Sting has been announced as the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016. The announcement was made on January 11, 2016, live on WWE Monday Night RAW.
In a professional wrestling world that is now essentially owned by WWE owner Vincent K. McMahon, it is hard to find a first ballot Hall of Fame candidate that never worked for him. Up until his shocking debut in 2014, Sting was one of those men.
Sting (born Steve Borden) started his pro wrestling career in 1985 as part of an ill-fated team of bodybuilders-turned-wrestlers called Power Team USA. Of the four men in that group, Sting and another man named Jim Hellwig endured and became stars in this industry. Hellwig was of course more famously known simply as The Ultimate Warrior in his later career. The duo got their first break in Memphis under promoter Jerry Jarrett, before moving to Bill Watts and Mid-South Wrestling, which was later renamed Universal Wrestling Federation.
When Jim Crockett Promotions bought the UWF in 1987, Sting became a force within the National Wrestling Alliance. At the inaugural Clash of Champions in March 1988, Sting got the break of a lifetime when he challenged reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair to a 45-minute time limit draw. From that moment on, Sting became a sensation within the NWA and his stock rose immensely.
As the ‘80s closed and the ‘90s began, Sting became the “franchise player” for Jim Crockett Promotions and the NWA as it morphed into Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. He won his first World Championship from Ric Flair in the summer of 1990 and became a made man. In the early part of the ‘90s he battled Lex Luger, Nikita Koloff and Rick Rude and The Dangerous Alliance. He then embarked on a legendary feud with Big Van Vader that made a legitimate star out of Vader and made both men look like superstars in the process. Then Hulk Hogan joined WCW in 1994, which caused Sting to take a backseat and play support to Hogan.
But in the summer of 1996, Sting’s career changed forever. Hulk Hogan turned his back on the fans and joined a young Kevin Nash and Scott Hall to create the new World order. This hostile group claimed Sting had joined their cause, which caused a paranoid WCW to turn their back on their Franchise. An nWo Sting imposter debuted; proving Sting’s innocence, but his trust was broken. He grew his hair out, changed his blond hair to brown long locks, switched the neon face paint ant tights to black and white. He spent 15 months in the rafters of WCW events, taunting the nWo and keeping WCW on its toes. It finally led to a one-on-one WCW World Championship match with Hollywood Hulk Hogan at Starrcade in December ’97. The pay per view drew WCW’s highest buy rate on record and Sting won the World Title again, under dubious circumstances.
The fallout from the red-hot storyline was less stellar than anticipated. However Sting remained with WCW up until its end in March 2001. He actually wrestled Ric Flair in WCW’s last official match, in the main event of the final episode of WCW Monday Nitro.
After WCW folded, he sat out the remainder of his lucrative contract with AOL Time Warner and did not sign with WWE. He then competed in sporadic independent organizations and helped his old boss Jerry Jarrett by appearing on the early days of NWA: Total Non-stop Wrestling Action.
He signed with NWA: TNA full-time in late 2005 and became a fixture in TNA from that point on until early 2014. While in TNA, he was treated as an icon and a legend and came and went as he pleased. He was given immense respect on-air from commentators and fellow wrestlers and was billed on-air as “The Icon.” He won numerous Championships during his run and was treated with reverence throughout his time there.
The last real holdout of WWE finally signed with the company in 2014. After various promotional appearances he finally made his in-ring debut at Survivor Series ’14, where he helped Dolph Ziggler survive the elimination match main event, defeating Triple H’s Authority sponsored team. This led to an epic Sting-Triple H match at WrestleMania XXXI. Triple H won that match, finally putting the decades long WWE-WCW rivalry to bed, but interference from members of the nWo and DeGeneration X made the math a nostalgia trip for long-time fans.
His last match was at the 2015 Night of Champions pay per view where he challenged Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Rollins won the match and Sting suffered a legitimate neck injury during the bout. But it was good match and a fitting end to Sting’s hallowed career.
Sting is one of the most beloved pro wrestlers in recent history. In a world owned on by WWE and Vince McMahon, Sting took the mantle of World Championship Wrestling and became their poster boy. He had all of the intangibles to make a true superstar. He had the look, the size, the wrestling ability, and the God-given charisma to connect with fans worldwide. The fact that he held on joining WWE for so long only allowed his legend to grow.
It is however fitting and reassuring for so many fans worldwide for Sting to end his career in WWE, which is essentially curator of American pro wrestling’s history. To see Sting step foot in a WWE ring was a seemingly unfulfilled wish for many fans that finally came true. He was far more than earned his accolades and this spot within the WWE Hall of Fame.
While not officially announced as of this point, it is likely that Ric Flair will induct his greatest rival into the Hall of Fame. This year’s Hall of Fame ceremony will be held on April 2, 2016, inside the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas. This is the night before WrestleMania XXXII.