Sting has been a source of contention amongst Hall of Fame voters and readers of the Wrestling Observer in general. Some thought he should have been a no doubt member of the Hall of Fame years ago; others think it’s not as cut and dry.
He gets plenty of votes, but never enough to get him past the required 60%. When I got my ballot for the first time last year, I thought long and hard about who should be voted in.
Sting wasn’t one of those people.
On my basic level of understanding who is a Hall of Famer and who isn’t, Sting was never the draw people intended him to be. He was a middling worker and the less said about his TNA run the better. People who have been vocal Sting supporters for years will have my neck for such scandalous accusations, but that’s my knee jerk reaction to Sting in the Hall of Fame. However, if we take an established list of questions when it comes to the Hall of Fame, like the Gordy list, perhaps we can dig deeper and really take a look and see if Sting’s worthy of a Hall of Fame vote.
Was he a draw?
Well, no. The idea of him WAS to be a draw, but it never materialized. He beat Ric Flair at Great American Bash 1990 with the intention of him of being the guy of the 90s for WCW, like how Flair was the guy of the 80s. That was the goal, but it never fully materialized. Sting was pushed as the top guy from 90-94, but aside from big pops he didn’t draw people in. In fact, house show attendance went right down the toilet during this period, to the point they started doing large bulks of tapings in Florida. It might not necessarily be Sting’s fault, but he wasn’t the answer to WCW’s problems in the early 90s.
There were moments Sting was a draw, yes. That can’t be denied. The one everyone points to is Starrcade 1997, built around the Sting/Hogan match that had been building up for a year. It did an incredible buyrate and gate and easily was a huge highlight during WCW’s hot streak. Unfortunately, the booking of that match completely destroyed Sting as a draw. The match itself was horrid, he won it in the most convoluted manner possible, was stripped of it the next night for bogus reasons, won it again to zero fanfare then lost it again to even less. WCW was still doing fine, but then again it was doing fine in 1997 too, a time when Sting wasn’t a headliner as he was standing in the rafters looking sullen for most of that year. By mid-1998, Sting was in the nWo Wolfpack and was largely forgotten about as a main event draw. He was definitely a guy who could be put in a main event, as the next few years would prove, and was always popular, but he didn’t move the needle in the least bit. WCW had it’s best year of business in 1998, but it wasn’t because Sting was headlining shows.
TNA we don’t need to get into because, and this might make people mad but let’s be real, TNA never drew unless we’re talking their UK tours, which we’re not. You could point to his one match at WrestleMania last year, but again he did not headline that show, and the majority of people didn’t watch WrestleMania because of Sting. It’s harder than ever to determine a draw in 2015 because beyond Brock Lesnar, there really isn’t such a thing as a draw in WWE anymore.
2. Was he a international, regional or national draw?
We kind of answered national already. Regional, well, he did break the into Memphis and Mid South territories, but he wasn’t really a draw in either place. International, he did work tours in New Japan and did get over there, but wasn’t really a draw.
3. How many years did he have as a top draw?
You can say for sure he was WCW’s top draw in 90-93, sure, but that was when business was at a free fall for WCW. 94-99 wasn’t so much Sting but a whole bunch of main eventers who were drawing money, even though they put on some of the worst main events possible. I’d say three, but they were three not very good years.
4. Was he ever regarded as the best worker in the world? Was he ever regarded as the best worker in his country or in his promotion?
Even for staunch Sting defenders, I think this would be a no on all counts. We’ll get to this in more depth in other questions, but I think Sting was good as his opponent was, so sometimes he’ll be great, other times he’d be fine and sometimes he’d just be bad.
5. Was he ever the best worker in his class?
I’m not going to say Sting sucked in the ring. He was never bad, from what I’ve watched of him, unless we go back to the Blade Runner days but that was when he was what, a year into the business? There were flashes of greatness when it came to Sting as a worker, and through the mid 90s with the right guy he could have a great match. There’s really no great Sting match after about 1996 at best. He was fine after that, but never what I would call great or even the best during any of his run.
6. How many years did he have as a top worker?
92-93, with his series of matches with Cactus Jack and Vader, were probably some of the best “workrate” feuds of his career, but I think that was because of the guys he was working with. I would never consider him a top worker in any era, but the closest he would come to being consistently great would probably be that time frame.
7. Was he a good worker in his prime? Was he a good worker after his prime?
In his prime I’d say he was a decent worker, but that prime didn’t last that long. Once it ended, he was still fine, but worked to the level of the guys he was working with.
8. Did he have a large body of excellent matches? Did he have them against a wide variety of opponents?
Looking back in terms of four star matches from Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, the last one had was in a Lethal Lockdown match from TNA Lockdown 2007 (****). Before that, there was a Nitro match against DDP, also four stars, from 1999. Matches with Cactus Jack, Vader and Ric Flair all earned four stars, and also had some four star matches teaming with the likes of Flair and Luger against teams like the Steiner Brothers and The Great Muta. There’s also the two War Games matches from 1991 and 1992 that entered the five star territory.
If we’re looking at just individual matches, there’s only three guys he had top notch workrate feuds with. I guess you can make a case if you include the tag matches and the War Games/Lethal Lockdown matches, but considering the long gap between four star matches, you can’t say there was a real great variety or that he was even that consistent as a performer throughout his entire career. My answer to both questions is no. He had great matches with a variety of opponent, but not a wide variety, and excellent matches are there, but there are large gaps in his career where he didn’t.
9. Did he ever anchor his promotion?
I’ll give him this. When Flair left in 1991, he had to be the top babyface. There just wasn’t anyone else to fill that slot. Barry Windham probably was the closest thing, but his career was going down fast and never had the charisma Sting had. That charisma put him on top for the next few years and made him the guy. He wasn’t a draw, but there was no question he was the top guy in WCW at the time. Once Hogan came in though, he wasn’t any longer. Heck, you can even say once Flair returned in 1993 he was no longer the anchor.
10. Was he effective when he was pushed on top of the cards?
I think he was the right guy to go with when he first started in the NWA, but I wouldn’t call him effective when business was way down. You can point to Starrcade 97 again, where he was effective, but he didn’t have any long lasting box office power at all.
11. Was he valuable to his promotion before his prime? Was he still valuable to his promotion after his prime?
I think he was valuable in a sense that he was a popular guy, and you always need popular guys in a promotion. He was still a guy that could be pushed, both during and after his prime. Even today, in key moments he could be an attraction, as we saw at Night of Champions. And he always was an attraction in TNA, just never one that meant anything business wise.
12. Did he have an impact on a number of strong promotional runs?
That’s a tough one to answer because you’d have to define impact. I think in the end, people will remember him for his WCW runs, and maybe if they’re hardcore enough, the TNA run. The WWE run is still out the window because it’s unclear if he’ll return to action any time soon. He’s definitely one of the people you think about when it comes to both WCW and TNA so I think this one is a yes for him.
13. Was he involved in a number of memorable rivalries, feuds or storylines?
In WCW, absolutely. His feuds with the likes of Ric Flair, Vader, Cactus Jack, Hulk Hogan, Rick Rude were all very memorable. And one of the best builds to a main event ever was him standing in the rafters for a full year looking down at the nWo and eventually siding with WCW again. In TNA, I think there were some memorable storylines here and there, but nothing as tangible as his WCW work.
14. Was he effective working on the mic, working storylines or working angles?
The thing that made Sting was his bombastic personality. I wouldn’t call his promos the best, because they weren’t, but he was great in selling a storyline whenever needed and he was a great babyface promo that had a lot of fire and personality. I always thought he was a kind of better Ultimate Warrior. Not as bombastic and out of his mind as the Warrior, but a far better worker and more effective promo that could last longer at the top.
16. What titles and tournaments did he win? What was the importance of the reigns?
He won the BattleBowl in 1991. Maybe I should end the article here, can’t be topped, right?
Well, okay, he also won the WCW Title six times, the International Title two times and is a former NWA champion, bringing the total to nine world championships. I think the two people will remember the most is the first one against Flair, which didn’t work out the way people intended, and the one where he beat Hogan at Starrcade 97…which was immediately invalidated. So I wouldn’t call either title run a success, but they were both pivotal moments in WCW’s trajectory, just not for the better. He’s also won the TNA title four times, but let’s be real, as much as the Mecca types of the world will tell you otherwise, they were four completely ineffective runs as champion.
17. Did he win many honors and awards?
He won the PWI 500 in 1992, among other awards from the magazine over the years like Comeback of the Year (2006, 2011, 2014), Most Improved Wrestler, Most Inspirational, and Wrestler of the Year for 1990.
Observer wise, he won Match of the Year in 1988 against Ric Flair at Clash of the Champions, which still to this day was probably one of Sting’s best singles matches. He also won Most Charismatic in 1988 and 1992, Most Unimproved in 1990, two 5 star War Games matches, Best Babyface in 1992, and two worst worked matches of the year against Tony Palmore (1995, I believe in a worked shoot style match that did no one any favors) and Jeff Hardy (2011, the one where Jeff came to the ring completely blitzed out of his mind and they had to end the match after 90 seconds). The good outweighs the bad, so at least there’s that positive.
18. Did he get mainstream exposure due to his wrestling fame? Did he get a heavily featured by the wrestling media?
I do remember Sting trying to start an acting career in the late 90s, but it wasn’t anything people would remember. I don’t think people would know him immediately if he was walking down a street like a Rock or Hulk Hogan, but probably a notch below that. Anyone growing up as a kid in the 90s would probably remember him. In other words, I don’t think he ever received big time mainstream exposure. In the wrestling world, however, I think people would immediately know who he is and what he did, especially for his WCW run.
19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?
He was far more known as a singles wrestler than a tag team wrestler. He did team with the future Ultimate Warrior as the Bladerunners in the UWF, but they were super green and not very good at all, plus Warrior left before they had any real impact in the territory. Sting also teamed with Lex Luger off and on, including a run as tag team champions. They’d have better matches together than the Bladerunners, but it wasn’t a long term thing. So the answer here is a no.
20. Was he innovative?
I wouldn’t say so. I think he was unique in terms of personality, and carved his own path in a way that made him stand out through that, not his in ring work. There’s a difference being unique and being innovative and I just don’t see Sting as a innovative worker. Innovative promo is kind of pushing it too.
21. Was he influential?
To me, he was influential in that many future wrestlers when they were kids saw Sting as this great babyface that they got into and wore the makeup, got a flat top, etc. and was probably their catalyst into becoming a professional wrestler. I wouldn’t say he was influential as far as a worker or talker. People love to do the Stinger Splash though, so that’s a thing!
22. Did he make the people and workers around him better?
Sting was not dead weight, but he certainly wasn’t someone that was going to take a crappy worker and make them have better matches. If he was going to face Hogan, he’d have a Sting versus Hulk Hogan match — usually it wasn’t very good. If he was facing a Cactus Jack or a Vader, it was going to be pretty damn great because both of those names worked their ass off to have great matches. Sting always stepped up to the occasion when he was facing off against great workers. He was someone who would work on the level of his opponents, but nothing beyond that.
23. Did he do what was best for the promotion? Did he show a commitment to wrestling?
Sting to me was someone who broke into the business, probably didn’t know a lot about it but realized there could be money made. As a result, he worked his ass off and did show a commitment to wrestling, especially once he became a popular act. He always did what was right for business; you’d never hear about Sting refusing to do a job or not wanting to do this or that. I believe he did do what was best for the promotion, the problem most of the time was that the promotion didn’t know what was best for it.
24. Is there any reason to believe that he was better or worse than he appeared?
No. When Sting was great, you could see why people were into him. When he wasn’t, you knew why things weren’t working out the way they were planned. What you saw was what you would get with Sting. Granted, early in his career he was protected a lot since he was so green, but by the time they were ready to go with him at the top, he was what he was.
Is Sting a Hall of Famer?
Doing this Gordy list made me come to this final, solid conclusion (at least in my mind), and it’s no, Sting is not a Wrestling Observer Hall of Famer.
What Sting was is a very popular figure in professional wrestling in the late eighties and early nineties, and because he was popular and a former world champion, some people think he should get recognition as a Hall of Famer.
The Hall of Fame is much more than a popularity contest; you have to prove that you were a draw during that time, or that you were a fantastic worker, or that you were an integral part of that promotion. Sting was a legit draw on PPV approximately one time. He was a good performer when facing good workers, but was middling when having to face guys who weren’t as good, and that’s being nice. While people like to think there would be no WCW without Sting — that isn’t the case. Sting was super popular, and it would feel like something was missing without him, but he was not a success in the early 90s when they were dependent on him. Worse yet, by 97-98 he was another face in a top heavy main event scene. He wasn’t a Ric Flair type that could affect business. He was popular, but not ultra popular.
This Gordy List, and my opinions, might sting a little to those who have been hoping for a Sting induction (and I swear, pun not intended). But judging by this list, I just don’t see it. He was a popular guy, and people will always remember him as being the face of WCW. That’s true on a superficial level, but when you go back and look at this list, history will tell you otherwise. Besides, like Dave Meltzer has said it on numerous occasions, if Sting was such a lock, he’d be voted in already. He hasn’t, and there are reasons why.