Forgotten Classics: Sting

It’s Sting!

In the same way that cinema has a canon, or literature has, wrestling also has its canon; unofficial, as these things always are, but unconsciously agreed to through much online discussion and the publication of magazines and books.

There are the canonical ‘great’ pay per views; Great American Bash 89, WrestleMania 17, Spring Stampede 94, just to name a few. There are the canonical great stars and wrestlers (not always mutual); the likes of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, Eddie Guerrero, and Dynamite Kid. Then there are the canonical ‘great’ matches; the original Hell in a Cell, Steamboat vs. Savage at WrestleMania 3, Eddy vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. at Halloween Havoc ’97, Austin vs. Dude Love at Over the Edge, Omega vs. Okada at Dominion.

But what of the ‘Forgotten Classics’? The great matches lost to time and untouched by word of mouth apart from in the most hushed corners of the wrestling community? It’s time for us to shine a light on these underappreciated gems…

Sting is a fascinating wrestler to write a ‘Forgotten Classics’ on. Unlike, say, Bret Hart, The Stinger’s hidden gems aren’t necessarily matches with unexpected opponents, or grapplers he hadn’t feuded with and therefore wouldn’t expect to see him in the ring with. There are no lost blockbusters of Sting against Big Josh, for example, or Prince Iaukea (no, I’m not surprised either).

Rather, Sting’s forgotten classics are against opponents he was well known for having classic feuds with—Great Muta, Big Van Vader—but are matches overshadowed by more famous encounters with said opponents, reducing other encounters with many merits to the shadows.

For example, everybody talks about the classic Sting-Cactus Jack falls count anywhere encounter from Beach Blast ’92, but as we shall see, there’s another war with Cactus that is just as worthy of attention…

Submit or Surrender: Sting vs. Cactus Jack (WCW Power Hour, November 23rd, 1991)

Although we might think of the Monday Night Wars as ushering in an era of PPV-level matches onto free weekly television, it’s fascinating to find matches like this that could have headlined any PPV of the time popping up at random on old TV episodes. Power Hour wasn’t even WCW’s ‘A’ show at the time—I think even WCW Pro was higher up in the pecking order than Power Hour at the time (older readers, please do correct me if I’m wrong)!

The story here was that Lex Luger had been paying for giant boxes to appear during Sting matches, with Cactus Jack eventually ambushing Sting out of one at a Clash of the Champions show. That led to a hot Sting-Jack feud (although Sting was also feuding with Rick Rude at the time too). Hence this match, and what a cracker it is too! The crowd are hot from the get-go, as is Cactus, who attacks Sting as soon as he enters the ring.

This is hot and heavy and fought at a frantic pace, with the guard rail coming into play early on Sting back dropping Cactus onto a plastic trash can before placing Jack inside the trash can back in the ring and hitting an elbow drop and then a big splash from the top onto the can. To see this on free TV in the early 90s must have been a hell of a sight and certainly a novelty for the period.

Jack’s actually quite tame at first, but he does smash Sting with a nice chair shot to the back at ringside, but actually, Sting comes across more as the aggressor here, which is not something you can say often—check out that beautiful plancha on Jack over the top to the outside and the suplex on the floor! In true Cactus style though, he hits his trademark running elbow from the apron to the floor. That connects…as does Cactus’ head with the concrete when Sting dropkicks Mr Foley from the apron to the floor!

It’s certainly a little less full-on than their falls count anywhere match, but this is insanely fun and well worth your time to check out.

Found on: YouTube

I Quit Match: Sting vs. Rick Rude (WCW Worldwide, May 14th, 1994)

Another long-standing rival of The Stinger’s in the early 90s was ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude, although their only singles match on PPV was at Spring Stampede ’94. In fact, a lot of their best matches probably weren’t even recorded as they tore it up mainly on the house show circuit.

This match is a bit of an anomaly time-wise, as it aired after Rude had his last match, getting injured during his match with Sting in Japan, but this match would have been filmed before that took place as it was filmed during the Worldwide tapings at Disney MGM Studios. Tony Schiavone even gave the result of the Japan match away on commentary!

Ok, I’m cheating a little bit here. This match isn’t really a classic. Why I’ve included it here though is because this was the last aired match between these two perennial rivals and was possibly the last match involving Rude aired on TV. Truth be told, it’s not a bad match, certainly a good one for an episode of Worldwide. Sting does a lot of the heavy lifting, and the crowd are eating out of his hand, cheering every last little move he does. Rude is unusually attired in just plain black tights and not his usual colourful, bespoke ones, and he looks kinda weird like that. Not a good look.

It’s awkward to watch Sting backdropping Rude four times in a row and flipping him into the corner back-first, knowing what we know about the state of Rude’s back. Rude, for his part, keep his move set down to a sleeper, camel clutch and putting the knees up. Even the ending isn’t great, as Vader appears on the big screen and laughs at Rude as he tries to cheat, forcing Rude to leave the ring and abandon the match to find Vader (the pair were originally scheduled to face off at Slamboree). But despite all that, there’s just a simple pleasure to be found in seeing these two in the ring one last time. And that’s enough for a recommendation.

Found on: YouTube

Sting & ‘Dr Death’ Steve Williams vs. Terry Funk & ‘Bam Bam’ Terry Gordy (w/Gary Hart) (NWA Power Hour, August 8th, 1989)

What a random yet excellent collection of talent in one ring! The great thing about watching old WCW and NWA b-shows are when little gems like this one turn up. This took place just after the Great American Bash ’89: Glory Days PPV where Sting had come to Ric Flair’s rescue after Funk continued his attack after the bell, and Gordy and Williams had been on opposite teams for the War Games match. This match served as a way to continue a couple of different stories.

As you might expect with Terry Funk, this was a hell of a wild brawl and was big-time fun into the bargain too. The crowd are just as wild as the wrestlers (check out the “Funk ain’t shit!” chants, or the guy trying to provoke Terry Gordy by making out that Gordy is fat—did he have a death wish?) Early on, Funk and Gordy play the strategy of trying to get Sting outside so they can double team him, but Sting eludes them with his speed and power, so they get Dr Death outside instead, where Funk slings him over the guard rail into the crowd before smashing Williams’ into the metal. Sting ends up throwing a chair at Funk, which misses, Dr Death and Gordy club at each other with massive blows before Dr Death kicks out of a Gordy/Funk spike piledriver, and Sting ends up crotching himself on the top rope when ‘The Funker’ moves out of the way of a splash.

In the end, Funk’s manager Gary Hart can’t help himself and sneaks into the ring, only to be held in the air like a rag doll by Sting. Funk cracks Sting with his branding iron for the DQ, only for Dr Death to swing the branding iron at Funk’s head like he was trying to decapitate him. Thank god he missed!

This is definitely an overlooked encounter and is just bags of fun, with all four men getting into the madness and having moments to shine. Very much recommended.

Found on: YouTube

Sting vs. NWA United States Champion Barry Windham (w/J.J. Dillon) (Clash of the Champions III, September 7th, 1988)

1988 was a pivotal year for Sting and was the start of Sting being seen as a star by the NWA audience. Not only did he wrestle Ric Flair to a 45-minute time limit draw at the inaugural Clash of the Champions, but Sting also wrestled tag champions Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson to a double DQ at the second Clash (and a time limit draw in partnership with Nikita Koloff at the Great American Bash) and won the 1988 Crockett Cup alongside Lex Luger. He also main evented three of the four Clash of the Champions held that year, an unprecedented feat considering Sting had been nowhere near this kind of success the previous year when wrestling for the UWF.

This match was the third of the Clash main events Sting appeared in during 1988 but is probably the one that gets talked about the least. I really don’t know why—sure, the ending didn’t help (Windham hit Sting with a chair after a ref bump, but former San Franciso 49er John Ayers tattle taled to Tommy Young, earning Sting the DQ victory), but the rest of the actual match is pretty damn good and another part of Sting’s stepping stone to the top.

Windham was always one of my favourites growing up, and the majority of his work from the 80s all the way up to 1992, I’d say, holds up very, very well. He proves to be a great foil for Sting here, slowing the pace down when Sting gets too excited and throwing some beautiful right hands to add some brutality into things. Windham could be forgiven if he had decided not to make this upstart Sting look good, but awesomely he does, throwing himself over the top rope to the floor for ‘The Stinger’, missing a punch and hitting the ring post and actually charging head first into the post and getting cut. Not only does this make Sting look good, but Sting himself is impressive with his notable speed and enthusiasm, the spot where he suffers the figure four but makes the rope and his big Stinger Splash, which got a huge response from the audience.

A great opportunity to see one of the best of his time help bring up the wrestler who would be the next big thing.

Found on: WWE Network

Sting vs. Vader (WCW Fall Brawl 1994, September 18th, 1994)

Sting and Vader had one of the all-time great WCW feuds between 1992 and 1994, and while this is the last match in the feud, certainly the last PPV match between the pair. But because it wasn’t the result of a bigger story between the pair or billed as their final encounter, rather it was number one contenders match, I think it tends to get rather overlooked. Most critics who are looking at this era of WCW are usually more concerned with commenting on the changes Hulk Hogan had wrought on WCW at the time, but this match proved that WCW’s homegrown talent was still there and still had a lot to offer.

The concept of the triangle match was a very popular one in 1994, thanks to Terry Funk, Sabu and Shane Douglas’ classic encounter at ECW’s The Night The Line Was Crossed. WCW kind of got it a little bit wrong by having Vader and Guardian Angel (aka The Big Boss Man) wrestle first, with Sting coming out immediately afterwards to face the winner. Still, it did create stakes: with both men hungry to get a shot at Hogan and his belt, they went at it here with fire and aggression.

There was actually a nice little story here if you noticed it: Vader was a bit dismissive of Sting in the beginning, having beaten him several times, but Sting had grown in confidence against the big man and visually surprised him with his resilience and determination. The top rope also played a big part here, with Vader’s ego pushing him to constantly go for the Vader Bomb and moonsault, only for Sting to counter it or move out of the way. Sting showed great strength at times, hitting a lovely released German suplex on ‘The Mastadon’ as well as a massive backdrop from the top corner. Harley Race tried to suplex Sting onto the commentators’ table at one point, but Sting reversed it and dropped the legend straight on the floor with a suplex of his own.

The ending was curious but again added to the feeling of their being stakes. The fifteen-minute time limit expired, but we must have a winner! A five-minute overtime period yielded no fall so it went to sudden death: the first man knocked off his feet would lose! While I wouldn’t want to see this stipulation overused, as indeed it hasn’t been, it did actually yield some real heat and drama here, with Sting’s legs buckling keeping people on the edge of their seats.

It might not be the biggest or the best Sting/Vader confrontation, but it’s a damn good battle and it deserves more attention than it gets.

Found on: WWE Network

Sting vs. The Great Muta (NWA Power Hour, September 1st, 1989)

The feud between these two face-painted warriors was one of the highlights of the late 80s/early 90s, with stand-out encounters taking place at The Great American Bash ’89Starrcade ’89 and the WCW/New Japan Supershow I. This match though, taking place on b-show Power Hour, is actually better than any of those matches.

Why? Simply put, the pair really go at each other here. With the vacant NWA TV title up for grabs (after the pair suffered a double pin at the Bash), both men looked hungry here, with Muta showing real aggression with his arsenal of kicks, as well as trapping and pounding Sting in the corner. Sting countered early by trying a series of quick pins but a Terry Funk distraction led ‘The Stinger’ into getting choked by Gary Hart and thrown into the guard rail and slammed on the floor by Muta.

Eventually, Sting rallied with a comeback but accidentally nailed the ref, Nick Patrick, knocking him out. A Scorpion Deathlock attempt was thwarted by an interfering Gary Hart and a foreign object, but Sting would not be denied and it took Gary Hart attacking Sting again after he mounted Muta in the corner with a Stinger splash that led to the DQ decision.

The result aside, this was an energetic, aggressive and extremely entertaining match between the two. The NWA in 1989 was on fire and both Sting and Muta were a very large part of that. This match demonstrates why.

Found on: YouTube/WWE Network

Written by Chris Flackett

Chris Flackett is a writer for 25YL who loves Twin Peaks, David Lynch, great absurdist literature and listens to music like he's breathing oxygen. He lives in Manchester, England with his beautiful wife, three kids and the ghosts of Manchester music history all around him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Shockmaster in a shiny helmet

Fall Brawl ‘93: The Shockmaster Goes To War

SummerSlam '88 promo card showing the Mega Powers and the Mega Bucks

SummerSlam 88: The Mega Powers Usher in SummerSlam!