I'm sure you've heard by now that Sting will soon undergo neck surgery due to the injuries he sustained during his match with Seth Rollins at the Night of Champions pay-per-view back in September, which was his only match for the WWE title. We can only speculate right now, but chances are that we'll never see Sting in competition ever again, so I thought it might be fun to go back and take a look at the championship reigns that he was able to enjoy during his storied career.
Over nearly three decades, Sting has proven himself to be one of the most iconic figures in professional wrestling history, and has a long list of championships to his credit. As they like to do, WWE would have you believe that Sting has won only seven championships in his career. They acknowledge his first win of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and his six WCW World Heavyweight Championship reigns, but there are actually six other occasions where he won a world championship match. Even I was hesitant to include 13 on this list, which you'll see in just a moment, but due to the roster of the company, I had to throw it in.
WWE will never recognize the five championship runs he had in TNA, with one being the NWA World Heavyweight Championship again, and it's extremely unfortunate given the fact that the guys he beat for those titles all worked for WWE (a couple even held the WWE title) at some point, and one works for them right now in NXT. But I suppose that's not my call to make, but I'll go ahead and make it here. Let's take a look back at some of the highlights of the 13-time world champion, Sting.
13 WWA - def. Lex Luger & Malice
You may not even know that this one existed. WWA is the now defunct World Wrestling All-Stars, formed in 2001 after the WCW folded. Unknown (at the time, anyway) wrestlers such as A.J Styles and Christopher Daniels would join veterans like Road Dogg, Jeff Jarrett, the Steiners, Eddie Guerrero, and more on international tours of Australia, the UK and one PPV in Las Vegas as a place where wrestlers who didn’t work for the new monopoly could still get some big matches in.
One of those matches included two of the biggest names in WCW history, Lex Luger and Sting, for the vacant WWA title at the Retribution PPV in December 2002. In a horrible match that saw Jeff Jarrett interfere to give Luger the win, Sting would get his retribution (oh yes, that’s clever) and win the WWA World Heavyweight Championship just a few days later at a house show in Zurich. He would hold the title until May of 2003, WWA’s final event before closing its doors, where he lost an NWA(who was affiliated with the brand new TNA)-WWA unification bout to Jarrett.
12 WCW - def. Big Van Vader at house show in London
Speaking of house shows, were you aware that Sting’s second WCW title reign started at a house show? Were you also aware that this reign only lasted six days? Short reigns for the Stinger are kind of a big thing, as I’m sure you’ll notice as we get down this list. On March 11, 1993, Sting defeated Big Van Vader for the title at a house show in London, only to lose it six days later at another house show in Dublin.
You have to remember that WCW was still nowhere near the peak it would reach in the Monday Night Wars, so take this reign for what it was at the time. At least they were touring internationally.
11 TNA - def. Mr. Anderson on Impact
This was a rematch from the previous month’s Slammiversary IX, where Sting had lost the TNA World Heavyweight Championship to Mr. Kennedy….err, Mr. Anderson, after interference from Eric Bischoff. This loss is what led to the “Insane Icon” days, when Sting ripped off Heath Ledger’s Joker (no, seriously, he had clown minions and everything), but he would get his revenge on Mr. Anderson and win back the title after some help from Kurt Angle. One month later, he would lose the title to Angle at Hardcore Justice. Another short reign for the Stinger.
10 WCW - def. DDP on Nitro
Speaking of short reigns, there’s no shorter reign than this. After competing, and losing, a Four Corners match with Hulk Hogan, Diamond Dallas Page, and champion Ric Flair at Spring Stampede in April of 1999, which saw DDP claim victory after help from special guest referee, Randy Savage, Sting was granted a shot at the title on the April 26 edition of Monday Nitro. Sting would defeat DDP, only to lose the title 90 minutes later in yet another four-way match, this time with Page, Goldberg, and Kevin Nash. DDP would regain the title by pinning Nash, making Sting’s reign the shortest in WCW history.
9 TNA - def. Jeff Hardy on Impact
In late 2010, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff had formed Immortal and attempted to lure “The Icon” to the stable, but Sting wouldn’t join and “walked out” on Dixie Carter and TNA. In reality, Sting’s contract was up, and speculation was that this was around the time he nearly signed with WWE for a WrestleMania match with The Undertaker, which obviously never came to fruition.
He would re-sign with TNA and in February 2011, he emerged as a surprise challenger for Jeff Hardy’s championship. On the March 3rd edition of Impact, he defeated Hardy to capture his third TNA World Heavyweight Championship. This reign would end at the aforementioned Slammiversary IX when he dropped the belt to Mr. Anderson. At least he got a few months this time.
8 WCW-def. Hulk Hogan at Fall Brawl
During the summer of 1999, the red and yellow Hulk Hogan had returned, and after winning the title in July, was set to defend it against Sting at Fall Brawl. The duo had paired together throughout the summer, and this was basically billed as a face vs. face matchup. For the first time in his storied history with WCW, Sting turned heel by using a bat on Hogan that was brought to the ring by Lex Luger. He defeated Hogan once again a month later at Halloween Havoc after The Hulkster laid down for him (two solid Halloween Havocs in a row for Hogan), but would lose later in the night in an unsanctioned match with Goldberg. Why a referee is ever necessary in all of these “unsanctioned” matches is beyond me, but that’s for another day, I suppose.
He would enter the tournament to regain the championship, but would eventually lose to Bret Hart in the semifinals. This would be Sting’s last reign in WCW.
7 TNA - def. Samoa Joe at Bound For Glory
The summer months of 2008 leading up to this match at TNA’s biggest pay-per-view laid the groundwork for the Main Event Mafia. The younger generation of stars in TNA, names like A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe, were seen as being somewhat disrespectful to the older generation of wrestlers like Kurt Angle and Booker T. Sting, who was a babyface at the time and an on-screen ally to Samoa Joe, tried to stop Joe from an assault on Booker T at the Victory Road PPV, but the now-NXT star refused to listen to the legend, which led Sting to use his signature bat on Joe and once again turning heel.
After months of feuding, it was announced that Sting would face Samoa Joe at Bound For Glory for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Sting would win the belt with help from another heel turn, this time in the form of Kevin Nash, and would start the longest championship reign of his career. He would hold the belt from October 12, 2008 until April 19, 2009, where he lost to Mick Foley at the Lockdown PPV in a Six Sides of Steel cage match.
6 TNA/NWA - def. Jeff Jarrett at Bound For Glory
After a lengthy absence from TNA, Sting returned in early 2006 to announce his “retirement” from the wrestling business. He appeared on Impact, his debut on SpikeTV, and thanked the fans. Obviously a work, NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Jeff Jarrett (you have to remember that the NWA was working with TNA for a number of years when they were just getting off the ground) refused to believe that Sting had retired and in a ridiculous segment, sent Alex Shelley to Sting’s house to film him, which led Sting to Destination X with no face paint and in regular clothes to save Christian Cage (remember when Christian was in TNA?) and Rhino from an attack, even putting Jarrett in the Scorpion Deathlock.
After many months of different tag matches, Sting finally got his shot at Jarrett and the title in August at Hard Justice, but lost after a heel turn from Christian. Sting got his rematch at TNA’s biggest show of the year, Bound For Glory, in a title vs. career match, with Sting coming out on top to win his second NWA World Heavyweight Championship. As for this title reign, it lasted barely a month before losing the belt to Abyss.
5 WCW - def. Lex Luger at Superbrawl II
Ahhh…the early days of WCW on its own. After seceding from the NWA, WCW finally had its own belt. This is the one that the WWE currently recognizes, and this win was his first run with it. Two of the biggest names in WCW history, Lex Luger and Sting, had been friends and partners for years, but after yet another Luger heel turn (seriously, how many times did that guy go back and forth?), the two found themselves as enemies as the second SuperBrawl rolled around in February of 1992.
After a mix of feuds with Paul E. Dangerously’s Dangerous Alliance, which consisted of legends like Rick Rude, “Stunning” Steve Austin, Barry Windham, and more, Sting was finally able to focus on the title picture and Luger, defeating the future driver of the “Lex Express” to win his first official WCW World Heavyweight Championship. He would hold the title until the Great American Bash that summer, losing to Vader and starting one of the feuds that would help define his career in WCW.
4 WCW - def. Hulk Hogan at Superbrawl VIII
Arguably one of the biggest feuds in WCW history, this match between Sting and Hollywood Hogan was billed as the “rematch of the decade” for 1998’s SuperBrawl pay-per-view, stemming from the controversial finish from Starrcade only two months earlier. This win for the vacant title didn’t have the luster that the Starrcade victory had, but it still warrants inclusion in the top five.
He would hold the title until April when he lost it to Randy Savage, who in turn would drop it to Hogan the next night on Nitro. This entire sequence of events would eventually lead to Sting joining the nWo Wolfpac after the faction split into two groups.
3 TNA - def. Kurt Angle at Bound For Glory
It may seem hard to believe that a TNA title run could be in the top three, but this match against Kurt Angle at 2007’s Bound For Glory was incredible. The storyline got very personal as it involved Angle’s wife, Karen, and Sting’s son, Garrett. The pay-per-view itself was held right outside of Atlanta, WCW's old home, which was referenced throughout the feud.
It’s hard not to have a solid match when in the ring with Kurt Angle, and Sting was able to keep up with the pace and win his first official TNA World Heavyweight Championship. This match was also voted as TNA’s “Match of the Year”. Unfortunately, as it usually happens to Sting, he would drop the title back to Angle only two days later at the Impact tapings. So, the reign wasn’t great, but the title win certainly was. That’s why it’s here.
2 WCW - def. Hulk Hogan at Starrcade
This was one of the biggest matches in WCW history. When the business went to monthly pay-per-views, it got harder and harder to build a great feud over time as could be done in the 80s, but the feud between Hollywood Hogan and Sting was done to perfection. This was before the nWo got stale and overused. They were at their peak and arguably the biggest star in wrestling history had become wrestling’s best heel. Over the course of a year, Sting would drop in and out (literally) of Nitro to battle the nWo without saying a word, and as 1997 drew to a close, Sting made it obvious that he wanted Hogan in an awesome segment on Nitro.
The match would happen at WCW’s biggest pay-per-view, Starrcade. Outside of a five-day stretch earlier that year when he lost the title to Lex Luger (arguably Luger’s biggest title win), only to regain it back five days later, Hogan had held onto the title for over a year and the crowd was ready for a change. Hogan dominated Sting for much of the matchup, and seemed to have beat Sting with his normal routine and pinned Sting 1-2-3 in the middle of the ring. However, newly acquired Bret Hart, fresh off of the Montreal Screwjob, refused to allow the finish and ordered the match to be restarted. The problem with this whole thing is that referee Nick Patrick was supposed to do a fast three-count, but if you’ve ever seen Nick Patrick ref, then you know how difficult that is for him, so the count just looked normal. And seriously, when you go back and watch it, it’s the most normal count you’ll ever see.
The match restarted and the crowd erupted as Sting made Hogan tap out to the Scorpion Death Lock. It was actually a very cool moment for the business. Of course, the reign wouldn’t last for long, as the title was vacated a few weeks later on the first episode of Thunder.
1 NWA/WCW - def. Ric Flair at The Great American Bash
There’s nothing quite as sweet as your first, especially when it's Ric Flair (wooo!). Flair and Sting will forever be linked as two of the biggest names, not only in WCW, but in professional wrestling history. This match was in 1990, but Flair and Sting had already been battling for years, including an epic draw at the very first Clash of the Champions in 1988. He would battle Flair and the rest of the Four Horsemen off and on for a while, but at the Great American Bash in 1989, he would actually help “The Nature Boy” fend off Terry Funk and Muta, eventually leading to join The Four Horsemen with Flair and the Andersons.
Remember when I said how much easier it was used to be to build a long feud? For the next few months, tensions would rise and Sting would be kicked out of the Horsemen by February 1990. After suffering an actual knee injury, Luger would get involved (shocking, I know) until Sting could return and claim his rightful place at the table, something that was actually promised to him by Flair. In one of their many epic battles over the years, Sting would win his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the Great American Bash on July 7, 1990. In what would be a sign of things not to come, Sting would have a nice title reign before losing the title back to Flair on January 11, 1991.