Was reading this bit about Eric Bischoff talking Starrcade 1997 mentioning how Sting came in out of shape and unprepared.
While obviously taking him with a grain of salt, it does make more sense in my mind as to how that match played out. Doesn't make it right, obviously. But if I were Hogan I would have taken it as a big "F you" from Sting. No wonder he started the match beating him up for like 15 minutes. Guy maybe didn't lift one dumbbell in his time off.
Eric talked about how he had a hard time booking the finish because Hogan was Hogan:
I didn’t really see his point of view. I had a hard time reading between the lines with Hogan because he didn’t come flat out and tell me what his issues were. But I think Hogan was disappointed with Sting’s preparation. Sting was clearly out of shape. He looked like he hadn’t seen a gym or a tanning bed in six months. Up until that time, Sting could get away with that. He’d show up at the arena and do his act wearing his black trench coat and his face paint; he didn’t actually wrestle.
For whatever reason I hadn't heard this explanation. I always took it as the usual "WCW lol WCW."
Typical wrestling bullshit reasoning if true, along with sacred ice-packs and guys getting pushed because they stand out at the airport. Was Sting the character supposed to be rappelling down into Gold's Gym in the dark of night, doing some reps, and then retreating to the rafters again? They had EIGHTEEN MONTHS to come up with a finish and in DECEMBER Hogan is suddenly objecting because the mysterious dark-powered babyface isn't tan enough?