Sting Was Never The Same After This Rivalry

Sting had one of the most illustrious careers in the history of wrestling. From going 45 minutes with Ric Flair at the first Clash of the Champions event in 1988 at the Greensboro Coliseum, to retiring at AEW Revolution 2024 in the very same building.


"The Icon" came out for his final match with his two sons dressed as previous versions of his character, showcasing just how much Sting has transformed over his 40 years in the business. Still, it's his famous "Crow" character that has stuck with him the longest.

Seeing his children dressed as "Surfer Sting" and "Wolfpac Sting" made people realize just how long Sting has preferred his black and white attire, but where did this transformation come from? What was it that led Sting to drop his happy-go-lucky early '90s persona in favor of the much darker character he has remained consistent with for the majority of the 21st century? The answer lies in the heart of the Monday Night War.

Whose Side Was Sting On?

Despite initially agreeing to take on the role that Hulk Hogan would eventually portray, Sting was one of the lead WCW forces fighting against the NWO when the group initially formed in 1996. However, when the NWO tricked WCW into thinking that Sting would be on their team for the WarGames match at that year's Fall Brawl, people started to doubt Sting and his motives. One of these people was Lex Luger, who was attacked by a man dressed as Sting (later to be known as NWO Sting) on the go-home Nitro episode. Sting arrived at the event and cleaned house as many expected, but Luger wasn't convinced, and on the post-Fall Brawl Nitro, "The Icon" had enough.


Sting told WCW fans that he was a "free agent." He was tired of being doubted by the people closest to him, and declared that, while he wasn't leaving WCW and would pop up from time to time, when it comes to the war between the company and the NWO, he would be flying solo. Sting left the ring, and that was the last time anyone would see any part of the "Surfer Sting" character.

During his first stint away from WCW, Sting had a brief tour with NJPW, all while the NWO's version of Sting was still imitating his moves, mannerisms, and appearance on WCW TV. He would return to confront the imposter Sting on an episode of Nitro in October 1996, attacking him and baiting the NWO to intervene. Instead, the NWO attempted to lure Sting into joining the group, to which Sting responded with his now iconic line; "the only thing that's for sure about Sting is nothing's for sure." He wouldn't speak again for a over a year.


Sting vs. The New World Order

From that moment on, the "Crow" version of Sting would take full form. Any time the NWO seemed to be ending Nitro on a sour note, Sting would arrive in his trenchcoat, baseball bat in hand, and would clean house on multiple occasions. Outside of two house shows at the beginning of the year, Sting would not wrestle throughout the entirety of 1997, mainly filling the role of the outside anti-hero fighting for WCW against the NWO. This ultimately led to the company's most anticipated match possibly ever, Sting vs. Hollywood Hogan.


After over a year of terrorizing the NWO and being a constant thorn in their side, Sting and Hogan would finally meet one-on-one at Starrcade 1997 for the WCW World Championship. Sting, fighting for WCW, would initially lose the match after referee and NWO stooge Nick Patrick counted three after a Hogan leg drop, but the decision was overturned by Bret Hart, who didn't want a repeat of what happened to him a month earlier in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997. The match would restart, and Sting would get the victory in a bout that, while it ultimately had the ending everyone wanted, many people saw as a massive disappointment due to how much miscommunication and disarray went into it.

WCW didn't fail to stick the landing on the Sting vs. NWO feud, they missed the crash mat completely and broke a few bones on the way down. However, if there is one thing that people can take from this rivalry, it's that it gave the wrestling business a version of Sting that would stay with him until the day he retired. Through TNA, WWE, and AEW, Sting was changed forever after his feud with the NWO.