In the previous Overrated Special, I provided an overview of my opinion of Sting as the most overrated wrestler of all time. Sting's continuing talks of having a match with the Undertaker have spawned a debate on his talents yet again RIGHT HERE at Cageside Seats.
In light of this continuing debate, I have decided to put forth an analysis of Sting's greatest matches and his ability to draw fans to pay to see him, the two major points of contention amongst those involved in the debate.
The Great American Bash (1990): Ric Flair (c) vs Sting for the NWA Heavyweight Championship
Let's start off with the good that came from Sting in this match. His presses are well executed and he gets great elevation when hitting his dropkicks and one of his finishers, the Stinger Splash. Outside of that, there isn't much to like from Sting's side of things. The majority of his offense is sloppy and just plain ugly to watch. His punches and clotheslines (his most used move in this match) are a sad sight to behold and the only thing that saves them is how beautifully they're sold by his opponent, Flair. The same occurs with the always terrible Scorpion Death Lock and a roll up. The roll up is particularly abhorrent as all Sting does is stick his arm in between Flair's leg. He doesn't move with Flair at all and only leaves that position once Flair has hit the mat.
Even Kelly Kelly would have been embarrassed by that roll up attempt.
Outside of his offense, Sting is inconsistent with his selling (even when you toss out his multiple "Hulk Up" moments through out the match). When Sting does actually attempt to sell in this match, it is pathetic and does little to make Flair's offense seem convincing. His selling consists of some slight flails and absolutely no expression changes. As a matter of fact, Sting's expression changes so little throughout the match, his high and low moments seem to garner no reaction from him outside of the occasional howl.
The worst of it, though, consists of the selling of a knee injury. They story for the match was that Sting was coming off a major knee injury and Flair would work that very knee. Outside of the occasional limp, Sting does little to sell the fact that he's hurt when he isn't in his "Hulk Up" mode. In the one instance of a good sell for it, Sting's leg crumples underneath him because of it. The problem is that he forgot which knee was the weakened one and he sold the good leg.
This match is absolutely carried by the performance of Flair.
Clash of Champions XVII: Ric Flair vs Sting in a Title Unification Bout
Four years later, Flair and Sting would have another of what is considered Sting's greatest matches. There are some improvements in Sting's performance, but the majority of it stays stagnant and, once again, Flair absolutely carries this match. The improvements that Sting made are in the extraneous details that adds to a match. In a complete turn around from their match at the Great American Bash, Sting is actually emotive throughout. The trials and tribulations of the match can actually be read on his face while he's working. It still isn't all that good, but it is a hell of a lot better than before.
The weaknesses on display in the first are still present here. The only thing different in what Sting does in terms of working is a lack of knee injury and a superplex. Every single spot and every bit of offense he worked in the first match is present here. There is absolutely no evolution in Sting's performance. It stands in stark contrast to Flair, who mixes it up from their earlier encounter while stepping up his selling. Sting's poor selling, on the other hand, is a continual drag on the match.
Like the previous encounter, this match derives its greatness from the performance of Flair, as Sting doesn't bring much to the table.
Starrcade 1992: Sting vs Vader
Sting's performance here is leaps and bounds above his matches with Flair. Sting shows a much more varied and interesting offense. His athleticism is on full display with a variety of flying maneuvers and impressive slams. As the smaller man in this match, though, Sting does little to convince us that Vader is the monster that he really is. He sells more poorly here than he did for the much smaller Flair. There are serious problems with your ability as an in ring performer (whether through unwillingness or inability) for the monster to be selling for you like that with little in return. Sting didn't even sell for the barricade when he went head first into it from a missed splash.
Like the original Flair match, there was no emotive performance for Sting all throughout. It is most notable in the two biggest spots of the match -- the finish and the second rope suplex. Sting is not required to do much in these spots but to go along with Vader and he can't even summon a strained look to make it seem like he is actually lifting up a 400-pound mammoth.
Although this was likely his best performance to date, it still only registers as "good" as opposed to "great." If he had been in the ring with someone performing at his level, the match wouldn't have been anywhere near the level that it was.
Beach Blast 1992: Sting vs Cactus Jacks in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
Sting's performance in this match is the best in his career and worthy of being called great. Sting (and Foley) are firing on all cylinders in this match. His selling is not great, but it is much better than any of his other matches. Sting's athletic offense and his acting are the best that they get.
There isn't much to critique negatively about Sting's work in this match. It contains a lot of good spots and even some surprisingly good mat work. Unlike most of Sting's matches, Foley does not carry him, as both men bring their "A" game.
The performances shown here are Sting's greatest and you can see where they fall apart under scrutiny. Sting's best doesn't warrant putting him in the discussion of the greatest of all time. This is just taking into consideration his short peak as a worker and ignoring Sting's propensity for having terrible and un-watchable matches (even during this peak). To consider Sting an all-time great with the work he put in is a disservice to the many great wrestlers in history.
Something to take into consideration here is that while these matches may have been the best of his career, Sting was was never amongst his counterparts best opponents and he was never the other half of any of their best matches.
Listed here are some of the men considered Sting's greatest opponents and some of the men they had better matches with:
Ric Flair: Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, Barry Windham, Harley Race, Randy Savage, Kerry Von Erich, HBK, Rick Rude
Vader: Antonio Ioki, Stan Hansen, Bam Bam Bigelow, Nobuhiko Takada, Great Muta
Mick Foley: Undertaker, HHH, Rock, Terry Funk, HBK, Edge
Rick Rude: Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Ric Flair, Jerry Lawler, Dutch Mantell, Paul Orndorff, Ultimate Warrior, Kerry Von Rich, Brian Pillman
Great Muta/Keiji Mutoh: Hiroshi Hase, Genichru Tenyru, Jushin Liger, Owen Hart, Vader, Bigelow, Steiners
That's all for this week in Underrated and Under Appreciates Series (Overrated Special). Stay tuned next week as I take a look at the myth of Sting as a draw.