Inducted by J Cool
You only get a nickname like this by being revered for doing things that made a significant impression on a community.
Steven Borden did this on a grand scale in two major professional wrestling companies, WCW and TNA Impact. He was inducted into the TNA Impact Hall of Fame, in 2012, and, most recently, the WWE Hall of Fame, in 2016. A 20+ year career, with the accolades and championships he has accumulated, he is an excellent choice for this year’s class, and these are the words that come to mind:
Anyone who grew up watching Sting was likely drawn in by his appearance. The colourful, neon face paint, the short, shocking blond hair. Later, he grew out his natural, brown hair colour to his shoulders, and switched to the “Crow” look, black paint around the eyes and on the lips, on a ghost-white face. He would even vary this over the years, too, settling on variations of red, white and black that were visually striking, leading this columnist to don the face paint for multiple Halloweens.
His in-ring style was multi-faceted, being proficient enough to be high-flying, technical, submission-based and a brawler as needed. Moves like the Stinger Splash and the Scorpion Deathlock were easy to like, exciting to watch and fun to replicate in basements and backyards alike. Fun fact: Although not his own creation, Sting was using the Deathlock in WCW before Bret Hart claimed it for himself in WWE, and renamed it the Sharpshooter.
The man could grab your attention by being animated and fired up, as he was for so many years, against the classic, baby blue, WCW backdrop. He could replicate that, live, in front of thousands of people, convincing them that the only thing that was for sure, was that nothing was for sure. He used pop culture as a point of inspiration, acting out a Dark Knight-era Joker-like character for a spell in Impact. Heck, the guy sped down from the rafters, in the midst of New World Order chaos, to scare off the most intimidating faction in wrestling at that time. He didn’t even need words during this season of his career, compelling fans to cheer him on by simply raising his black baseball bat towards his foes.
Willing to evolve.
What you may have noticed, in hearing about how captivating the Stinger was, is how willing to evolve he was, too. This is a quality I admire in people, especially musicians. Writing a song that becomes a #1 hit is no easy feat, but continuing to make music at that level, without each subsequent song becoming derivative of the last, is even tougher.
Yes, Sting had his clichés and his signature moves that kept him familiar with the pro wrestling audience, but, over the years, he was willing to evolve to change with the times. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, he first made his mark in matches against legends like Ric Flair and Big Van Vader, ascending to the top spot, representing WCW as their NWA and, later, WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He later became the focal point in one of the most unique and memorable storylines in pro wrestling history, defending WCW against Hollywood Hulk Hogan and the New World Order, in 1997. Sting would continue to be booked in top feuds and main event matches, when the nWo split in two, and Sting joined his buddy, Lex Luger, in the Wolfpac. That faction became a top merchandise mover during a peak in pro wrestling popularity in 1998.
When WCW was bought out by WWE in 2001, Sting took a few years’ break, waiting for his contract to conclude, but he eventually landed in TNA Impact. He helped that company achieve greater success and popularity during the mid 2000’s, reclaiming the NWA Championship, some 16 years after his first win. Again, not only did his appearance evolve into a hybrid of Surfer, Crow and Wolfpac face paint, but Sting was proving he could still be a main event player, even in his late 40’s, early 50s.
He willingly turned heel, after being a face for most of his career, aligning himself with the Main Event Mafia. He wore the TNA Championship title on multiple occasions, defending against guys like Jeff Jarrett, Jeff Hardy, and Mr. Anderson. Sting even took on a role of leadership as General Manager for a time, continuing to wrestle on a part-time basis, when the show needed a ratings jolt, reprising feuds against Angle, Hogan and Flair, for fans who may have missed it the first time around. Whatever role he was given, Sting was professional, and he continued to engage a new generation of fans in his enigmatic aura and magnetic charisma.
There will always be fans who critique Sting’s career because he didn’t wrestle a full run in WWE. The concern, for Sting, was that his character and his legacy would not be appreciated by his former rivals. Even when Sting eventually did land in WWE for a part-time run in 2014-2015, things did not materialize the way fans imagined. The dream match, Sting vs. Undertaker, was never booked, and he was forced into retirement due to an injury suffered against Seth Rollins at Night of Champions 2015. It would be easy to say Sting screwed up and that he should have joined WWE much earlier.
To that, his legacy in WCW and TNA Impact speaks so much more loudly. In WWE, he would never have been the face of the franchise. Too much had happened in the Monday Night Wars to allow for that. Instead, Sting stayed loyal to the companies he helped build up, only being limited by things outside his control in the executive and ownership levels of business.
When Flair left WCW, Sting was the guy. When Hulk became Hollywood, Sting was the perfect adversary to overcome him. When the company ceased operations and broadcast its final Nitro episode, there was no better choice than to finish with a “Thanks for the memories” reprisal of his many battles with the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
When TNA Impact was trying to establish itself as a legitimate alternative to WWE, Sting’s full-time debut at Final Resolution 2006 gave them their highest PPV buyrate ever to date. He fought for their world championship title against legends like Kurt Angle and AJ Styles, but was happy to work with younger guys like Matt Morgan, Ethan Carter III and Magnus as well. He left Impact in 2014 as one of their longest-tenured stars, wrestling with them on and off for the better part of 10 years.
Throughout it all, Sting was a reliable draw, captivating audiences with his look, promos and matches. He was willing to evolve with the times, and not too proud to re-tread his most popular feuds, albeit with a spin. He was loyal to his two main workplaces, dependable to a fault for years upon years, and the fans were always loyal to him, cheering for him, regardless of what role he was asked to play on TV.
When people ask for my top 5 of all-time, the Stinger always makes the cut. He’s a genuine class act, and an example of how faith, humility and charity can bring out the best virtues in a man. He is a true icon in the world of professional wrestling.
For those reasons and more, ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to induct into the LOP Hall of Fame, Class of 2019: The man they call…. STING!