Recently retired WCW/WWE wrestler, Steve Borden, aka Sting, is a man who has seized my attention for the last 20 years. His unique look and charisma was infectious. It made you want to paint your face, scream at the top of your lungs and pound your chest like a gorilla. Now that Sting is retired, I have had time to reflect on his professional legacy that he has left behind. An interesting part about being a 26-year-old wrestling fan with the Internet at your fingertips, is the ability to access the “dirt sheets” to read about all of the backstage stories about wrestling politics. Hogan refusing to lose on multiple occasions, Shawn Michaels and the Kliq whispering directions into Vince’s ear, and every backstage shoot (actual fight) that’s ever taken place.
It’s pleasing to see, that Sting has never been involved in any reputation-tarnishing stories, or backstage blowups in his professional work career. He’s a man who has displayed many leadership qualities during his time in the squared circle and in the locker room amongst his peers.
Humble Team Player
I’ve always found it fascinating that wrestlers, grown men & women, put their egos aside for the sake of good storytelling and entertainment. Every match, one person is told to lie down for the other and take the loss. Not everyone always cooperates, but you can find multiple instances in Sting’s career where common sense would lean towards Sting winning the match, but he didn’t. Whenever Sting was asked to “do the honors” for someone, he agreed without hesitation. Some may call that weakness; I call it putting your ego aside for the good of the company and helping your co-workers succeed.
Even in the twilight of his career, when he returned to WWE, he put the team first. Sting was set to wrestle Seth Rollins at Night of Champions in 2015. Seth was the current champ and destined to be the face of the company for years to come. Sting saw the potential in Seth and was asked to work with him and eventually lose to him at the Night of Champions pay-per-view, which Sting obliged. He knew that his time had passed and that it was time to help create future stars and future household names. Sting was even quoted in a Rolling Stones interview saying “It’s not about Sting, anymore.” This signifies that Sting swallowed his pride and was only focused on doing his job. During the match, Sting suffered an injury to his back and when the dust settled, he was in an ambulance ready to be taken to a hospital. Seth Rollins went to go check on Sting before he left and proclaimed that Sting told him it was an honor to work with him. Sting was humble in defeat and humble in victory.
The main reason why wrestling was so popular and so entertaining in the mid 90’s and early 00’s was because of competition. Sting worked for a rival company of WWE (WWF at the time) called WCW throughout most of his career. Since WCW was on a bit of a hot streak, WWF decided to make their product edgier and more over the top, thus leading to characters such as Stone Cold Steve Austin. Throughout this time period known as the Attitude Era, it was common for wrestlers to switch companies in favor of receiving more money for their work. Ted Turner, also known as billionaire Ted, owned WCW and Vince McMahon, credited for putting wrestling on the map, owned WWF. Needless to say, they weren’t shy about writing fat checks to coerce a wrestler to come work for the other team.
But through all of this, Sting never wavered and stayed loyal to the company that made him famous. He could have easily used his popularity to convince Vince to increase his pay and work for WWF, but he wasn’t concerned with money. He knew that without his early success in WCW, he would not have been such an asset in the wrestling industry. He wrestled for WCW on their last televised Monday night show before Vince McMahon purchased it; he was loyal to the people that helped him along his journey.
As mentioned in the last paragraph, it was common for big-name wrestlers to leave and work for other companies. In 1994, Hulk Hogan and The Macho Man Randy Savage joined WCW and immediately stepped into the spotlight. Sting had already been working for WCW since 1987 and won their version of the Heavyweight Championship on multiple occasions, but Hogan and Savage were bigger names and thus stole the spotlight for a while. It would have been easy for someone to take this personally and lash out either on their boss, themselves or their colleagues. Sting did none of that. Instead, like all the greats do, he re-invented himself. After taking some time off, Sting came back with a new look, character and image. He painted his face black and white and began showing up in the rafters of arenas, stalking Hulk Hogan. This angle between the two excited fans; they saw Sting as a mysterious savior who could strike fear into his opponents. He didn’t complain when things didn’t go his way. Instead, he did something about it, he changed, he improved and he inspired.
I see Sting as someone you want in your company. Someone who will stay loyal, do the right thing in every situation and who isn’t afraid to be himself. Keen self-awareness is a very underrated trait and before you lead others, it’s important to know who you are first. Sting is and will forever be a leader in my eyes and my favorite wrestler to ever step into the squared circle.