Tuesday 18 March 2014

Sting: The Final Holdout?

It’s the time of year when Sting moving his career over to WWE becomes a thing. I’m not going to write about how close the two parties are to reaching a deal because we don’t know, and we won’t know until an announcement is made. Or perhaps even until Sting shows up one night on RAW.

What can be talked about is whether Sting has anything significant to offer WWE. Looking passed the in-ring possibilities for a second there are various uses he could be put to. A DVD looking back on his career would be the obvious first project. His TNA stint would have to be omitted but, really, that’s not much of a loss. It’s his days in WCW, and earlier stints in the UWF and Memphis, that would be of most interest. Those are periods of his career that have not been satisfactorily documented.

In a similar vein ‘The Stinger’ could contribute to future projects centred round defunct promotions and wrestlers he worked with. In truth many of the DVDs Sting could make interesting contributions to have already been released. There are various releases out there covering the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and World Championship Wrestling, but WWE aren’t known for their restraint. It’s not impossible they’ll produce more documentaries on these wrestlers and companies in the future.

There are a handful of wrestlers WWE haven’t ever given the DVD treatment whom Sting could speak on at length. Vader, Diamond Dallas Page, Lex Luger and the Steiner brothers for example. None of these would be amongst the biggest money releases ever, but there would be a market for them. They could add something (I’ll diplomatically say content) to the WWE Network too.

Speaking of which, appearances on whatever shows are coming our way on the Network would be a certainty too. Which is fine. Whatever Sting has to say on any subject to do with wrestling it will at least be something we’ve not heard a dozen times before. His is a perspective that won’t necessarily be overly familiar to WWE viewers.

What most people will be excited about regarding a potential WWE-Sting deal are the matches. I can understand this in theory: he’s a big name in wrestling that has never worked for the company or faced many members of the roster. There’s a feeling of freshness to Sting joining the promotion.

Sting does not look like this anymore
In practice it’s a different story. Sting will be presented as something akin to the final holdout from WCW. That league last promoted a show thirteen years ago. It’s arguable that it wasn’t relevant or worth watching for a significant amount of time before that. WCW is not a company people care about in a meaningful sense anymore. And a lag time of thirteen years will make Sting look old, something that won’t be helped by the fact that he is old for an active wrestler at fifty-four. Without TNA footage to span the gap WWE will be forced to remind people of Sting via footage of him in which he looks significantly younger, even under the face paint.

On top of that you have the fact that, well, Sting’s just not very good. He was never the greatest wrestler around but he had a certain charisma to him that many responded to. I didn’t see any trace of that during his decade in TNA. Yes he was cheered and yes people reacted to him, but not in the same way as in his heyday.

Part of that may simply be attributable to the fact that he was working for what is essentially a glorified indy promotion. It’s possible that WWE will be able to work their magic and make ‘The Icon’ appear significant again. Using him in a reduced role, which WWE surely would, would help too. Being a TV regular, essentially making him just another name (as was the case in TNA), is not something that helps ‘The Stinger’s’ aura or standing.

But whether he’s good or not there are enough fresh matches on the roster to keep him busy for a year or two (assuming he worked a schedule that didn’t see him on every pay-per-view). Sting versus Triple H, Sting versus Brock Lesnar and Sting versus Batista would probably be among the first we’d be offered. I suspect Sting and ‘The Game’ would turn out something best described as proficient. I certainly can’t imagine it feeling special. The same goes for Sting and ‘The Animal’, although that would be less proficient and more a train wreck. for Sting v Lesnar would probably be a train wreck too, although it would be a compelling one, in the style of all Lesnar matches since his 2012 return: less a wrestling match, more a wild fight where part of the appeal lies in seeing what ‘The Pain’ will do to get himself over as a wild man.

Matches with The Rock and The Undertaker could be presented as the loyalist WWE performer against the loyalist WCW performer (it would only work with whichever bout went first, although that wouldn’t necessarily stop WWE from using the approach twice). The loyalist thing is something that’s so obvious that I think WWE would have to acknowledge it but it would have had far more impact and meaning had Sting moved to WWE within a few years of WCW’s closure, rather than waiting thirteen years. Both matches would be reliant on the limited schedules of the WWE boys though, natch.

Sting versus ‘The Great One’ would probably be fine. Neither man’s strength is actually wrestling, but they’re both good enough to put on something decent. It would be a spectacle.

Sting versus ‘Taker would also be a spectacle, and probably the better match. The trouble here is that Undertaker making an appearance at a pay-per-view not named WrestleMania seems unlikely and Sting doesn’t feel special enough to challenge The Streak. Had Sting signed on for WrestleMania XXVIII, held in WCW stronghold Atlanta, the match could have worked and the show, and Hall of Fame, could have been given a WCW flavour. But now, with Undertaker winding down and likely only having a few Streak defences left in him, I think younger guys like Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt deserve a ‘Mania match with ‘The Dead Man’ more than Sting.

The Bryans and Wyatts of the roster, along with potential pushees Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes, would be the opponents I’d most like to see Sting face. CM Punk too, if he were to return. They’re all good enough to have great matches with Sting and are, or could be with a bit of work, meaningful enough to fans that the matches would feel like big deals.

If Sting shows up in WWE any time soon I think it’s going to be on April 7, the RAW after WrestleMania XXX. Whether I’m right or not if he does move to WWE I hope they don’t overuse him and select his opponents with care. And keep him away from The Streak.

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