Welcome back to this ongoing feature on Sting’s transformation into a dark, secretive, bad-ass that made sense and would have you tuning in to Nitro on Monday Nights to see more. We are right smack dab in the middle with part four of six, and starting off in March 1997 before heading all the way to the week before Starrcade. As we left off last week, Sting had seemingly joined the nWo as Hollywood Hogan, Dennis Rodman and other cronies acted like they had not a care in the world. We’ll see that does not last for too long. Check out the introduction, part two and part three to catch up.
March 16, 1997
The main event was Team nWo (Hogan, Savage and the Outsiders w/ Rodman) vs. WCW (Luger, Giant, Scott Steiner) vs. Team Piper (Piper, Benoit, Mongo, Jarrett)
With a healthy helping of interference, Hogan pins Luger to win the match.
The nWo celebrates over Lugers prone body and they head out of the ring to leave. Out of nowhere, Sting rappels into the ring with his bat. Uh oh.
Scott Hall enters the ring and gets nailed. Kevin Nash follows suit. Randy Savage, too. Sting gives Macho the scorpion death drop while Hogan and Dennis Rodman cower in fear out in the aisle. From the ring, Sting points the bat at Hogan and we’re seeing it, finally!
Sting (having already dropped the bat) and Hogan in the ring. Hogan goes after him and Sting nails him with punches. Scorpion Death Drop to Hogan and the PPV is over!
Oh hell yes, it’s on now. I guess you could argue the merits of having their first physical altercation in this story occur at the end of a “B-PPV” and not on an episode of Nitro which has millions of viewers. Regardless, it came off great. Sting wants him some of Hogan and is sick of waiting around. But, what is he going to have to do in order to get a title match with Hollywood?
March 17, 1997
The main event (Steiner Bros. vs. Harlem Heat) is ruined by nWo interference, but WCW guys fight them off and stand tall in the ring.
Sting rappels into the ring and points the bat at Hogan (in the aisle) again. Hogan is not too happy about this and looks scared.
March 31, 1997
Sting does not appear this week (for the second consecutive Nitro) in the flesh but they did air a highlight package showing the crap he dealt with in 1996 regarding WCW guys and friends doubting him. Check it out at about the 1:00:00 mark of this video.
April 7, 1997
This was the night after Spring Stampede which featured nWo infighting as they were not on the same page.
Sting saves DDP from a guaranteed nWo beat down by rappelling into the ring with his trusty bat. Hogan is once again a wanted man and none too happy about it. (1:35:00 of this video)
April 14, 1997
Lex Luger vs. Kevin Nash headlines the show and naturally, ends in 4 minutes due to interference.
The nWo beat on DDP (by now, I would be surprised if the nWo was not beating up Page), Luger and the Giant. But wait! It’s not a bird or a plane. It’s STING and he’s here to save the day with a bunch of bats for his buddies.
The bad guys high tail it out of there and the show goes off the air.
May 5, 1997
Early in the show, Hogan and Bischoff call out Sting but he doesn’t show up.
The main event never starts as the nWo arrives. DDP gets beat up- Giant, Harlem Heat and Piper’s group, too. Flair goes after Syxx while Hogan and Bischoff commandeer the announce table and poke fun at Sting who doesn’t show up for the third straight week.
May 12, 1997
Bischoff is apparently going to interview Sting on this episode. Sure, he is, that Bischoff is an honest, swell guy after all.
In the main event, Bischoff brings out Fake Sting and they joke at the real one’s expense.
Finally, STING shows up and scorpion death drop’s the phony and Bischoff leaps out of the ring and bolts as the show ends.
May 19, 1997
Bischoff says Sting will NEVER wrestle Hogan, with plenty of whine to make you want to see him punched out more so than usual (he’s magnificent at that). (48:00 of the video)
Sting cuts through the ring from underneath and scorpion death drops Bischoff. Sweet. Can never get enough of seeing him get what he deserves.
May 26, 1997 (One year anniversary of Scott Hall’s debut)
Hogan and Bischoff call out Sting, the Fake Sting comes up from under the ring to act like a fool. Real Sting rappels from the ceiling and drops Bischoff. The imitator is begging and Sting trips Hogan over the fake one who is revealed as Buff Bagwell.
Hogan escapes and the nWo regroups with a plan to get them some of Sting.
Unfortunately for them, Sting reattaches the cord and zips up to the ceiling (1:32:44 of the video).
June 9, 1997
We see a big brawl featuring a spot where Hogan attacks DDP and knocks him out with the WCW/nWo Championship. In the middle of the chaos, Sting rappels, takes DDP’s body and ascends to the heavens. (1:33:42)
June 23, 1997
A DDP vs. Scott Hall main event ends in minutes due to interference from the Macho Man. The nWo beats up DDP (seriously, wtf?) until Sting comes out of the crowd and scares them away.
The clip was taken down by WWE. Boo!
June 30, 1997
Oh my, I’m sure Dallas was ecstatic to be involved in any way with the company’s hottest angle, but even he had to have qualms about getting beaten up every week and requiring Sting to save him all the time.
The nWo is beating down DDP with Fake Sting hanging out in the crowd for whatever reason.
REAL STING rappels from the ceiling and Hogan dances backwards. Sting saves DDP (for the millionth-and-one time).
In unrelated happenings, Raven and Curt Hennig both debut on this show.
July 14, 1997
The nWo surrounds the ring with Luger in it, but WCW’s protector Sting walks out and backs his boy up to end the show.
August 4, 1997
Lex Luger beats Hogan to win the WCW Championship and .he would lose it days later, back to Hogan, at the Road Wild PPV.
Earlier in the night, WCW executive JJ Dillon attempted to get Sting to sign a WCW contract for a match. Sting showed up but Dillon offered him Curt Hennig and he left because it was not who he wanted.
Okay, finally. There’s a little more than a month left in the summer and now they are beginning the path towards signing a Sting/Hogan title match. You can recognize why the need to draw out the process because Starrcade is more than four months away. As for the Luger/Hogan title exchange, evidence shows why they decided to do it on television. Wanting to pop a big rating for Nitro they did just that because the 4.4 the episode did was the highest number in Monday Nitro history (the week before did a 3.4), crushing RAW that night (2.7, with Dude Love vs. Owen Hart in the main event).
Regardless of business, the match and celebration were some of the more memorable scenes in Nitro’s history.
August 11, 1997
Dillon is back and wants Sting to sign a WCW contract so he can wrestle the nWo in a sanctioned match. Sting rappels down after Schiavone says last week’s Sting was not the real one, more like Schiavone being Schiavone.
Dillon says the contract is for a match with Syxx! But,.Sting tears up the paper. Mene Gene Okerlund asks who does he want and the crowd chants HOGAN! Sting walks away.
There was video available.
August 18, 1997
Dillon tries again, wanting Sting to say who he wants. The jackass doesn’t hear the crowd, apparently. Anyway, Sting shows up and points to the crowd (they’re chanting Hogan and they have their signs).
Finally, Sting retrieves a sign from a fan that says Hulk vs. Sting.
August 25, 1997
Finally, Dillon understands and says Sting will wrestle Hogan. But, Bischoff is not happy and cries saying it will never happen.
Sting shows up and puts a Hollywood Hogan shirt down Bischoff’s throat. Never saying a word, but he does SMILE!
For this week and next, RAW did not air in its normal slot (instead, a special Friday edition aired for reasons I cannot recall), so the audience watching Nitro were the largest in its history (a 5.0 this week and a 4.8 next). It took RAW until November, after the Montreal Screwjob before they were able to do consistent 3.0s).
September 1, 1997
Sting’s not in town so Hogan attacks JJ Dillon instead.
September 8, 1997
Sting’s not there again, but this week, the nWo makes fun of him with a mannequin.
This is twenty months before Owen Hart’s harness malfunctioned and he died from injuries sustained when he fell from the ceiling in a similar situation to what was depicted on Nitro here. Still, after all these years, it’s still a bit unnerving to see make fun of a potential deadly situation like this, even in hindsight.
September 29, 1997
Sting returns for the first time since August as the nWo attacks a group of WCW guys, clearing the ring of attackers.
Nobody touches Sting.
October 13, 1997
The famous Sting Army. It remains perhaps the most unique gimmick they did through the entire year.
Without being too specific, a bunch of fake Stings make their way to the ring one-by-one only to get knocked down/out by nWo members. This goes on for a bit until finally, the original is revealed and all hell breaks loose. Awesome.
Watch it for yourself.
October 20, 1997
No video but DDP and Piper dressed as Sting attack Savage and Hogan. Then the legit Sting rappels down and attacks the nWo to close the show.
October 27, 1997
A match between Hogan and DDP ends prematurely and there’s a big brawl with DDP getting his ass kicked for old time’s sake. Sting comes out of the crowd and cleans house again.
I should note that the nWo had been doing tricks where fake Stings would pop up and cost WCW wrestlers matches here and there. I didn’t include it because it was stupid then and it’s stupid now. EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT STEVE BORDEN LOOKED LIKE.
November 3, 1997
More than a month away, the Hogan/Sting press conference for Starrcade is shown.
November 10, 1997
Nitro*This is the night after Montreal and Bret Hart was officially a member of the WCW roster. He did not appear for a little bit but try to realize how red hot the business was by this point in terms of interest from all corners of the world.
This episode is worth noting because Sting gets stopped for the first time by the nWo here. However, the problem was, Sting acts like he was shot when it was just a single punch to the back by Hogan.
The nWo beat Sting up as the show ends.
November 24, 1997
Here is a stupid gimmick where the nWo attacks a Sting dummy.
December 8, 1997
With Sting nowhere in sight for about 3 weeks now, funny stuff happens. Such as the lights going out and when they come back on, Savage is out cold in the ring with a sting mask on his face.
At 9:23 of this video, you’ll see the clip. They do the Sting dummy gimmick again as it crashes from the rafters. But, when Hogan goes to take the mask off, it’s the real Sting and Hogan pisses his pants. Sting lays out the rest of the nWo.
December 15, 1997
No video but Sting plays more mind games, going around the arena when the lights go out. Show goes off the air as Sting walks to the ring for Hogan.
Please, let this match happen already!
December 22, 1997
The go home show for Starrcade. Bret Hart shows up and the controversy is whether he’s nWo or not, because that’s all that mattered in WCW.
Hogan receives a gift and it’s a fake head of his. Hogan’s acting is about as good as you would imagine from his great Hollywood string of films.
Sting meanwhile appears atop the entranceway and zip lines to the ring (somewhat slowly) to close the show.
Yes, the final live image seen before Starrcade is of Sting zip lining into the ring to get to Hogan. In theory, it sounds like an awesome idea but it did not come off as smoothly in execution. First off, Hogan reacts like he legitimately saw the ghost of Andre The Giant skipping down the aisle and then Sting’s descent into the ring is literally as slow as can be. I’ll assume the physics of the situation produced the results since the angle from the top of the entrance set to the ring didn’t give him a chance to pick up more speed. After all, it’s not like Wrestlemania 12 in 1996 when Shawn Michaels zip lined from the top of the Honda Center into the ring (and Vince McMahon before him to test it out, too, before the show if you watched the True Story of Wrestlemania documentary).
The build had some weird moments, other moments of wrestlecrap and a number of outstanding developments which are still fondly remembered to this day. The thing to recall is the fact they had to book over a year’s worth of television shows without the ability to have Sting wrestle or really talk. They had to keep Hollywood Hogan strong and even with the hiccup of having Lex Luger beat him to win the championship for a week, they were able to accomplish that (never underestimate Hogan’s ability to keep himself looking well).
With that, the long, winding road has come to a halt and Starrcade is here. In part five of this feature, I will cover the historic pay-per-view match and we can judge (with a big helping of hindsight) whether the event lived up to the massive hype.