Sunday, April 14

Every Version Of Sting

Few wrestlers in the history of the industry were able to captivate the fans like the Icon Sting. After getting his start, being trained by Red Bastien and Rick Bassman, he would be a part of Bassman’s Power Team USA. He would move on to Mid-South Wrestling/UWF before landing in Crockett Promotions, which would eventually become WCW, where he became the company’s Franchise player.



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Sting vs Ric Flair is a legendary rivalry that spanned decades, starting with NWA in the 1980s, WCW in the 1990s and 2000s, and finally TNA in 2011!

He’s one of a few legends who worked for every major American promotion, but he also never wavered in his loyalty to WCW. He was also, thanks to various styles of face paint he would implore, able to constantly reinvent himself. Sometimes they weren’t that great, others they were as iconic as iconic could be. But all of them were very memorable. Here is every version of The Stinger, ranked from best to worst.

UPDATE: 2024/02/28 14:30 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS

Sting’s illustrious career ends in 2024. This is a bittersweet moment for fans who followed his career from his early start in Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling to his days as The Surfer Sting and Crow Sting in WCW. Even in his days in TNA and his short stint in WWE, Sting proved why he was one of the most popular wrestlers of all time. Now that he is finishing his career on his own terms in AEW, it is easy to see why Sting has always been one of the best wrestlers to ever compete in the ring.


12 The TNA Icon Sting Was A TNA World Champion

TNA Impact Wrestling (2003-2008)

Sting vs Samoa Joe in TNA.


Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

5 Years

TNA World Championship

Sting worked main events in four of five Bound For Glory events

One of the challenges in the early days of TNA was sheer star power. The company had to distinguish itself from the independents. If they wanted to position themselves as a challenger or alternative to WWE, they needed familiar, credible faces on TV to show the company was for real and draw in casual viewers. Sting was the ultimate score in the early days of TNA. Fans were attached to him, and his name recognition helped with TV negotiations and advertisers.

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It’s no coincidence that The Icon was working the main event in four out of the first five Bound For Glory events — the biggest show on the TNA calendar. It’s unfortunate so much of Sting’s time as the top babyface of TNA overlapped with his late 40s. While he still performed very well relative to his age, he nonetheless came across as an older, slower version of an iconic character — more than deserving of a spot on the card but a bit rough as a regular main event star.


11 Wolfpac Sting Joins The NWO With Kevin Nash

WCW Wrestling (1998-1999)

Sting in nWo Wolfpac paint.

Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

11 Months

WCW World Champion

Sting’s feud with Bret Hart

Sting spent over a year being a silent guardian and a watchful protector, fighting for WCW against the vile New World Order. In typical WCW booking fashion, all of that wonderful storytelling got pushed aside when both factions of the newly split nWo started to pitch for Sting to join them. If you can’t beat ‘em, join them. The Stinger sided with Kevin Nash and the Wolfpac. He gave up the Crow look and started using red face paint instead.


The nWo lasted far longer than it probably should’ve in WCW, and the ultimate enemy of the group eventually joining the faction in some form or another was a clear sign that it had gone on too long. Sting was supposed to be a loner, fighting by himself around this time, so joining a faction felt out of place. He was still successful, winning world titles and tag team titles as part of the Wolfpac, which was the more popular nWo version at the time.

10 Blade Runner Flash / Mid-South Sting Starts His Career

CWA & Mid-South Wrestling/UWF (1985-1987)

Rick Bassman with Sting and Ultimate Warrior.

Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

2 Years

Mid-South Tag Team Champion

Sting’s debut with Ultimate Warrior as The Blade Runners


Working for Rick Bassman, both a young Steve Borden (Sting) and Jim Hellwig (The Ultimate Warrior) were chosen to join Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling/UWF. The two bodybuilders were packaged as a team known as The Blade Runners. Warrior was Rock and Sting was Flash. Their partnership lasted barely a year as Warrior left for WCCW and the Stinger would stick with UWF as they eventually merged into the NWA.

Sting would achieve success in the promotion by winning the UWF World Tag Team Championship three times despite such a short tenure, alongside both Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert and also when teaming with Rick Steiner as part of Gilbert’s Hot Stuff International. Sting showed enough promise that he was the star of Crockett’s purchase of the UWF.

9 Sting Enters The WWE Hall Of Fame

WWE (2016-2020)

Sting at WWE Hall of Fame.


Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

4 Years

N/A

WWE Hall of Fame induction

After getting hurt in a match with Seth Rollins, Sting transitioned out of an active in-ring role in WWE and wound up headlining the Hall of Fame Class of 2016. Sting was more than worthy of the honor and predictably carried himself quite well from the induction podium. There was an awkward piece to Sting riding out his WWE contract as a Hall of Famer, making only very sporadic appearances.


After his induction itself, his most memorable point of this run may have been appearing on Legends with JBL for a sit-down interview that included him questioning why he’d never had his rumored PPV match with The Undertaker. In the end, this period of Sting’s career felt like it embodied his WWE run as someone the company expressed great respect for while, on the other hand, vastly under-utilizing him.

8 The Insane Icon Introduces The Joker Sting

TNA Impact Wrestling (2010-2014)

Joker Sting in TNA.

Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

4 Years

TNA World Championship

Sting ended Hulk Hogan’s reign of running TNA


Later in his career, Sting once again looked to the movies for inspiration for a new character. He once fought off the nWo inspired by Brandon Lee’s The Crow. In TNA, he would draw inspiration from an infamous role again. This time using Heath Ledger and The Dark Knight as source material for a Joker persona, he would attempt to take down Immortal one by one and win back control of TNA for Dixie Carter.

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Sting was good in his role, putting a lot of effort into establishing the character and showing an impressive performance range. This came in a destructive time for TNA, with aging legends such as Hogan, Flair, and Foley being awarded far too much time, which caused a big downfall for the company.

7 The Crow Slows Down In WCW’s Later Years

WCW (1998-2001)

Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

3 Years

WCW World Champion

Sting vs Ric Flair on final WCW Nitro in history


In just a few short months, all of that goodwill built up for The Crow Sting was torn asunder when the mystique was lifted from the character. After the Starrcade 1997 debacle, Sting finally spoke after over a year. After a stint with the Wolfpac, he reverted to the Crow look for the rest of his WCW career, but the shark had no more bite to it. He was essentially Surfer Sting with the ghostly makeup.

This would remain an iconic look for Sting for his other ventures in the professional wrestling world and still gave some fond memories and moments, but it was certainly a step down from what fans had seen before. He never reached the level again in WCW as he did in his rafter days.

6 The Vigilante Shows Up To Challenge The Authority In WWE

WWE (2014-2015)


Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

11 Months

N/A

Sting faces Triple H in WWE debut appearance

At the 2014 Survivor Series, a moment that no one ever thought would happen finally took place. After years of staying away for fear of being buried by Vince McMahon to stick it to WCW, Sting made his surprising, long-overdue debut. Sting came to help defeat The Authority and the build to WrestleMania 31 immediately began right there. In just a few short moments, The Vigilante was born. Had his run not ended prematurely due to injury, this version of Sting, which was a portmanteau of all of the versions of The Icon might be ranked a lot higher.


Due to suffering two major losses, it seemed that Sting was set up to do just that in WWE – lose. Some moments were certainly memorable during this run, but it seemed like poor booking, and it almost looked like an excuse for WWE to get one up on WCW one more time – something which wasn’t necessary by 2015. After reports of Sting pushing a match with The Undertaker at one point, his WWE run feels like even more of a missed opportunity. An injury against Seth Rollins ended the run — and almost ended his career.

5 Sting Joins The Main Event Mafia

TNA Impact Wrestling (2008-2009)

Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

1 Year

TNA World Championship

Sting beat Kurt Angle to become leader of the faction


In one of the better periods of TNA’s growth, The Front Line, comprised of mostly TNA originals like AJ Styles and Bobby Roode had a big feud with The Main Event Mafia. MEM was comprised of all guys who had headlined from all other promotions and had won all of the major titles in TNA. Sting, for the first time in a long time, was presented as a real heel.

After trying to get Samoa Joe to stop pounding on Booker T, he proceeded to beat Joe with a bat. Sting would continue to lead the group. However, once The Stinger started disagreeing with Kurt Angle, he was ousted from the group. Several years later, he would reform the group to go to war with Aces & Eights. Shedding the face paint was a clear statement that this was a more serious, bad-guy Sting, and that detail was brilliant.

4 The Hooligan Sting Finishes His Career

AEW (2020-2024)


Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

4 Years

AEW World Tag Team Championship

Teaming with Great Muta & Darby Allin at The Great Muta Final Bye-Bye show

Sting’s shocking AEW debut signaled a revitalized run for the veteran. Acting as a mentor to Darby Allin has proven to be a great role for Sting, who has been used sparingly, but enough to ensure that Allin has benefited hugely from their partnership. Sting has embraced Allin’s unique personality, becoming in tune with his effective vignettes, and perfectly complimenting his in-ring style with something more classic.

His matches have been incredibly fun and booked to protect the aging wrestler. His run has certainly been a huge positive thus far, with AEW proving time and time again that they use legends effectively to elevate their full-time, younger roster. He feels like a big deal despite being on TV often, as he doesn’t hog the spotlight. It can be argued though that Sting and AEW are being too reckless with him as he’s had a few spots go wrong, but AEW is letting Sting end his career the way he wants it to end.


3 Sting Goes Through A Transition Before The Crow

WCW (1996)

Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

8 Months

WCW World Tag Team Championship

Sting walks out on WCW during War Games

A lot of fans think of Sting as going straight from his “Surfer” persona with bleached blond hair and brightly colored tights to his “Crow” identity, clad in black and white. There was a period of transition, though, as Sting grew out his hair and stopped bleaching it, edging toward a darker version of himself in 1996.


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This version of Sting found himself torn between his babyface identity and teaming up with his tweener-to-downright-heel best friend Lex Luger. These struggles subtly laid a foundation for Sting’s outrage months later, when Luger and his WCW compadres questioned Sting’s loyalties, despite him having been the only consistent hero among them for so long. That led to the introduction of Crow Sting.

2 Surfer Sting Was Crocket’s Brightest Young Star

NWA Crockett Promotions (1987-1995)

Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

8 Years

NWA World Champion

Sting beat Ric Flair for first world championship

For many fans, watching Sting take Ric Flair to the limit and nearly win the NWA title at the first-ever Clash Of Champions is the first time they saw Sting on a national stage. For the next several years, the bleach-blonde, muscle-bound painted-face warrior took WCW by storm and became one of the driving forces of that brand.


It was during this time that he cemented his legacy and had some of the greatest matches of WCW or the era. Matches against the likes of Rick Rude, Big Van Vader, Cactus Jack, and of course, Ric Flair made Surfer Sting into a legend. He was the ultimate babyface in WCW, and this put him on the map.

1 Sting Goes Dark And Becomes The Crow

WCW (1996-1997)

Length Of Gimmick

Notable Accomplishments

Best Moment

2 Years

WCW World Champion

Sting’s entire time spent in the rafters


With the nWo running roughshod over WCW, they had also convinced everyone that The Stinger had turned on WCW. When it was revealed that that was a crock, a hurt Sting told WCW to stick it and The Icon had adopted a new personality that would be able to completely flip his personality and still captivate the fans. He sat in the rafters silent, watching all that was transpiring. Occasionally he’d make his way to the ring in a variety of ways to assault and attack the nWo, one time even stalking them with a giant vulture. Although some of this would be cheapened by the eventual alignment with the Wolfpac, this was still a great period.

But this version of Sting would become more or less the version he’d adopt for the rest of his career. All the other versions of The Franchise, besides Surfer Sting, would be an offshoot of this one. That fact alone shows how notable and significant this period was for the career of Sting, and the surge in popularity of WCW as a whole in their efforts to defeat WWE in the Monday Night Wars.

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