Steve Borden was born in Omaha, Nebraska on March 20th, 1959.
I’m going to go ahead and assume that is before damn near all of you were born.
According to the wonderful Wikipedia, Borden would make his in-ring debut on November 25th, 1985.
Chances are, that’s also before a good chunk of you were born.
Through the years, we’ve seen the man’s career reach astounding heights. He started off as Flash, working in California with Justice (who, of course, would go on to become The Ultimate Warrior), before the duo moved to Jerry Jarrett’s Continental Wrestling Association, before heading to the Universal Wrestling Federation, which was run by “Cowboy” Bill Watts in Louisiana.
It was in the UWF that Borden would go from being called Flash to the name that he would use for the next 37 years and counting…
Success would follow him everywhere he went, and he has gone on to rack up a total of 25 titles won, including anywhere from 10-13 World Title reigns, depending on where you’re getting your information and what you consider a true “World Title.” He is a three-time Hall Of Fame inductee, entering the TNA Hall in 2012, the WWE Hall in 2016, and the Pro Wrestling Hall in 2018. I have no doubt that he will make that four inductions if and when AEW decides to make their own Hall Of Fame one day.
If I were to type up an entire column on his career and everything he has accomplished, I would be here for a long, long time. The reason for this week’s column isn’t about Sting’s past, though. It’s about Sting’s future. More specifically, it’s about what he has announced will be the final five months of his illustrious career.
In the event that you missed it and haven’t been reading the news sites, Sting cut an in-ring promo during last week’s episode of AEW Dynamite, announcing that he was officially retiring after the company’s Revolution pay-per-view in March 2024. It makes for a good bookend to his time with AEW, as his first match for the company came at the 2021 edition of Revolution.
Revolution will happen in the same month that Steve Borden celebrates his 65th birthday. While he has done a lot more than anyone expected him to do in AEW, it is still worth pointing out that he has yet to wrestle a singles match with the company. He has wrestled 20 times in AEW, as well as one match for Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan to celebrate The Great Muta’s retirement, and that breaks down as the following…
– 11 tag matches
– 7 six-man tag matches
– 3 eight-man tag matches
He has been protected to the maximum since joining the company, and that’s probably for the best. Sure, he has been a ton of fun in short spurts during his matches, but how many of you truly feel that he could handle wrestling a 15-minute match without any tag partners? I’m not even sure that Sting himself feels he could handle that, and I think that is evidenced by an interview he did with The Ringer last December. When discussing the eventual end of his in-ring career, this is what he had to say…
“I know Darby is going to be a part of it, for sure. I won’t have a singles match at this point. Darby will be along with me, and I’ll be along with him, and we can add more to it as far as I’m concerned.”
That certainly seems like someone who knows, and understands, his limitations. Again, he is in his mid-60’s. Realistically, he should have no business still wrestling. Hell, with the toll that the sport takes on your body, he should have no business being able to get up and down off the couch without assistance at this point. He gets that he is, for all intents and purposes, on borrowed time, especially after what everyone assumed was a career-ending neck injury that he suffered during a match against Seth Rollins in 2015.
So, if Sting’s final match isn’t going to be of the singles variety, what’s going to happen? That has already changed the focus for a lot of people, who have been doing a ton of fantasy booking since he announced his retirement. Actually… while we’re on the topic of that fantasy booking, I do want to talk about that a bit before I move on. I have seen a million scenarios floated around on social media, and some of them need to be talked about, so humor me right now, and let’s pretend that Sting’s final match is going to be a singles contest. How about some of these names as his final opponent?
Darby Allin: That’s the one that made the most sense to me. Sting and Darby have been connected since Sting’s AEW debut, so it’s only natural that they would be involved here. What I like best about this scenario is the versatility that comes with it. You could have it be a simple “passing the torch” type of thing where Sting wants to work with Darby, or that Darby wants to prove what he can do against his “mentor.” Then there’s the heel turn route, where Darby grows tired of Sting stealing the attention away from him. Hell, I’ve even seen people say that Sting should be the one to turn heel for this feud. No matter what avenue the company wanted to travel down to get to this match, it might be fun to watch Sting and Darby try to out-crazy the other one.
Chris Jericho: When you think about Sting’s career, you’re going to make the natural move to thinking about his time in WCW (or the NWA, if you want to dig even deeper). While Chris Jericho wasn’t as vital to WCW’s success as Sting, it is still a safe assumption to make that many of us wouldn’t know who Jericho is if it wasn’t for his time there. A lot was made of the fact that Sting and Jericho had never shared a ring before this year’s Forbidden Door pay-per-view, as well as the episode of Dynamite that happened three days later, but again, those weren’t singles matches. While this match makes some sense on paper, I’m not sure how well it would actually turn out. Jericho is 12 years younger than Sting, but he isn’t exactly a fresh, young prospect anymore, either. While I have no doubt that the live crowd would eat it all up, no matter what, I have visions of a slow, plodding match that neither man walks out of looking especially great.
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair: Are you folks out of your fucking minds? The last time Sting and Flair faced each other was back in 2011 during an episode of TNA Impact. That wasn’t exactly a classic match that needs to be revisited. Flair’s last match took place nearly 15 months ago, which means it would be nearly 20 months removed from Revolution 2024. Ric was 73 years old during that match, and looked like he was going to drop dead at several points, even though he didn’t physically do much during a tag match that he was heavily protected in. I don’t care about Sting and Flair having a decades-long history together, and how much it would “make sense” for them to face off again. None of that matters when Flair dies in the middle of the ring in front of 10,000 fans in attendance and hundreds of thousands more watching at home.
Goldberg: No, seriously… are you folks out of your fucking minds? The previous idea would see Flair die during the match. This idea would see many of us wish we would die during the match. Yeah, yeah, yeah… Goldberg is much younger than Flair, and is in infinitely better physical condition, but the fact remains that Bret Hart’s least favorite wrestler isn’t capable of handling his end of the bargain for a match like this. During his last WWE runs, Goldberg was facing men who were in the peak of their physical primes, and those matches were almost always of a low quality. You’re putting entirely too much pressure on Sting in a situation like this, and you’re also tempting fate by having Sting suffer yet another injury on his way out the door.
Bryan Danielson: This is an intriguing idea. If you’re looking for Sting to have the best possible match before he retires, it would be difficult to find a better opponent than the man who many feel is the best in-ring performer that the sport has ever seen. It’s a safe bet to say that Danielson could probably help “carry” Sting and be a part of Sting’s best match in a long, long time. I’m trying to think of Sting’s best singles matches in the last part of his career. You might have to go back to TNA Hardcore Justice 2011 when Sting faced Kurt Angle, or maybe the same pairing at TNA Bound For Glory 2007, but I think Sting vs Danielson would have the potential to top those matches. There isn’t a ton of backstory here, but it would’ve been a simple enough thing to build on television. Sting’s leaving the business, but before he does, he wants to test himself against the best wrestler in the world, and so on and so forth.
The AEW World Champion At The Time: Here’s another one that I’ve seen tossed out a bunch of times. No matter who the World Champion is when March rolls around, that would be Sting’s final opponent. Similar to what I tossed out for Bryan Danielson, it seems like a lot of the reasons I’ve seen for this scenario involve Sting wanting to test himself and see if he can win one final World Championship. This, of course, would lead to the intrigue of whether or not he could do it. Wrestling “tradition” usually sees someone losing their final match, but we’ve definitely been surprised before. AEW could give Sting the title, then crown a new champion in the aftermath of Revolution. That route might not be ideal for everyone, but I could definitely see AEW doing it.
When it comes to tag matches, it’s not quite as easy to make any sort of predictions. I have seen one or two people mention something similar to the last singles scenario I brought up, only with Sting and Darby challenging the AEW Tag Team Champions at Revolution. That would probably have the same types of intrigue as the World Title one, with people wondering if AEW would “gift” Sting a title on his way out the door. For this, and for the World Title scenario, the overall interest level would depend on the champions. Sting and Darby facing, say, The Young Bucks is one thing, but them facing The Butcher & The Blade might not carry the same level of excitement.
Based on what’s currently happening, I’ve seen multiple people say the match should be Sting and Darby teaming up to face Christian Cage and Nick Wayne. Would that be logical? Yes… if Sting’s final match was going to take place at Full Gear a little less than a month from now. In no way, shape, or form do I want to see this story drag on and on and on and on and on, taking us all the way to March 2024. I have no interest in seeing Nick Wayne try to figure out the acting part of professional wrestling, and Nick Wayne has no interest in losing any more of his teeth.
In a similar fashion, I’ve also seen people ask for Sting and Darby teaming up to take on the reunited Christian Cage and Adam Copeland. First and foremost, switching Nick Wayne out for Adam Copeland is an upgrade in the story, but it would still require Sting, Darby, and Christian to potentially be involved for a long time, or at least a return after going their separate ways after the current feud.
One complaint that I’ve seen a bunch is that there aren’t a lot of real stories involving history that Sting can be involved in for the final months of his career. I mean… yeah, obviously. We’re talking about a man in his 60’s, who has seen almost all of his colleagues from his prime pass away or retire years ago. This isn’t a former WCW wrestler looking to retire in the mid-to-late 2000’s. When Revolution takes place, it will be 23 years since WCW shut its doors. That means it is incredibly rare for Sting to have a real history with anyone.
Samoa Joe? He and Sting feuded in TNA, so there’s a bit of a connection there. Dustin Rhodes? He and Sting teamed up several times in the early-90’s. Jay Lethal? Like Samoa Joe, Lethal and Sting crossed paths in TNA. Jeff Hardy? He and Sting had a bunch of matches against each other in TNA, but the match that was most remembered was their bout at Victory Road 2011, when Jeff was clearly inebriated when he went to the ring. Jeff Jarrett? He is one of the rare names who does go back to WCW with Sting, and they have interactions going all the way back to late-1999, and then well through the TNA days. Rob Van Dam? Paul Wight? Both men have crossed paths with Sting at different stages of his career.
What do the seven names from the previous paragraph have in common? Either I don’t think there’s anywhere near enough proverbial meat on the bone for them to be involved with Sting for his final match… or I have zero desire to see them involved with Sting for his final match… or both.
Now, I will fully admit that things can change quickly in wrestling. I might not want to see Wrestler A face Wrestler B right now, but with one well-written and well-delivered promo or moment, and I would be on board. That has happened numerous times through the years, and I guarantee that it has happened to all of you, as well.
I’m just having a difficult time trying to figure out a tag match that truly jumps off the page at me. I’m a fan of Darby Allin, so really, I don’t have an issue with him being involved in a tag match with Sting, especially if Steve Borden is uncomfortable having a singles match at this point in time.
As of now, we don’t have any other information about Revolution 2024. AEW has multiple pay-per-view events that take place in the same area, outside of the COVID years. Double Or Nothing calls the Las Vegas area home, while All Out comes to us from the Chicago area. Revolution doesn’t have an anchor like that. The four Revolution events we’ve seen have taken place in Chicago, Jacksonville, Orlando, and San Francisco, in that order. There aren’t even any rumors of where the 2024 edition could be. I know some people want the location to be a tie-in for Sting somehow, but there’s a problem with that…
Sting doesn’t have a home.
Obviously, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s certainly based in some truth. Yes, he was born in Nebraska, and was raised in California. Sure, California has been his billed hometown for the majority of his wrestling career. However, even the biggest Sting fans would agree that this isn’t CM Punk in Chicago, Bret Hart in Canada, Ric Flair in North Carolina, Steve Austin in Texas, ECW talents in Philadelphia, and so on. Those people have tried and true connections to those areas of the world, and special moments and/or shows have taken place with those men there, made even better because of those connections. That’s not Sting. Keep in mind, though… that’s not a knock on Sting in any way. Sting is Sting, in every city, in every state, and in every country. He doesn’t “need” a home.
To me, that eliminates any sort of need to make a geographic connection for his final match. To use the example again… if this was CM Punk’s announced final match, it would make sense to have the event in Chicago, letting Punk’s friends, family members, and neighbors honor him. If Revolution 2024 was in Chicago, Sting would get an amazing reaction, but the same would be said if Revolution 2024 was in Atlanta, San Diego, Pittsburgh, New York City, Boston, Miami, Cincinnati, or anywhere else.
Another point is where you have Sting’s match on the card. He’s one of the biggest stars of the last 40-ish years, and this is him riding off into the sunset. Does that mean you give him the main event spot? Well, a lot of that depends on who he’s facing. Using the examples I listed earlier, it would make sense if Sting’s shot at the AEW World Title was the main event of Revolution. However, just as a randomly thrown together example, Sting and Darby Allin facing The Acclaimed isn’t quite pay-per-view main event material, even if the Tag Team Titles are on the line. Sting is a big star, yes, but that alone isn’t enough to justify being in the main event. While these are slightly different examples, look no further than WWE not giving main event spots to the retirement matches of Ric Flair, Steve Austin (at WrestleMania 19), Kurt Angle, Trish Stratus, and so on. Pay no mind to the fact that almost all “retirement matches,” announced or otherwise, feature wrestlers making an eventual return to the ring. Again, those are different examples. I’m well aware of that. I just don’t think Sting’s retirement match will be, or should be, in the main event if it’s just a “random” tag or six-man tag match.
So what would I do if I was in charge of things?
As the old saying goes… keep it simple, stupid.
There’s no clear cut “right” choice for Sting’s retirement match, so don’t overthink it and turn into Stretch Armstrong in an attempt to be “cute” about things. Make it a tag team match, pair Sting with Darby, and you have all the foundation you need. For whatever reason, Sting has shown a desire to perform some wild high spots in his time with AEW, and the AEW fans eat that up with a spoon, so I’d give Sting the opportunity to make the fans happy one more time. I don’t care if it’s a Falls Count Anywhere type of match, or a Coffin Match, or a Steel Cage Match, or whatever the hell else comes to mind… as long as it’s legal for Sting to perform some type of dive off of a balcony, or crash himself and an opponent through tables, it’s on the agenda for Revolution.
Then, as an added bonus, I’d buck the aforementioned tradition of a retiring wrestler putting an opponent over on their way out the door. Sting’s AEW run has been anything but “normal,” and because of that, I wouldn’t go “normal” for his retirement, either. Why start now? Sting and Darby go over in the match, with Sting either getting the pin or the submission, and we get the feel-good emotional embrace between the winners after the match as the crowd goes wild.
Then Darby kicks Sting directly in the Little Stingers.
Darby gets the mega heat needed to move forward as one of AEW’s top heels. His character is already brooding, standoffish, and dark, so it’s not like we’re talking about a drastic and unbelievable shift. The sheer number of times that Darby has been referred to as “Sting’s little buddy” or “Sting’s emo son” on Kate Beckinsale’s internet is all the reason his character needs to go through with the heel turn.
Maybe this will finally allow Sting to get someone else over during his time in AEW.
Now, I turn things over to you. Who do you think will be Sting’s final opponent(s)? If it were up to you, who would Sting’s final opponent(s) be? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind. As for what’s on my mind, let’s find out in my Weekly Power Rankings, followed my this week’s playlist, shall we?
Weekly Power Rankings
“Speedball” Mike Bailey vs Will Ospreay: You know, I’m starting to think this Ospreay kid might have a pretty decent future in wrestling. My goodness, he has had an absolutely incredible 2023, putting forth one of the strongest in-ring years that anyone in the world has had in a long, long time. Expect to see him well represented in my year-end Hussy Awards column in December.
Bryan Danielson vs Andrade El Idolo: Hey, speaking of people who are having tremendous years in the ring, here are two more people to discuss. Danielson is, of course, Danielson, one of the greatest pro wrestlers to ever breathe. Andrade, however, has been phenomenal since returning to AEW, and has been doing some great work on Collision in the show’s brief history.
Kenny Omega vs Kyle Fletcher: While Aussie Open is a great tag team, it sure does seem like Kyle Fletcher has a really bright future as a singles competitor should he want to, or need to, go that route one day. This match was so much fun, and it was one of those contests that you wish had at least another five minutes to work with.
Gunther vs Bronson Reed: If we aren’t calling Gunther the World Heavyweight Champion or the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion at some point in 2024, we have failed on an epic, unfathomable level. I’m just saying. He is having epic matches with everyone he gets in the ring with, and I have no doubts whatsoever that he could elevate the status of any title he gets his hands on. Yes, even the ones Roman Reigns has spent the better part of the last 37 years having in his possession. While we’re on the topic of Gunther, congratulations are in order, as he officially reached the 500-day mark as Intercontinental Champion as of the day this column is posted. He already owns the longest reign in the title’s history, and he is now 118 days away from passing Pedro Morales for the most combined days as Intercontinental Champion. In case you’re wondering, 118 days will take him to February 18th, which is six days before Elimination Chamber in Australia. It’s definitely a reachable mark.
Alex Shelley vs Josh Alexander: This is one of only two matches from Bound For Glory (the aforementioned Speedball vs Ospreay being the other) that I’ve been able to check out so far, but I really enjoyed it. I think a lot of people assumed Shelley would be something of a “feel good” champion, winning the Impact World Title for a nostalgia pop and then quickly dropping it to someone else. Well, we’re four-and-a-half months in, and he’s still the champion, defeating Alexander, who most assumed would win back the title he never lost in the first place. Alexander’s second reign as champion was approaching the one-year mark (the longest World Title reign in company history, through numerous name changes) before he had to take time off due to a torn triceps. Really, really good stuff here, as the champion was almost the underdog throughout, but both men busted their asses to make this special.
Ricochet vs Shinsuke Nakamura: The Falls Count Anywhere stipulation allowed this one to be a lot more fun than a “regular” match between these two would’ve been. That’s saying something, too, as they’ve had some fun matches against each other that were as “normal” as can be. Ricochet got to look like the alien that he is, while Nakamura continues to look strong as he builds for yet another World Title shot that he will inevitably lose, as is tradition in WWE.
Cody Rhodes & Jey Uso vs Finn Balor & Damian Priest: Well, that was a short title reign for Cody and Jey. The Bloodline storyline continues to jog in place, week after week after week, making all of the people who were quick to say “let’s wait and see” after the end of SummerSlam look worse and worse. Hey, at least this was a good match, though! Huzzah!
Andre Chase & Duke Hudson vs Humberto Carrillo & Angel Garza: Forget the lame Battle Royal that took place before this… once the match got down to two teams and they squared off in a match, it got really good. Chase U is really silly, and in a lot of ways, really dumb… and yet, it remains one of the most over and entertaining acts in all of NXT.
Penta El Zero Miedo vs “Switchblade” Jay White: With White on the verge of a shot at the AEW World Title, the outcome of this one was never going to be in question. Switchblade seems to be a divisive act right now. Some feel he’s one of the best wrestlers in AEW, as well as one of the best promo men, and is ready to be the top guy. Others feel he’s one of the most overrated performers in the business right now, and has been getting exposed on the mic competing against MJF. Personally, I’m in the middle. I feel that he is one of the best wrestlers in AEW right now, but I also feel that his mic skills have been greatly exaggerated by hardcore fans of his, and that putting him up against MJF in a promo battle was a terrible idea. I am interested to see the outcome of their match at Full Gear, though.
Rhea Ripley: Pro Wrestling Illustrated just gave her the top spot in this year’s edition of their Women’s 250 rankings. She has been one of the most dominant women in the business for a while now, recently passing the 200-day mark as the Women’s World Champion, physically dominating several men on the WWE roster, and becoming the clear leader of one of the most decorated stables in recent wrestling history.
Carmelo Hayes vs Dijak vs Baron Corbin: Lost in the “Trick Williams was supposed to be in the match, but he was attacked by an unseen assailant beforehand” mix is the fact that this match was really good. They want us to think that Melo was the one who attacked his friend after Trick “betrayed” him by getting involved in this match to begin with, but I’m hoping it isn’t that easy. There’s still a lot of mileage in the pairing of Trick and Melo, and it would be nice to see it continue. For now, Melo gets his shot at Ilja Dragunov and the NXT Championship. It will be the “rubber match” in the feud, with each man winning one Match Of The Year contender, so that’s exciting.
Iyo Sky vs Charlotte Flair: We’re coming up on seven months since Charlotte has held any sort of title in WWE, but because of how frequent her reigns have been, those seven months feel like seven years. I’m sure she’ll get her hands on another title sooner than later, but it’s just weird to see her go this long without being a champion.
Kazuchika Okada: Bringing Okada back to AEW programming is a really big deal for fans of AEW. That’s why it’s especially baffling the news was broken in almost a throwaway announcement during the third hour of a three-hour programming block that won’t exactly see great viewership numbers. Either way, though… Okada and Orange Cassidy taking on Bryan Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli in a tag match? Yes. Fucking yes.
Ricky Starks & Big Bill vs Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta: Ricky and Wig Willy have reached the two-week mark as the AEW Tag Team Champions. Who saw that coming? That’s pretty cool. Good for both men, but especially Bill, who has worked his ass off to turn his life around and is seeing the benefits come his way.
Akira Tozawa: “Ooooh! Tozawa! That’s NASTY!” This guy is absolutely killing it with whatever comedy bit WWE gives him. I would love it if that translated itself into an actual in-ring push, but I’ll take what I can get for now. When I see Tozawa on my television screen, I know I’m going to be entertained and have a laugh. That’s important to me.
This Week’s Playlist: “DANCE WITH ME” by blink-182… “TERRIFIED” by blink-182… “ONE MORE TIME” by blink-182… “Glizock & Wizop” by Gucci Mane & Key Glock… “There I Go” by Gucci Mane & J. Cole… “I Know” by Gucci Mane… “Pissy” by Gucci Mane, Roddy Ricch & Nardo Wick… “Prosper” by KXNG Crooked & Joell Ortiz… “Blowfly” by Jay Rock & Ab-Soul… “DISDAIN” by CORPSE… “Dying On The Inside” by Catch Your Breath… “Heaven” by Nu Flavor… “Baby Be There” by Nu Flavor… “Soul To Soul” by Nu Flavor… “Open Arms” by Nu Flavor… “For The Sex Of It” by Nu Flavor… “Unconditionally” by Nu Flavor… “Come ‘Round My Way” by Nu Flavor… “I Could Fall In Love” by Selena… “I’m Getting Used To You” by Selena… “Dreaming Of You” by Selena… “Missing My Baby” by Selena… “Amor Prohibido” by Selena… “Como La Flor” by Selena… “We’re Gonna Rumble” by Project Pat