Earlier this year, Sting made one last ditch effort to get his dream match in WWE versus The Undertaker. It had failed for more than a decade. Either the timing was never right, Sting was under contract elsewhere, The Undertaker was injured, or whatever. The stars just never aligned. With Sting’s deal about to be up and Taker inching closer and closer to retirement, it was now or never. Even though The Stinger had technically retired back in 2016 due to bad health (he is 61 years now), it is professional wrestling. If there is a will, there is a way. Especially with the craze of doing cinematic style matches, it was possible.
As I noted on Twitter earlier in 2020, it was not meant to be. I often wonder if it was WWE that never wanted the dream match or The Undertaker himself. If it was The DeadMan who was disinterested throughout the years, that would change the entire story. If it was WWE, that would be puzzling. Of course, there was also the fact that Sting refused to sign with WWE for nearly 20 years and when he finally did, it was too late too late to have a decent run. Still, there was no dream match. Sting didn’t re-sign his WWE contract, Taker retired, and life moved on. It was officially a lost opportunity after so many fantasy booking scenarios.
Then word leaked back in May that Sting was done with WWE and All Elite Wrestling (AEW) may be interested. Given the ties to WCW and TNT, it made sense. If Sting still had something to give, even at 61 years old, why not? He is a name. He is a legend. He may have a bad neck and spine but again, this is the world of pro wrestling. You can work some magic and boom! The question lingered for months though. Would AEW sign another aging star who likely came with a hefty price tag after promoting and pushing youth and a high flying style so much in the media? It sure would seem hypocritical, huh? The rumors persisted, speculation built, and finally this past Wednesday during the big “Winter Is Coming” Dynamite special, it happened…
Now, I have not watched AEW Dynamite in months. However, when I read the news and searched out the clip, wow! Not going to lie – it was a moment. Maybe even the biggest moment in AEW’s short history thus far. It was that big. The (few live) fans that were allowed in the building went nuts. The commentators were awesome, and the entire scene was MONEY. Even though it had been widely expected, it still came off as shocking. An incredible moment, one that can only belong in the year 2020. Sting was in AEW and back on TNT. Wow, wow, wow.
Minus the initial buzz and excitement, I really don’t know what Sting will bring to the company outside of the obvious merchandising opportunities. I mean, his brand new AEW branded t-shirt was front and center during his debut appearance. With an action figure line announced and a new video game in the works, it seems clear. Sting is there to appear to casual wrestling fans and bridge the gap from a previous generation. Fans may know Sting, but they have no idea who Darby Allin is. Same way fans may know Chris Jericho but have zero clue who MJF is. I get it. Even if he doesn’t get physical or have a match after years of inactivity, the signing makes sense…even if the assumed price tag is high. When you have a billionaire’s son in Tony Khan spending, does it really matter?
Let’s be honest though, AEW needed to make a move. The Kenny Omega title win and partnership with Impact Wrestling was kinda ‘meh’ later on in the evening. Not sure it will amount to much or spark business. Impact is in the dumps and can’t really offer a lot. The Omega title victory was also expected and likely in the books for months so again, no real shift there. The Sting signing though? That got me interested in writing a column. Numbers had stalled big time for Dynamite, and that is a fact. Nothing they seemed to do was giving them an increase in ratings. I can’t comment on the show’s quality because I stopped watching, but the numbers are there for all to see. Whatever they were doing wasn’t working. The Sting debut instantly gave them buzz, and you want to know why?
Sting is a draw to wrestling fans.
Very quietly, he has always been there to bring in fans and more importantly, money. People often mention Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Bruno Sammartino, John Cena, The Rock, The Undertaker, Stone Cold, Bill Goldberg, nWo, DX, and countless others as big time draws. Obviously, those names are at the top of any Mount Rushmore list. Yet, you rarely hear the name Sting mentioned. A quick history lesson:
Sting drew in NWA and made a name for himself as a future star.
Sting was THE franchise player in WCW. He main evented and won the most successful pay-per-view in their company’s history. He was the most interesting and intriguing act during their peak ratings time frame. Make no mistake about it, the Crow gimmick was huge.
Sting was absolutely influential to TNA landing on Spike TV and getting to that unbreakable one million viewership mark. It was big. Fans often discuss TNA signing Christian or Kurt Angle but forget about The Icon coming in to begin with. The one big fish to never go to WWE was in TNA.
Sting did finally go to WWE in late 2014 and again, he was a draw. The Survivor Series 2014 PPV, even with the free offer on the WWE Network, did over 100,000 buys. Yes, over 100,000 pay-per-view buys, NOT counting the WWE Network subscriptions. An absurd number and in my mind, partly due to the rumors that Sting was debuting. Then came his Raw appearances and WrestleMania 31 match. Go look up his few appearances on RAW. Staggering numbers on Youtube. All well over a million. Just ona quick search, one has 32 million viewers, while another has 68 million viewers. Same with his Seth Rollins feud/story months later. People can bash his WWE run all they want, but it was a success.
Sting is in AEW now, and I have no doubts he will draw one last time in his career. The ratings show the second he stepped foot on that ramp nearly 150,000 fans tuned in. His segment grabbed over a million viewers on TNT, while nothing else did. Heck, the big title match in the main event LOST viewers! His brand new fancy t-shirt already broke records online, and the Youtube clip is doing big numbers for All Elite Wrestling. He is proving his worth already within days.
Sting has brought in fans AND money throughout his entire career and now at age 61 years old after a lengthy break, he will do it again.
By Justin Watry (Twitter: @JustinWatry)