An Icon, A Legend… He Is STING

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Growing up in a family that has always watched professional wrestling, Sting is one of those people I grew up with an appreciation for. He was always talked about in my household as one of the best of the best – “yeah there’s better wrestlers, but there’s no one like Sting!” was something I often heard. Throughout my years of fandom, I’ve always admired the man. 

Of course, a lot of his career was before I was born, or old enough to really appreciate it. Those are years I’ve gone back to revisit, and the more engrossed into wrestling I became, the more I understood why Sting is held in such high regards by professional wrestling as a whole. He never shied away from reinventing himself, and throughout so much of his run he was someone fans turned to as the reliable, familiar wrestler that would always give their all. 

There’s so many career highlights beyond what I’m going to talk about primarily here that I don’t even know how to cover. WCW, WWE, TNA, even New Japan, Sting’s history is tied into so many companies and throughout so many moments in history. His most recent run is one that truly sticks out to me as a truly incredible one in this business. 

When Sting debuted for AEW at Winter is Coming in 2020, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this run. I thought maybe we’ll get some cool moments, that he’d hang around for a year or so for one final hurrah in professional wrestling. What we got though was something much more special than that. I can confidently say that the last three years we’ve had with the Icon is some of the best handling of a legend’s twilight years we’ve ever seen in professional wrestling. 

From arenas across America, memorable teams, guest appearances in Japan, to a coffin match in Wembley Stadium, it’s hard to pinpoint what moment in this run I can call the “best”. Instead, let’s celebrate some of the ones that stick out the most. 

My personal favourite will probably always be the first Forbidden Door, in which Sting and Darby teamed up with NJPW’s Shingo Takagi to take on the Young Bucks and El Phantasmo – a rendition of Bullet Club (for one night only) I never expected to see. This match stands out to me so much because for all the great tag bouts Sting has been involved in during his AEW run, I don’t recall another in which he appeared to have as much fun as he did with this one. From jumping off the stage before the belt even rang to noselling a double superkick, his performance here was outstanding. Of course, the other competitors in this shined, it’s hard not to with the star studded team, but it really felt like everything they did was just catapulted to a new level because of Sting’s performance. Like I said, one of my personal favourite moments of the run, and probably one of my favourite six man tags AEW has ever produced.

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Sticking to the Forbidden Door theme, the visual of Sting being in a team with Tetsuya Naito is something quite special. Being in the building at the Collision where Darby and Sting announced Naito as their third man, it was a reaction I’ve heard only a few times in person. The crowd revelled in seeing two incredibly (pardon the pun) iconic figures in wrestling standing side by side. The match at Forbidden Door may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but sometimes, the moments are what matter. 

Speaking of moments, getting to experience Sting wrestle a match at Wembley Stadium is something I never in my wildest dreams thought would happen. Anyone that knows anything about the British wrestling scene knows just how revered Sting is by these crowds, and the excitement for this was palpable. It was truly a novelty for us – seeing Sting and Darby take on Swerve and Christian in a coffin match is still absurd to think about, even now months removed from the event happening. From his entrance onwards the crowd was rocking and rolling, and you could feel the awe from those in attendance. There was a time we never thought we’d get to see Sting wrestle in the UK again, and the whole thing was just joy to experience. I will always remember how awesome his entrance in Wembley was. 

A recent moment that I got to experience live that felt like a real “I never expected to see this in wrestling” moment was Sting and Darby teaming with Adam Copeland at Full Gear 2023. It felt surreal to see these three square off against Christian, Nick Wayne, and Killshot was frankly absurd, and I enjoyed every second of it. The entrances for Sting, Darby, and Copeland might be one of my favourite live experiences I’ve ever had, from the sheer wonder of them teaming together, to the face paint they all wore. I won’t lie and say it didn’t make me emotional, and at the end of the day, that really is what wrestling is all about. 

I’d be remiss to not mention the moment at Grandslam: Rampage 2022 when Sting was saved by the Great Muta. This is a moment I feel like sometimes slips through the cracks in favour of others, but it was one that stuck with me. Seeing two legends in the ring together was quite the visual, and it led to something remarkable. In the following January, Darby and Sting went over to Japan to compete on Keiji Muto’s ‘Great Muta’s Final Bye Bye’, an event celebrating Muto’s career hosted by Pro Wrestling NOAH. As a fan, seeing Sting getting to participate in the retirement tour of someone like Muto, not knowing how long the Icon himself had left, was a beautiful moment. The two old rivals finally came full circle from when their feud in WCW was born in the eighties.

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An overarching theme here I’ve yet to touch on is that throughout all of these special moments in AEW is that there’s been one constant; Darby Allin has always been at Sting’s side. He was involved in Sting’s debut at Winter is Coming 2020, and I don’t remember a time in the run where Allin hasn’t been at his side. Many fans weren’t sure what to make of this pairing at first, but I really do feel like AEW hit a home run with this. From the matches and moments I’ve mentioned above to so many others, they’ve been an incredible bright spot in AEW throughout their time together.

Finally, we come to his last match. On March 3rd in Greensboro, Sting and Darby will walk into Revolution as the tag team champions and come face to face with Nicholas and Matthew Jackson in a tornado tag match. Sting and Darby versus the Young Bucks always felt like ‘a match that could’ve been’ back in 2021 when the Bucks were on a tear as the tag team champions. We weren’t lucky enough to get it then, but here we are in 2024, about to see these two teams lock up for the belts for the first time in a straight up tag match. 

This feud began in January, when the EVP’s returned from a hiatus sporting a new look and having gone under a character change. The Bucks’ have seemingly embraced the insults thrown at them throughout the years and are acting every bit of the power hungry, selfish EVP’s people have believed them to be. I don’t think there could’ve been a better way to build this – Nicholas and Matthew orchestrated the perfect moment to attack Sting and Darby and make their intentions clear. They want to be the ones to drive Sting out of the company to set an example, and they’re coming for the belts. 

This match is something I already have circled as one of the all time moments in AEW history. I won’t sit here and pretend I think it’ll be the greatest match in history – as much as I love Sting and think he’s blown expectations out of the water in this run, you always have to hold some caution. There is no doubt in my mind however that this match is going to be incredibly special. We’ve already seen hints of what these teams are capable of in a six man tag, and I’m so excited to see what magic they’re able to create here. I’m anticipating this match to be full of emotion, with a 16,000 strong house rocking and rolling. I truly believe this might be the best way AEW could’ve put together Sting’s last feud as an active wrestler. 

As bittersweet as this is going to be, I genuinely commend AEW in its handling of this final Sting run. He has been treated as every part of the legend he is, and he’s getting to end his in-ring career on his terms, in a place that’s special to him. What a run, and what a way to end it. As fans, we are truly blessed to have had this time with Sting over the past few years. There will never be another like the Icon.

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