By now, we’ve all heard the news.
Sting is back, but instead of coming back to WWE, he has signed a “full-time, multi-year agreement” with AEW. It was a major surprise, and was the talk of social media when it happened. We’ve had a week to think things over. I’m sure you have your opinions, and I certainly have mine, so let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?
First and foremost… above all else… I was legitimately stunned to see Sting walk out onto the stage at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida last week. Not because I thought he was super duper loyal to Vince McMahon and WWE, but because I, like most people, assumed he was done with the business. He had been hoping to get a match against The Undertaker, but when that ship sailed, people thought that was the last we’d see of Sting. The man is going to be 62 in a few months, and the last time he stepped into the ring, he was damn near paralyzed. Why would anyone have expected him to come back in 2020, or at any point?
It was unexpected, but there he was, making the AEW fans go nuts and nearly bringing Tony Schiavone to orgasm on commentary. The nostalgia was off the charts. Sting… appearing on a wrestling show that was airing on TNT… while Tony Schiavone was calling it. Long-time wrestling fans were immediately transported to the Monday Night War, watching Sting on WCW Monday Nitro every week. All that was missing was for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to show up on the USA Network to deliver a Stone Cold Stunner to Vince McMahon at the same time.
Sting was in AEW… but why was he there?
Of course, the initial assumption was that he was there for an on-screen role like that of Arn Anderson or Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Surely, he would be a “manager” or a “coach” for one of the faces in the company. The lengthy face-off with fellow face paint aficionado Darby Allin had many people thinking that pairing could work, especially with Darby not exactly being Mick Foley on the microphone at this point in his career. Sting, while not an elite “talker” like the aforementioned Anderson and Roberts, has always been capable of capturing your attention when he cuts promos. He would make for a good pairing with one of AEW’s top young talents.
Well, then we were all surprised again when it was revealed that AEW listed Sting as an active in-ring competitor on their website. Arn Anderson is listed in the “Coaches” section. Taz is listed in the “Broadcast Team” section. Jake Roberts isn’t listed at all. Sting is right there in the “Men’s Roster” section, after Sonny Kiss and before Stu Grayson.
That had to be a mistake. I have to point this out again… Sting is coming up on turning 62, and in his last match (which was over five years ago), he nearly found himself paralyzed after taking a Buckle Bomb from Seth Rollins. There’s no way he was actually going to wrestle for AEW. Well, we’re sitting here a week later, and guess what? Sting is still listed in the “Men’s Roster” section. It isn’t a mistake. He probably isn’t going to wrestle on a weekly basis, but it certainly does seem like Sting is going to wrestle for AEW.
So… what to do, what to do? Sting is a wrestler again. Does that excite any of you? It certainly doesn’t excite me. The last time I was any sort of excited for a Sting match would be WrestleMania 31, and that was mainly because I was at Levi’s Stadium that day. Being able to see Sting in person was a bucket list item of mine, so I was able to check that off the list. Before that, you’d have to go back to some point in the early stages of his run with TNA for me to be excited about him wrestling. Maybe his match against Kurt Angle at Bound For Glory 2007, or his match against Samoa Joe at the following year’s Bound For Glory. When I look at the current AEW roster, there isn’t anyone I want to see someone in their 60’s wrestle. Maybe… MAYBE… a workhorse like Kenny Omega, just to see the kind of match he could get out of Sting in 2020/2021.
Here’s the thing that I understand, though… it’s perfectly fine that I don’t want to see Sting wrestle. The reason that it’s fine is because there are plenty of folks out there that DO want to see him in the ring again. For one, you have the hardcore-est of the hardcore AEW fans who would love and cherish anything the company does. Also, you have the “casual” wrestling fan, who is more than likely someone that was a huge fan during that Monday Night War and has seen their fandom wane in recent years. I already know a few of those people who are excited to see Sting again. The more I think about it, the more I like this move for AEW.
Yeah, I said it. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?
Will Sting take Dynamite to record-breaking levels of viewership every week? Probably not. Sure, they might get a viewership boost for this week, and potentially a couple weeks to come, as people tune in to see what exactly is happening with his arrival (as well as with the stuff with Kenny Omega and Impact Wrestling, to be fair), but I’m sure as hell not going to sit here on Lauren London’s internet and say that I think Dynamite is on the verge of doubling their audience because of him. Sting will bring eyeballs to the product. Isn’t that the point?
I have to give AEW a ton of credit for one thing. It would be easy for them to sit back and relax right now. They regularly beat NXT, not only in total viewers, but in the key ratings demographics that people love to focus on. They don’t have to stack the deck too much to win, which says a ton about how loyal their fan base is. They could just chill and coast on the numbers they know they’re going to get. Instead of doing that, though, they want to put their foot on the gas. They want to get back to the million-viewer mark every week. They want to push that to one-and-a-half million, then two million, then two-and-a-half million, and so forth. Their goal isn’t to compete with, and defeat, NXT. Their goal is to compete with, and defeat, Raw and Smackdown. As it should be. Trust me… I’ve seen the jokes from the randos on social media. They make fun of AEW’s viewership numbers because the numbers aren’t as high as what Raw and Smackdown are getting, completely forgetting the fact that AEW is still brand fucking new, and also the fact that Raw and Smackdown’s numbers continue to fall into the toilet. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Dynamite will be in competition with Raw’s stats sooner than later. Let’s not make it out as if Raw is pulling in five million viewers per week. Dynamite’s highest viewership number in 2020 is 1.016 million, while Raw’s lowest viewership number in 2020 is 1.561 million. That’s not a huge gap. At all.
Sting can make a difference. How much of a difference obviously remains to be seen, but he can (and probably will) make one. As is always the case with a big event (debut, return, heel turn, face turn, title change, major storyline) in pro wrestling, it’s all about the follow-up. You can shake things up and get some attention. That’s fine and all. Can you keep that attention, though? Can you build on that attention? Sting being there is great and all, but if he wrestles, say, Peter Avalon on Dynamite and has a dud of a four-minute match, why would people continue to care? Is Shaquille O’Neal supposed to be the next megastar if the Sting “experiment” doesn’t work? The almost 49-year-old Shaquille O’Neal that retired from the world of basketball damn near ten years ago?
To close things out… if anyone in AEW is reading this (you know who you are) right now… please, please, please do not go the inevitable route and give us Sting vs Chris Jericho. That’s 111 combined years of life, and approximately 526 years of life when you take into account what years on the road does to someone’s mind, body, and soul. No. Thank. You.
Seriously. Don’t do it.
I know you’re going to do it. Just… please don’t.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Kenny Omega: When you participate in one of 2020’s best matches, end Jon Moxley’s 277-day reign as the AEW World Champion, and set the internet ablaze with a potential working relationship between two promotions… well, you’ve earned yourself the top spot on lists like this. Omega is finally getting a chance to work his magic as a singles wrestler, and getting to do it as a heel chock full of douchebaggery is just the icing on the cake. Now that he is officially the top guy in AEW, I’m expecting some magic.
- Sting: What else can I say that I didn’t already say above? Sting still has it. All he did was walk to the ring, stare at a few people, and then walk backstage. That’s it. Look at all the attention he got for doing it, though. Not to mention, you just know that he isn’t signed to some cheap deal that pays him peanuts. Good for him. Good for AEW. Now, let’s see what happens next.
- Raquel Gonzalez: This is a woman that just commands your attention when she’s on the screen. She has come a really long way in not a really long period of time. I’ve been digging the slower build with her, as it would be easy to just push her like crazy simply because she’s bigger than the other women in NXT. When she showed up as Dakota Kai’s protection back in February, she certainly wasn’t ready to be competing for title shots of any kind. The pairing with Kai has given her very valuable time and experience as she is, if I can make the lazy comparison that everyone makes, the Diesel to Dakota’s Shawn Michaels. If you remember that pairing, Diesel showed up as the bodyguard for Michaels, but eventually, people began to notice “Big Daddy Cool” more and more, to the point that he couldn’t be ignored anymore. Ten months after showing up at Dakota Kai’s side, Raquel Gonzalez can’t be ignored anymore, either. She appears to be next-in-line for a shot at Io Shirai’s NXT Women’s Title after pinning Shirai at Takeover WarGames, and I think she’s more than ready for that spotlight now.
- Impact Wrestling: Kudos to Impact. Having Kenny Omega appear on their programming has already been beneficial, as they have tripled their highest viewership on their Twitch channel. They were also trending all over social media, and had more discussion than I remember seeing for their product in years. As of the moment I type these words, the television viewership numbers haven’t been released yet, but I have to assume that those numbers will be up, too. They didn’t stack the deck for the show, like some folks assumed they would with a new opportunity to create new fans, but they were able to let a bunch of people see what their brand is all about. Omega teased a future affiliation with Impact, but reports said his appearance was a one-off. Did Impact do enough to capitalize on those new viewers tuning in? We’ll see, but they had the ability to do so, and that’s what counts.
- Johnny Gargano: In the entire history of NXT, only 12 people have ever held a particular title on two different occasions. In that same span, only two people have ever held a particular title on three different occasions. Kyle O’Reilly has had three reigns as one-half of the NXT Tag Team Champions, and now, Johnny Gargano has been the NXT North American Champion three times. This marks the fifth overall title reign of any kind for Gargano in NXT, which makes him the brand’s most decorated champion ever. He has been a part of three different “NXT Match Of The Year” contests, as well as two “NXT Rivalry Of The Year” storylines, all voted on by the fans. I think I’ve said it 128 times now, but he doesn’t need to be in NXT anymore, but while he’s still there, it’s time to give that man his flowers for all he’s accomplished since debuting for the brand over five years ago.
- Undisputed Era: Similar to Gargano, there isn’t a lot that the members of UE haven’t been able to achieve. They’ve been at, or near, the top of NXT since the group was formed in August 2017. Adam Cole has been a dominant singles performer, while the rest of the members have had a stranglehold on the brand’s tag division. It seems like there is buzz about the group being put on Raw or Smackdown at least once every year, but I do think there’s more for them to do. We haven’t seen a full-fledged face run from them. We haven’t seen if anyone other than Cole can find true success as a singles worker in NXT. Again, though, I want to be able to give them their flowers while they’re still around. They really have become one of the greatest stables in the history of the business.
- A Face Winning The War Games Advantage: Sure, the booking of the match made the entire thing pointless, as the faces basically blew the advantage from the beginning, but at least it happened. There have been War Games matches going all the way back to 1783, and in those 237 years, the heel team has always won the early advantage in the match. So… hooray for something different? I guess.
- Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake, Kind Of: Jaxson Ryker ended up making a bunch of his co-workers upset, so Cutler and Blake had to get caught up in the crossfire and suffer for it. After months of not being on WWE programming, Cutler and Blake randomly appeared on Smackdown once again, but without Ryker. That’s good, right? Well, now they have to be associated with Baron Corbin, who WWE continues to put into the dumbest and most channel-changing stories time after time. They’re back on television, but because of Corbin, we’ll all be wishing they were gone after a couple weeks.
- People Who Like To Watch Retribution Suffer: No, but seriously, can we end this shit now? Please?
- Leyla Hirsch: Counting AEW Dark, Leyla Hirsch has only worked five matches for the company, coming out on the losing end of four of those matches. I don’t care about that at all. I want to see more of her. She has impressed the hell out of me. She’s so different than anything else we’re seeing with the AEW women’s division, and as I’ve said before, she NEEDS to be a member of Team Taz immediately. That’s a combination that could, and should, be beneficial to all involved. Do it, AEW, you cowards!
This Week’s Playlist: “Better Days” by Ant Clemons & Justin Timberlake… “December’s Here” by New Found Glory… “Leather and Lace” by Willie K & Gretchen Rhodes… “Close To You” by Collie Buddz… “Heartless” by The Weeknd… “Starboy” by The Weeknd & Daft Punk… “The Hills (Remix)” by The Weeknd & Eminem… “Role Model” by Eminem… “Just Don’t Give A Fuck” by Eminem… “Kill You” by Eminem… “Who Knew” by Eminem… “I’m Back” by Eminem… “Bitch Please 2” by Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit & Nate Dogg… “White America” by Eminem… “Sing For The Moment” by Eminem… “Till I Collapse” by Eminem & Nate Dogg… “3AM” by Eminem… “Please Don’t Go” by Mike Posner… “Bow Chicka Wow Wow” by Mike Posner… “Still Not Over You” by Mike Posner & Eric Holljes… “Losing My Mind” by Mike Posner… “Switch Lanes” by Rittz & Mike Posner… “High Five” by Rittz… “For Real” by Rittz… “White Jesus” by Rittz