Luckily, this story isn’t an obituary, and it isn’t about a 56-year-old man spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Hopefully, it will turn out to be the story of a great wrestler who decided to hang up his boots before he became another WWE tribute video.
I’ve been a fan of Sting since he showed up in the UWF as part of the Blade Runners. I was a senior in high school, and I’m 46 now, so you can do the math. He’s been doing this for a long, long time.
That was 1986, and we got the UWF on a little independent channel in Detroit. I had always preferred the NWA to the cartoonish WWF, and the UWF was even more old-school than what we were seeing on WTBS. There was Ted DiBiase, Steve “Dr. Death” Williams, Eddie Gilbert, Missy Hyatt, the One Man Gang and then there were the Blade Runners – Sting and Rock.
It was pretty clear from the beginning that they were both going to be stars. Sting was a great athlete with massive amounts of charisma, and Rock was one of those steroid monsters that couldn’t really wrestle but looked awesome while running around. Think Hulk Hogan or Lex Lugar or the Ultimate Warrior.
That style really didn’t work with Bill Watts as the promoter, and Rock quickly moved on to WCCW where he became the Dingo Warrior. No, no one else understands why he was called that, either. A year later, he went to the WWF and, of course, became the Ultimate Warrior.
(Bill Watts had Ted DiBiase, Sting and the Ultimate Warrior as part of a huge, talented roster in 1986 and was out of business in 1987. The 1980s were not a good time to be a wrestling promoter.)
When WCW bought the UWF in 1987, they took all that talent and promptly buried it, but Sting managed to survive. Dusty Rhodes realized that this guy was a star and within a year, he was wrestling Ric Flair to a 45-minute draw on the first Clash of the Champions.
By 1990, four years into his major-league career, he was a huge star. He’d feuded with Flair, then ended up as part of the Four Horsemen, then gotten thrown out and feuded with Flair again. He’d had a great set of matches with the Great Muta – matches that don’t look spectacular in 2015, but were wrestled at an insane pace for 1989, the same way that Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage had been so brilliant in 1987.
In mid-1990, he got help from RoboCop – yes, that RoboCop – against the Horsemen, and on July 7, he won the NWA title for the first time. That was 25 years ago, and he’s still in the main event of WWE PPVs. This is a man with an epic resume.
For the next 11 years, Sting was always a major player in WCW. If they didn’t need him as the champion – and he held the title seven times – he was always in an important storyline. For a while, he was tagging with Steamboat in matches against Flair and Steve Austin. Think about that – a match where Ricky Steamboat, an unquestioned first-ballot Hall of Famer who was in some of the greatest matches of all time, is the fourth-biggest star in the match.
And they were damn good matches, too.
Then the NWO happened.
Eric Bischoff took a guy who was one of the biggest stars in the world, and turned him into a character from The Crow. He stood around in the rafters, pointed a baseball bat at people and stopped talking – sheer genius for a wrestler who had a great rapport with the fans. He also stopped wrestling.
It gets stupid at around this point. Bischoff and the NWO killed WCW, and Sting beat Flair in the last match in the company’s history on March 26, 2001. It ended a feud that had lasted for 13 years, with a few breaks.
At that point, he had just turned 42. He took a year off, with full pay, to let his Time-Warner contract run out, and then he joined the WWE and became one of the biggest stars … no, he didn’t. He went to TNA. He spent 11 years in TNA, wasting the last years of his serious career in a promotion that was obsessed with trying to recapture the magic of the NWO.
When he finally got to the WWE, he was 55 years old and he hadn’t wrestled in a major promotion in 13 years, yet he blew the roof off the building when he walked out at Survivor Series.
His career should have ended this spring with a WrestleMania win over Triple H, but no one ever walks away at the right time.
Hopefully, the neck injury he sustained last weekend against Seth Rollins will convince him that it is time to stop. If there’s one more match at WrestleMania, great. He can beat Triple H, Undertaker can beat Lesnar and they can retire on the same night.
I just don’t want to see him as a crippled old man or, even worse, on the Titantron as a tribute video.