There’s a reason the man they call Sting has been known for decades in the world of professional wrestling as ‘the Icon’. For most of his career, he was one of the biggest stars to rise outside of the WWE. He became emblematic of the company’s greatest rival WCW, from its humble beginnings as a regional promotion to its eclipse of WWE’s popularity when the two companies battled for supremacy in the mid-to-late 1990s.
In a company that brought us names such as Goldberg, the New World Order, and Chris Jericho, that revived the careers of Hulk Hogan and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, it was Sting who carried WCW through it all. He headlined its biggest moments, maintained his dignity though its failings, and when the time came for the company to end, bought out by its greatest rival WWE, it was he who wrestled WCW’s final match.
But even as many of his colleagues moved over to WWE, Sting stayed proud, and stayed a lone wolf. For over a decade, he never accepted the offers that came his way from WWE, choosing to go his own way. In the process, he missed out on the matches that wrestling fans clamored for—against The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and the Undertaker (often known affectionately to fans as just ‘Taker’).
Then finally, in 2014, everything changed. Sting picked up the phone, called Vince McMahon, the Chairman of the WWE, settled old scores, and joined the greatest company in professional wrestling history.
His wrestling days were sadly cut short due to in-ring injury in a WWE World Title match to Superstar and WWE 2K18 cover star Seth Rollins, but his relationship with WWE continues on. In 2016, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, honoring his legendary career, and he continues his relationship with the company into his retirement.
Now in Dubai to promote WWE’s hugely-anticipated new video game WWE 2K18, available in stores now, Sting and I talked about the game, as well as his whole career, the match he never had the chance to have, and where his journey may take him next.
What excites you most about this game?
You’ve got five different Sting characters in there! You can’t beat that, right? No other wrestler has that many characters in one game.
Do you have a favorite of all the iterations of yourself over the years?
Yeah, Crow-Sting [inspired by the 1994 film The Crow] is my all-time favorite.
What makes that version of yourself stick with you so much? That wasn’t someone that you began with, that’s someone who you took a chance with.
Yeah, Surfer-Sting went to a certain level on a global basis and The Crow character surpassed that, you know? Especially through the Monday night wars, social media, all of a sudden, the internet, the whole package caused that to become what it became. Bigger than any other Sting persona.
The cover of WWE 2K18 is Seth Rollins.
Obviously he’s who you had your de facto last match with, but you’ve also been incredibly complimentary to him, and said he’s the most creative in ring performer in WWE. Do you feel that still holds true and are you glad he’s finally getting his due?
Yeah, creative and innovative. I like the way [he maintains] his physical body, you know? A lot of the guys in my era tried to be just too jacked. I was never one of those guys, I could never be a Brock Lesnar. I had good longevity because of that, and I think that Seth is going to do the same. He just has a mind for this and his ideas and his ability in the ring are just outstanding.
Let’s talk about where we are right now with WWE and its relationship with WCW. When WCW was first bought, the way WCW and WWE have reconciled that history has been interesting to watch. Now we’re at a point where all of a sudden the company feels a bit more proud of that history. We’re seeing the Starrcade name be used again for a live event. We’re seeing War Games come into NXT. Are you glad that WWE is showing more pride in its WCW history?
Yeah it’s funny too. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word ‘reconciled’ used, but that’s a good word. When you said ‘reconciled’ I instantly thought of the match I had with HHH at Levi Stadium at WrestleMania in California with the NWO and D-Generation X. Everybody in the ring at the same time, on the same night—that’s something that no one in the world ever believed could happen and it happened. In a sense it was almost a reconciliation that happened that night.
Looking back at your history there’s so many ‘iconic’ moments, and others that are more in the ‘viral sensation’ category—you were the one that introduced the Shockmaster, for one, which WWE recently put up on YouTube.
I went to Robocop in my mind.
Robocop as well, an excellent moment. Do you think back to those more ridiculous moments a lot?
With the WWE Network now it’s just a big yuk-yuk up there in [WWE Headquarters] Connecticut. When I started with WWE and I went into those towers and offices and the Network is playing everywhere and I saw a lot of that old stuff and it makes for a good laugh for everybody.
I want to talk about your relationship with [WWE Chairman] Vince McMahon. You guys were in touch since the early 1990s, and it was always possibly on the table that you would move to WWE. You were speaking in the early 2000s and things didn’t work out. I know a lot of that was that you weren’t sure whether or he had the faith in you that you needed in order to make that move. Do you find that your relationship is a lot better now that you’re working with WWE more regularly?
Absolutely. In the early years I always felt that he wanted me to undermine WCW as the number one reason. The number two reason was to have me on his roster. I didn’t want it to be that way. Maybe I was wrong. Then in later years, when I made a phone call and said, hey have you turned the page? The rest is history. He’s just treated me fantastic, every step of the way. Really, everybody has.
Since your run on the main roster didn’t go as planned and didn’t end on your terms, is that something that you have a hard time dealing with now, a couple years out? Have you closed that chapter or do you hope that things could open up again?
Oh no, I retired. I’m great with the way it happened. Did I want to get hurt? No. But WWE World Title, Seth Rollins, last match—I mean, I did just about everything you could do in wrestling. I had a dream match, it was against Taker, it never did happen. Yeah I wish I could have had that, but really I don’t have any complaints at all.
If Taker calls you up tomorrow, do you do the match or do you say no?
[Laughs] He’s not going to call me tomorrow.
Have you two talked about that match over the years? Is that something that’s ever come up between the two of you?
We’ve had a brief conversation, and I just told him, I said, man, I just always wanted to have that match. It wasn’t necessarily reciprocated so I’m not sure where he stands or if he had any interest at all, to be quite honest. But I did. I don’t mind saying.
A lot of guys have come into the WWE since you retired that have set the company on fire—a lot of guys you worked with outside of WWE since 2003 who weren’t always seen as huge stars but now are seen as some of the top stars in all of professional wrestling.
Right! I’m pleasantly surprised.
How closely are you following the work of the guys you worked with over the years?
I never have watched, but I do know that AJ Styles and Bobby Roode, Samoa Joe—they’re in there and they’re plugging away. Especially AJ. I’ve seen him quite a bit. I’m proud of AJ for doing what he’s done and they deserve to be where they are.
Turning back to WWE 2K18, do you play the game?
I’ve never been a gamer kind of guy. I have played the game though, I’ve done it. As a matter of fact—Sting vs. Taker. That’s the only way I can have that match! [Laughs]. Wow.
How did it go?
Taker beat me! He did! But I was playing against a gamer! I don’t know what I’m doing I’m just trying to, you know. But this other guy he definitely knew how to play the game.
Let’s move to the fans that you interact with. Do you find that the fans are the same as they were? How have they changed in the decades you’ve been in the business?
I don’t know how or why but it seems that wrestling fans are more respectful than ever. More loyal than ever. They just don’t want to say goodbye. They don’t want to say goodbye to Hulk Hogan. They don’t want to say goodbye to Shawn Michaels, to Stone Cold Steve Austin, to Sting. Just loyal fans. I think they’ve always been that way but there’s just something that seems to be—I think it’s because there’s more interaction with wrestlers and fans now than there’s ever been. Maybe that’s what it is, but they’re very respectful.
Do you find that the young wrestlers that you’ve met, interacted with, and might come to you or advice are different as well in terms of how they approach the business?
Yeah, I think so. They’re taught well with WWE and under the WWE umbrella for sure. They’re taught every aspect of being an entertainer and a professional man or woman. How to be in public and blah-blah-blah. They have all the tools that they need and they’re a lot better off than when I started. Things are so much different now.
The fans that are going to sit down to play WWE 2K18. Let’s say they’ve gotten over Sting vs. the Undertaker. What other fantasy matches that you wanted to have over the years would you most want to see played out in this game?
Crow-Sting vs. Surfer-Sting. [Laughs]. Sting against Sting. That would be kind of cool.
Also, I think it’s remarkable that you can create your own character on this thing. Through the development process, in developing your own brand, and moves—I don’t know how in the world you can do that, but you’re creating and making your own moves. This is what we do. We make moves. We come up with ideas in our head that are insane and then we do them. But in this case you can do it on the computer, which is so much easier on your body. You’re no longer a human superball.
Here’s a phrase you’ve heard too many times over the years from fans and journalists—“The Third Man.” Do you think create-a-character might be a good place to explore what might have been? And have you ever thought over the years what that character might have been like had you joined the NWO at that pivotal point instead of Hulk Hogan?
Just a very simple no. I don’t have any complaints. I’m glad things turned out the way they did. I was always on my own, and to be with a group—I don’t think it would have worked. From Four Horsemen way back when to the NWO in later years.
We’ve seen guys like Shawn Michaels who have, in an unofficial capacity, been working down more at the WWE Performance Center to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. Is that something you would consider doing yourself?
Yeah, that’s something I say that I would do.
So are you just waiting for the call?
No. I’m not looking to do it. And I’m not saying I would want to do it on a full time basis or move to Orlando or something, no I wouldn’t want to do that. But, you know, pop in from time to time, depending on who or what. Yeah.
- WWE 2K18 is in stores now and WWE airs weekly on MBC -