If you grew up a Stinger fan, then you’ll remember all the times his character got duped and double-crossed on TV. There was the time the Horsemen turned on him in 1990. Then the time Luger turned on him. And the other time Luger turned on him. Then the time Flair turned on him again to reform the Horsemen. Being the goodhearted hero who got double-crossed anyway was part of Sting’s charm and a critical part of his gimmick, even. Because no matter what, he’d still just be a good guy and we’d never stop cheering him.
Since Sting got to WWE, the narrative has been that he’s a bitter WCW holdout who stood in the rafters during the Monday Night War, fighting for the company’s supremacy. But Sting was so much more. Sting was the ultimate good guy. His character was a kid’s superhero dream; face paint, the scream and the patented Stinger Splash made him jump off the screen. He was just as dynamic as any WWE-created character. And he could go. Sting was always underrated as a wrestler, but in the early ’90s, he was as good as any top-tier talent. He had classics with Flair and Rick Rude. His tag match with Luger against the Steiners from SuperBrawl 1991 is one of the great unheralded tag matches of all-time. And Sting vs. Vader is one of the most perfect and best-wrestled feuds ever.
In the ring, Sting was as powerful as Luger. He was as agile as Steamboat and could lead a babyface comeback that’d make a Von Erich jealous. He had it all as a wrestler. But Sting was in WCW, meaning he’d never be Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior. But if Sting had been under Vince McMahon’s thumb in his prime, he would have eclipsed Hogan and anyone else with the company. Just think: Warrior was a worse version of Sting who couldn’t wrestle nearly as well or form relatively coherent sentences, and he still managed to be a megastar.
But Sting was our thing. If we watched him, we knew his greatness. Hogan was a Kardashian, dolled up and manufactured into greatness. Sting was all natural. He woke up like this.
The thing about Sting, though, was that his behind-the-scenes persona matched his on-screen naiveté. I don’t know if Sting either wasn’t good at being a backstage politician or he just didn’t care enough. Either way, he always fell victim to being undermined by the big WCW entity.
And nobody did more to destroy Sting than Hulk Hogan.
Hulk Hogan’s major concern when getting to WCW was that he become the top dog, which in his mind meant eliminating the most popular guys in the company: Sting and Ric Flair. Flair was easy. All Hogan had to do was beat him a few months in a row to assert his dominance. Getting rid of Sting — a fellow good guy — was trickier. Here’s how Hogan did it:
On the night Hogan debuted, Sting was made to look like an idiot in losing the belt to Ric Flair (so Flair could lose it to Hogan). On Hogan’s first pay-per-view, Bash at the Beach ’94, Sting was injured and didn’t compete. On the next pay-per-view, Vader pinned Sting after wrestling a match against The Guardian Angel (Ray Traylor). The concept of the match was a triangle elimination match where a coin toss decides who gets to rest while the other two guys have a match. Logic would indicate the babyface lose the coin toss and have to wrestle both matches. Instead, Vader wrestled two matches, beating Sting in the second match and making him look like a dope. On the next pay-per-view, Sting showed up without face paint to simply watch Hogan vs. Flair because he wanted to be a part of the moment as a fan. Because Hogan and Flair were that much bigger than he is.