The Icon Sting: A great farewell for a great man
Every wrestling fan remembers the moment they were hooked by the product. You hear most wrestlers tell the story of their first memories and how that drew them into the business. And it is no different for fans. In my case, I vaguely remember watching wrestling every now and then in my younger days. But that was usually syndicated programming that ran sporadically on a random channel. But I do remember seeing Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, and many others. But I was never hooked on professional wrestling at that time.
It wasn’t until around 1997 or so that I happened to run across a show called WCW Monday Nitro. I had put on the TNT channel and kept it there. Something pulled me in. The nWo faction was red hot. This wrestling show seemed chaotic and real. Not like what I remembered seeing as a child. This show literally blew my teenaged mind. I watched the rest of that show. And then I watched every show every week that followed. And one very big reason was the man called Sting.
I remembere Sting slightly from my younger days. He was the guy with the bleach blonde crew-cut and bright face paint. But, this Sting was not that Sting anymore. This was a cold and standoff-ish Sting that appeared in the rafters of arenas like a lurking shadow. The blonde surfer-style hair was now long and black. And the bright face paint was gone and replaced with a white and black look taken from the movie The Crow. This was a new Sting. And it was a Sting that I loved.
He haunted the popular nWo for months and finally returned to the ring in December 1997 to battle Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Even though this match could have been so much more, I was a fan and couldn’t be swayed by that. I watched Sting all the way through the remainder of WCW’s days. From his battles with the nWo to him joining the nWo Wolfpac faction and even all the way through his, in my opinion, underrated rivalry with Vampiro.
Then WCW’s time was up. Vince McMahon had bought WCW and the wrestling landscape was about to be completely different. WCW and WWE had been in a bitter battle for the top spot in the professional wrestling world and that was all over now. I also watched WWE Raw back then when their product began to improve thanks in large part to Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Mankind, and others. Back in those days, I would watched WCW Monday Nitro live and use the old revolving blank VHS tape to record WWE Raw. But WCW was the brand that hooked me. They were that love-at-first-sight for me as far as wrestling goes. But, as a fan that watched the product regularly, I could see that WCW was on a downward spiral.
But now the question was whether Sting would show up in the WWE. The nWo did. Booker T did. Even Goldberg did for a brief time. And many others did as well. But, as wrestling fans know, Sting remained the lone holdout. Instead of going to the big WWE, Sting arrived in TNA Wrestling. TNA, at that time, was similar to an old WCW and I guess it made sense for him to go there and help out the smaller company.
During his time in TNA, Sting helped to catapult them into being a close second to WWE and made the company the closest rivals that WWE ever had since WCW even to this day. But WWE was never threatened by TNA and that company is now struggling to keep its employees there. But Sting made many memorable runs while their and once again adapted his character with the changing times. His Joker gimmick was great and probably one of the best times of his TNA run. But, eventually he left TNA and the rumors Kickstarter again. And this time, WWE fans would finally get their wish.
At the Survivor Series PPV in 2014, Sting finally made his appearance in a WWE ring. He would set up a feud with Triple H and have his first match with him at Wrestlemania 31 in 2015. No matter what is said in time about the match itself, I look back at it and love every minute of it. From the traditional Sting move set to the run-ins from the nWo and DX, it was a trip down memory lane while still having the appeal of something new. He may have lost the match, but he had finally given his fans what they had been longing for.
He wrestled again in September against the young WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and unfortunately was injured in the match. The injury, especially with his age being a factor, forced Sting to announce his retirement during his WWE Hall of Fame speech last night.
I was thrilled to hear his speech and happy to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame. And even though I suspected a retirement coming, it still was a shock. Not a bad shock like I didn’t want or expect it. A shock that I had seen Sting wrestle for the last time ever already. He had been in the business for a long time, but around 20 years ago, Sting was responsible for making a fan of me. He was a huge factor in why I began to watch wrestling weekly and why I still do. WWE’s Attitude Era was great because it appealed to what I wanted as a teenager. And that was a huge part of my love for the sport as well. But Sting was a great character and a great wrestler. He appealed to me enough to hook me in. I had the Sting shirt. I had the Sting mask. I tried to lock friends into the Scorpion Deathlock. I was a wrestling fan. But I was, have been, and always will be a Sting fan. You helped to give me my love for pro wrestling and when you returned I loved explaining to my stepson why you were a big deal and how you were the guy that I admired like he does with John Cena and others today. Congratulations on being in the Hall of Fame Sting and thank you for literally a lifetime of memories.
Daryl Karpinski, Jr.