If you ask me to conjure the image of a perfect pro wrestler, there’s a good chance it’s going to look a lot like Sting.

I first saw Sting in the summer of 1994. In a World Championship Wrestling promotion that had fallen under the domination of the newly arrived Hulk Hogan, it was Sting that leapt off the screen. The man looked like an action figure! And that’s saying something because in the summer of 1994, I had only seen the WWF, which I had discovered due to actual action figures.

Sting’s appeal was easy to understand. He wore the bright, neon-soaked palettes of the early ’90s, emblazoned with a kickass scorpion. He wore colorful face paint, which came off as extremely cool for reasons I can’t articulate. His physique bulged with muscle, but he wasn’t a plodding behemoth like the musclebound WWF wrestlers I was used to. He was fast, and athletic. His promos radiated the energetic enthusiasm of a Saturday morning cartoon. All that, and he could have great matches.

Sting was the perfect pro wrestler.

As the years wore on, Sting’s character would grow with me. Sting transformed from the bleached blonde surfer that I struggle to classify as a “character” into what has become Sting’s defining image – “Crow Sting.” Gone were the shouting promos, bombast, and bright colors. That loudness was replaced with a quiet, mysterious, threatening presence. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in the late ’90s, with wrestling becoming a cultural phenomenon and the talk of teenagers at school, Sting’s black-clad, brooding persona was resonant. What do teens know best, if not angst? Sting’s heroic return to the ring at WCW Starrcade 1997 was the crowning moment of the most popular storyline in wrestling at the time. We’re going to ignore the rank incompetence that fumbled that story and led to the WCW that would become a pejorative leveled against later bad wrestling.

Sting remained a fixture of the boom period, then became the most glaring absence from the mega-stacked WWE roster of the early 2000s. When my interest in the WWE waned, my attention turned to upstart Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, which would quickly become Sting’s new home.

My interest in wrestling would come and go, but Sting when I was there, so was Sting.

This continued in All Elite Wrestling, where The Icon’s tenure began in 2020 with the same voice that introduced me to Sting in 1994. Tony Schiavone’s voice, cracking with emotion as he declared “it’s STIIIIING!” provided the call that defined what has become one of AEW’s iconic (pun extremely intended) moments.

That call also began what has become one of Sting’s most fascinating runs. No longer a young man, and coming off of a bad injury that ended his short stint in WWE, Sting has spent the last three years as a tag team wrestler alongside Darby Allin.

In an era where the stars of the past have been used as a crutch and had their shine dulled, Sting’s star power has shone brighter than it had in years. Not only did he carry a nostalgic appeal, but he was also regularly involved with matches that were bright spots on the card – wild tag team brawls that often saw him leaping from high places to steal the show. Hell, Sting won what might be the only good cinematic match in wrestling history when he pinned Ricky Starks in a warehouse.

In the Greensboro Coliseum on March 3, 2024, at AEW Revolution 2024, it will be show time for the last time. For the first time in 30 years, I’ll be watching wrestling, but Sting won’t be there. But whenever I conjure the image of a pro wrestler, it’s going to look like Sting.

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