I have a confession to make: I like Sting. I really like Sting. For a wrestling fan it's uncomfortable to say. A loaded sentence that seems to convey this idea that I like EVERYTHING Sting is and represents, when in reality all I ever wanted to see was him be divorced from the tired '90s gimmick I once loved. Let's just say 15 years changes people, it should change people -- but it didn't change Sting. That's why his match against Triple H not only feels like a misstep, it's one that leaves me feeling melancholic.
To break this down I feel like I need to explain why I like Sting, or at least what I remember of him. I'll confess I never really followed his path through TNA, or his weird crying blood face paint -- but I caught enough to see an utterly disinterested superstar do his best with terrible material.
The idea that Sting was an amalgam didn't offend me, because he was a combination of the BEST '90s wrestling had to offer. Sure he said "Woo" like Ric Flair, and his finisher was the forerunner to Bret Hart's Sharpshooter. I know the Scorpion Death Drop was little more than a decently-executed inverse DDT, but none of that mattered. All was forgiven when the Stinger splashed someone in the corner or performed one of the best gorilla press slams in wrestling. He was athletic, strong and intimidating. Every superstar can basically fit into a D&D alignment, but he broke the mold. He was Lawful Chaotic. Sting's character showed that you could have a moral compass and still do ANYTHING required to get the job done. That's why I found him awesome.
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Yes this is happening. Don't try to rub your eyes or imagine you dreamed it, because this is actually happening.
Acting as an omnipresent, morally driven badass. Sting took things to the extreme for his "team." John Cena might tout "Hustle, Loyalty and Respect," but Sting still owns the "loyalty" part of that equation, both within and outside of kayfabe. This is a man who admired Ted Turner's company so much that he never jumped ship. When the boat sank he was willing to hurt his career on the principle of WCW's death. All while venerating a company that rarely did right by him.
That's because he's a Crow-gimmicked Willy Loman, a mono-chromatic Antigone. Sting's "vigilante" character from the WCW days became a tragic but celebrated hero. He fought against the nWo while swimming upstream against Eric Bischoff and then Vince Russo's incompetence. Wearing a constant frown, without saying a word -- he was emotionless, a constant. That's all we were given.
In WCW's dying days I recreated the promotion I remembered, tirelessly modeling Sting in WWF No Mercy with a cobbled together move set of borrowed elements and poorly named generic moves. His entrance was bad, but I had hope that one day soon I'd get to see the matches in real life that I booked on the Nintendo 64.
Obviously, that reality didn't come to pass. WCW's stars were on Raw, but not in a way I remembered. The ring was larger, music was different. Some superstars were repacked, others left behind. Most of WWF's roster decisions were sound, but I was left wondering where Sting was. Why didn't they bring over the one man most synonymous with the WCW brand? At the time I didn't read "dirt sheets" or understand why he seemed to be a holdout. All I knew was that I'd never see Sting fight Triple H.
Now, in the year 2015, seeing Sting take on The Game isn't the alluring dream match it once was. Instead, we've been given a martini that was left in the shaker far too long. The flavor is ruined, a delicate balance watered down -- it's left me feeling like Sunday's fight will be something better left to the imagination, or kept confined to that old N64 cartridge.
Sting is there in the flesh. He's standing in a WWE ring. The music is different, but the trench coat remains. He has the black baseball bat and the thousand-yard stare, but the fire is gone. The same can be said for his opponent. Make no mistake, Triple H is still one of the best darn things WWE has, even in semi-retirement, but his transition to authority figure has left this once-possible prize fight feeling like another Shane vs. Vince McMahon feud.
Monday Night Raw
Will the match be any good? Perhaps. Sting remains a consummate professional and Triple H can make anything good. Seriously, put The Game in a fight 20 years from now and he'll still be adequate. The problem is the drama, or the distinct lack thereof. The conceit of this fight is that Sting is somehow getting revenge for WCW being bought, but on Monday night we were told that's NOT why Sting wants to fight. Apparently he just wants to take out Triple H, for some reason.
The whole thing feels weird, like when WWE tried to bring back the nWo. Young fans don't really know who Sting is, while older ones don't want to remember either superstar like this. The image of The Undertaker trying his best against Brock Lesnar a year ago is fresh in our minds. That's the fear of what this match could become.
I have actual, legitimate anxiety about this. Part of me thinks it would be best to just turn off the WWE Network while the match plays out and watch it later if the Internet tells me it's good. Too much time has passed since I've seen Sting in the ring in a meaningful way, and I'd sooner go back to old WCW pay-per-views than see what might happen in Santa Clara on Sunday.
Ultimately I'll watch, I know I will -- out of curiosity as much as anything else. Hopefully it will be a cathartic end to a 15-year-old dream, but deep down I know that may be an impossible dream.
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