"The Icon," "the Franchise" or simply "the Man," Steve Borden is Sting.
Perception is a reality in today’s world and, including professional wrestling. How is one determined to be good or even great at what they do?
What separates the upper echelon from the best? In wrestling, the answer is perception.
To be perceived as great and the best is an honor to those who are that darn good.
Hulk Hogan is perceived as the guy who was big and bald, with 24-inch pythons, wearing red and yellow and representing the red, white and blue.
Ric Flair, to this day, is still perceived as a limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheeling, dealing son of a gun!
The Stinger, to this day, is perceived as the one guy who need not venture to the WWF/E to make a name for himself. He can be described as the colorful Californian with spiked hair and face paint. Or, he can be described as the dark and mysterious savior who is a symbol of hope and loyalty.
However, there is a perception that stirs the proverbial pot of controversy when mentioned for the Stinger—the perception that he is an “icon.”
Those who are deeply connected to the history, both past and present, of professional wrestling will argue for and against that perception.
WWF/E fans and loyalists will claim Sting is not an icon because he never wrestled for No. 1 promotion and Vince McMahon. They will say Sting is an all-time great, but stop short of referring to him as an icon because he never stepped foot in a WWF/E ring or, more importantly, that he never appeared at WrestleMania.
NWA/WCW enthusiasts, and even the rare TNA fan, will stand up Sting and make note of all his accomplishments, from his UWF days as Blade Runner Flash alongside Jim Hellwig, better known as the Ultimate Warrior, to the NWA and WCW.
They will say he beat all the best before they jumped ship, including Mean Mark (The Undertaker), Oz (Diesel/Kevin Nash) and Bruiser Mastino (Kane). He also defeated the likes of Mick Foley (as Cactus Jack), Stunning Steve before he became Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Terra Ryzing (Triple H) before he became "The Game," and son-in-law of the WWF/E.
What makes someone an icon?
Who are professional wrestling’s all-time icons?
For those who are in the 21-35 male demographic, those wrestlers would include Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin. And yes, while all were great wrestlers, only one of those five men never stepped foot in a Ted Turner ring.
So my question: if Sting never stepped foot in a WWF/E ring and his WCW legacy is not feasible for icon consideration, should Hogan, Flair, Hart and Austin all have their icon consideration vanquished since they each spent considerable time in WCW?
If the anti-WCW sentiment is true, Shawn Michaels is the only wrestler, other than perhaps the Rock, who should be deemed a true “icon.”
But back to the Stinger for a bit—his real ring name is the Stinger, complete with an ‘er’ at the end. He never intended to be “Sting,” which many feel is a knock against him due to the musician with that same name.
From 1988 to 1998, there was no hotter wrestler in the business than the Stinger.
He had some of the most memorable matches of all-time against Ric Flair. The same Ric Flair who, on the final episode of WCW Nitro, called Stinger his “greatest opponent.” And yes, he referred to him as Stinger!
Their epic battles included a 1988 Clash of the Champions event (45-minute time limit draw) and the 1990 Great American Bash (Stinger defeats Flair to win the World Heavyweight Championship).
When Flair departed to the WWF/E in 1991, the Stinger battled the likes of Vader, Rick Rude, Jake Roberts and Steve Austin.
Not only was Stinger the World Heavyweight Champion seven times in NWA/WCW, he also won the United States Championship twice, the World Tag Team Championship three times while also claiming the 1989 Iron Man Tournament (d. Ric Flair), the 1991 Starrcade “Battle Bowl” (i.e. WCW’s Royal Rumble) and the 1992 King of Cable Tournament (d. Vader).
Overall, the Stinger has held 24 championships. He was Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Wrestler of the Year in 1990, the Most Popular Wrestler on four occasions (1991-92, 1994, 1997), and he was the No. 1 wrestler in PWI's 500 in 1992.
Did you forget Stinger was a member of the Four Horsemen?
Yes, the same group that is being inducted to the WWF/E Hall of Fame this year. Stinger was a Horseman before the group became watered down.
Let us not forget the infamous nWo/ Hollywood Hogan feud during 1996-97.
While some critics believe the nWo was the reason WCW Nitro beat WWF Raw in the ratings war those years, I beg to differ.
Each week, as Nitro went off the air, you saw the nWo on screen, but you also saw Stinger. Whether he repelled from the rafters, came from the crowd or walked the aisle, Stinger brought the biggest “pop!”
WCW management at the time ruined arguably the greatest angle/storyline of all-time. Regardless of how the match ended, Stinger was positioned during the entire buildup to save WCW and defeat the nWo.
And he did.
As Stinger watched them all come and go, he knew one thing—WCW was his home. He was the Franchise of WCW.
He was an icon in professional wrestling.
He was the man known as Sting or the Stinger.
If the WWF/E was so great, why (other than the money argument) did all the stars from the north descend south to WCW? Hogan, Flair (coming back), Savage, Hall, Nash, Hennig, Dibiase, Rude, Warrior and Hart they all made their names, aside from Flair, in the WWF/E.
To those who base their argument of Stinger not being an icon because he never made it to WrestleMania, think of what he would have been had he done so.
The fact remains he didn’t need to nor does he.
If John Cena is perceived as an icon because of his “loyalty” (hustle and respect), why is the Stinger not an icon for that same reason?