WrestleMania’s main event could have been so different. It could have been the night WCW icon Sting clashed with WWE icon the Undertaker. Taking place at WWE’s biggest annual event in WCW’s hometown it would have had an electric atmosphere, made all the more special by the fact that Sting had joined the WWE Hall of Fame the night before.
That didn’t happen. What we got instead was a match between Triple H and the Undertaker and Sting returning to TNA (unannounced, naturally) on an episode of iMPACT. The WrestleMania match we actually got was almost certainly better than anything Sting and the Undertaker would have produced, but it wasn’t quite as special. As for Sting winning the TNA world title in his return match, there was nothing special about that at all.
Had Steve ‘Sting’ Borden signed with WWE I think he’d have ended up considering it his best decision of the last five years. Not only would he have had the previously mentioned bout with the Undertaker and the honour of joining the WWE Hall of Fame the night before his debut match with the organisation, he would have had the chance to work with a roster of talent he’s never faced before. Big money feuds with Triple H, John Cena, Randy Orton, Edge, CM Punk, and The Miz were there for the picking, and there are dozens of wrestlers on the undercard who would have benefitted from programs with ‘Stinger’, or even an on-screen endorsement.
For a man who claims he wants to help build the future of the business turning down Vince McMahon was a huge wasted opportunity.
The big sticking point was probably Sting’s concern over being looked after in the ring. Admirably, Sting is always ready to admit he’s not the greatest in-ring performer and needs to be led through his matches. Having never worked for WWE he had no firsthand experience of the WWE match layout process, which gave rise to concern that he (an “outsider”) wouldn’t be taken care of, both in regards to safety and how he was presented in the match. These worries likely weren’t helped by the TNA locker room, many of whom have an axe to grind against WWE. But it was unfounded and unnecessary concern. The Undertaker, Sting’s first opponent, is a man known for taking care of his opponents, working safely, and producing excellent matches, particularly at WrestleMania.
I’m convinced that had he pushed for it Steve ‘Sting’ Borden could have got a light schedule from WWE. Had it just been a one match deal for WrestleMania the likelihood is that he’d have worked a handful of live RAWs before the event and the one the night after. I imagine he would have signed longer term though, which again would have only involved TV and pay-per-view appearances, only over a longer period of time. Whichever option he went with would have been lighter than his current TNA schedule and worth a lot more money.
By signing with WWE Sting could have made one final, truly meaningful, contribution to the wrestling business, made himself and others a lot of money, and been able to say that he’d worked for the biggest wrestling company in the world (including wrestling at Madison Square Garden).
Instead he returned to TNA (again), a company in which he had already achieved everything of note.
Since he resurfaced on that episode of iMPACT, Sting has won the World title, participated in numerous clichéd promos, and wrestled an 88 second pay-per-view main event with Jeff Hardy. I can’t imagine any of that has been financially or creatively rewarding for Borden or anyone else in TNA. I know it’s not been rewarding for the fans that have tuned in.
This treatment of Sting will continue because the company has no decent long term plans. In fairness, it’s not all the creative team’s fault. Dixie Carter is the one who insists on re-signing Sting to a large contract every year, despite him having little to no impact (if you’ll excuse the pun) on ratings and there being nothing new left for him to do in the company.
It would have been best for all involved if Sting had gone to WWE. Turning them down was a massively squandered opportunity and he deserves all the small crowds, meaningless, poorly booked matches, and nonsense storylines he gets for making it.