He was the Franchise of WCW, an athletic and charismatic entertainer who carried the championship belt, and who was able to recreate himself to become the top star during the biggest boom in the professional wrestling history.
Real Name: Steve Borden
Born: March 20th, 1959
Stats: 6′ 2″ 250 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Excluding Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, (or, perhaps even including them), the man called Sting was the single most important wrestler in the history of World Championship Wrestling, and the famous six-time WCW World Heavyweight champion was a permanent fixture of the promotion for nearly fifteen years. By virtue of his status as the one WCW superstar who had never “sold out” by joining Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation, his name and colorful likeness eventually became synonymous with World Championship Wrestling, and the incredibly popular Sting spent virtually his entire career wrestling as the top ‘babyface’ in WCW.
Before entering the pro wrestling industry in the mid-eighties, Steve Borden was a personal fitness trainer and part-time bodybuilder. After catching the eye of pro wrestling trainer Rick Bassman, Borden decided to give wrestling a try and began working out with Bassman, as well as his group of young trainees.
The two debuted as a tag team called “Power Team USA.” The team really never caught on though, and it disappeared in early 1986. Borden and Helwig stayed together and formed another tag team called “The Bladerunners.” The Bladerunners were a better team with a better image. Helwig was known as Rock and Borden was known as Flash.
The Bladerunners continued on the California independent scene until they landed in the UWF. They formed an alliance with Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner, and Borden changed his in ring name to Sting. Sting had success with Bill Watts and the pre-mentioned group in UWF, but Helwig did not feel the same and he left for the WWF where he would eventually be known as the Ultimate Warrior. Without Helwig, Sting chose Gilbert as a tag team partner, and together they won the UWF Tag Team championship. They lost the titles in the fall of 1986, and Sting moved on to othertag teams. He teamed with Rick Steiner and they won the tag straps in the spring of 1987 butlost them about a month later. Sting left the tag team scene to become a face singles wrestler.
Early in 1986, following the break-up of The Bladerunners, the impressive young Sting, still a near-rookie, formed a team with the UWF’s top heel, “Hotstuff” Eddie Gilbert and the brash, exciting duo generated quite a bit of heat from their primarily Southwestern audiences. With the more experienced Eddie Gilbert (a talented second-generation wrestler who had begun his career at the age of just sixteen) handling the majority of the interviews and serving as Sting’s mentor inside of the ring, the young, somewhat limited muscleman was able to develop his wrestling skills without being rushed. Yet, being the exceptional athlete he was, it didn’t take long for the charismatic young heel to expand his repertoire and noticeably grow as a performer. Soon, Sting was ready for his first run with a championship belt — the UWF World Tag Team title — which he won with Gilbert on July 20, 1986 in Tulsa, OK. by defeating Tommy Rogers & Bobby Fulton, better known asThe Fantastics.
After a month as titleholders, Sting & Gilbert’s UWF Tag Team championship was held-up following a very controversial rematch against The Fantastics. Another rematch between the two rival teams was ordered by UWF matchmaker Bill Watts, and on August 31, 1986, Sting & Eddie Gilbert became two-time UWF World Tag Team champions by defeating Rogers & Fulton, once again in Tulsa. The heated feud between the two talented young teams continued on, though, and on September 27, 1986, The Fantastics gained their revenge by defeating Sting & Gilbert for the championship belts.
As one of the hottest properties of Hot Stuff & Hyatt International, the ‘corporation’ formed by Gilbert and Missy Hyatt (pictured), Sting continued to rise up the competitive UWF ranks and develop as a pro wrestler. After gaining some experience in the singles ranks, Sting was paired with another powerful young wrestler in Rick Steiner, and together they formed a truly impressive duo that combined overwhelming power with speed and teamwork. Steiner’s amatuer skills gelled nicely with the high-flying Sting, and before long, they were one of the promotion’s top tag teams. After going to the finals of the UWF World Tag Team tournament, only to lose to the combo of Terry Taylor & Chris Adams, the team of Sting & Steiner finally won the UWF belts on April 12, 1987 in Atlanta, GA.
But, after defending their championship successfully in rematches against the former champions Taylor & Adams as well as other top UWF teams, Sting & Steiner eventually lost their title to another young team, The Lightning Express (Tim Horner & Brad Armstrong) on May 17, 1987.
When the Universal Wrestling Federation was sold to Jim Crockett Promotions, Sting was one of the few UWF stars who received a full-time position in the NWA. To his credit, the youthful, high-flying muscleman didn’t waste the opportunity, and when he was given the chance to wrestle the World Heavyweight champion Ric Flair on TBS’s inaugural Clash of the Champions broadcast, the colorful new challenger held the experienced champion to a 45-minute draw.
That first Clash of the Champions encounter between Flair and Sting truly propelled the young up-and-comer to unexpected heights of superstardom, almost overnight, and at the same time began what would go down as one of the greatest rivalries in wrestling history. Over the course of their feud, which lasted for more than a dozen years all total, Flair and Sting battled over pride, a mutual ‘hatred’ and, of course, the coveted NWA-WCW World Heavyweight championship. Ironically enough, it was a bout between Flair and Sting that marked the final match on the last edition of WCW Monday Nitro. Indeed, that emotional Sting-Flair encounter was, fittingly, the last match ever promoted by World Championship Wrestling before it was absorbed by the WWF early in 2001.
Despite his incredible success wrestling against Flair and headlining shows around the country, it initially took Sting quite a while (two years, to be more specific) to win a championship belt in the NWA. However, on March 31, 1989, Sting’s long wait finally ended when he defeated Varsity Club member Mike Rotundo to capture the NWA World TV title in Atlanta, GA.
However, Sting’s long-awaited first title reign in the National Wrestling Alliance ended up being relatively short, thanks to an innovative and dangerous young face-painted Japanese high-flyer by the name of The Great Muta…
Under the guidance of the sinister Gary Hart, the mysterious yet charismatic Muta (pictured), with his incredible never-before-seen moves (such as the Moonsault) and an impressive, unique ring style was the perfect opponent for Sting at the time, and their intense war was one of most memorable feuds of the late-eighties.
On July 23, 1989, following a very controversial ending to one of their matches, the NWA World TV championship was held-up and a rematch was ordered by the NWA Board of Directors. Then, on September 3, 1989, much to the dismay of his legion of fans, Sting lost the rematch (and the World TV title) to the green mist-spraying Great Muta in Atlanta, GA. Their epic feud, however, continued on, in both American and Japanese rings for years to come.
Although the loss of the World TV title was a bit of a disappointment, it was in no way a setback for the potential-filled young performer. Just nine months after loing his TV championship belt to The Great Muta (and with only five years experience as a pro wrestler) the colorful muscleman met and defeated “Nature Boy” Ric Flair to become the NWA World Heavyweight champion at The Great American Bash `90.
Over the course of the following six months, the popular new World champion successfully repelled the challenge of the former titleholder, and also defended his championship against several other top NWA wrestlers. However, the resilient and crafty Flair eventually reclaimed his NWA World title from The Stinger on January 11, 1991 in East Rutherford, NJ. Yet, rather than dwelling on the loss, Sting quickly bounced back and was soon once again in the championship hunt.
His next title run came in August of `91, when he defeated “Stunning” Steve Austin (pictured) in the finals of a tournament to fill the vacated WCW United States Heavyweight championship in Atlanta, GA.
During the time that they both competed in World Championship Wrestling, Sting and the future Stone Cold engaged in many intense battles, often revolving around Sting’s coveted United States championship.
However, the man that would eventually defeat Sting for the U.S. title was not “Stunning” Steve, but rather, “Ravishing” Rick…
At the nationally broadcast Clash of the Champions on November 19, 1991, Rick Rude, (pictured) led by his conniving manager Paul E. Dangerously, met and defeated an injured Stinger to become the new United States champion.
Rude’s tainted victory turned out to be just the first of many chapters in the long story of their feud, and over the next four years, the two very evenly-matched superstars battled over not only the WCW United States title, but also over Sting’s WCW World Heavyweight championship and Rude’s WCW International World championship, which Sting won from the talented egomaniac in 1994.
Unfortunately, though, it was during one of Sting and Rude’s hard-fought battles that “The Ravishing One” suffered what would turn out to be a career-ending injury.
During the winter of 1991-92, Sting became involved in a another major feud, this time with his longtime friend and then-WCW World Heavyweight champion, “The Total Package” Lex Luger. The two former best friends had a bitter falling out that resulted in their first-ever match against each other at SuperBrawl II on February 29, 1992 in Milwaukee, WI.
Despite the constant interference of Luger’s knowledgeable manager, Harley Race, Sting was able to overcome his larger, stronger foe, and scored the victory by pinning Luger’s massive shoulders to the mat to become a two-time WCW World champion. Soon thereafter, the vanquished “Total Package” (pictured) left the promotion to enter the WWF.
Eventually, once Luger made his way back to WCW several years later, he and his former friend resolved their differences, at least temporarily, and Sting even reformed his team with Luger to win his first of three WCW World Tag Team championships (his other two World Tag team title reigns came with The Giant and then Kevin Nash during the late nineties) by defeating Booker T. & Stevie Ray, Harlem Heat, in January of 1996. Of course, later that year, Luger once again double-crossed the Stinger, and their ongoing war continued raging…
Another major opponent of The Stinger during the early nineties was Harley Race’s colossal 450-pound, 6’4″ Big Van Vader. Part of the intrigue of their match-up was that in the highly skilled, pulverizing and ruthless Vader, Sting came across an unyielding opponent who was genuinely hated by the fans and, at the same time, was nearly impossible to defeat.
The level of physical punishment he was subjected to during his long, brutal feud with Vader was truly substantial, and despite intitially being able to turn back the challenge of the “Master of the Power Bomb,” Sting eventually lost his WCW World title to the behemoth on July 12, 1992 in Albany, GA.
In 1993, Sting gained a measure of revenge by toppling his hated nemesis in the finals of the “King of Cable” tournament. Then, the following year, Sting survived another vicious beating by the relentless, merciless four hundred-pounder and he managed to defeat the big man for the WCW International World Heavyweight title.
All total, Sting and Vader headlined more than a half-dozen WCW pay-per-views as well as several highly rated Clash of the Champions programs, which were broadcast nationally on TBS. Unquestionably, their epic feud has to go down as one of the most exciting and entertaining in WCW history…
Given his unwavering status as the top WCW babyface, Sting was constantly at the forefront of the Atlanta-based promotion’s storylines and, in addition to the many championships he captured in World Championship Wrestling, The Stinger also won a number of tournaments.
In 1988, the colorful superstar teamed with “The Total Package” Lex Luger to win the 1988 Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Tag Team Tournament. The popular Stinger also won the NWA Iron Man Tournament in 1990, the 1991 edition of WCW’s Battle Bowl, the 1993 King of Cable Tournament and the WCW European Cup.
Given his natural charisma and the excitement he created in WCW, it’s no surprise that Sting’s incredible popularity was not restricted solely to the United States and Canada. Through WCW’s close working relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling, Sting enjoyed several very successful tours of the Land of the Rising Sun. At the same time, the NJPW fans took to the colorful, exciting and talented Stinger, and the WCW icon became a huge “special attraction” for the New Japan promotion. Of course, the ongoing Sting-Great Muta storyline was furthered during this time period, with great monetary and creative success. Additionally, it was during one of his mid-nineties tours of New Japan that Sting first encountered a man who would soon play a major role in his career: “The Immortal” Hulk Hulk (pictured).
Back home in WCW, there were major changes sweeping over North America’s longtime #2 promotion. Under the leadership of WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff, World Championship Wrestling had developed and grown to the point where it was a legitimate threat to the World Wrestling Federation’s status as the top promotion in America, and by the mid-nineties, Ted Turner’s group had finally became a popular, very exciting alternative to the WWF. Conversely, while WCW was soon flooded with top talent from the WWF, New Japan and Mexico, Sting maintained his status as the “heart” of the promotion.
Despite the fact that WCW newcomers such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage enjoyed a great deal of popularity in World Championship Wrestling, it became clear that Sting’s lofty spot in the hearts of WCW’s fanbase was never in jeopardy. Indeed, while the former WWF stars brought a lot with them to WCW, the fact remained that, in the eyes of longtime WCW fans, they were still just that…former WWFer’s.
Sting, on the other hand, was unquestionably “WCW”…through and through. Helped along by some storyline tweaking courtesy of the WCW creative team, this mindset became a key nuance during the lengthy saga of the New World Order…
After his integrity and loyalty to WCW was questioned repeatedly by WCW announcers and wrestlers during the height of the NWO ‘takeover’, a darker, more somber and very much offended Sting made a major announcement on an editon of WCW Monday Nitro. After explaining that what he was about to say was, in no way, a reflection of his feelings about the WCW fanbase, with whom he still respected and cared for, Sting proceeded to explain his feelings regarding those WCW employees who had questioned his loyalty to the company. After noting his long, illustrious history in the promotion, how he had stuck with WCW during the few good times and the countless bad, how he had given his entire professional career to the company and never considered “jumping ship” to the rival WWF, a bitter and betrayed Sting then told each and every one of his doubters that they could all “go to hell.”
From that point foward, Sting completely disappeared from all WCW programming. At first, the apologetic announce team openly speculated about what was going through Sting’s mind, and guessed as to when he would finally make his return. But, as week after week passed with no sign of WCW’s “Franchise,” the announcers’ inquiries as to his whereabouts began to wane. Eventually, no mention was even made about the departed hero.
However, several months later, Sting was finally spotted, completely unexpectedly, crouched in the rafters of a sold-out arena, silently, somberly watching his ‘prey’ through an eery new mask of black and white facepaint. This continued on for several weeks as the confused WCW announcers wondered aloud what this “new” Sting had in mind for those whom he was stalking.
As the storyline developed, a silent, emotionless Sting began ‘testing’ those who had questioned his loyalty. Handing the black baseball bat he carried to whomever he was confronting, Sting would then turn his back, thus leaving himself open to an attack.
Eventually, it became clear that the man who Sting was truly seeking to confront was the turn-coat leader of the New World Order, and the WCW-NWO World Heavyweight champion, “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan…
After an incredibly well-done build-up that spanned an entire year, Sting finally met, and defeated, “Hollywood” Hogan in the main event of Starrcade `97. However, after doing so well in laying the foundation for their epic meeting at Starrcade (which resulted in one of the highest buy-rates ever for a WCW pay-per-view), the confusing ending of the match that was concocted by WCW’s creative team actually took a great deal of the steam out of Sting’s long-awaited victory.
After a controversial ending involving Bret “Hitman” Hart, Sting’s title win was nullified by the WCW Board of Directors, and a rematch with Hogan was ordered. On February 22, 1998 at SuperBrawl in San Francisco, Sting again defeated Hogan for the WCW World championship, thus becoming a four-time WCW champion. A year and a half later, on September 12, 1999, Sting again defeated Hogan for the WCW World title…only to once again be stripped of the belt a month later, this time after he attacked ‘heel’ ref Charles Robinson. That last victory over Hogan would also mark the final time that Sting was able to win the WCW World title, as the promotion unexpectedly ceased operations a short time thereafter.
And, with the end of WCW, so too came the end of Steve Borden’s career as a professional wrestler. Having achieved every professional goal he could hope to accomplish, and after undergoing enormous personal changes in terms of his spirituality, Borden was content to sit out the remainder of his Time-Warner contract when WCW was sold to the WWF. Given his relatively young age and strong physical condition, it seemed likely that at some point Sting would sign a new WWF contract and join the Federation. However, given the circumstances surrounding his retirement, and the lifestyle changes he has undergone since leaving wrestling, it now seems more and more likely that The Man Called Sting will, unfortunately, never return to wrestling in a full-time capacity.
HistoryofWrestling.com is proud to induct the innovative & electrifying six-time WCW World champion and one of the most important figures of the late twentieth century — the legendary Sting — into the H.O.W. Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame……