Sting Shoots on AEW Life, The Undertaker Match That Never Was, RoboCop and More
Sting made his in-ring debut for All Elite Wrestling at the Revolution pay-per-view on March 7 in a cinematic match with Darby Allin against Ricky Starks and Brian Cage.
This was the first time The Icon had competed in the squared circle in over five years after his neck was injured during a bout with Seth Rollins at WWE Night of Champions in 2015.
After he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016, many fans thought his wrestling career was over. But the 62-year-old proved everybody wrong when he put on a great performance alongside Allin.
We had a chance to speak with Sting about getting back into fighting shape, memorable moments from his career, RoboCop, if he has plans for retirement and much more.
Preparing for a Return to the Ring
No matter what age a person grows to be, taking five years off from any sport will make it difficult to return at the same level. The same is true for pro wrestlers, especially if that time off is due to an injury.
Sting talked about what he had to do to prepare for the Street Fight and the difficulties of shaking off the ring rust:
"After five-and-a-half years of not being in a ring, there was some rust on me, for sure, especially with guys in the ring like Darby, Ricky Starks and Brian Cage. These guys are incredible. Tony Khan asked me if I wanted a ring sent to my house and thankfully, I have a barn that is insulated with climate control.
"We put the ring in there, and I had to get used to running the ropes again, and it was an eye-opener for me. It was a challenge. I didn't recover as quick as I used to. It was grueling. I had a lot of work to get my cardio ready to go and get into good physical condition. It was tougher than it's ever been but I got there."
The Street Fight at Revolution
For his first match with AEW, Sting teamed up with Allin to compete in a cinematic Street Fight at Revolution.
What was it like working with Allin and how much input did The Icon have in the process?
"There were times I felt like I am along for the ride, but it's hard for me not to plug myself in creatively on certain aspects. I would speak up and have my own ideas, but I have to tell you: Darby is probably the most creative I have seen. He has a mind for the wrestling business and cinematography. I think he is going to be one of those guys that a lot of people are going to end up working for someday. He is multi-talented. It was really cool working with Darby."
Cinematic matches have become more commonplace since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies like AEW and WWE are using the circumstances to do things they could never do with a full touring schedule.
Sting said he enjoyed the format and the challenges that came with it:
"The cinematic was fun. I would like to do more of those for sure, but I came out of it in shambles. It took its toll on me. It was two nights of filming and that was pretty tough. It can be taxing on the body especially at my age. It was 12 hours instead of being in the ring for 30-40 minutes. I love filming. I have done movies and TV, and I always have fun with that stuff. The tough part was all of the hours and the recovery time."
Coming to AEW, Retirement Plans and a Missed Opportunity with Undertaker
At one point, Sting thought he would be retired for good, but many wrestlers who thought the same thing have come back. The itch to perform is too strong. As an example, Terry Funk had several "Retirement" matches in his career.
Does Sting have a timeframe in mind to retire and why did he return to the business with AEW:
"I am playing it by ear. It's amazing because I was the guy who didn't know anything about pro wrestling when I got into it. I would see these older wrestlers and ask why they are doing this. Why they are putting their bodies through this. I thought I would never be one of those guys, but be careful what you say because that's me, and I never would have imagined being my age and being back in the ring."
Before The Icon left WWE, a lot of people thought he would face The Undertaker in a bout similar to the Boneyard match from WrestleMania 36. Unfortunately, that never came to pass, though:
"It wasn't a goal of mine to get back in the ring. The only thing I thought I might do is have a cinematic match against Undertaker when I was with WWE. We weren't able to come to an agreement. Tony [Schiavone] reached out to me and asked if I wanted to come play and let him know. A year later and I thought WWE isn't working out and I didn't want to disappear with my tail between my legs. I hate that.
"I had no idea what I could offer AEW but I called Tony and he asked if I would be interested in doing cinematic matches. I said I would like to do that and now, Tony is talking about matches on Dynamite. We'll see what happens there. To be back on TNT is a cool element to it. It's great to have guys like Jim Ross, Tony, Dustin [Rhodes], Tully [Blanchard] and Arn [Anderson] around."
Favorite Matches and Opponent
Sting has faced some of the biggest names that have ever stepped foot in a wrestling ring. Even with a huge list of legendary opponents, he didn't hesitate to name his favorite.
“It would have to be Ric [Flair]. I have said it for years. He mentored me and taught me so much. He had the ability to make or break careers and he chose to make me. He is responsible for putting me on the map. That was a relationship that lasted for years. We even had WCW’s last match. I had more matches with him than anyone else.”
The Nature Boy and The Stinger had many battles. They worked the first and final episodes of WCW Nitro together, but there are two matches that stuck out to Sting as his favorites.
“The Great American Bash in July of 1990. I had blown my knee out in February of that year. It should have taken 7-9 months to recover but I came back in July and we had the match. The rest is history. That and the match from Clash of Champions in 1988.”
At Clash of Champions, Sting and Flair fought to a time-limit draw in a 45-minute marathon performance. Two years later at The Great American Bash, The Icon defeated The Nature Boy to win the NWA World Championship.
Who Came Up with His Face Paint?
In the early '90s, Sting has bleached blond hair and wore colorful tights to match his vibrant face paint. The look has been dubbed "Surfer Sting" in the years since he decided to alter his entire gimmick.
On the October 21, 1996, episode of Nitro, Sting returned from a short hiatus wearing all black with a face painted in a way that resembled the lead character of The Crow. Some fans might be surprised to find out the origins of this look actually started with a suggestion from a member of the New World Order.
“I would have to give most of that credit to Scott Hall. We were in Casper, Wyoming at a hotel. I was having breakfast and he was there with Eric Bischoff talking about things. Hall and Nash had created some cool vignettes that were going to air with the black and white. It was mysterious. Fans were starting to boo Hogan and the business was changing."
"They wanted something dark and dirty. I thought my character had to change before fans started sticking their finger down their throat. I was trying to figure out what to do and Hall says (Perfect Scott Hall impression) ‘You know what you should do? Get a trench coat, man. Paint your face white. Put some black around your eyes. Something mysterious. That’s what I would do, man.’"
"I ended up painting my face and it evolved into what it evolved into. It didn’t really have anything to do with The Crow at first but there were some similarities, I admit.”
Was Sting Robocop?
A career that spans several decades is bound to have several memorable moments, but when it comes to Sting, few stand out as much as the time he was saved by Robocop.
The early-'90s was a strange time in pro wrestling. Giant turkeys were hatching from eggs, wrestlers appeared to have day jobs as garbage men and accountants, and Hollywood crossovers were becoming more commonplace.
One rumor that has persisted throughout the years is who played Robocop at Capital Combat 1990. IMDB.com lists this event under Peter Weller's credits, but Sting confirmed he was not under the mask that night.
“No no no. It was not Pete Weller (laughs). I think it was some stunt guy. I’m not sure who it was but I know it wasn’t Peter Weller. At the time, it was one of the most embarrassing things to endure. Now I am glad that it happened and I have an original Robocop shirt with both of us. I wear it sometimes for podcasts and it gets a good laugh.”
Acting and Thunder in Paradise
Many pro wrestlers have tried their hand at acting in Hollywood and Sting is no different. He has a few film and TV credits to his name, and while he is open to the idea of acting again, he is not actively chasing it at the moment.
“It’s nothing that I’m pursuing but I love doing characters and voiceover. I would love to do voices for animated shows. I love to do accents and impersonate people. If I really focus on somebody, I can get their voice down pretty good. I had a Randy Savage impression for a long time in the locker room.”
One of Sting's first forays into the thespian world was a multi-episode arc on the series, Thunder in Paradise. The show starred Hulk Hogan and Christopher Lemon, who is the son of the legendary Jack Lemon. Sting was set to reprise his role in a proposed second season that never came to fruition.
“Hulk was trying to get a second season because the ratings were really good. I ended up doing four episodes with the last one being a two-part with a sequel. They wanted me to do 20 out of 22 episodes for the next season to take some of the load off of Hogan. Even with the ratings, they pulled the plug on it.”
The campy show about two mercenaries who own a superboat may have only lasted one season, but it has a cult following among wrestling fans from that era.
Outside the Ring
One of the most important things to Steve Borden, the man behind the Sting makeup, is his faith.
“One thing that is very important to me is my faith in Jesus Christ and that there is something beyond wrestling and entertainment. I am outspoken in what I believe. Jesus is my Lord and savior and I want everyone to know who I am. The real man behind the mask is that, a follower of Jesus.”
For pro wrestlers, being on the road most of the year means their life is dominated by the business. With Sting no longer being a full-time performer, he has a bit more time to enjoy life outside the ring.
“I love something as simple as mowing the lawn. I love real estate. I used to operate my own backhoe and am probably going to get myself a little bobcat. I am always doing some kind of work on the property I own. I love being outside. If I hadn’t been a pro wrestler, I probably would have gotten into land development. Even something like buying and flipping a house. I love that stuff."
"I love to travel, too. My wife was born and raised in Germany and there is so much of the United States she hadn’t seen. We’re going to start traveling soon. She doesn’t know it but we are going to take a little trip for her birthday coming up. She won’t see this and if she does, she’ll be excited about it”
The past couple of weeks have seen Sting and Allin interact with Lance Archer, so they could be on a collision course with The Murderhawk Monster in the near future. Allin will defend the TNT Championship against John Silver on this week's Dynamite, but Sting is sure to be close by.