Last night’s Survivor Series saw the live introduction of Sting to WWE audiences. We’ve seen him on the WWE Network but he has now appeared in a WWE ring for the first time. It was quite the moment.
For those who don’t know, Sting has an extensive history in the wrestling business. In his day, he was a star in WCW. He was made by Ric Flair in a Great American Bash match in the 80’s where Sting captured the World Heavyweight Championship, which was then under the NWA. Through the 90’s he feuded and teamed with the NWO at various times. When WCW went under in the early 2000’s, to most wrestling fans he faded off the map, not jumping to WWE as others had. Sting wasn’t done with wrestling though, and spent time in TNA where he held titles and served as an on-air authority figure, but did nothing truly memorable as his age was catching up with him. Quite honestly, Sting just wasn’t the same guy that as the man I remembered from my youth as a wrestling fan.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about him coming to WWE for one more run. Sting had never set foot in a WWE ring until last night, which was in a way a part of his mystique. Fans hoped to see him come to WWE, work a match at Wrestlemania, receive a Hall of Fame induction, and maybe work a legend’s contract with limited appearances. Sting stayed loyal to the TNA brand instead through the 2000’s though. As TNA cut costs, Sting’s contract wasn’t renewed in 2014 and now we’ve seen him make the jump to WWE’s on-screen product.
It begs the question: Can you utilize a 55-year old Sting that actually would actually mean something to today’s wrestling fan?
There has been a lot of chatter in online circles about having Sting face Undertaker. The Icon vs. the Phenom has a lot of “on the surface” draw. The entrances would be amazing. The promo segments could contain a lot of theatrics to help build a strong story. But let’s face it – the match would most likely disappoint.
Hardcore fans of today would immediately jump all over this, saying how poor the match was and they’d have just cause. Sting has a tendency to forget spots. Undertaker is said to not be at his best, especially after his concussion during the match with Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30. Casual fans may react differently to it because of the two mens’ legendary status, however. The spectacle might win over the hardcore fans at least on the surface, but it won’t be enough.
I also realize that while “the time is now” in regard to setting this match up, it also feels like it would be rushed and almost like it needs a little more build-up time to really be meaningful. With Wrestlemania 32 projected to be in Dallas, TX at AT&T Stadium (the Jerry Jones Dome), it sets the stage for a final match for Undertaker in his home state, and perhaps that’s where we get our “Icon vs. Phenom” match. With very limited dates and exposure for both men, it could work. Could. No guarantees.
Of course there’s the idea of having Sting work with younger talent to give them rub. A guy like a Dolph Ziggler could bump around and sell for Sting, which could help sell the match. Having a Ziggler or other up-and-coming mid-card player go over Sting on the right stage and in the right situation could do a lot for that person’s career.
The major question that runs in my mind for something like that is Sting’s conditioning. Wrestling is a worked product but let’s face it, it still takes good conditioning no matter how well the match is laid out. In TNA, Sting often worked wearing a t-shirt, and quite frankly that’s a bit embarrassing to see. Is he physically up to working a match that would require the quicker pace? Also, is it really going to be a rub for anyone because casual fans are not really aware of who Sting is, and the history he represents? Will WWE build up to something the right way so that it does matter?
Then there’s the somewhat obvious angle from last night – Triple H. Sting has openly said if he couldn’t work Undertaker, he would not mind working Triple H. From all appearances, it looks like they’re going to go there, possibly for Wrestlemania 31. Despite his recent losing streak, Triple H still means something when he’s in the ring. He’s a 13-time World Champion and without question heading to the Hall of Fame himself someday. He’s also a figurehead of the Attitude Era when Sting and WCW ran neck and neck with WWE. In terms of the “here and now,” this is a program that makes sense to me.
How do you book this, or any program involving Sting though and have it be effective?
First, I would have Sting appear VERY infrequently until close to the match. Even then, I’d be hesitant to have him there every week. You don’t want Sting to feel like just another guy on the roster. If he’s on the show every week, that is likely to happen. WWE needs to resist the temptation to trot him out there as a substitute authority figure. They need to resist the temptation to put him on a lot of different broadcasts. You want Sting to feel like a big deal when he appears.
Use that production truck. Roll classic footage, educate the casual fans who might not know who Sting is about his past. WWE excels at putting together these kinds of vignettes that can make Sting look amazing and like someone who should be respected as a wrestling legend to all their fans.
Secondly, because appearances will be infrequent, book segments and exchanges that pack a punch. A criticism of Sting in his later years (especially in TNA) has been that he tends to forget spots and forget cues, so set him up with pre-tapes when possible where they can tighten things up in editing. Also, part of the problem with some segments with Undertaker and Brock last year, and other part-timers in the past has been that it doesn’t feel important. They need to not waste opportunities and make things matter when Sting appears.
Finally, whoever it is he works with has to be willing to spend the time laying out and rehearsing the match in detail. Whether it’s Undertaker (who is said to request that to be the case), or Triple H or anyone else, the time has to be spent working out the match ahead of time. Sting is not likely to work a lot of matches, so this isn’t as big of a hurdle to overcome as it might seem. This is key both to remembering spots and making sure key moments aren’t botched or missed. It also lays the match out in a way to minimize Sting’s weaknesses in the ring at his current age.
Yes, Sting is 55 years old. Yes, he is unfamiliar to some casual fans of today’s WWE. But if WWE handles this the right way, they can utilize Sting effectively to make his one and only run in WWE a memorable sendoff to his stellar career.