The one thing that is certain about Sting...Ah forget it.
Sometimes as a wrestling fan, you get the opportunity to witness what seems like the impossible in front of your eyes. This may seem like hyperbole, but the unique nature of wrestling allows for the idea of the 'dream match' whilst allowing for both organic and kayfabe reasons to care.
At Survivor Series 2014, Team Cena (Cena, Ziggler, Big Show, Ryback and Erick Rowan was tangling with Team Authority (made of Seth Rollins, Luke Harper, Mark Henry, Rusev and Kane). If Team Cena won, the Authority would be removed from power. However, should the Authority win, everyone except Cena from his team would be fired. So there was everything to play for when Triple H attempted to rig the game (pun intended) by stacking the deck against the valiant Dolph Ziggler.
I have often said that WWE, for all their faults, can create a hell of a moment. The sort of thing that, as fans we say "remember when...?" several years later. And yet, for all that the whole thing became a sort of damp squib. So why?
In most cases, when the WWE screw this sort of thing up, I would accuse them of not thinking. But in this case, I think the WWE took what should have been a simple premise (Sting coming to WWE) and overthought it. Y'see, when it comes down to it, the idea of a Triple H/Sting WreslteMania feud should be interesting (granted it's not Taker/Sting but I assume they may have been thinking it later on). And now you had added the premise as to why the Game would be pissed at the Icon. But the WWE couldn't allow the feud to be simple.
Nor Sting's character.
See, here's the thing about repackaging/debuts/whatever-the-hell-this-is. As a wrestler's gimmick gets longer in the tooth, he's at risk of suffering of what I like to call 'Wyatt Syndrome'. This is not a dig at Bray, as many long time readers will know, he is one of my favourite workers. Instead it is the phenomenon of the compromises and dilution of the gimmick as the worker has to fit into booking plans. Bray is one of the foremost examples of this- his cult leader gimmick diluted and compromised by various booking decisions to the point where it lost a lot of its potency. With Sting, WWE had the opportunity to boil it all back down to what made him so hot in 1997 WCW and update it in a way that made it relevant to a new audience. Unfortunately, nobody in WWE really knew what Sting was. Was he a dark Batman-like figure, or was he something more occult (he, like Bray Wyatt, had a strange static feedback loop to interrupt matches). As a result of this it was not only difficult to draw a bead on Sting's character, but to set him apart as something unique. I realise you can't do the rappel down any more but you need to think how to make him stand out. Taker has his gong, Wyatt has his lantern, maybe you could have done something more with the crows? I'm just spitballing here.
And while we're on the subject of simplicity, it would have been great if WWE could have just dialled down the whole victory lap thing a smidge. Because when he appeared at Survivor Series it took all of 10 secs for the announcers to crow about how Sting had never been in a WWE ring before, and repeat it ad naseum. And the thing is that you don't have to do this. For those who'll mark out for Sting, seeing him is enough, we can fill in the gravity of the moment ourselves. But the more that WWE harped on about the guy coming to WWE, the more it became 'WWE finally landing the last big fish' rather than 'fans getting to see a dream match'. And the fact that Vince in particular can't see the difference between these two points of view may inform much of what occured after this.
And the further problem is when you want to say that Sting is the last WCW guy to make it to WWE, the natural question to come back is..."Where has he been?" And the thing is, you can't really answer that the way you can with AJ, claiming that he's been wrestling all over the world in Japan and the USA as a ring master, because we all know that between WCW and WWE Sting was only really with one wrestling company and frankly Vince couldn't bear to utter their name. Which meant for all those who a little unfamilair, they could have been forgiven for thinking Sting had been cryogenically frozen after the end of WCW and just discovered again.
Furthermore, what also hangs over Sting like the world's most fetid albatross is these guys:
Fun fact- by the time that Sting appeared on WWE TVs the Authority was well over a year old. So when Sting came out and seemed to deliver its death blow, already he had made a welcome impact (no pun intended) and saw clear an angle that was running out of steam.
Until, of course, they brought it back a month later.
And yes, I know that the period running up to the Rumble is often a little...difficult to pack with things (why would Roman fight Big Show 66 times?), but by doing this you essentially reset the feud to square one. And it's not like the Authority were needed to make the whole Road to WrestleMania work. Instead you could have had Seth and Randy feud over the remnants of the Authority, paving the way for their 'Mania match and allowing Rollins to begin to stand on his own two feet more. Furthermore, Brock and Heyman would no longer have to trail along Triple H and Stephanie as if they were beholden to them. And better yet, by not bringing back the Authority, you keep Triple H pissed and obsessed with the Stinger. He has lost all his power and status by this interloper, so when he does come back it's a big deal. Perhaps he beats up the new GM- maybe Ric Flair as he has a history with both men? These are the sorts of opportunities that WWE passed up by just bringing back the ol' Authority a month later. Rather than letting these stories grow, they stunted them.
And it further muddied the waters of what exactly this would be.
See, if you have Sting give the Authority the arse, it leads to a personal Triple H vs Sting feud, where Hunter can get obsessed with getting his revenge and reverts from the 'best for business' heel that he was in the Authority to the sadistic prick of the early to mid 2000s. But since the Authority has come back that's not going to happen. And you can't really do a Sting vs Authority feud because you had that at Survivor Series (and again when he helped Cena get his team rehired). So what do you do?
Well, you do another WCW vs WWE 'dream match', of course!!! Only 15 years ago, so it's still fresh!!!
What made it all the more infuriating was that less than 12 months later you had a guy getting over in AJ Styles because they were willing to trust the hardcore marks to mark out because they knew who the guy was and let the performer do the rest of the friggin' work!!!! And I know I said that it is easier with AJ (and it is), but when you have the guy coming into a ring and and cutting a promo where he couldn't save WCW from its corrupt overlords and that he has waited 14 years for retribution...on Triple H, you're not doing yourself any favours. I mean, he complains that he couldn't save WCW from itself and the guy he's going after is Hunter?! What does he have to do with it?! Better yet, why did he wait 14 years to have vengeance on the company that put his out of business?!
And it gets worse because WWE can't even acknowledge that if you are going to the Monday Night Wars Appendix s) you should at least have some sort of continuity. Say what you like about the FIrefly Funhouse Match but it at least didn't try to dress up Randy Orton as John Cena's best bud...
The entrances of both men are ludicrous, with Sting having some sort of Japanese percussion entrance and Triple H coming out with Terminator cosplay (cause synergy?)- though I will say Sting looks great and seems to be having a ball when he comes out. Aaaaand it takes approx. 20 seconds for King to say no matter how good he was in WCW, this is a completely new feeling, with JBL saying that "even Sting has to be overwhelmed at this sight".
I am trying to keep my rage suppressed here, reader. Really I am. It's even more idiotic when King tries to justify the whole Terminator entrance by saying it got into Sting's head (cause Sting would be terrified by the idea of the motion picture, I guess...). Incidentally, while we're on the subject, why does Sting come out first?! Couldn't Triple H as the heel come out first and then sell a little for Sting's entrance? That'd be cool, instead of having Sting wait in the corner while Hunter does his James Cameron tribute play.
The first part of the match is one of those 'epic-sizing-up' segments that a lot of Triple H matches have. This doesn't mean it's bad- in fact it was actually pretty cool and got Sting over pretty well- particularly when he pulled off an impressive dropkick. It's like (and apologies for the very middle class analogy) a sort of amuse bouche of what we hope is to come, told really well by two good storytellers. Ironically watching this, I couldn't help but think back to Hollywood Hogan matches and think how much more generous Triple H is here- at one point taking a tumble over the turnbuckle off a hard Irish whip. He really does in this first sequence make Sting look great.
Of course Sting makes a mistake and then Triple H takes control. And this isn't bad either- if it wasn't for the commentating trying to a) justify the ridiculous storylines in absurd and stupid ways and b) either directly (or indirectly) taking pops at WCW. But then Sting gets Hunter into a Scorpion Death Lock (in a pretty nice counter).
When overbooking begins.
First D-Generation X get involved. Have they had a say in the story so far? Nope. Were they around? Apparently. And I realise it fits the "anything can happen at 'Mania" vibe, but it also feels...cheap. Particularly when the commentators start losing their shit about the Monday Night Wars coming to life. Why not get J&J to come out? Or Big Show and Kane? Someone that made a lick of sense and was still on the roster. Anyway, the distraction is enough for Hunter to hit the Pedigree (which Sting sells fantastically- I mean it looks like it kills him) only for Sting to kick out and 2 and 3/4. So Hunter gets the sledgehammer and then-
Cue the porno music!!!
Yes the nWo make its entrance. The same nWo that Sting fought a year long battle against in WCW and did more that anything to destroy the company. That nWo. We are now in Bizarro World people. And I know people marked out for this and so I don't want to be too harsh. But the thing is, all this shows again and again is that you don't trust two guys with over 30 years of experience between them to tell a good story. So instead you wrap it up in this nostalgic bollocks that makes zero sense.
And I don't mind Attitude Era overbooking when done right. But when your overbooking is a bunch of 50+ year olds hobbling around outside the ring in order to harken back to an era fifteen years ago in a way that drips with cognitive dissonance...it doesn't work that well. What's more...you couldn't get Flair, Booker T and someone else to be the WCW representatives? I mean, that would make some sense.
Anyway, while this is going on Sting has Hunter in a (pretty ordinary looking) Scorpion Death Lock before HBK appears and Superkicks Triple H for another massive pop (who are the heels again?!) which Sting just kicks out of before an absurd Sledgehammer vs Baseball bat sequence, which Sting wins after snapping the sledgehammer in two (it's funny watching D-X's reaction- they look at the bat like it's something from LoTR). Sting gets Hunter in the corner and hits a Stinger splash before he tries for a second one and gets sconed on the temple for the pinfall in a way that seems...anti-climatic.
The only reason that Triple H wins the match is if you somehow feel that despite the fact that WCW have been out of business for 15 years and were thoroughly trounced week to week by WWE in ratings, content and workers that for some reason WWE's honour was at stake during this match. Which is just idiotic. You know who should win this? The guy who has come into your company, who could be a new special attraction and though he may not be in the best shape ever, could do some interesting things if you make him a big deal. You do not have him lose and then have the other guy, the supposed heel shake his hand and scruff up his hair like he's some rookie and try to claim that this puts a 15 year old conflict to bed.
Furthermore you then don't put the same fucking heel on the TV screen about an hour later to be a heel again, only to be tossed around by the Rock and Ronda. Because then you are telegraphing the fact that you think the Hollywood moment is more important than getting this new acquisition off the ground.
Some may say that this is a rather large rant for this but what frustrates me is that it was fairly easy to book after the first step! You boot the Authority completely off TV, and have Ric Flair be new GM (have HBK as SmackDown GM if you want to play it up a little). You then have Seth, Randy and a couple of others still as a faction but without the fix being in. Of course they splinter and Seth injures Orton, maybe because Orton thinks that he should have the briefcase? In any case at the Royal Rumble you have Triple H come out, and challenge Sting to a match at WrestleMania. Sting simply replies no.
"What?!" I hear you cry, but hear me out.
Sting says no. He didn't come to WWE to wrestle guys from 13 years back, but the the guys of today. Guys like Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt, etc. That's why he took issue with the Authority- because they didn't look to the future- just to the past (yes, I know Seth is with them but I think this can still hold well enough). So he simply has no interest to resurrect the Monday Night Wars- WWE won, and Sting is here to move on.
See, with this you suddenly move the obsessive vindictiveness out of reality and into kayfabe but you can still use it. Triple H begins lobbying HBK and Ric hard to get the match, but both decline, saying that Sting doesn't want the match. While this is happening, we are seeing a transition back from 'Best for Business' Triple H to 'Sadistic Prick' Triple H. Eventually 2 weeks before Fast Lane, Triple H beats the piss out of Flair to try and pique Sting's interest. This of course does, and now you're off to the races- without the whole need of a 'Monday Night Wars re-enactment'. By doing this, you are using history and not mistaking it for baggage.
And that's article 87! Agree or not? Now, I'm approaching 100 articles of these (they grow up so fast...) so I'd like to hear some ideas from you- my audience! Please let me know what you'd like me to cover!
#1 Owen Hart vs Stone Cold @ SummerSlam '97
#2 December to Dismember 2006
#3 The Fingerpoke of Doom
#4 The Scott Steiner vs HHH Feud
#5 Ryback vs Mark Henry @ WrestleMania XXIX
#6 Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon @ WrestleMania XXVI
#7 The Jerry Lawler/Michael Cole Feud
#8 The Curtain Call
#9 Bash at the Beach 2000
#10 Royal Rumble 2014
#11 Warrior/Hogan II @ Halloween Havoc
#12 The Cena/Laurinatis Feud
#13 The Firing of Ric Flair From WCW
#14 The Brogue Kick of Doom
#15 Lesnar vs Goldberg @ WrestleMania XX
#16 Immortal Revealed @ Bound for Glory 2010
#17 Sting vs Hogan @ Starrcade 1997
#18 Triple H vs Booker T @ WrestleMania 19
#19 The Corre
#20 The Undertaker vs Big Boss Man @ WrestleMania 15
#21 Jeff Hardy vs Sting @ Victory Road 2011
#22 Road Wild 1999
#23 The John Cena/Kane Feud of 2012
#24 Hulk Hogan's Mancow Interview of 1999
#25 CM Punk vs the Rock @ Elimination Chamber 2013
#26 The Reign of Bill Watts in WCW
#27 The Claire Lynch Affair Part One And Two
#28 Triple H vs Kevin Nash @ TLC 2011
#29 The Cactus Jack Amnesia Angle
#30 Hulk Hogan Leaving TNA
#31 HBK vs Hulk Hogan @ SummerSlam 2005
#32 David Arquette: WCW Champion
#33 Katie Vick
#34 nWo Souled Out 1997
#35 The Vampiro/Sting Feud of 2000
#36 Once in a Lifetime, Episode II
#37 The Angle/Jarrett Feud of 2010/11
#38 The McMahon/Lashley Feud
#39 The Shockmaster
#40 CM Punk vs Ryback @ Hell in a Cell 2012
#41 Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper @ Starrcade 1996
#42 The WWE Championship Reign of Diesel
#43 Cena vs the Wyatts
#44 The Main Roster Run of Emma
#45 The WCW Run of Bret Hart
#46 John Cena vs the Miz @ WrestleMania 27
#47 The Lone Wolf AJ Styles
#48 Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger @ WrestleMania 29
#49 The Transition of Mike Awesome from ECW to WCW
#50 The Dolph Ziggler Conundrum Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
#51 The Rise and Fall of Damien Sandow/Mizdow Part One and Part Two
#52 DDP & Jay Leno vs Hollywood Hogan & Eric Bischoff @ Road Wild 1998
#53 Triple H vs Randy Orton @ WrestleMania 25
#54 Lord Tensai
#55 LOD 2000
#56 Sid Vicious vs Scott Steiner @ Starrcade 2000
#57 Bret Hart vs Yokuzuna (feat. Hulk Hogan) @ WrestleMania 9
#58 Royal Rumble 2015
#59 The Crucifixion of the Sandman
#60 Brock Lesnar's First Year Back in WWE
#61 Bo Dallas' Main Roster Run
#62 Vince Russo vs Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
#63 Randy Orton vs the Big Show @ Survivor Series 2013
#64 AJ Styles vs Abyss @ Destination X 2010
#65 EV 2.0
#66 The Summer of Punk Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
#67 The Lex Express
#68 Goldberg's first WWE Run
#69 Paige's Main Roster Run 2014-2016
#70 Seth Rollins' First World Title Run
#71 Hulk Hogan vs Sgt Slaughter @ WrestleMania VII
#72 Sting vs Abyss in a Last Rites Match
#73 The Undertaker vs Big Show in the Punjabi Prison
#74 Ric Flair vs Hollywood Hogan @ Uncensored 1999
#75 Roman Reigns' Road to WrestleMania 32 Part One, Part Two. Part Three
#76 Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice @ WrestleMania VIII
#77 Muhammad Hassan
#78 Sheamus' World Heavyweight Title Reign
#79 The Ghastly Match
#80 Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton @ Wrestlemania 33
#81 Goldberg vs Steiner vs Nash @ New Blood Rising'
#82 The Lesnar/Angle/Big Show feud of 2002
#83 Aces and Eights
#84 Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar @ WrestleMania 32
#85 Jinder Mahal: WWE Champion Part One, Part Two, Part Three