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WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016: Sting

He debuted for WWE in 2014.

He has wrestled four matches for WWE.

Without a doubt, no wrestler has ever been inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame with such a record, however there is a lot more to the story of Steve Borden than the last 18 months.

Determined to pursue a career in wrestling following a trip to a WWF live event in Los Angeles, Borden achieved his first major shot at stardom in the NWA, when at Starrcade ‘87 he teamed with Michael ‘PS’ Hayes and Jimmy Garvin in a six-man tag-team match against Eddie Gilbert, Rick Steiner and Larry Zbysko. Rhodes had purposefully booked Sting in the match to showcase him alongside the established stars. The following year at the first Clash of the Champions event, he went to a 45-minute draw with NWA World champion Ric Flair, then spent much of the year battling Flair and his Four Horsemen teammates.

In late 1988, Rhodes identified Sting as one of the promotion’s most popular babyfaces, and was soon given his first championship in the NWA when he beat Rotunda for the TV Title. A famed Dusty Finish in a match with the The Great Muta at The Great American Bash led to the title being declared vacant, with a series of rematches between the two finally concluding at a September live event with Muta beating Sting in a No-Disqualification match.

With the Television Championship now in his past, it was time for Sting to ascend to the main event. And that meant Ric Flair.

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Sting had come to Flair’s aid at The Bash, fending off an attack by Muta, and as the year went on his partnership with Flair and the Horseman strengthened. By year’s end, a now-babyface Horsemen consisted of Flair, Sting, Arn and Ole Anderson, though when Stinger emerged victorious from an Iron Man tournament at Starrcade ’89 and found himself the number one contender to Flair’s World Championship, tensions were increased. The Sting-Flair rivalry was formally revisited when the Horsemen removed the number one contender from the group, though plans for the anticipated title match had to be shelved when Borden suffered a knee injury, putting him out of action. Given the structure of the NWA, it was decided by bookers of WCW that Lex Luger would become Flair’s new challenger. Behind the curtain, however, Flair refused to drop the belt to Luger, standing by a previous promise that he would lose the title only when Sting was able to return to the ring. During his injured period, Borden was kept on TV and PPV to keep him in the spotlight.

Once Sting returned, Flair kept his promise and dropped the NWA World Championship at the 1990 Great American Bash. Many observers had long been expecting big things from Sting once he won the championship, but his first reign was eventually viewed by many as a disappointment. His reign ended in January 1991 when Flair regained the belt, after which Sting found himself dropped down the card, spending the summer feuding with Nikita Koloff. The latter part of ’91 saw a United States championship reign, starting with a win over ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin and ending with a defeat to Rick Rude. This led to a long rivalry with Paul E. Dangerously’s Dangerous Alliance, which was based around Sting’s status as the ‘Franchise of WCW’. At the same time, Sting also found himself a target of attacks from WCW World champion Lex Luger, which resulted in Sting winning the title at Superbrawl II in February 1992. To allow the World champion to push on with the sole focus of the belt, the rivalry with the Dangerous Alliance finally came to conclusion at WrestleWar, with Sting’s Squadron of Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes, Nikita Koloff and Barry Windham defeating the Alliance’s Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson and Larry Zbysko.

Moving forward, seeds had long been sowed for a feud with Big Van Vader, with the two having a superb clash in April 1992 which Sting escaped from with his reign intact, before finally dropping the belt in a rematch three months later. On a tour of the UK, Sting regained the World championship in London, before losing it six days later in Dublin. Sting would then go on to beat Rick Rude for the WCW International World Heavyweight championship, a title that was unified with Flair’s WCW World championship when Flair was victorious at Clash of the Champions XXVII.

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Sting’s position as the franchise of WCW was challenged when the promotion signed Hulk Hogan in 1995, with the new signing inevitably taking priority in all booking matters. Sting was utilised as Hogan’s partner in matches with the Dungeon of Doom, but The Hulkster as World champion meant Sting would never come close to holding the belt. It was this which led to the defining chapter of Sting’s career, starting with subtle changes to his appearance; the hair grew longer and darker, with the attire also becoming darker. He teamed with Lex Luger for much of 1996, which included the duo leading WCW against a newly-formed New World Order. The change of appearance was the first step of a longer journey for the character, the next stage being the long-term story development of the character turning his back on WCW and joining the nWo. The babyfaces and commentators in WCW were booked to question Stinger’s loyalty, something that came to a head with the most famous promo in his career. Castigating the rest of WCW and his friends for doubting his loyalty, Sting announced he was a ‘free agent’ and walked out.

Following this, Sting’s appearance changed to one inspired by The Crow. The black hair and clothes, the long trench coat, it was a total opposite to how he had looked previously. The change was designed to emphasise that after years of being the Franchise, then shunted down a level in the time following Hogan’s arrival, it was time for Sting to change with the times and become the major star in the promotion that the fans needed to step up and challenge the nWo’s dominance.

Sting would not wrestle until December 1997 at Starrcade, with the build-up to his match with Hulk Hogan being one of the most masterful feuds in recent memory. Unfortunately, the build-up was not helped by the execution; referee Nick Patrick was supposed to fast-count Sting’s shoulders to the mat, giving Hogan the controversial victory in a ripoff of the Montreal Screwjob. This would lead to Bret Hart interjecting himself and forcing the match to continue, which would then see Sting make Hogan submit in the Scorpion Deathlock. The problem was, Patrick counted the pin at the normal speed, making Hart’s claims of a fast-count seem incorrect. The rest of the planned booking went ahead, but the blown count tarnished the finish. Sting eventually won the belt at Superbrawl VIII in February, however at this point the long-term angle had lost its steam; Sting should have won clean at Starrcade, with no controversy. That was the only conclusion that the story should have had.

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From there, Sting lost the WCW Championship and moved on to a partnership with the newly-formed nWo Wolfpac with Kevin Nash, Lex Luger and Konnan. An injury suffered a short while later put him out of action until March 1999, when he returned back in the Crow-inspired guise. More title reigns came and went, before WCW decided to turn Sting heel. To no surprise, the turn didn’t resonate with fans, who refused to cheer a man they had spent over a decade supporting. To no surprise, a babyface turn was booked and a lengthy feud with Lex Luger came to an overbooked conclusion in a ludicrous Lumberjacks with Casts match at Uncensored 2000. Speaking of overbooked and ludicrous, a rivalry with Vampiro saw Sting lose a Human Torch match in which a stuntman that matched neither the look or body shape of Borden was set on fire and thrown from the top of the entrance video screen.

Following the WWF’s purchase of WCW, Sting wrestled on the last-ever Monday Nitro, defeating longtime rival Ric Flair.

After the closure of WCW, Sting’s contract was not brought out by the WWF, leading to Borden taking semi-retirement until the expiry of his contract. He spent the next year working with the World Wrestling All-Stars promotion, who toured Europe with a roster comprised of former WWF and WCW stars. He won the company’s Heavyweight championship, before dropping it to Jeff Jarrett and signing a contract with TNA. Over the course of the next 11 years, on and off, Sting wrestled for TNA, winning their World title on four occasions. His final appearance came in January 2014, before a business relationship many years in the making finally became a reality.

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After 10 months of speculation – which was heightened following promotional and WWE Network appearances – Steve Borden made his WWE debut, interfering the main event of Survivor Series and putting himself straight into a confrontation with Triple H. It became clear early on that Sting was finally going to get his WrestleMania match, against none other than the the storyline boss and a staple of the WWE main event picture for over 15 years. Several Raw appearances built to, and eventually confirmed, the Mania match, which he would lose – to the surprise of many – following interference from DX.

Disappearing from WWE TV for the next four months, he would make a surprise return on the August 24 episode of Raw, interrupting Seth Rollins’ WWE World Heavyweight championship celebration ceremony and seemingly positioning himself as Rollins’ next challenger. This was soon confirmed, with the title match booked for Night of Champions. A singles match with Big Show and a tag-team bout with John Cena gave Sting some in-ring work heading into the PPV, which did not end as anticipated. Or planned.

Suffering a legitimate neck injury during the match with Rollins, which caused an earlier-than-planned conclusion, Sting was removed from all booking plans and made recovery his main priority. Revealing on Ric Flair’s podcast that he required surgery to correct cervical spinal stenosis, it looks extremely unlikely that Sting will ever return to the ring for WWE, especially with the company understandably hesitant to risk the long-term well-being of a wrestler who already has such a serious injury in his history.

His WWE career may have only included four matches, and a 50% win record, but Sting’s history is worth so much more. For so long the under-appreciated Franchise in WCW, often times the lone shining light in a darkness of mismanagement and disorganisation, Steve Borden has earned the plaudits and respect of wrestlers and fans alike.

On April 2, he will finally take his well-deserved place in the WWE Hall of Fame.

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A co-owner of this here website, as well as a Writer, Podcaster and Designer. I'm well known for my enthusiasm and positivity. You can find out what's on my mind by following me on Twitter and by checking out The Geek Show, The Podcast of Wisdom and Ring the Bell.

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