Before the united era of WWE, there wasn’t just one major wrestling company in America. WWE’s biggest rival through the ages was a company that had its roots in the NWA, but soon became a company of its own; WCW. Like any wrestling company, WCW needed a top face for its company, and this DVD/Blu-ray looks at the wrestler many feel was the company man for WCW, a man that has still not wrestled under the Vince McMahon banner… The man they call Sting.
Starting from Sting’s debut in 1985 alongside his then tag team partner The Ultimate Warrior, the team of the Blade Runners is very noticeably green in the match shown on this DVD, but heck, they showed a lot of potential back then, and you can see from the first match to the last how much both men improved. We see a lot of future big names appear in the next match on the DVD, in Southern Pro Wrestling, as Sting tags with Rick Steiner against Mike Rotunda and Ron Simmons, one of whom went on to be a World Champion, and the other, IRS, the father of Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt.
After these first two matches, we jump forward a short while, into the NWA/WCW rise of Sting, which sets the tone for the rest of the 2 disc set, which is almost like a history of WCW as much as it is a history of Sting’s career. Important matches from the Icon’s career are dotted between short documentary-esque sections, including interviews with Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger, Ric Flair, Diamond Dallas Page and many more WCW legends to spice up the action. I personally felt there could have been more sections such as these, especially where Sting talked about the matches and storylines, but the matches speak for themselves to a degree anyway. Plus, with the consistent quality of Stinger’s matches, even from his early career, and the large assortment of promos included as Blu-ray exclusives, you can’t complain too much.
The first disc shows the first era of the WCW star’s career, showing off important matches whilst under the squeaky clean babyface surfer gimmick. One of the most fun parts of watching this DVD is watching how quickly Sting progresses his in-ring work, but having wrestled alongside and with men such as the Flair, Anderson and Steamboat amongst many other WCW legends, you couldn’t help but pick up a thing or two.
The first match with Ric Flair on the first disc, in 1988, and the last match on the second disc, in 2001, on WCW’s final ever show, show a great deal of progression in style and substance, not only in Flair and Sting, but also in WCW and wrestling in general, with the stark change in pace, production value, and in-ring psychology. We get to see a lot of men throughout the matches on both discs who went on to be great stars, as well as Sting, as he faces The Great Muta, who went on to be a Japanese wrestling legend; Ron Simmons, who went on to be the first ever African-American World Heavyweight Champion; “Dirty” Dutch Mantell, who is known nowadays as Zeb Colter, and of course, in a dream match, Sting faces an up and coming WCW US Champion known as Steve Austin. Now, if you had said to people nowadays that Sting faced Stone Cold Steve Austin, they would have looked at you in shock and belief, and yet it happened!
Towards the end of the first disc we go into the Monday Nitro era of WCW, and with it, the debut of a faction that changed wrestling, the New World Order. Led by Hulk Hogan, the group originally consisting of Hulk, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, the ex-WWF stars ran rampant on WCW in a staged invasion, and who else would stand tall against the oncoming forces than the WCW franchise himself, Sting? We get to see Sting’s match the night after the infamous Bash at the Beach event where Hogan formed the nWo, and how the formation of the nWo went on to change the career of the Icon himself. Sting began to wear darker attire and sported new facepaint in response to the changing times brought about by the New World Order, and leading into the second disc, the evolution of Sting from his “Surfer” gimmick into the gimmick we know him best for today, his gimmick inspired by “The Crow”, with the black and white facepaint and attire. We even get to hear the story behind the gimmick and the facepaint.
Disc two begins with Sting and Hogan’s match at Starrcade 1997 for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. If you didn’t know already, Starrcade was WCW’s equivalent of Wrestlemania, and in the build up to this main event, Sting hadn’t wrestled for over a year and this was his first match under his new persona. The finish of the world championship match between Hogan and Sting was the subject of much controversy, in and outside of kayfabe, and I’m very glad WWE presented the match as-is, as the encounter was one of the most important in not only WCW, but in all of wrestling. The rest of the DVD shows matches from Sting’s career and feud with the nWo, even showing when Sting briefly joined the Wolfpac, all concluding with his final match in WCW with Ric Flair. As said before, the last match on the DVD is a stark contrast to the first in many ways, and seeing the descent of WCW from its glory into the dark depths of disaster as it dwindled into being bought out by WWE is always entertaining. Despite WCW falling from its former glory and into a very hit and miss period, it was always enjoyable in one way or another, and when it was “Showtime”, you always knew you were in for a treat. Sting even made a program with the “KISS Demon” (yes, really, a licensed KISS wrestler), into an entertaining affair. You have to see it to believe it.
Some other must watch matches include Sting teaming with long time rival Muta against the Steiner Brothers in Japan’s Tokyo Dome. Although the finish is rather dusty, the match itself is stellar, and the Japanese crowd and difference in production value is always entertaining to watch. Hell, it’s a big testament to WWE that they managed to get what was technically a NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) match on their DVD. Speaking of Muta, the match included with him taking on Stinger 1v1 in this DVD is also fantastic, as well as, of course, the matches with the Icon VS the Nature Boy, Ric Flair. Also watch out for Sting’s match with Arn Anderson, the night after the nWo formation, which is not just enjoyable for that, but also as this event took place at Disney World! And finally, as far as cameos go, don’t look any further than a match consisting of Sting teaming up with Barry Windham, Ricky Steamboat and Dustin Rhodes (who went on to be…breathe in…Goldust!) to take on the “Dangerous Alliance”, Rick Rude, Larry Zbyszko, Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton, managed by Paul E. Dangerously AKA Paul Heyman!
Towards the end of the second disc we get to see the full circle of Stinger’s career, where he teams with his former tag team partner, The Ultimate Warrior, against Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart. The WCW announcers even go as far as to note how Sting and Warrior broke into the business as tag team partners, which ties together the entire DVD nicely. It’s a shame that Warrior was noticeably at the end of his career here, showing more limited in-ring work than usual, but as always, it was his charisma that carried the late Jim Hellwig into an enjoyable role.
As said before, the only detriment to the DVD is the lack of insight from other stars, and even from the Stinger himself, which is a great shame, for those which are there are pretty damn fantastic and very entertaining. It has to be mentioned though that the Blu-ray features some particularly interesting interviews, including Sting’s final promo in WCW, as well as, well, a cross-franchise cameo from a particular robotic policeman. The Blu-ray exclusives include an assortment of promos from throughout the Stinger’s career, as well as a few extra matches that are worth watching for hardcore fans.
I’d definitely give this a watch if you’re already a fan of Sting, or want a sample of the man’s work, as this is a great collection of some fantastic matches from his career, as well as a great career retrospective, not only of the Stinger, but also of the company the man supported and partly carried on his back for many years, WCW. Maybe in the future we will see another release with a more lengthy documentary section akin to WWE’s other DVDs, with more interviews with the man himself, but for all we know, the Icon may not have finished his career at all yet. As the man himself said, “The only thing that’s for sure about Sting is that nothing’s for sure.”
All images (C) WWE