Steve Borden, Sr. – best known by his black-and-white face painted Crow persona Sting— is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, not just for his towering frame and superb athleticism, but for the way he performs and has always stuck true to personal beliefs. Known as "The Franchise" of WCW, Sting swooped in during the '80s and quickly became a sensation, having the crown passed on from "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. Sting was the it-man of the '90s— the decade when we saw the all-time best character transformation in the history of wrestling: Sting’s adoption of the Crow persona. This was the transformation that sealed his legacy. And the tremendous part was that some of is best performances weren’t even in the ring, but eerie scenes of him lurking in the rafters. But come the 2000s, Sting’s network was bought out. Instead of selling his soul to the glitz and glamour of WWE, he found a home at TNA. Hell no, Sting wasn’t going to sell out. He’s always been the fish swimming against the current.
Today, Sting is one of two old school wrestlers we still talk about on the regular (The Undertaker being the other). That’s because he’s mentally and physically still there, for the most part, unlike many of his fellow '80s Superstars who have deteriorated from either drug use or extreme injuries (as a result of drug use). The recent water cooler talk about Sting normally relates to his recent signing with WWE, sealed when the Scorpion Deathdrop king was a ripe 56. That’s 30 years in the ring without making the transition to the largest wrestling network in history. Yes, there’s story behind that, and so many others you need to be talking about again. We dug up the dirt and found 15 other crazy things about Sting that you’ll want to know and tell your friends.
15 You Can Book Him To Speak About Christianity
Sting became a born again Christian in 1998 after admitting to copious amounts of steroid use in the '80s. He started juicing before his days as Sting in the ring, when Steve Borden was just a competitive body builder. His use followed him into wrestling, and Sting used steroids for about the first two years (back when he wore neon pink tights). In an interview Sting says he wanted to continue using but they became too expensive. That means he quit pumpers around 1990, which still gave him eight or so years until he found God. Within that time performing and traveling for WCW, Sting adopted the stereotypical wrestling Superstar lifestyle, getting heavy into pain killers, muscle relaxers, and women that weren’t his then wife Sue Borden. But he changed his ways. It’s rumored Sting didn’t transition to WWE after it bought WCW because the organization’s morals didn’t align with his new Christian beliefs. But if you really want to ask him, you can go on ChristianSpeakers360.com and book Sting to come and talk about the gospel. If you’re short for change, just turn on his religious biopic, Sting: Moment of Truth.
14 Basketball Taught Him How To Jump
Sting admitted that the sport he owes much of his high-flying Sting Splasher skills to isn’t weight lifting (which he started getting into heavily when he was 21 years old and even dabbled in gym management with a Gold’s Gym franchise), but basketball instead. Growing up in Southern California after being born in Omaha, Nebraska, Sting was on the high school basketball team. Sting said he really learned how to jump on this team. Just think of all the Corner Splashes that would not be if Sting hadn’t dabbled on the court. Along with basketball, Borden was also a football player, but we’re not surprised to hear that the 6’2, 250-pound powerhouse was good at team sports. The genetic Borden gift for athleticism was passed down to Sting’s two sons Garrett and Steve, who both played college football. Sting must remember what it was like looking for your parents in the crowd during a game because his sons’ have said that their dad almost never missed a game.
13 He’s Got A Bat Cave
Or maybe Sting Cave is a better name. Really it’s not a cave but a barn, located on his sprawling property in Dallas, Texas. This Sting Cave houses almost every rhinestoned jacket, memorabilia trinket, and promotional WCW poster that has ever featured the wrestler’s name. It’s a freaking Sting Mecca and we literally could not imagine how many hours we would spend in there if we got the chance. Of course, nothing is framed or positioned in a lit shadowbox. Too flashy. It’s all neatly boxed and organized by year. The majority of the throwback ring gear dates back to Sting’s blond, flat-top days as the face of WCW (yes, the bodies are completely encrusted in sparkles and the arms rock super-long fringe). I mean, this dude was at so many WCW signings and corporate events he needs a full-sized barn to house the residue. A look into the archives of Sting’s in-ring style really does magnify how astounding his transition was to the shadowed, all-black-and-white character that captured our attention in such a unique way. You’d think a blinged American flag jacket would catch your eye, but not as much as a masked figure lurking in the rafters. Still, we’d pay admission to go through the old gear, garb, and action figures of The Franchise of WCW.
12 Won The Last WCW Match Ever
In March 2001 when WWE bought WCW, Sting made the decision not to make the switch. The hostile takeover of his network was set in stone, but there was one last fight for the network under it’s WCW banner. The last-ever event on WCW was a Monday Nitro match against Sting and Flair. Ironically, Sting had fought the Nature Boy in the first-ever 1995 Nitro night in the show’s 288-episode lifespan. Sting eventually took the win with his signature Scorpion Deathlock, but following the bell the two icons who had fought one another in WCW on every continent in the world shook hands. It was super sweet but also super sad to know Nitro was kaput. For Sting, it was the beginning of the great unknown, since nearly everyone else on the roster was getting their contracts picked up by the new boss, Mr. McMahon. Sting was sure that Vince only wanted him to undermine WCW, and not because he actually believed in Sting’s talent. Due to the structure of Sting’s WCW contract, McMahon couldn’t inherit his career. Nitro fans didn’t know what was going to happen to their cloaked hero, and oh god they wanted to know. The Insane Icon made it known at the close of that last episode, “The only thing that's for sure about Sting is nothing's for sure.”
11 Owns The Name ‘Sting’
Although it’s not super duper common, a wrestler will sometimes buy the rights to their stage name. In this case, it’s a highly unique situation since the mention of wrestler Sting always brings up some peripheral vision of the musician Sting. But there’s no bad blood between the lead singer for The Police and the wrestling legend. In fact, there’s a sweet photo of the two together, shot some time in the early '90s (yes, it’s a pretty surreal shot that we’re going to hang over our mantle). There’s a crazy rumor about the rights to the name Sting, perpetrated by website UPROXX, that wrestler Sting rents the name to musician Sting for the charge of $1 a year. Could be hearsay, but what we know for sure is that the wrestler DOES own the rights, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recognizes the trademark, which was filed on February 26, 2014 and comprises just about any merchandise for any sport you could ever imagine (even hockey gear surprisingly).
10 Fought (And Teamed With) A.J. Styles
The black sheep of the wrestling family, TNA became a home for Sting after WCW. This is sort of a grey area of his career that doesn’t get much play, but he was there from 2003 through 2014. Yeah, he was wrestling that whole time but instead we were being bombarded with WWE promos of John Cena. In the initial TNA contract Sting inked included only less than a handful of events. Upon his debut in June (also the one-year anniversary for the network), he went up against today’s SmackDown’s World Champion A.J. Styles, who was with TNA for more than a decade. In this match Sting was partnered with Jeff Jarrett to fight Styles and Syxx Pac, but shortly after this the teams would go through a remodeling and Sting would pair with Styles for a very short run. But still, it’s somewhat difficult to imagine "The Phenomenal One" being phenomenal enough to hang with Sting. Together they crushed Lex Luger and Jarrett.
9 He Was The “New” Nature Boy
Ric Flair really put Sting on the map. Considered a talent to watch after coming up from UWF to Eric Bischoff’s WCW, Sting got a rocket-powered start to his tenure by challenging Flair in the first-ever Clash of the Champions in 1988. To this day Sting credits that match as the one that made him a household name. On the exact same night of the Clash, as Sting and Nature Boy duked it out for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, WWE was doing its live showing of WrestleMania IV. Flair and Sting were in the ring for 45 minutes of commercial free carnage. Forty. Five. Minutes. That’s a long freaking time to be in a box smaller than many bedrooms. The match went too long and neither was declared the winner. Flair and Sting went on to fight many times, with Flair coming out on top. But that was the '80s, when Slick Ric was still the king. But come 1990, there was a new sheriff. Sting was being positioned as a more energetic Nature Boy, and in essence, the Ric Flair of the '90s. Once again Sting and Flair were billed as the main event for The Great American Bash. It was obvious from the first 30 seconds in the ring that Sting wasn’t the awkward newbie anymore. He was older and more confident. When it looked like Flair had come back to win, Sting pinned him, gaining his first World Heavyweight status.
8 Was Voted Most Unimproved
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter has been published since the mid-80s by its publisher and editor Dave Meltzer. More recently a professor on Mixed Martial Arts, boxing, and wrestling business at Stanford University, this Meltzer jibroni actually had the nerve of dubbing Sting the Most Unimproved Wrestler in a 1990 edition of Wrestling Observer. Only four years earlier in '86, the same publication named Sting third Most Improved Wrestler of the Year (behind Rick Steiner who was number one). That was Sting’s first year in the Universal Wrestling Foundation, and Wrestling Observer also placed him third in the running for Rookie of the Year. What changed in four years to make sting Most Unimproved? Well 1990 was the first year of his feud with The Four Horsemen, and before then Sting was refining his skills in WCW and All Japan Pro Wrestling. I think it’s safe to say that Sting was killing it, emerging as the only guy who could be considered for the NWA World Championship. So I’d welcome an explanation from Meltzer for that one.
7 The War Chant
Back in the good ol’ neon spandex, flat-top bleach blonde hair days, Sting got the crowds going H.A.M. by beating his chest and howling. It was dubbed, the war chant. Yes, it’s a detail we often forget given that Sting’s silent crow persona is the one we associate most with the 57-year-old icon. But if you ever heard the war chant and saw the gorilla movement that came with it, you’d know it was epic… and absolutely contagious among fans. Even when The Stinger forgot what to say during a promo, he could redeem himself by pulling out the war cry and banging his fists against his chest. It looked even more savage considering he wore a painted face even then (although it wasn’t the white and black full-face makeup you’re thinking of). This was a move which he carried with him all the way to WrestleMania, and was a signature show of power since his first run in the ring at Continental Wrestling Association, where he and James Brian Hellwig performed as the Freedom Fighters.
6 Teamed With The Ultimate Warrior
This brings me to my next point— that Hellwig guy who Sting tag teamed as the Freedom Fighters is also more commonly known as The Ultimate Warrior. Whaaaaat? Yep, that’s right. The Warrior’s name in CWA was Jim “Justice” Hellwig. The two shed their Freedom Fighters gimmick at Continental and moved on to the Universal Wrestling Federation where they created a Blade Runner façade. Known at the time as Flash, it was at this point when Borden changed his alias to Blade Runner Sting (can you imagine the Sting we know and love being called Flash? Us neither). Hellwig also changed his name to Rock, and the two painted their eyes black and went for a New Era twist on '80s traditional sparkle. This tag team made in heaven lasted for only a hot second (less than a year actually), when The Ultimate Warrior got called up to WWE and jumped to take the gig. It was this career move by Hellwig that turned him into the two-time Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship holder and WWE Hall of Famer.
5 He Chose Family Over Fame
Throughout all of Sting’s career at WCW and TNA, he never made the switch to WWE. The self-proclaimed family man saw plenty of his co-workers sell out for fame that being in a larger network brought. But Sting’s main reason for remaining was that he wanted to be home. He could set his own schedule with WCW and be home with his kids, showing up to his sons’ football games and school events. Later when WWE bought WCW he still wouldn’t go. There are plenty of rumors why, but the most likely is that the WWF didn’t align with Sting’s newly found Born Again Christian morals. It’s widely thought that if Sting went to WWF during his heyday, he would have been even bigger than he is today. But somehow, Sting was able to be true to his beliefs that family comes first, and still get his shot at WWE limelight. After being in talks with the network since December 2013, Sting officially became a member of the roster in January 2015.
4 Scott Hall Gave Him The Crow Idea
Sting was there for the first night of Monday Nitro— aka the big bang that really put WCW on the same playing field as WWE. With the start of Nitro came the start of New World Order, and every night it seemed a new face was turning heel, even Mr. America himself Hulk Hogan. The Stinger was no exception. He started growing out his hair (in its natural shade of brown no less), threw the brightly colored spandex numbers in the garbage, and told audiences he’d show up when he wanted. But it wasn’t until Scott Hall told him about the the 1994 movie The Crow, and its resurrected neo-noir antihero, that Sting adopted the new appearance in its image. The change pretty much happened overnight, which made Sting nervous about how the mysterious character would be received. But the demon in the rafters stuck, striking a cord for WCW audiences. Sting dove head first into the persona, getting a REAL vulture to sit on his arm, and zip-lining down into the ring from the stadium ceiling. It didn’t even matter if he was wrestling; the character was just so cool. He appeared out of nowhere with his duster and we were like little children on Christmas morning. Although he had turned heel, Sting was a hero, being the only man to stand up to all of nWo.
3 He Was Thought to Be Retired Before WrestleMania 31
It was the match no one thought would happen. Sting was 56 and set to go against WWE figurehead Triple H at WrestleMania 31 in March 2015. The entire event was insane— no doubt one of the best moments in all of WrestleMania history. Sting was about to defeat "The Cerebral Assassin" when the entire DX team came out to Helmsley’s aid. It seemed like a planned massacre for Sting, but then all of nWo came out also. Iconic, just iconic. It was WCW versus WWE all over again, but distilled in one match at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium. Sting calls it the biggest event of his entire career. Less than six months earlier, Sting made his first-ever appearance on WWE at the 28th annual Survivor Series. He came in to stare down Triple H and Scorpion Death Dropped the S#!^ out of him. It. Was. Bad. Ass. And often considered the most insane moment in all of the Survivor Series.
2 Does His Own Face Paint
There is no damn Sting without that damn awesome face paint. It absolutely made the Crow character, and as Sting once explained in an interview/makeup tutorial, the ritual of putting the makeup on gets him in the zone to play the part. Unlike almost every other main-event wrestler, Borden does his own makeup. And it makes sense, because mentally getting into the Sting character is just as important as the physical prep of training. Using a normal thick paintbrush, he first puts on the white coat over his entire face. He calls the ritual “part of the preparation…part of me becoming Sting.” Then with a smaller paintbrush, he takes black paint and colors in the left eye, running swerved lines down the side and of his cheeks. Then he moves to the right eye. Next comes the chin, then the lines on his forehead. Lastly he brings the brush under his eyes for the final touch of dramatics. “I walk in and start painting my face; it’s right then that show time starts.”
1 Unfinished Business
Sting’s dream list of WrestleMania contenders consists of Triple H and The Undertaker. So far, he’s only been able to cross off one of those names. The second still lingers in his head. Can you imagine? Sting versus the "The Lord of Darkness" at WrestleMania 33? I would straight up crap my pants. Sting recently went on record saying to the Big Texan JBL that he is pushing for the matchup. “Yeah, that’s the unfinished business,” Sting says, “I’ve always wanted to have that match.” The biggest roadblock is of course, the health of the aging legends. But there’s a short timeline for Sting on this dream match since The Man They Call Sting is pushing back some pretty serious neck surgery in the hopes that WWE (and The Undertaker) will allow the fight to happen. And there’s no possibility for a post-surgery match. Sting says his wrestling days will official be over once the scalpel draws.
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