And Another Thing: This Is (Not) Sting
Posted by Hyatte on 01.01.2000
Never before has a wrestler undergone such a startling change in attitude, and not just in gimmick.
This was one of my better outings, and it started one of my finest creative streaks of a career in net columns. Over the last two years, I learned the answer to this question, and the answer to the very last line of the piece; thus this particular column really screams for a sequel. It’ll never happen, unless he ever decided to return.
(originally presented August, 2000: 411 wrestling)
I’m just wondering; what happened to Sting?
Don’t deny that he’s changed either. Everyone knows he did, but for some reason, nobody has discussed it.
I’m not talking about the cosmetic changes either. He was getting a bit too old for that “Blonde Surfer Dude” look anyway. It was definitely time for a change, if his age didn’t demand it, the times sure did.
The old Sting represented simpler times in pro wrestling. He was a 100% Babyface who always had a smile for a camera, a slap for an outstretched hand, and a few minutes for a kid who ran into him somewhere. The Babyface Sting had definitive villains to battle too, whether it be Old School Heels like the Horsemen or callous, self serving monsters like Vader and Sid Vicious. There’s a reason why Sting was given a rare (for it’s time) million dollar contract a decade ago by the flagging company. WCW needed a clean, fun-loving role model for the kids to get behind. Sting fit the bill perfectly. He wasn’t too bulky, unlike the Warrior, his WWF counterpart. Fans looked at him and didn’t see an over the top super hero; they saw a man who worked real hard and fought for them. What’s even more… he had fun doing it. Sting loved this sport. He loved what he did, and we had fun watching him have such a good time.
You can hate time. You can try to avoid time. You can even try to outrun time. It makes no difference. Time will catch you because time is relentless. No man is safe… especially Steve Borden. Suddenly, there was a thirty something year old man looking and acting like a twenty something year old boy. He knew it was time to move on. To his credit, he didn’t do it overnight. He made the change gradually; first by letting his hair grow long and out of it’s bleached color. He toned down his face paint too. He still used colors, but slightly darker tones. He was still Sting though… he was still the ultra-bright hero. He needed something to cause his entire attitude to change now. He needed a catalyst.
“No Hulk… you stick it.”
Hulk Hogan needed a change and Eric Bischoff needed a monster shocker to show that the NWO storyline was unlike anything wrestling had ever seen before. Hogan went bad and the New World Order spent the better part of two years running roughshod through the WCW. That has been well documented. It was a strange, exciting, wonderful time for Wrestling. The NWO was much more than a simple gimmick, it helped usher in an entire new era for Pro wrestling. An era where the Faces were booed, the Heels were cheered, and the fans had no idea what would happen next. There was no better time for Sting to undergo his complete gimmick re-haul. Who better to showcase the effects of the NWO than the company's top babyface? Who better to be the living, breathing symbol of how the business was changing then the most popular Hero of the "Old Guard"? As the Wrestling landscape's traditional Black and White outlook blurred into grayness, so did Sting.
"When it comes to the Stinger... nothin's fer sure."
Since when? The Sting we knew was a Sting that we could count on. The fans knew Sting would face anyone down and finally hand out a little kayfabe justice. It may take a while, depending on how many legitimate Heels WCW could scrape up for him, but he always got the job done. The truth is, the old Sting died right there on Nitro in front of all of us, we just didn't know it yet. When Sting said that nothing was "fer sure", it was his response to an invitation to join the NWO. It also happened to be his last words for almost twenty months. Bischoff sent him up into the rafters and there he stayed for nearly two years. The Old Sting was buried. The New Sting was busy being born. This Sting wore all black, white facepaint, and made use of a baseball bat... something the Old Sting would never dream of using. Oh well. It comes with the times.
He finally came down from the rafters. Won a title. Lost a title. Won it again and lost it again. He fought his battles, jobbed when needed, and has so far caused few problems backstage as far as we know. He actually did join a faction of the NWO for a while, but it didn't last. He even turned Heel for about five minutes, but that fell by the wayside too. He still thumps his chest in exuberance, from time to time. He cups both hands to his mouth and howls. He still uses the Stinger Splash, but never as a finisher anymore. He still uses the Scorpion Deathlock, but prefers the Scorpion Deathdrop... essentially a Reverse DDT that leaves his opponents out cold... something the Old Sting never wanted to do. The Old Sting was just happy with a pinfall. Oh well. It comes with the times.
None of this answers my question though. I still don't know what happened to Sting.
For you see, something else was buried up there in those rafters with the old dye job and the gaudy tights.
Remember the week right before the Russo/Bischoff Era kicked off? It was a two hour Nitro "Preview" where Tony Schiavone and Mark Madden tried like the dickens to remind us that WCW was once a really good company. Well, there was one small moment in that show that stuck in my mind. One small moment that you would have missed, had you blinked.
On the very first Nitro, Sting was fighting Flair for the umpteenth time. It was only a snippet, really. It showed Flair bouncing off the ropes and heading toward Sting. Sting leapfrogged over him and caught him with some move on the bounce back. What he did isn't noteworthy. Who won the match isn't even noteworthy.
What makes this noteworthy was that as he leapfrogged up, Sting let loose a delightful "WOW". This "WOW" said a lot. It said "Hey, I've worked with this guy in 100 different matches already, and I still love it!" It was a man whooping it up in a match he could have done blindfolded. It was a man whooping it up because he was having FUN.
He doesn't do that anymore.
Somewhere up in those "rafters", along with the flashy clothes, the blonde buzz cut, and the loud facepaint... Sting buried his love for the business. The man who wrestles for WCW now is not a man who is having fun. He is not a man who can't wait to get out there and work his ass off for the cheering fans. Oh, he'll howl. He'll thump his chest, and occasionally he'll bellow "IT'S SHOWTIME, FOLKS!", but look in his eyes sometime. You won't see a guy basking in the glory of a good pop. You'll see a guy intent on getting this over with and going home. You'll see a guy who routinely takes weeks off for personal matters. You'll see a guy who has lost much of his "Hero" muscles in exchange for a leaner, less enthused physique. You'll see a guy who still calls himself "The Stinger", but it no longer sounds right coming out of his mouth. You'll see a guy who finishes up the Demon in under two minutes, then is in the showers before his music stops playing. I'm sure he'll still slap palms, smile for the cameras, and spend a few minutes with a kid who ran into him somewhere... but he's still not the same man inside. Something has changed there.
I know the past few years weren't the best for Steve Borden. As with many wrestlers, he had a marriage that needed tending to. He made a couple of movies, but none that caught Hollywood's eye. He had a falling out with his business partner and best friend, Lex Luger that they appeared to have patched up. He saw Arn Anderson retire, Ric Flair treated like a piece of garbage, and a horde of new faces come in with outrageous contracts and even worse egos. He also found God and became "Born Again", which usually only happens to people at their lowest point with no other direction to go.. The business changed. He changed with it. Unfortunately it seems that his changes went much deeper than a new look and gimmick changeover. These changes go much, much deeper than that. Steve Borden's whole live seems to have changed, and "Sting" just is not that important a part of it anymore.
That's a damn shame. Especially since all this occurred during WCW's highest point in History. Sting had a plethora of opponents, feuds, and angles to play with. There were a million ways that, with a little hard work, he could still be a pretty cool Hero in this age of fan favorite Heels and self serving Faces. The New Sting could have been just as relevant as the Old Sting, if only he did more than phone in his performances.
Somehow, though, there is still something fitting here. Just as Sting's change reflected the changing mood of the Wrestling business in the mid-90's, his attitude still reflects WCW today. When Sting attacked Vampiro in the middle of the ring with his bat during Bischoff and Russo's second Nitro, he grabbed the mic and said, "I have WCW in my blood!" How appropriate that the man who now routinely sleepwalks through his matches announce himself as a company man, seeing how the company is now in turmoil with many workers who feel that their name can still carries matches by itself.
In a recent interview, Ted DiBiase said that he didn't think Sting would go much longer. He feels that Sting might be just finishing up his contract, then he'll be out of the business for good.
I think he's already done that. He just didn't tell anyone.
I just wish he would have allowed us a chance to say goodbye.
You know, I guess I finally did answer the question, "What happened to Sting?"
Now, could someone tell me what happened to Steve Borden?
This is Hyatte too