Sting's WWE career is likely to be marked by a single bout, a grand farewell on a grand stage.
The TNA and WCW star's retirement match is a chance to satisfy pining fans, elevate a rising star and send Sting off into the sunset with the proper pomp and circumstance that he deserves. The best options for that contest come down to the expected route (pitting him against Undertaker) or taking a risk that promises big rewards.
Regarding the latter, a better quality match awaits "A Man Called Sting" if WWE goes with someone younger as his opponent.
Jim Ross writes the following on his blog:
In my perfect, booking world, which actually doesn't exist and is an oxymoronic statement, Sting would have one match...a retirement match at WM31 against a suitable villain even though some will lobby for that retirement match opposition to be Undertaker. A smaller, athletic young talent who needs the "rub" would arguably be ideal.
Ross is right in that someone younger and athletic going against him would be ideal. Sting is well beyond his prime at this point and needs someone to carry most of the match's workload.
That dynamic worked beautifully for Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair at WrestleMania 24. Flair brought his star power, magnetism and ring savvy, while Michaels provided the big spots.
This is the route WWE would be better off taking, as it would also push a star's career forward, something Undertaker doesn't need at this point.
The appeal of Undertaker vs. Sting hasn't faded for several fans, though. It's a match that a portion of the audience will always continue to pull for.
The Icon vs. The Deadman
Having Sting end his career against The Undertaker would surprise no one and thrill many. It's a matchup fans have been dreaming about for years.
It's also reportedly what WWE had in mind for "The Stinger."
According to Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc, "There is now a working idea within WWE that Sting will wrestle one match and then retire, which everyone presumes will be against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 31 in California."
It's a clash that, as David Wilcox points out, makes sense in terms of storyline.
It writes itself: Taker's ready to retire on Raw, out comes Sting, they make a double retirement match for 31. No streak necessary. #WWE— David Wilcox (@drwilcox) April 7, 2014
They are both at the end of their careers, both are major stars and have similarly dark gimmicks. It would feel a lot like a duel from the Wild West, a final showdown between two legends.
As anticipated as it would be, though, it's a match that is likely to disappoint. Sting is 55. Undertaker is 49.
Undertaker had been excelling in short bursts. Against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30, he showed his age. He was slower, stiffer and less explosive than we've ever seen him.
He followed that bout with a trip to the hospital, per WWE.com.
This contest would be the easiest to hype and generate the most buzz heading into it but would flop once the bell rang. Choosing a younger star, as Ross suggests, ups the chance for the match to be a far better one.
WWE is clearly setting Reigns up for a life in the limelight.
Retiring Sting would be yet another resume-booster for this emerging star.
Just the act of Sting choosing Reigns as his opponent would provide him with the proverbial rub. Sting could talk about wanting to face WWE's best, to tangle with the future of the company. Much like Chris Jericho vs. Michaels at WrestleMania XIX, it would have a "young lion challenging the alpha" feel.
Their battle would then be a powerful passing-of-the-torch moment. Providing Sting's sendoff would give Reigns a special accomplishment to brag about, pushing him forward and doing so with a memorable match.
Reigns' speed and explosiveness would make sure that the bout had plenty of excitement.
The story once the bell rang could be Sting using his veteran experience to outsmart Reigns. He would pounce on any of Reigns' mistakes but eventually fall to the pride's younger lion.
Booking Bryan as Sting's final opponent is the surest way to assure a great match for him. Bryan has shown he can produce masterworks against a variety of opponents, from Cesaro to John Cena, CM Punk to Triple H.
This is WWE's best chance of repeating the quality of Michaels vs. Flair.
It makes sense for Sting to want to prove what he still has in the tank in a battle against WWE's hottest wrestler. It's a case of an incoming star aiming high, of an invader from another company coming at the king.
Bryan doesn't need the amount of career-boosting matches that Reigns does, but he would benefit greatly from being the man to put Sting away, much the way forcing Randy Savage to retire enhanced The Ultimate Warrior's position even after he had been world champ.
Having Undertaker sing Sting his swan song would be the ultimate honor, but having Bryan do it is no mere consolation prize. Bryan's vocal fanbase and surging popularity combined with Sting's lofty reputation would make this a momentous clash.
If Bryan isn't in the main event come WrestleMania 31, this is a big match to provide him with instead.
Wyatt's mind games and Sting's fiery courage make this an intriguing story from the start. To prove what he has left, Sting could decide to challenge "The Eater of Worlds."
It's not hard to imagine a verbal showdown turning into Sting being coerced to put his career on the line.
This match would be a lot like what fans are expecting from Undertaker and Sting—a collision between dark characters.
It would be far better in terms of in-ring action, though. Wyatt's vicious style makes Sting the sympathetic hero. His explosiveness would make the bout a fast-paced, fun one.
Giving Wyatt this major opportunity announces to the world that he will be a marquee name.
Who would make best farewell opponent for Sting?
Devouring a legend on the grand stage of WrestleMania would earn him a stockpile of momentum. It would have him appear more dangerous, more predatory, much like Randy Orton did as "The Legend Killer."
The promos leading up to this promise to be fantastic. The match will be far better than what Undertaker and Sting would do together. Giving Wyatt Hall of Fame prey ups his status.
Like booking Sting against Reigns, it would be a smart way to boost a current star.
It's also a riskier proposition like the Reigns vs. Sting match. Undertaker vs. Sting is an easy sell, even with all its flaws.
Going with Wyatt or Reigns requires more faith in a less proven commodity but has the potential to end with a far better result, creating the kind of lasting images that Michaels vs. Flair did.