The SmarK Rant for The Best of Sting (Part One)
So as mentioned in my Nitro repost, I got this from the WWE Network a few years ago as a “thank you for subscribing” gift and never really got around to watching it before now. But hey, with all the kids talkin’ about Sting again in AEW, now is as good a time as any. The Blu-Ray set is nine hours long, so as usual we’re gonna have to break it up into pieces.
We start back in Venice Beach, where Sting owned a Gold’s Gym and Hulk Hogan used to work out there. Sting didn’t know who Hulk was, but people in wrestling tipped off promoters to Sting’s look and recruited him as the Blade Runners with Jim Hellwig.
The Blade Runners v. Brett Wayne Sawyer & Sean O’Reilly (April 86)
From Mid-South in the very early career of Sting, who was still Flash at this point. Flash stands there while Sawyer bounces off him to start, but Brett gets a dropkick and it’s over to Rock, who is an immobile human LJN wrestling figure at this point. Rock gets a press slam and chokes out Sawyer in the corner, but he gets another dropkick and brings in O’Reilly. Rock drops a leg on him and goes to a bearhug, and Flash comes in with a big boot and his own bearhug. More choking from Rock and another bearhug as these guys are a tad limited in their moveset. And they finish with a Hart Attack clothesline at 4:45 to end this awful, awful squash. Man, it’s a good thing Hellwig changed his name, can you imagine a future World champion named “Rock”? DUD
Sting & Rick Steiner v. Mike Rotunda & Ron Simmons (May 87)
Off to Florida now as Sting is much more human-sized and rapidly improving now. Steiner and Rotunda trade wristlocks on the mat and we take a break, returning with Simmons working on Steiner’s arm while Eddie Gilbert argues with Shaska Whatley on the floor. Rotunda comes in with an armbar and Rick finally tags out to Sting, but Rotunda quickly takes him down with the armbar as well. Simmons and Rotunda switch off on the arm, but a cheapshot from Steiner turns the tide and they work on Rotunda in the corner. Sting with a fistdrop off the middle for two and a snap suplex, but Rotunda reverses to his own and makes the hot tag to Simmons. Ron runs wild and it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA, but Shaska distracts Ron and Sting gets the rollup for the pin at 5:54. A perfectly cromulent tag team match that shows how much better Sting was getting already. **1/2
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Sting (January 88)
From NWA Pro Wrestling! Yeah, I remember this one. This was of course two months before Sting’s famous title shot at the first Clash. They fight for the lockup to start and Flair gives him the chops, but of course Sting shrugs it off and gets a press slam and they’re already like peanut butter and chocolate meeting for the first time. Flair tries chops again and follows with a suplex, but Sting no-sells it and slams him again, and Flair bails to the floor in frustration. Funny bit as Flair yells at Teddy Long and shoves him, so Teddy runs into the ring and hides behind Sting, who dares Flair to come pick on HIM instead. Back in the ring, Flair tries another chop, but Sting is all fired up again. Flair takes him down and tries a kneedrop, but Sting pops up and gets a sleeper and we take a break as Sting misses a splash. Back with Flair in control with an atomic drop and now finally the chops are having an effect on Sting, and Flair takes him down and works the arm. Sting counters by throttling him, but Flair waits for Teddy Long to move behind him and then gets an EPIC ballshot right on camera. Sting fights that off, but Flair takes him down with a kneecrusher and gets the figure-four, and then grabs the ropes, but Sting powers up while the crowd goes nuts, and reverses the move. So Flair tosses him and puts him on the post for some more chops, and that’s pretty nasty. Back in, Flair goes back to the knee again, but Sting gets a bodypress for two. Backslide gets two. Flair charges and Sting clotheslines him out of the corner and then suplexes him in from the apron as Flair tries to retreat. And they slug it out as WE’RE DESPERATELY OUT OF TIME and leave it there at 17:00. A finish would have been nice but this was a tremendous TV match. ***1/2
Next up, Sting is off to WCW and we get some highlights of his early days in the TBS studio and talking heads from Brodus Clay and Natalya. Were they just hanging around the recording studio that day or something?
Sting v. Stan Lane (October 2 88)
From NWA Main Event. We get a posedown to start and Sting grabs a headlock and frustrates Lane with that. Stan tries his own headlock and Sting escapes with a hiptoss out of that, so Lane stops for some advice from Jim Cornette. That advice? “If you’re going to be inviting ring rats to your room, for the love of god use a condom!” Sadly he didn’t heed that advice and we got Lauren Boebert out of it. Back in the ring, Stan works the arm and Sting reverses to his own armbar. Jim Ross discusses Sting’s tag team history: “Sting’s had a few different tag team partners in his early career. One of them I think really held him back.” BLOCKING OUT THE SUN WITH THAT SHADE. Sting misses a charge and hits the turnbuckle and Stan takes over with a superkick while Tony and JR continue burying “his first partner” and Stan chokes him out on the ropes. Lane tosses him and tries a suplex into the ring, but Sting falls on top for the surprise pin at 8:49. Not much to this one. **
Sting v. Butch Reed (March 24 89)
Also from NWA Main Event. This is a rematch from Chi-Town Rumble and I really appreciate that they didn’t just stick that match on here. Reed slugs away with the soup bones to start, but Sting gives him the Popeye windup punch to send him into the corner. They trade headlocks and Sting takes him down for a legdrop and then pulls him out of the corner for the old stomp to the midsection. So here’s something weird: Jim Ross is doing commentary here, but you can clearly see him on camera sitting at ringside with David Crockett and not saying anything! WHAT BLACK MAGIC IS THIS? Reed gets a cheapshot to take over and necks him on the top rope before choking him out on the ropes. Reed with the chinlock, but Sting fights out and walks into an elbow. Reed goes up to finish, but Sting slams him off the top for two. Sting hits the knees with a splash and Reed puts him down with a shoulderblock for two. Reed whips him into the corner, but Sting tries for an O’Connor roll and kind of settles for a rollup instead and gets the pin at 10:00. Yeah, this wasn’t much better than their dull match at the PPV. **1/4
NWA TV title: Mike Rotunda v. Sting (April 1 89)
This is a fairly notable match that I’ve never seen before. From World Championship Wrestling, airing the day before Clash VI, as the entire Varsity Club is at ringside. Sting quickly chases Rotunda with a hiptoss and then shrugs off chops in the corner, but Rotunda charges and falls over the top. Back in, Rotunda puts him down with forearms, and dodges an elbowdrop, but Sting boots him to the floor again. Back in, Sting grabs a headlock and holds onto that tenaciously, but Rotunda breaks free with a suplex and then misses a dropkick. And Rotunda bails again, so Sting finally hits him with a dive and then tosses him back in for a flying bodypress that gets two. So now the babyfaces come out to cheer on Sting while he squeezes on the headlock. Rotunda fights out of that with a wristlock, but Sting wins that battle and slugs away in the corner. Rotunda takes him down with an atomic drop and necks him on the top rope before tossing him to the floor, but Steamboat and Luger make sure there’s no monkey business and/or shenanigans from the Varsity Club. Sting fights back in with a sunset flip for two, but Rotunda drops the leg for two and goes to a sleeper. Sting fights out of that, so Rotunda hits him with an atomic drop and then gets an international object from Kevin Sullivan for a cheapshot to put Sting down again. Rotunda with a chinlock, but Sting fights out of that and then walks into a Write Off clothesline. So Mike slaps him around in delight, but Sting gets all fired up and makes the comeback. Clothesline and dropkick sends Rotunda to the corner, and Sting follows with the Stinger Splash and Scorpion Deathlock while the babyfaces fight off the heels, but Sullivan sneaks in and knocks Sting out behind the ref’s back. Rotunda only gets two off that, however. So he keeps coming with a butterfly suplex for two and a snap suplex for two. The crowd heat here is just of the charts. Sting comes back with a rollup, however, blatantly grabs the tights, and wins the TV title at 16:34 while the babyfaces carry him out on their backs to celebrate. Tremendous match. ****
Sting v. Ron Simmons (August 18 89)
From the Power Hour, as we skip over Sting’s entire TV title reign. But you know what, I appreciate them going with the rarities instead of the same Flair-Sting matches we’ve seen a million times. This was still a couple of months away from Doom, as Simmons was kind of drifting aimlessly through the midcard as a heel. Sting chases Simmons with a dropkick as JR notes that Simmons has been “training with the Iron Sheik as of late” and wonders what he could be learning. Man, so many directions to go with that one. Simmons slugs away back in the ring and knocks Sting to the floor for a shot to the stairs. Back in for a powerslam as Simmons is looking unusually chunky here. Maybe he was training with JYD instead? Simmons with a clothesline, but Sting hits him with a bodypress for two, so Simmons chokes him out in the corner. Ron goes up and Sting crotches him to bring him down and then necks him on the top rope. Sting chases him on the floor and back in as Simmons hides in the corner and then takes Sting down with an atomic drop and stomps away. Slam gets two. Sting slugs away in the corner and follows with a suplex for two, but Simmons tosses him as JR keeps talking up the new alliance between Simmons and Iron Sheik that went nowhere. They fight to the floor and Sting runs him into the post and drops him on the railing, and back in for an awkward clothesline off the top that Ron didn’t seem to want to fully sell. Sting goes to the apron and Ron suplexes him back in, but Sting rolls him up for the pin at 10:42. This was pretty clunky but OK. **1/4
NWA TV title: Sting v. The Great Muta (September 1 89)
From NWA Power Hour, and I think this is on the WWE Network under Hidden Gems somewhere. The TV title had been held up since Bash 89 and this is where it was supposed to be settled. Sting takes him down with a headscissors and Muta quickly escapes that and slugs him down in the corner. Sting gets a rollup for two off that and a sunset flip for two, and a small package for two. Flying bodypress gets two and Muta bails to the floor in frustration. This brings out Terry Funk to yell at Sting and offer inspiration to Muta. Those inspirational words? “If you don’t win here, I promise I’ll retire!” Gary Hart chokes out Sting with the towel while the ref gets rid of Funk, and Muta tosses him and sends him into the railing. Muta slams him on the floor and Hart adds more choking. JR and Cornette on commentary are pretty funny here, as Cornette berates him for taking cheapshots, then admits that he might take some cheapshots himself but at least he has CLASS about it! JR: “He has class, I think those are Holiday Inn towels he’s using.” And then Cornette, without missing a beat, gets a one-liner about how Hart stays in hotels so crappy that they steal the towels from him. Back in the ring, Sting makes a comeback and tosses Muta for a brawl on the floor, as Sting drops him on the railing a few times, and then back in the ring for some shots to the mat. Delayed suplex gets two. Sting with a clothesline and he tosses Muta again. Muta retreats to the apron, so Sting attacks him out there and then stupidly tries the Stinger Splash, hitting the post and smashing his arm into the steel as a result. Back in the ring, Muta takes over with the handspring elbow, but Sting takes him down with a stungun that wipes out the referee in the process. Sting gets the Stinger splash and Scorpion while the ref takes a nap on the floor, and Gary Hart comes in and hits Sting with an international object and revives the ref. That gets two for Muta. Muta keeps coming with a suplex for two and goes up with the moonsault, but Sting gets the knees up and makes the comeback. Stinger Splash and he slugs away on Muta, but Gary Hart yanks him down for the DQ at 14:00, so the held up situation continues.
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Sting (July 7 1990)
So finally, after months of false starts and the most ill-timed knee injury humanly possible, it was time to finally put pass the torch and put the title on Sting once and for all so Flair could be moved down to the midcard and be a gladiator or whatever. Regardless, Sting’s red white and blue outfit is pretty much peak Surfer Sting and his most iconic look pre-Crow. Anyway, Jim Ross goes on this whole thing about how there’s only been three World changes to start a decade, citing matches in 1920, 1940 and then 1980, and wonders if we might get a title change in 1990. Yeah, and then WCW 2000 says “hold my beer”. So we’ve got Ole handcuffed to the Giant, and a million people at ringside. Flair comes in with chops to start and you can tell Sting is amped and ready. Sting with the press slam and hiptoss out of the corner to put Flair on the floor. Yup, it’s a Flair-Sting match all right. They head to the ramp and trade chops and Sting throws him back into the ring, but Flair goes to the eyes and drops a knee. Sting no-sells it and goes up with a high cross for two, and Flair bails to think it over. Back in, Flair finally kicks him in the damn knee and goes to work with chops, but Sting clotheslines him out of the corner, but then misses an elbow. Flair tries the figure-four, but Sting kicks out of it and they’re at an impasse. Test of strength and Flair pokes him in the eye to win that and chops him down, then they head back out to the ramp as they call the 10:00 mark at 5:50. Must be that new math they’re teaching kids in school now. Back in, Sting makes a comeback in the corner and hiptosses Flair again, but he misses the dropkick this time and Flair goes to work on the knee now. But then Flair drops the knee and misses, and Sting gets his own figure-four and Flair has to make the ropes. Back to the floor and Flair sends him into the railing, but Sting shrugs that off and they head back in as Sting slugs away on the mat. Flair goes up and gets slammed off, and Sting gets a backslide for two. And then Flair clips the knee right away and goes to work on it again. Sting fights off the figure-four, so Flair takes him back to the corner for more chops, and Sting no-sells them all and makes the comeback with another press slam. Clothesline gets two. Sting slugs away in the corner and we get the Flair Flip and clothesline on the apron, and a suplex gets two. Stinger splash and Scorpion Deathlock follows, but now the Horsemen all run in and brawl with the Dudes until Flair makes the ropes. Flair gets a pinfall attempt on the ropes, but Scott Steiner pushes him off and Sting rolls him up for two. They go into the pinfall reversal sequence and Sting gets the backslide for two. Flair with more chops, but Sting no-sells them, but then misses the Stinger splash and runs into his bad knee as the camera inexplicably cuts to the crowd during this big moment. Flair with the figure-four, but Sting rolls him up for the pin and the title at 16:07 and let’s just forget the rest of the year happened. Anyway, this was the high middle end of Flair-Sting matches, but every time I watch it I’m just waiting for the epic title match to break out and it just never quite gets there. Maybe next time. ***1/2 It’s somewhat ironic and yet fitting that both Sting and Ultimate Warrior beat the legendary champions (Flair and Hogan) to begin their first title reigns in synergy, but then both were such flops as champion that both titles were back with those same legendary champions by the same time the next year.
Sting v. Dutch Mantell (September 2 1990)
From NWA Main Event, as this is a non-title match. Sting works the arm to start while JR talks about “The Dirty Dutchman” and that sounds like something you’d look up on Urban Dictionary. The banners in the background reveal that we’re in Cobb County, GA, for this one, so hopefully everyone is watching their step and observing law and order while they’re there. So they trade armbars and Dutch misses a knee, allowing Sting to go back to his own armbar, which must have thrilling for the 300 people in attendance for this show. Dutch rakes the eyes to take over, which has the 80 year old ladies in the front row pretty upset, but Sting slugs back and beats on him in the corner. I really wish JR would stop calling him “The Dirty Dutchman”. He’s not Dutch, his NAME is Dutch! Dutch rakes the eyes again, but Sting gets a backslide for the pin at 8:45. This immediately brings the Horsemen out for a beatdown, but various babyfaces make the save. Thank god for the Candyman! Everyone had it firmly in first gear here. *
And I think with that we will wrap up the first part and join things again in 1991 next time with some REALLY good shit ahead.
This was a great set of rarities that avoided all the usual stuff and wasn’t necessarily the best for in-ring action, but showcased young Sting in DIFFERENT matches and I really appreciated that.
Next time: Sting v. Nikita! Sting & Muta v. The Steiner Brothers from Japan! Sting faces the Dangerous Alliance! And MORE!