The Man Called Sting – The Origins Of An Icon

The man called Sting had an early journey in wrestling, unlike his contemporaries. Steve “Sting” Borden made his pro wrestling debut alongside Jim “The Ultimate Warrior” Hellwig.

Both future legends were part of a faction called Power Team USA in All-California Championship Wrestling. Afterward, they headed to CWA in Memphis, Tennesse, as The Freedom Fighters.

The team was presented as squeaky clean babyfaces. Unfortunately, the fans thought the team was too squeaky clean.

It wasn’t long before the duo hired Buddy Wayne as their coach. Wayne was a well-known heel in the Memphis area.

His presence gave the team that heel rub. After Buddy Wayne, they aligned themselves with Dutch Mantell, becoming one of the most feared tag teams in CWF.

Dirty Dutch Mantel with The Blade Runners : r/SquaredCircle
[Photo: Reddit/SquaredCircle]

The Blade Runners

After taking out the competition in the south, Borden and Hellwig moved to Bill Watts Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF).

They changed their name to Blade Runners. They also joined a heel stable led by “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert. In 1986, Hellwig left for WWF to begin his transformation into the Ultimate Warrior.

Sting was left without a tag team partner. Eddie Gilbert took Hellwig’s place and won the UWF Tag Team Championship twice. Interestingly, Sting also won the UWF Tag Team Title with another future Tag Team specialist, Rick Steiner.

Sting and Steiner lost the titles after Gilbert accidentally hit Sting with a boot while trying to help the champs cheat to retain.

This led to our first Introduction of Sting as a fan favorite. After Gilbert and company attacked Sting, Chris Adams, a perennial fan favorite, made the save. Sting and Adams then waged war against Gilberts Hot Stuff and Hyatt Inc.

Eddie Gilbert may have been Stings’ on-screen antagonist, but back in the locker room, Gilbert knew young Steve Borden was the future.

The Man Called Sting – It’s Showtime …..

Another legend also saw Sting as the future of the business, none other than Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes was lead booker for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).

He knew that to make Sting into a major star, he had to build him. Part of that build was keeping the title away from Sting so that fans would be off the chart when he finally wins it. That’s smart booking. That’s Dusty Rhodes.

“Stinger, we’re gonna put some color on your face, some color on your tights, color on your boots. I want you to glow in the dark, baby, and then I’m gonna put you with Ric Flair.” 

-Dusty Rhodes.

Watch The Best Ric Flair Matches Of All Time
[Photo: Uproxx]

Sting vs Ric Flair 

After being established as a rising star, Sting Challenged NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair at Clash of the Champions. Sting went the time limit with Flair.

The match ended in a draw. Dusty knew what he was doing. Sting was now the uncrowned NWA Champion. The fans were salivating for the day he won the actual title.

Sting went on to team with Kolof against the other four horsemen NWA Tag Team Champions Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard.

That match also ended in a 20-minute draw. Sting was proving he could last with the Horseman. It was just a matter of time before he beat Flair for the Gold.

To add to more of Sting’s ability to connect with the fans, Rhodes had the Road Warriors attack Sting. He then aligned himself with the Stinger vs The Road Warriors.

It was clear Sting had the backing of all the biggest faces in NWA. In 1989, Sting had another match with Ric Flair that also ended in yet another draw. What would it take for the Stinger to win the title?

Knowing that it was smart to keep the title off Sting, Rhodes booked Sting to instead defeat NWA Television Champion Mike Rotundo aka IRS.

Sting had his first taste of singles gold and was on fire as the NWA Television Champion Sting defended the title against The Great Muta at the 1989 Great American Bash. This match was most notable for its finish. Sting appeared to have pinned Muta.

However, an instant replay showed Muta’s shoulder was up at the count of two. Due to this, the NWA Television Title was declared vacant. Another roadblock was put in Stings’ way.

However, this only made Sting more popular.  Sting and Muta started a rivalry over the title. Muta ended up winning it after using a blackjack on Sting. Sting lost but by controversial means.

The fans were getting behind Sting in droves. More and more little stingers were painting their faces like the star. Dusty Rhode’s plan was becoming a success. NWA Champion Ric Flair defended his title against Terry Funk at the Great American Bash.

Funk was one of the most brutal heels in NWA. After the match, Funk and Muta attacked Flair. Sting ran to save his former rival.

Sting was proving even though Flair had their differences he could not let Funk injure the Nature Boy. Sting and Flair started a rivalry with Funk and Muta. During this Sting became an honorary member of the Four Horsemen.

Sting was now part of the elite. It seemed he had done it all except win the NWA Championship. At Starrcade 89, Sting won a tournament.

His final opponent was Ric Flair. This victory over Flair put Sting as the number one contender for the NWA title. Flair was not happy.

Flair tried to persuade Sting to relinquish his title opportunity. Sting refused. This led to Flair and company kicking him out of the horseman. Sting was headed for a showdown with Flair.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t only the booking that kept Sting away from the title. Sting suffered a legit injury that forced him to take time off right in the middle of his rivalry with Flair.

The NWA was forced to find another opponent for WrestleWar. Another up-and-coming star, Lex Luger, took Stings’ place.

During the match, Sting appeared at ringside to motivate Luger. The Horseman attacked Sting. Due to Luger leaving the ring to help his friend, Luger was counted out.

Rumor has it this was due to Flair not wanting to drop the title to Luger; he promised it to Sting. These types of events seemed to follow Luger.

Years later, at SummerSlam 93, after hitting WWF Champion Yokozuna with his metal-plated elbow caused the 500-pound champion to get counted out. Again, this was due to bookers not wanting to put the title on Luger.

Sting finally returned. He renewed his rivalry with the Four Horseman. He even wrestled a cross-promotional match tagging with Robocop.

On July 7, 1990, at The Great American Bash, Sting finally defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Sting went on to feud with Sid Vicious, aka Sycho Sid.

Daily Pro Wrestling History (12/16): Sting vs. The Black Scorpion at Starrcade 1990 - WON/F4W - WWE news, Pro Wrestling News, WWE Results, AEW News, AEW results
[Photo: F4WOnline]
After defeating the monster Sid, a masked man calling himself the Black Scorpion attacked Sting. Sting finally got the Black Scorpion in a steel cage match. After the match, the Scorpion was unmasked. Fans were shocked that Ric Flair was the Black Scorpion.

Sting Lives Dangerously 

On January 11, 1991, Sting lost the championship back to Flair. After this, NWA started to divide into several different territories. World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was born.

Eventually, Sting would become synonymous with WCW. Unquestionably, he was the face of the company. In WCW, Sting and Luger challenged The Steiner Brothers for the WCW tag team title.

The team came up short, but Sting’s performance elevated him even further. Sting then began a feud with Ivan Koloff after Koloff hit him with his chain.

In August 1991, Sting defeated Stunning Steve Austin to win a tournament for the WCW United States Championship. For new wrestling fans if you ever get a chance to watch Steve Austins WCW run, do it.

You can see the cocky swagger that was the beginning of becoming Stone Cold shortly after Sting was defeated by another Legend Ravishing Rick Rude at the Clash of Champions XVII for the title.

Down but not out, Sting won the first-ever Battlebowl battle royal at Starrcade 91. He then began an extreme with Paul E Dangerously, aka Paul Heyman. Dangerously led a faction called the Dangerous Alliance.

Ravishing Rick Rude was among the established stars of this faction. Rude resented Sting being called the Franchise of WCW. Not only did Sting have to deal with Rude but also Lex Luger was jealous of Stinger.

Luger turned heel and became WCW Champion. On February 29, 1992, Sting defeated Luger, winning his first WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Superbrawl II.

After finally defeating the Dangerous Alliance, Sting faced the biggest challenge of his career.

Sting and Vader
Photo / Cageside Seats

Sting vs Big Van Vader 

Big Van Vader arrived in WCW. He was a mastodon weighing 450 lbs. He immediately went after Sting. On April 12, 1992, Vader splashed Sting three times, breaking the champion’s ribs. Sting would not go down without a fight.

He challenged Vader on July 12, 1992, at the Great American Bash. Unfortunately, this was a mistake as Vader took an injured Stings title.

Sting took a few weeks off but soon found himself in battles with the likes of Jake Roberts and Cactus Jack, aka Mick Foley.

While Sting was preoccupied, Vader lost the WCW title to Ron Simmons. Sting, however, did get a measure of revenge, defeating Vader at Starrcade in a King of Cable tournament finale.

In 1993, Vader was once again the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. Sting saw this as an opportunity to avenge his loss a year ago. He was defeated in a strap match at Superbrawl III.

[Photo: Wrestlezone]
Stinger, however, finally defeated Vader on March 11 in London, England, for the belt. It was short-lived as the mastodon once again toppled Sting and regained the title 6 days later. In another surprising turn of events, Ric Flair defeated Vader for the championship.

Sting vs Ravishing Rick Rude

Sting then went on to feud with Ravishing Rick Rude for the WCW International title. He defeated Rude; however, the ravishing one was never one to walk away without a fight.

In 1994 in Japan, Rude defeated Sting, but the decision was later reversed. An instant replay showed Rude using the belt to smack Sting in the head.

Sting did not want to win this way and refused the win. On TV that was the storyline, however, Rude had to drop the title due to a back injury.

That injury eventually caused Rick Rude to retire. The title was vacated. A tournament was held at Slamboree in 1995.

Did Sting really end Rick Rude's career? - Quora
[Photo: Quora]
In the finals, Sting defeated Vader and became the WCW International World Heavyweight Champion. In a title unification match, Ric Flair defeated Sting with Sensous Sherri’s help.

After that loss, Sting began to tag with WCW’s newest arrivals, Hulk Hogan and The Macho Man Randy Savage. Seeing these three icons in the ring together was an amazing moment.

Sting helped the Mega Powers take on The Dungeon of Doom. During this rivalry, Sting defeated Meng to win the WCW United States Championship.

Sting competed in the first-ever match on WCWS’s new flagship show, Monday Nitro. Here’s a fun fact: not only was he in the first match in WCW Nitro history, but he was also in the very last match ever in 2001.

This is why Sting will always be known as the WCW franchise player, no matter where he goes.

Ric Flair eventually convinced Sting to join forces. The Nature Boy was attacked by Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman. Sting and Flair teamed up at Halloween Havoc against AA and Pillman.

Before the match, Flair was attacked. This meant that Sting had to wrestle in a handicap match. Little did Sting know this was an ambush.

Towards the end of the match, Flair made his way to the ring. Instead of helping Sting, he joined the others, beating down the icon.

Sting went on to feud with Flair and The Four Horseman. The Horseman even went after Hulk Hogan and The Macho Man.

Sting eventually lost the US title to Kensuke Saski. To make matters worse, night after night, he was being beat down by Flair and company. Something had to change.

WCW Tag Titles 

Stings ring gear began to get darker. Gone was the blonde flat top. Sting was evolving. Sting then teamed with his friend Lex Luger. The duo defeated Harlem Heat for the WCW Tag Team Titles on January 22, 1996.

In the matches, Luger would cheat. It seemed as though Sting never really caught on to Luger’s tactics.

In a surprising turn of events, Luger was injured, and Booker T took his place. Sting and Booker T developed a mutual respect.

Due to that respect, Sting gave Harlem Heat a title shot. Unfortunately, Luger and Sting lost the WCW tag team championship to The Heat.