a poorly booked angle.
6. The Man Called…. Robocop?
Much of the early ‘90’s saw Sting feuding with his rival and arch nemesis, Ric Flair, and in 1990, he was in heavy pursuit of Flair’s World Heavyweight Championship title. He was performing a run on a cage match that Flair was involved in at Clash of the Champions X when he accidently tore his patella tendon. As a result, the NWA was losing one of its top stars for a considerable amount of time. In order to not lose viewership, NWA officials had to find some way to keep Sting visible without having him being physically involved in an altercation. Who would have known that the apparent answer to their prayers would be Robocop?
During the Capital Combat pay-per-view, Lex Luger was scheduled to challenge Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Championship, a fact that was nearly forgotten in light of the huge promotion that the NWA had been running on the appearance of Robocop at the event. Lex was joined at ringside by his best friend, the injured Sting. During the match, Sting was attacked and put into a well-placed miniature cage on the outside of the ring. Sting wouldn’t be trapped for long, however, as the mighty Robocop would emerge from the backstage area to bend the rubber bars and save the Stinger from certain doom. The NWA brass had assumed that they found an effective way to keep Sting relevant during his injury in the eyes of the crowd by associating him with such a beloved character. Instead, they produced a piece of history that, even in the area of kayfabe in wrestling, insulted the fans intelligence and made Sting seem campy. Sting would have to develop a thick skin for these things, however, as this would most definitely not be the last time that he found himself in such a poorly booked predicament.
5. The Black Scorpion
The Black Scorpion storyline is an example of a storyline that could’ve been much better than it turned out to be. Around the time of the angle, the WCW was becoming a vastly different place, mostly due to the fact that it was being run by a former Pizza Hut manager. Sting was the most popular babyface in all of the WCW. He had won the World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair at the Great American Bash the month prior, and he was riding high when suddenly strange things began to happen to him on a weekly basis.
A series of vignettes aimed at intimidating Sting began airing around this time, featuring a mysterious masked character known as the Black Scorpion. Each week, the Black Scorpion would reveal clues that would possibly lead to his identity, the most important of which was that he claimed to be a former tag team partner of the Stinger. Many different wrestlers portrayed the Black Scorpion in these vignettes, due to the fact that management had not yet determined who was to be revealed as the mastermind behind the character in the end. Eventually, The Black Scorpion challenged Sting to a World Heavyweight Championship at Starrcade 1990, where he promised to unmask if he wasn’t able to capture the title. Sting managed to come out on top of the match and revealed The Black Scorpion to be none other than Ric Flair. The angle came out as convoluted and poorly planned by the wrestling community, and insult was added to injury when Flair regained the World Championship from Sting, a match that would have easily sold a pay-per-view. The Black Scorpion angle is never remembered fondly when recalled by Sting’s colleagues and is yet another example of how Sting has been mishandled throughout his illustrious career.
4. The Fiery Death and Resurrection of Sting
Sting vs. Vampiro is a pairing that, on the surface, sounds like a dream match, a face painted American icon pitted against a face painted Mexican Icon, with both men portraying darker characters. Things didn’t work out that way, however, when the two started feuding in 2001. Sting and Vampiro had been feuding for several months when Vampiro challenged Sting to a match where only one man would walk away, and only one man would ever wrestle again. It was the Human Torch match, a WCW knock-off of the WWF introduced Inferno Match that took things to the extreme. The object of the human torch match was to douse your opponent in gasoline and set them on fire.
Sting and Vampiro had been going at it for several minutes when the action was taken to the outside. Vampiro fought Sting all way to the top of the giant video screen, where Sting was doused in “gasoline” and thrown off the top of the tron all the way through the stage (or rather, his stunt double was thrown through the stage.) Sting was once again made to look weak and was effectively passing the torch to Vampiro, a less than deserving candidate. Things only got crazier when several months later, WCW began airing vignettes which showed an operating room full of individuals with their faces covered by Sting masks. Before long, it was revealed that these vignettes led to the return of Sting, who didn’t have a single burn on his body and looked better than ever. After all the build-up and theatrics, the match had no payoff in the end, one more black mark on the record of the man called Sting.
3. The Heel Turn
Let’s face it, Sting was the John Cena of the 90’s. Early in his career, he was a clean-cut, neon-clad ball of charisma, inspiring kids across the nation, both with his on-screen persona, and his work with the Make-a-Wish foundation. As the 90’s progressed, he became the silent, brooding savior of WCW, a beacon of truth and justice. It was nearly impossible to not like Sting, so naturally it was decided that it would be a good idea to turn him heel in 1999. It is regarded as one of the most poorly received heel turns in wrestling history.
In an attempt to shock the world the same way that they did with Hulk Hogan’s transformation into his Hollywood persona, the WCW brass booked Sting to turn on the then-babyface Hogan in September of 1999. This led to a short-lived reunion with Lex Luger and several matches with the Hulkster. The problem was that despite Sting’s heel antics, the fans continued to cheer for him, unanimously behind the black and white clad warrior. Sting’s heel turn was received so poorly, that WCW management was forced to drop the turn altogether within 2 months. Though a short period of Sting’s career, his 1999 heel turn did nothing to help his legacy, and is remembered as a heel turn by a man who could never be considered a heel.
2. The Ninety Minute Title Reign
Sting is no stranger to World Heavyweight titles, having won it on fifteen different occasions. One could argue that one of those title reigns should be stricken from the record, though, as it lasted a whopping ninety minutes. That’s right, I said that the beloved icon Sting was actually booked to hold the title for an hour and a half on an episode of Nitro in 1999. There’s something to be said that so many of these list entries took place in 1999.
Sting had previously lost a four corners championship match at Spring Stampede, featuring DDP, Ric Flair, and Hulk Hogan. The match saw DDP come out with the victory with a little help from special referee “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Shortly after, Sting was granted a championship match against DDP on an episode of Nitro, where he picked up the victory, as well as the title. The celebration wouldn’t last long for the new champ, as he was booked in yet another four corners match later that night against DDP, Kevin Nash, and Goldberg.
Shockingly, DDP came out on top, regaining the title and effectively ending Sting’s reign in just ninety minutes. This is a perfect example of the “crash style” booking practiced in WCW during the late nineties and turn of the century, a practice that would ultimately contribute to its demise. After all, who would expect Sting to be booked so poorly? Due to this type of mishandling, Sting, a man whose name is spoken in the same breath as legends like Hogan, Austin, Flair, and the Rock, will forever be remembered as a man who had one of, if not the shortest title reign in history.
1.The Starrcade ’97 Debacle
You knew this was coming. There have been countless articles, videos, and shoot interviews on this very topic. Starrcade ’97 will go down as the biggest blemish on Sting’s career, and one of the earliest contributors to the eventual demise of WCW. Had the match been booked properly, it could have been the greatest main event of all time, but huge egos and poor decisions doomed this once promising match to be forever remembered as a disappointment.
The buildup had been huge, and unlike anything fans had seen at the time. There was no verbal exchange, no convoluted promos, and no weekly matches between the two. It was a slow burn. For a year, Sting would show up in the rafters, brooding and silent, and he would watch. All the while he was picking his spot. On the rare occasion that he got physical, he didn’t say a word. He would simply point his bat at various members of the NWO, and when he pointed his bat, you knew that business was about to pick up. It kept the fans tuned in, kept the kids at school talking, and made wrestling worth watching again.
Then the match happened.
After all the effort that had been put into building this encounter up, the fans in the arena were ready to explode. They were certain that their silent warrior was going to bring the evil empire known as the NWO down once and for all and walk away with all the gold. That happened, sort of. Hulk Hogan had played his creative control card earlier in the day, refusing to job to Sting because, according to him, he “looked out of shape.” The history books show a W for the Icon, but it was a win marred again with poor decisions. In order for Hogan to not lose clean, he and Bischoff proposed that Nick Patrick, the “heel referee”, to make the count for Hogan, only for the decision being overruled by an interfering Bret Hart. Hart claimed that Patrick performed a fast count, and subsequently restarted the match. Sting was able to get Hulk Hogan into a Scorpion Deathlock, to which Hogan submitted.
So Sting won, but did he?
It didn’t feel right, the crowd could tell, and the fans at home could tell. Sure, Sting won the belt, but he didn’t win clean like everyone had hoped. Heroes don’t get re-do’s, but Sting got a re-do, and Hogan’s ego had ruined the biggest match of all time. Just another day in the life of Sting, a man who was so loyal that he allowed his legacy to be tarnished, yet somehow he managed to come out clean on the other side.