As a wrestling fan, one of the most fun discussion exercises centers around the simple question of “What If?” Well, we here at PTBN love talking wrestling, both past and present. And we love collaborating on columns too. So we have arrived at our “What If…?” series. Each month, our staff will tackle a new “What If…?” question and layout why they made their choice as well as the fallout for all involved in the decision.
This month’s subject: Sting Jumps to WWE
JT Rozzero: 1998
In a post-Montreal world, the WWF was seemingly in a pretty dark place. With Bret Hart and others departing the ship and WCW building to their most hotly anticipated PPV in company history, things seemed quite bleak for Vince McMahon. Many assumed Sting would easily throttle Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade to take the WCW Heavyweight Title and pay off an angle that had been incubating for 16 months. However, when the big night came, we got a messy match with a messier finish that included Hart showing up and some shenanigans with a Nick Patrick botched fast count. If WCW hadn’t been so hot at the time, it may have really caused them some issues. However, they rebounded a bit and by February, Sting was undisputed Champion after knocking off Hogan again in a rematch. However, his reign was very short lived and within months, he joined the NWO Wolfpac, essentially killing off his WCW defender gimmick that had so much steam throughout 1997.
So, what if Sting became so disillusioned with the way Starrcade ended and felt that Hogan’s politics would never quite allow him to ascend to the top slot again? What if saw Bret Hart walking in, red hot off getting screwed, and assumed his spot as WCW’s hard working, beloved face was now taken as well? Maybe he sees the gap in the ever thinning WWF roster with Hart gone and Steve Austin banged up and decides to jump ship and join the rest of the old Turner refugees that swam north after Hogan had arrived.
As Austin marched to WrestleMania XIV, it was clear that he was not the company’s chosen one and that he had an uphill battle to wage to meet his destiny. Also factor in that Shawn Michaels had the backing of DX and Mike Tyson and it certainly looked as if the numbers would be too great to overcome. But suddenly, on Raw the night after No Way Out, a camera catches Sting crouching in the rafters, observing the show. Rumors begin to swirl, questioning his motives and why he was there. After weeks of silent observance, at WrestleMania, he comes flying down from his perch and wipes out Triple H and Chyna, giving Austin a clear path to take home the gold. From there, Sting would be a loose ally of Austin and Undertaker in the war with Mr. McMahon and WWF brass, playing up their roots from down south earlier in the decade but due to their character traits, they are never more than that. Eventually, when Undertaker turns heel in the fall, Sting could stand tall to help defend justice once again and we could set up the dream match that we never got to see for WrestleMania XV.
Also, from a business perspective, grabbing a guy like Sting as 1998 was dawning would have been a huge coup and a major sign that the WWF wasn’t dead quite yet. When Jeff Jarrett bolted WCW for Stamford in the fall of 1997, it was seen as a major win, because a decent sized name star had finally jumped north instead of south. Sting arriving takes that up a notch further. It would also be a swap of loyal, well revered faces at a time when both needed a change of scenery due to the ever changing locker rooms of their homes. For as much as Sting’s legacy is tied to his loyalty to WCW, perhaps it would have been enhanced even further if he made the bold move to help save Titan from sinking.
Ben Morse: 1993
Vince McMahon spent most of 1993, and the rest of the mid-90s, searching for a “new Hulk Hogan” both he and the fans could get behind. While the WWF audience seemed ready to accept Bret Hart as the new standard bearer, the boss lacked confidence in “The Hitman” as a top draw. Vinnie Mac saw dollar signs in rebranding Lex Luger in red, white, and blue, but crowds fell apathetic. It seemed nobody could make everybody happy.
But could Sting have?
If Sting wanted to jump from WCW to WWF, 1993 would have been an ideal year, with Ric Flair having returned to his old stomping ground to take back a top spot, heralding the arrival of Hogan and others, crowding the popular “Stinger” out of the upper echelon; meanwhile, as I just covered, a hole had opened up north. Still in the prime of his physical career and with the type of over-the-top charisma seemingly tailor made for a fanbase only slowly moving past the Rock & Wrestling era, the face-painted super hero could have thrived in the land of Titan.
Inserting Sting into the 1993 WWF likely means Luger never makes his babyface turn, remaining “The Narcissist” and likely being primed for an eventual feud with his old buddy. Yokozuna probably still would have reigned as WWF Champion at least through SummerSlam if not WrestleMania X, while Sting made his WWF name against the Bam Bam Bigelows and Ludvig Borgas of the world. Shawn Michaels would have remained an upper tier mid-carder until his time to run with the ball came a couple years down the line. Likewise, the Undertaker’s path would logically remain the same.
The man affected most by Sting jumping to the WWF in 1993 would be Bret Hart. If the fans got behind “The Stinger” and Vince felt the muscular Californian could carry the burden of his company, he would be the logical choice to win the inaugural King of the Ring and eventually topple Yokozuna for the WWF title. Gifted with better technical skills than Sting but not his raw magnetism, at best Hart becomes a perennial unsuccessful challenger for the big belt and star maker for new heels, at worst, he fades into obscurity or jumps to WCW.
But unless you’re Bret Hart, the mid-90s doldrums of the WWF stood to be a lot brighter with Sting in the fold.
Scott Criscuolo: 1996
1996 will go down as one of the most important years in professional wrestling history. During this year the two major promotions (WWF and WCW) took great steps to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. ECW was continuing to gain steam to the audience of the 1980s who outgrew the Doinks and Shockmasters of their childhood. During this time one superstar who was bred in the 80s may have been preparing for a change of scenery.
Before Hulk Hogan’s arrival in WCW in 1994, Sting was perhaps the #1 babyface in the promotion. He was crazy over beginning in late 1987 and was galvanized through his 45-minute draw with Ric Flair at the first Clash of the Champions in 1988. From that point on he was WCW’s constant while the rest of the roster seemed to always go through turnover. By 1995 Hulk Hogan clearly was the face of WCW, but sadly guys like Jim Duggan and Honky Tonk Man also clogged up the card. Lex Luger was off in the WWF but then made his big return when Nitro debuted. Realizing that he may have been continuously pushed further down the card, the WWF offered a deal in December to make a big splash after Luger’s departure. With the possibility of financial departures, meaning some may leave for greener pastures, the WWF instead pays for WCW’s top face and make the biggest splash of them all. As 1996 dawns, what does he do? Simple…shock everyone in Fresno.
Sting comes out as a late entry into the Royal Rumble in Fresno and the place goes crazy. He throws some random bums out but then gets eliminated by an ALREADY eliminated…Vader. Their epic feud earlier in the decade can be rekindled. The six-man tag match that was at WrestleMania gets moved to In Your House #6, with Sting replacing Jake Roberts, and Vader gets the pin on him. So at WrestleMania, Sting and Vader go one-on-one in a gimmick match of some kind. The Iron Man match still happens, but now a third epic main event with Hart/Michaels and Diesel/Undertaker makes this show much better than it turned out to be.
Over the next few months Sting works with Shawn Michaels in tag matches while Michaels continues his run as WWF Champion. Perhaps the WWF doesn’t even need to bring in Sid or Ultimate Warrior, which looking back would be a waste of money. Vader and Shawn Michaels still face each other at SummerSlam, but this time Vader (with the help of Cornette, Owen and other heels) wins the WWF Title that apparently was the original plan. At Survivor Series, it’s Sting who defeats Vader and wins the WWF Title, while Michaels faces someone in Camp Cornette, and we keep the ***** gem that is Steve Austin and the returning Bret Hart.
By 1997 Sting could face either Michaels or Undertaker in a big WrestleMania XIII main event. Either way, 1996 would have seen Sting in some major feuds without the WWF having to pay for a returning Ultimate Warrior and Sid. Vader would be better used and not buried and even with the creation of the New World Order in WCW, the guy who would take them down a year later…wouldn’t be there.
Matt Davis: 1987
What if Sting joined the WWF at a time when Vince McMahon found himself growing his territory from the small borders of Connecticut to the global phenomenon we know today? Both Sting and the WWF were hot assets in the world of wrestling in 1987, and the entire history of wrestling as we know it would have changed. The pursuit of Steve Borden, aka The Man They Call Sting, to the WWF was not as far fetched as some may believe in the late 1980s. Sting teamed with a man know as Dingo Warrior in UWF in Texas earlier in the decade. Both men painted their faces and wore bright colors and were charactaristic on the microphone and in the ring. Sting could have easily signed with the WWF when his tag team partner did.
The colorful duo would have taken the WWF tag team division by storm, and easily won over fans, much like the Road Warriors did years later. The company was dominated by strong tag team title acts in 1987, including The Rockers, Demolition, the Hart Foundation, Strike Force, and many others. We would have seen Sting face Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart in their prime, and eventually win the WWF Tag Team Championships. But it also means that Ultimate Warrior doesn’t find himself the beneficiary of a rocket push in 1988, and he doesn’t win the Intercontinental Championship in record time if he was WWF Tag Team Champion. The company simply did not work that way then. Sting would have climbed the ranks, winning over fans with his work ethic, pyschology, and charisma eventually breaking away from the Ultimate Warrior leading to his own run with the Intercontinental Championship, and ensuing feuds with Greg Valentine, Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and his former partner, Ultimate Warrior. Like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart before him, Sting would have been a marquee piece of the mid-card for the company. And if I were rebooking history, the WWF could have given us the Ric Flair/Sting feud in 1992, instead of Bret Hart. Sting could have faced Ric Flair at a Saturday Night Main Event and lost to him after a 45 minute draw much like at Clash of Champions in our own reality, and then beaten Ric Flair in the summer of 1992 and become WWF Champion after another great match. Sting would have become a household name much sooner than he did, and fans of wrestling would have greatly benefited from it.
Marc Clair: 1991 & 1992
When it came time to envision Sting appearing in the WWF some time before 2015, the first thing I thought of was which WWF wrestlers I’d want to see him tangle with in their primes. The names are obvious – Savage, Flair, Hogan, Jake Roberts – but Sting would end up facing these guys down the line in WCW. But there’s one star of that era who was just beginning to get over big – and I mean BIG – a man who to this day Sting has never stood inside a ring with, and that man is The Undertaker. In my fantasy rebook, I will craft a 4-5 month story arc culminating in Stings vs. the Undertaker at WrestleMania VIII. To me, this is the perfect time to have these two face off, as Undertaker was insanely over following his work with Hogan and Flair towards the end of 1991. As a result of this, he would soon turn face, but in my world we will delay that turn just a tiiiiiiiiiny bit in order to get to our dream match with Sting.
Our tale begins at Survivor Series 1991. The opening match is pits Roddy Piper’s team consisting of himself, Bret Hart, the British Bulldog, and Virgil vs. Ric Flair’s team, which included the Mountie, the Warlord and Ted Dibiase. In my world, the differences start the week prior at Survivor Series Showdown, where Dibiase won his Million Dollar title back from his former protege Virgil. In my bizzaro versions of events, Virgil is the victim of a post-match attack, as the Warlord locks him in his full nelson and the Mountie zaps him with the taser. Virgil is declared to be unable to compete at Survivor Series. Before the show, Piper declares he has found a partner to replace Virgil, one who knows Flair “better than anyone.” Sure enough, Piper introduces the “Man Called Sting” as his partner. I would have the match go down in essentially the same manner as it did at Survivor Series with Flair being declared the sole survivor after the rest of the men get into a huge brawl. But first I would have Sting get a pinfall over Warlord to give him some shine, and Flair would find himself out of the action on the outside due to a Flair flip over the turnbuckle and a Sting clothesline to the outside. Flair still gets a victory on the big stage, while the Stinger gets a chance to look good in his debut. He gets his shine back with a Stinger Splash and Scorpion Death Lock on Flair after the match. Later that evening during the Undertaker vs. Hulk Hogan title match, Flair comes in to get involved only in this version of events Sting comes down to run him off. Flair still places the chair in the ring leading to the Tombstone on Hogan and victory for Taker.
We then move on to “This Tuesday in Texas”, which goes down essentially same way as it really did. Sting gets an undercard victory over Warlord instead of the Bulldog. On the same show, instead of a clean victory over Roberts, Randy Savage gets DQ’d for using a chair, and we get the same Jake Roberts post-match beatdown and slap of Elizabeth. The main event goes down just as it did in history, only once again Sting comes down to the ring to counter Flair, which leads to Hogan throwing the ashes in Taker’s eyes and defeating him to win the title back. Only in this version, instead of Flair helping Jack Tunney get up just in time to see Hogan’s shenanigans, it is Sting who helps up Tunney.
Over the next few weeks, while Roberts talks about how he’s not done with Savage, now Sting has drawn the ire of the Undertaker for costing him the World title. Paul Bearer vows to lead his charge to take Sting out of wrestling for good. Meanwhile, Hogan is livid about being stripped of the title, and has questions about Sting’s role in the helping Jack Tunney which lead to him losing the title. There are lots of layers and intermingling of characters here, but for the next few months we essentially have Flair/Taker/Jake feuding with Hogan/Savage/Sting.
The 1992 Royal Rumble goes down in a similar manner to that of history, as Flair emerges with the title. Savage eliminates himself going after Roberts, while Sting eliminates Taker with a clothesline over the top rope. I would end the Rumble in a similar manner as 1992, only playing the role of Sid is Sting, to further the tension between he and Hogan.
With Flair as champ, a #1 contender for WrestleMania is needed, and it is announced that to determine the #1 contender, Hulk Hogan and Sting will face off on Saturday Night’s Main Event. The tension has been building between the two since Tuesday in Texas, and they both want a shot at Flair’s gold. This match ends when Flair and Taker both intervene. Hogan has body slammed Sting and is setup for the leg drop, but after a ref bump and interference from Flair and Paul Bearer, the Undertaker enter the ring and TOMBSTONES Sting, when Hogan turns around he leg drops Sting and earns his ticket to Mania.
This sets up my three top matches for WrestleMania VIII as: Savage vs. Roberts in a “Snake Pit’ match or some such blowoff the feud never really got, Hogan facing Flair for the title as he always should have, and Sting facing Taker in the “dream match” nobody knew they wanted yet. In order to keep the Streak in tact, I would actually have Sting lose but in a way that protects him. With Sting having Taker in the Scorpion Deathlock, Jake comes down to the ring (miffed after losing to Savage) and demands the urn from Bearer. Paul won’t give it up, so Jake decks him, throws ashes in Sting’s eyes, and Taker recovers for the Tombstone and the win. This would lead directly to Taker’s face turn, as once he finds out what Roberts did to Paul he focuses his energy on his old mentor. Meanwhile, in my dream world Hogan LOSES to Flair at Mania and takes off as he would in real life, while Sting and Savage becomes Flair’s main contenders over the summer.
There are certainly times when the path would be more clear for Sting to springboard to the top (1995), but to me this is the time where his involvement in the storylines would be the most interesting, and the best time to insert the babyface Sting vs. heel Taker feud.
Dan McGinn: 2011
A date that was filled with so much promise. What could that ominous block on the calendar reveal after weeks of hype by the WWE machine? Was someone returning? Was someone debuting? Pencil pushers no different than I went bananas trying to figure out the messages and clues left by the company each and every week. Picture it, a mysterious cabin located in parts unknown. Thunder crashing and the rains began to pour. A dark man with an even darker past lurking in the shadows. He donned a trench coat and long hair and immediately folks began to speculate that we were about to witness the annual return of the Undertaker for his WrestleMania push. But others had a different thought (me included) that perhaps a new cowboy was about to enter the saloon. The man they called Sting.
This broke the internet before we even knew what that meant. Sting in WWE? The last major holdout not to make the jump from WCW. The franchise and most loyal employee of the fallen company would now grace a WWE ring. It was unfathomable! And not for nothing, a time when the company could have really used another major attraction. At the time, the WWE Champion was The Miz. Really? Edge was your World Heavyweight Champion and we didn’t know it at the time but his neck was probably hanging by its last possible thread. Jerry Lawler would be in a title match this same month! Michael Cole was soon to be wrestling on PPV. I rest my case!
Well we all know what happened. Sting stayed in TNA, the man in the cabin turned out to be The Undertaker and this was all a set up for Triple H to also make a triumphant return to the company after a long layoff on screen in 2010.
So what if Sting came down from the rafters in 2011 and shocked the world of wrestling as we know it? They could have done the same thing as what was teased in the above fan photo. Have Taker return as expected only in place of Triple H, we get Sting. Holy Mary and Joseph that would have been unbelievable! Taker was still able to have good matches without looking ancient at that time and Sting was coming off wrestling a regular schedule against younger bucks in TNA. They would have been younger, in better condition and would easily have been a better option to go on last than Miz/Cena that year since literally no one had ever seen this match before! We might have been able to do without all the Rock shenanigans at the putrid WrestleMania 27 because everyone would be buzzing over Sting finally working in WWE.
I see their bout being an instant classic that we’d still be talking about today. It’s the two faces of the franchises who battled during the Monday Night Wars finally getting in the ring and determining who was the most dominant force in Sports Entertainment. And the beauty of it is, Sting wouldn’t even have to stay long after Mania. He could just be there only to find out what the mystique of fighting The Undertaker at WrestleMania was really all about. He loses and Taker keeps his streak alive against a most unlikely opponent. He wins, and history is made.
I suppose, depending on what kind of shape he was in at that time, he could have made more appearances and perhaps had been offered a Brock Lesnar-esque contract to be a part-time star attraction on the roster. Maybe he could face Cena at SummerSlam for the WWE Championship in August. If Vince was really being generous, maybe the unthinkable would happen and Sting could add that belt to his growing list of achievements. He might have even put over some younger talents like CM Punk or Daniel Bryan before hanging it up and settling into his Legends contract. Maybe his legacy would have been rewritten and he’d be remembered for more than just being the loyal soldier that carried the NWA/WCW brand but always had something missing from his resume. We might have seen a once in a lifetime moment/match on the biggest stage of them all which would truly mark the end of one of the greatest eras in professional wrestling history.
Instead, we got Triple H.