Sting recently caused a huge stir when debuting for AEW. There, he will try to keep his legacy alive, adding to his back catalogue of previous successes. Sting is generally regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, a true NWA-creation that aided the company (under multiple names) against the WWF.
A fan favourite for decades, the Stinger for decades was regarded as one of the greatest names to never enter a WWE ring – but that all changed in 2014 – and although it was a run anticipated by many, his run working for Vince McMahon did not make a Stinger splash!
After having made a name for himself in Jim Crocket Promotions and later WCW – working for them for almost 15 years, WCW folded. Throughout this time, Sting was one of the primary faces of the company. A reliable presence, he was a multiple-time world champion and always a popular babyface (outside of an ill-fated heel turn that fans refused to accept).
He found a great amount of success under the fun-loving surfer gimmick but truly refined a character when taking inspiration from The Crow. After wrestling competing in the final match on WCW Monday Nitro (against long-time rival Ric Flair), he seemed WWE-bound for the first time.
Notable by his absence from the WWF Invasion angle in 2001, Sting was one of many big WCW stars on an AOL Time Warner contract. This meant that he would effectively be paid to sit at home and a move to the WWF would mean a big cut to his paycheck.
Afterwards, he had a short-lived spell in World Wrestling All-Stars before moving on to TNA. A major get for the upstart company, Sting had over 160 matches in a decade spell with the promotion, in which he was a fixture of the main event, winning multiple world titles – making him the first wrestler to hold the NWA, WCW and TNA world titles. He was also the first inductee into the TNA Hall of Fame in 2012.
It seemed at this point that it was too late for Sting to make a successful run in the WWE.
WWE.com listed him as one of the greatest wrestlers to never wrestle in WWE, acknowledging his work in WCW, writing:
“There is no doubt that if Sting had ever decided to ply his trade for Mr McMahon, the results would have been phenomenal. Because of his immense success throughout the industry, The Stinger would have been a great fit for the pageantry and spectacle of WWE.”
Arriving In WWE
At the 2014 Survivor Series, Sting finally made his official WWE debut. After making some press appearances for the company and being heavily rumoured on the internet, Sting had finally arrived at Stanford. He had been close to penning for the company multiple times previously, but now Sting has arrived – and blew up the internet. In his debut, he toppled the power-abusing Authority, helping banish the group by hitting the Scorpion Death Drop on Triple H and putting Dolph Ziggler on top of Seth Rollins (preceding which both had been unconscious for a number of minutes).
Sting went quiet for a while, not returning until the January 19th 2015 episode of Raw, where he made his live Raw debut. Now nicknamed ‘The Vigilante’, he once again cost the Authority a match, allowing John Cena to win a 3-on-1 handicap match, allowing fired WWE stars Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback to be rehired. On the February 9th Raw, Sting accepted a face-to-face confrontation with ‘The Game’ at Fastlane, which resulted in a set-up for WrestleMania 31 after Sting pointed his bat at the WrestleMania sign. Sting looked to be getting a big push in the company, almost always getting the upper hand on Triple H, including a blackout attack on the Authority on Raw a few weeks before the biggest show of the year.
However, this dream match was a victim of overbooking. Wrestling his first WWE match in his mid-50s, WWE decided to add more theatrics to the match. After the extravagant entrances by both men, they had 10 minutes mostly of Triple H on top before factors such as the bat, sledgehammer and factions got involved. Members of D-Generation-X aided ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ whilst the NWO confusingly decided to help Sting. Made even more confusing when the NWO were arguably Sting’s biggest rivals and a group he fought against for years. In the end, Triple H pinned Sting after a shot with a sledgehammer, with DX standing tall. Instead of being a simple clash of legends, it was turned into a reminder that WWE beat WCW. As a result, it was only given a 2.5-star rating by Dave Meltzer.
‘The Vigilante’ stayed quiet until August when he made a challenge for Seth Rollins WWE championship at Night of Champions. Coming out of a box meant to contain a commemorative Seth Rollins statue, Sting proceeded to hold up the belt, showing where his intentions lied. Two weeks later, he returned to cost Rollins a match against Ryback before destroying an actual statue of the WWE champion by crushing it in a trash compactor.
The next week Sting would wrestle two matches on Raw – these would be his only wins in his WWE career. WWE clearly wanted to protect Sting, with a match between him and the Big Show lasting less than 2 minutes, winning via DQ after interference from ‘The Architect’. Later that night, Sting got his only legitimate win or his WWE run, submitting Seth Rollins in a tag match also involving John Cena and the Big Show – in which Cena did a lot of the heavy lifting.
As simultaneously the United States and WWE champion, Rollins was tasked with having 2 matches on the night. In the first bout, John Cena defeated Seth for the US title. Despite taking an STF, Attitude Adjustment in the match and a further AA on the floor afterwards, Sting could not put away Seth Rollins in the following match.
In the bout, Sting had already taken an announce table bump and delivered a Scorpio Death Drop on Rollins before tragedy struck when Rollins had Sting set up in a powerbomb position ready to perform his signature move – the Buckle Bomb. Having already successfully performed the move without a hitch twice that night (one on Cena, and another one on Sting beforehand), it soon turned ugly when Sting fell afterwards.
As the match continued, something was clearly wrong with Sting’s neck. Falling multiple times and needing EMTs to look at Sting mid-match, Seth had to try to carry the rest of the match. Becoming harder and harder to watch, it looked bleak for Sting, with ‘The Vigilante’ not able to hide the legitimate damage. Persevering through, Sting locked in the Scorpion Deathlock, before Rollins won with a likely improvised roll-up win. WWE quickly diverted away from the injury, moving straight on to an angle with Kane who was cemented as the next top star in place of Sting.
In the following years, an ex-WWE writer revealed that WWE did not want Sting to compete again, stating “I know for a fact Sting was told to not step in a wrestling ring again”.
With his career coming to a screeching halt due to this injury, Sting was inducted into the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame where he formally announced his retirement. He would later go on to state he would only break his retirement if he could face the Undertaker, claiming they had “unfinished business”. One of the biggest disappointments of fans was that they would never see Sting wrestle the Undertaker – a dream match for decades in a clash of dark forces. This match never surfaced, so it seemed as if Sting had closed the door on wrestling, and would start winding down.
Sting made his last WWE appearance on February 25th 2019, celebrating the birthday of long-time friend and rival Ric Flair. In May 2020, it was reported Sting was no longer under WWE contract – likely another victim of the company’s cost-cutting measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In October, WWE pulled his page from WWE Shop.
After whispers of his appearance, Sting finally made his AEW debut in December 2020, saving Darby Allin and Cody Rhodes from an attack by Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs and Brian Cage. After the show, it was announced that the former 6-time WCW world champion had signed a multi-year deal. His t-shirt released immediately after his first appearance became the then-most purchased t-shirt within 24 hours of release on Pro Wrestling Tees. After saving Darby Allin multiple more times from attacks from Team Taz, it was announced Sting would return to action.
Teaming with Allin against Cage and Starks in a street fight at AEW Revolution 2021, it is set to be his first match in over 5 years. ‘The Icon’ his first huge bump in years, taking a powerbomb by Brian Cage on an episode of Dynamite. It is likely the match stipulation as well as it being a tag match will protect Sting, meaning the 61-year-old will not have to take too many extreme bumps so soon out of retirement.
Why Did Sting Fail In WWE?
Likely one of the biggest reasons Sting failed in WWE was his few big wins. In both high-profile bouts – Sting lost. Perceived as another burial by Triple H, this debut match loss took a lot of wind out of the sails for fans towards Sting. This lowered his stock for potential dream matches later on (against the likes of the Undertaker).
Sting also likely was not as successful due to his age. Still more than capable in-ring even in his mid-50s, it may have hindered his presentation to fans. As well as internet fans knowing he likely would not get a huge push at this age, casual fans who did not know of Sting likely wondered who this old, gothic character was. Had he arrived earlier, he probably would have been a much more viable superstar.
Sting’s booking was also a little confusing to fans. Often depicted as a lone star, fighting justice elsewhere – he had multiple allies in the WWE such as John Cena and Randy Orton. Additionally, after fighting the Authority for months, he shook hands with Triple H, effectively accepting defeat to the higher-powers. None of this was followed up on as Sting went straight back to fighting the Authority months later despite having seemingly made up.
The Future for Sting
We still have to see how Sting fairs in AEW. With Sting not getting any younger, it will be interesting to see how protected he is – having had multiple injuries over the years. It also appears there may be a newly-cemented relationship between Sting and Darby Allin, with Darby hoping to fill Sting’s boots, having been heavily inspired by his crow character. We can only wait and see if it works better for Sting in AEW compared to WWE.