At this year’s Survivor Series wrestling fans were treated to a truly unforgettable moment when Sting officially entered a WWE ring for the first time to help propel Team Cena to victory over Team Authority. A good percentage of the fans in attendance had probably seen very little of his work, and yet they instinctively knew that this man called Sting was a player. He was important.
A staple of WCW and later TNA, Sting shone just as brightly as any WWE/F star despite spending nearly his entire career on the wrong side of Vince McMahon’s ongoing war with the rest of the wrestling world. Nothing, not bad booking, politics or changing times could keep The Stinger down – if anything, it all helped forge him into one of the greatest good guys in wrestling history. Any wrestler will tell you, being a fan favorite is harder than playing the heel, and yet Sting has done it better than anybody for over 25-years, even when suffering through personal turmoils behind the scenes.
Here’s a few things you may not know about the life of the one and only Sting…
1) Hulk Hogan was responsible for Sting getting into the wrestling business. Sting, aka Steve Borden, did not grow up watching wrestling, and in his early-20s had absolutely no interest in getting into the business. Bodybuilding was young Steve’s thing and he spent most of his time working out in a Gold’s Gym near Venice Beach. One fateful day former NWA Tag Team Champion Red Bastien came into the gym looking to recruit members for a new musclehead wrestling stable called Powerteam USA, and he immediately set his sights on the man not yet called Sting. Bastien would try the hard sell numerous times, but Borden had absolutely no connection to wrestling, and thus no interest.
Two of these guys became world champions, the other two quit within months. Not a bad ratio, Powerteam USA.
That all changed when a certain blonde, mustachioed WWF Champion started regularly showing up at the gym. The soon-to-be Sting could sense Hogan’s success, and later saw him as Thunderlips in Rocky III, leading him to think that maybe, just maybe, this wrestling thing might be for him. Borden would finally take Bastien up on his offer, train under him and, after a few more bumps in the road, become one of the most prosperous wrestlers of all time. Despite that success, Sting still maintains that he doesn’t really watch wrestling and never has, so it’s a good thing one of the most important wrestlers ever just happened to mosey into his gym.
2) Sting began his career as Ultimate Warrior’s partner in a Blade Runner-themed tag team. Powerteam USA didn’t stick around for long because, well, they were just four jacked-up dudes plucked from random gyms and given a bare minimal amount of training, so they weren’t very good, but the two most promising guys from the team found their way to Jerry Jarrett’s Continental Wrestling Association in Memphis. Who were these two guys you ask? Well, one was obviously Steve Borden, and the other was Jim Hellwig, aka the future Ultimate friggin’ Warrior.
Initially the duo were known as The Freedom Fighters with Hellwig going by Justice and Steve going by Flash (because “Flash Borden”, get it?) The Memphis crowd, used to cheering for chubby dudes in crowns, turned on the beefy Freedom Fighters but quick, so they went heel, started painting their faces, changed their team name to The Blade Runners and their individual names to Sting and Rock. Yup, the Ultimate Warrior was the Rock back when Dwayne Johnson was still in middle school. The Blade Runners would last less than a year before breaking up, with Hellwig leaving for WCCW in Texas en route to WWF, and Sting doing a short stint in UWF in Louisiana before joining the NWA/WCW. Despite the relatively short tenure of their tag team Sting and Warrior would remain close friends until Warrior’s untimely death this past year.
Two brash young dorks, ready to take on the world.
3) Sting was also Rick Steiner’s first tag team partner. Speaking of unexpected tag team partners, believe it or not, Rick Steiner’s first tag team partner wasn’t his brother Scott, but the Stinger. Also, Rick Steiner used to look like this…
You mean Rick Steiner wasn’t born wearing wrestling headgear and a neon singlet?
Rick got into the wrestling biz several years before Scott, and formed his first full-time tag team with Sting while they were in Louisiana together. The two even won the UWF Tag Team Championships. Eventually though, the team would split and Rick was left to find a new pumped up blonde partner to replace his old one. Hmmm.
4) He owns the name “Sting” but kindly lets that other Sting use it. No discussion of Sting is complete without a mention of that other Sting. You know, the “Every Little Thing She Does…” guy. So, who’s the real Sting? You’d assume since the adult contemporary Sting came first and is the guy most non-wrestling nerds know about, he’s the one that owns he name, but nope, according to the US Patent Office, Steve Borden owns the rights to the name Sting. The longstanding rumor is that wrestling Sting lets music Sting use the name for a very reasonable fee of one dollar per year. I’m not sure if that dollar bit is true, but Sting certainly has had a chance to bring it up with other Sting, because the two have met and somehow the world didn’t blow up as a result…
“Hey, wanna listen to me play ‘Stairway to Heaven’? I own your name.”
5) Robocop is the only man who hasn’t betrayed Sting. The longstanding gag is that Sting is the world’s biggest sucker and everyone he teams with will end up turning on him, although honestly, it barely counts as a joke, because it’s pretty much 100% true. From Ric Flair, to Bret Hart, to Lex Luger (about half a dozen times) to literally all of WCW, a truly remarkable number of people have turned on our man Sting. Sometimes it seems like the only man who never betrayed or abandoned Sting was Robocop.
Wait, Robocop? Yup, Sting once teamed up with Robocop, and not just the guy who played Robocop or something lame. No, it was 1990 and Sting was nursing an injured knee, but WCW wanted to keep him fresh in fans’ minds, so naturally they decided the best way to keep him on TV was to team him up with an imaginary robot man. At that classic WCW PPV Capital Combat: The Return of Robocop, Sting found himself trapped in a steel birdcage by The Four Horsemen, when who should show up but the guy in the show’s title! Robocop sprung into action, making his way toward the cage with all the urgency of a guy enjoying a soft ice-cream down on the boardwalk and saved the Sting and his pink spaghetti strap tank top from, uh, boredom? I’m not sure what The Horsemen were actually planning to do with that cage.
Anyways, this is where things got tense. As the Four Horsemen scampered away, Sting awkwardly patted Robocop on the shoulder, and anybody with any knowledge of Sting’s career had to be expecting Robocop to pull an ED-209…
… but thankfully he didn’t, immediately establishing Sting’s partnership with Robocop as one of the most successful of his career. Just a theory, but I’m guessing Robocop got of load of Sting’s haircut and early-90s promo skills and pegged him as a friendly fellow cyborg.
6) The ultimate babyface battled addiction for much of his career. During 80s to early 90s Sting was the prototypical squeaky-clean babyface – compared to classic flattop Sting, John Cena is f*cking Charlie Sheen. Even when Sting took a turn for the dark and started cosplaying as Brandon Lee, he remained a fundamentally good, moral character. The wrestling business spares nobody though, and it turns out the most exemplary hero in pro-graps history time spent much of his career abusing one substance or another.
Hanging out with these guys may not have helped with the drug situation.
Sting is one of the few older wrestlers to openly admit to having heavily used steroids during the 80s, although he claims he stopped sometime around 1990 (a change in his body around then seems to back that up). Unfortunately during the 90s, when he was at the height of his babyface powers, Sting was falling into the classic pro wrestling spiral of booze, painkillers and muscle-relaxers. Around the time he was first made the change to Crow Sting, he was at rock bottom personally – strung out on booze and drugs, depressed and on the skids with his wife. Shortly thereafter, in 1998, Sting became a born again Christian at the urging of his brother, which Sting credits with reversing his downfall. Whatever your opinion of the whole born again thing, it seems to have worked for Sting, and today he seems far healthier and happier than most pro wrestlers of his vintage.
7) The Rock scared Sting away from WWE. Today a large part of Sting’s mystique arises from the fact that he’s the only top WCW guy to have never made the leap to WWF/E (until now of course). There’s been a lot of speculation as to why – many assume his Christian values kept him from joining with the seedy circus of Vince McMahon, but that doesn’t really hold water. For most of his tenure with TNA, the company was actually significantly edgier than WWE.
No, it wasn’t an ethical issue that kept Sting clear of Titan Towers — during the 90s Sting stuck with WCW because he was close friends with Eric Bischoff, who made sure Sting was very well taken care of financially, and Sting actually was interested in signing with WWF when WCW closed up shop, or at least he was until he witnessed an infamous segment featuring The Rock and Booker T.
In mid-2001 during the ill-fated Invasion storyline, Booker T would interrupt The Rock during an episode of Smackdown and Rock, high-larious jokester that he is, acted like he had no idea who Booker was, despite the fact that he’d been on WWF TV for months and was the current WCW World Champion. Sting happened to catch the segment and it put a chill up his spine – if five-time (five time, ect.) WCW Champion Booker T could be treated like a nobody out of spite, what would Vince and company do to Mr. WCW himself? It wasn’t worth the risk and when Jerry Jarrett, the man that gave Sting his start in the business, opened a new promotion called TNA, the choice seemed simple. It would be 13-years before Sting forgot Rocky’s “Who in the blue hell are you?” line and finally signed a WWE contract.
8) Sting starred in his own religious biopic. Back in 2004 a low-budget movie about the life and times of our hero entitled Sting: Moment of Truth came out, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to have happened. Sting deserves his own biopic! What was weird about the whole project is that the movie actually starred Sting. Playing yourself in a semi-fictional account of your own life is just…weird. The movie alternates between being laughably flat and Mexican soap opera “dramatic”, is about 40% stock footage and the only wrestling people other than Sting in the thing are Jeremy Borash and Jeff Jarrett. You can watch the whole thing below if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…
9) Technically, Sting has as many world championships as John Cena. When most people are asked to list the most prolific world champions of all time, Sting probably doesn’t come to mind, but the guy is technically a 15-time world champ. Granted, Sting’s total includes four TNA titles and a couple WCW International Heavyweight Titles (basically the Smackdown world title of WCW), but hey, Cena’s title history is littered with countless fart in a hurricane two-week reigns too. Bottomline, Sting deserves to be considered one of the elite world champs alongside your Flairs, Cenas and Hogans.
10) Sting once fought Walker Texas Ranger to a standstill. Okay WWF kids, still not convinced that Sting is one of the all-time bests? What if I told you that Sting guest-starred on and episode of Walker Texas Ranger and fought Chuck Norris himself to a draw? Yeah, I thought so.
Sure, Chuck hit Sting with a spin-kick at the end there, but he wasn’t even wearing his ACTION JEANS – no way there was enough snap in that kick to end the fight.
So there you are, a few things you might not have known about a man who’s been conquering the world of pro wrestling on his own terms for nearly 30-years. Got any favorite Sting facts or stories burning a hole in your back pocket? Feel free to hit the comments and share.
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