Follow TV Tropes


Wrestling / Sting

Go To
"When a man's heart is full of deceit, it burns up, dies, and a dark shadow falls over his soul. From the ashes of a once great man has risen a curse, a wrong that must be righted. We look to the skies for a vindicator, someone to strike fear into the black hearts of the same men who created him. The battle between good and evil has begun. Against an army of shadows comes a dark warrior. The purveyor of good, with a voice of silence and a mission of justice. THIS. IS. STING."
— Voiceover from WCW Clash of the Champions XXXV

He does this, he does that ♫ He's quick as a cat, and he hits you with a bat ♫ (Wait, that's not right...)

Steve Borden (born March 20, 1959) is better known to wrestling fans as (The Man Called) Sting. Beginning his career in 1985, he was recruited by a talent scout named Rick Bassman to train with three other wrestlers known as Power Team USA. Then known as Flash Borden, he and fellow Power Team USA member Jim "Justice" Helwig (who later became the Ultimate Warrior) were called up by Jerry Jarrett (father of Jeff Jarrett) and joined the Continental Wrestling Association as the "Freedom Fighters". The two later joined Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation in 1986, renaming their team the "Blade Runners" and Borden and Justice renamed themselves Sting and Rock respectively.

But the majority of Sting's career saw him working in WCW from 1987 (back when it was still known as Jim Crockett Promotions) until the company's demise in 2001, where he became the company's biggest star during the 1990s. Starting out as a bleached blonde surfer bum type, he later transitioned into the Eric Draven-inspired look which (apart from an ill-conceived Joker costume in 2011) he's retained to this very day. Sting stayed a member of the WCW roster up until the company's demise in 2001, feuding with the New World Order; he even wrestled in its last match, defeating his frenemy and fellow veteran Ric Flair.

Prior to 2014, Sting had never worked for WWE in any capacity since WCW's demise. Choosing instead to have control over his career and his gimmick, Sting worked the independent circuit until around 2006, when he became an on-again/off-again member of the TNA roster, with multiple title reigns. He left TNA in early 2014, taking several months off until April, appearing on a WWE special following the death of his good friend and former tag team partner the Ultimate Warrior. He has since appeared in other retrospectives on Warrior's legacy, sparking rumors (correct, as it turned out) that he was in talks to perform on WWE television, a persistent dream match of the last decade. On the July 14, 2014 episode of Raw, Sting appeared in a spot for the WWE 2K15 video game as a pre-order bonus character. Sting made his official WWE debut at Survivor Series 2014 attacking The Authority and ruining their match against Team Cena. note 

Among his in-ring achievements, he is a former 2x NWA World Heavyweight Champion, a former 7x WCW World Heavyweight Champion, a former 2x WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, a former NWA World Television Champion, a former 3x WCW World Tag Team Champion, a former 4x TNA World Heavyweight Champion and a former TNA World Tag Team Champion. He is the inaugural inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016, where he officially announced his retirement from wrestling... which lasted until December 2, 2020, when Sting un-retired and joined the roster of AEW. Since becoming All-Elite, he has acted as a mentor and tag team partner to young wrestler Darby Allin. On the 18th of October 2023 episode of Dynamite he announced that he would have his final match and truly retire for good at AEW Revolution 2024. Oh... incidentally, he helped out Allin to earn themselves the AEW World Tag-Team title on February 7. 2024 at almost 65 years old! On March 3 at Revolution, he went out as an undefeated champion, successfully defending the title alongside Allin against The Young Bucks in his final match.

Do not confuse with the trope, the musician Gordon Sumner (although they have met and been photographed together before), the film, the dagger used by Frodo and his Uncle, or the painful infliction of the same name.


  • 10-Minute Retirement: Although he went on hiatus several dozen times since WCW closed and every other match he had was billed as a possible retirement match, Steve never officially retired until 2016, and due to his injury and condition it was thought it was most likely going to be a permanent one, but even then Sting came out of retirement to join All Elite Wrestling in 2020, seemingly retiring for good after AEW Revolution 2024.
  • Achilles in His Tent: Late '96 into much of '97 focused on Sting disowning WCW after his friends turned on him one time too many. But after months of ambiguity, he attacked the New World Order and rejoined WCW as its primary hero.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Granted, all of Sting's friends turned on him at one point or another, but Flair did it like a billion times.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent:
    • For some weird reason, there are tons of comparisons between Sting and The Undertaker. Both are goth-themed wrestlers with a connection to the afterlife who have been known to carry pet birds (a vulture for the Deadman) into the ring with them. WWE's "2.21.11" vignettes set off a wave of internet speculation that Sting had finally signed with the company. As it turned out, the vignettes were hyping the return of the Undertaker, but to this day, nobody's sure if Undertaker's return was the initial plan or if negotiations with Sting fell through at the last minute and the vignettes were repurposed. For their part, TNA satirized the vignettes with one of their own, with the date "3.3.11", which made it painfully obvious that Sting was an off-brand Taker in their eyes and he would return to Impact on that date. In interviews done well after the fact, Sting hinted that WWE came about the closest it had came before 2014 to hiring him around that "2.21.11" timeframe.
    • Big Show said that surfer Sting was WCW's equivalent to John Cena. Charismatic, Great with kids, did lots of charity, and well-respected in the locker room. However, he had better luck than Cena when it came to appealing to fans of all ages likely because he wasn't as overexposed as Cena was and would still lose his fair share of big matches during his prime.
  • Animal Motif: The Scorpion.
  • Anti-Hero: While his earlier "Surfer" gimmick was that of a lovable California blonde who was a traditional babyface, his later gimmicks would stray from this.
    • "Crow" Sting was a stoic vigilante that would eerily watch from the rafters and who wasn't hesitant to get his hands dirty by playing mind games and using his signature baseball bat on the nWo and its mooks.
    • "Joker" Sting in TNA was a deranged maniac who would brutally beat and humiliate his enemies while using a bunch of masked clown goons in his fight against Immortal. Despite this, he was still undoubtedly a hero that was cheered on by the crowd (though it helps that his victims included the likes of Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff and Scott Steiner).
  • Arch-Enemy:
  • An Ice Person: In AEW, his entrance video has a strong snow and ice theme to it; he also made his company debut on a special episode of its TV show Dynamite named Winter Is Coming, in hindsight referring specifically to Sting.note  His AEW entrance also always features (artificial) snow falling through the arena.
  • Art Evolution: When he first debuted on Nitro wearing the "Crow" facepaint, it looked almost exactly like his old facepaint, only solid white. Pretty soon it was modeled on the film version down to the last detail, apart from a big, lawyer-friendly frown (instead of Lee's Glasgow Smile). As time wore on, it became substantially different; for instance, the chin stripe allowed Borden to grow out a soul patch. The familiar all-white look that is most closely associated with Sting was first sported by him on the October 21, 1996, episode of WCW Monday Nitro; in the beginning, the paint actually evoked The Ultimate Warrior (there's actually an explanation for this: both Sting and Ultimate Warrior were buddies when they began in the business and they soon learned that painting their faces was cheaper than getting masks. The designs, supposedly, where usually improvised on the spot), as it appeared to be two wing-shaped white splotches covering each half of his face. This look soon transitioned to a uniform whiteness with black eyes and black lips, and gradually became scarier as the black streaks emanating from Sting's eyes multiplied, grew thicker and longer and more thorn-like, until they were almost more prominent than the whiteface itself. After going to TNA in 2006, Sting would occassionally add red streaks to the black and white in his major matches. In 2011, Sting's makeup became a less monochromatic hodgepodge of black and red interlocking streaks on a white canvas, thus brilliantly evoking both the colorful pre-1996 look and the demonic "Wolfpac" makeup. However, it soon took on a "Joker" appearance which (along with his panto behavior) didn't particularly go over with fans. In AEW, he added black lines around the edges of the white paint, along with occasionally adding designs from Darby Allin's face paint on half of his face.
  • Badass Longcoat: Once he made the transition to "Crow" Sting, he got one.
  • Bash Brothers: With Lex Luger, The Road Warriors, Ric Flair, the Steiner Brothers
  • Batman Gambit: Disrespected Hulk Hogan in front of Ric Flair to get Flair angry enough to call the match between the two of them back on after Hogan convinced Flair not to. Ironic considering his gimmick at the time.
  • Batter Up!: In a situation where he is outnumbered, or Sting can't out-wrestle his opponents, his bat is used as an equalizer; kind of like how Triple H lugs around his Sledgehammer. Speaking of which, throughout ther entire feud, Triple H recoiled in terror from Sting whenever he pulled out his Louisville slugger, even though Haitch was holding a sledgehammer every time. This came to a head during their match in the spot where Sting somehow SNAPPED THE SLEDGEHAMMER IN HALF with one swing from his bat.
  • Battle Cry: Cupping his hands together and yelling "Owwwwww!" Later evolved to "Whoooo!" Possibly as a tribute to Ric Flair.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Probably the most milquetoast personality in this business. But after aborting a match in 90 seconds because his opponent, Jeff Hardy, turned up intoxicated, he had little choice but to flatten Hardy and then loudly agree with fans that the match was bullshit. When STING is the one openly badmouthing your company, something has gone horribly wrong. This was right after he turned down wrestling 'Taker at WrestleMania 27. His anger is justified.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Invoked by the crowd during the infamous Finger Poke of Doom, who chanted "WE WANT STING!" when Goldberg was being attacked by the newly reformed nWo in an futile attempt to get Sting to drop from the rafters and rescue Goldberg.
  • Big Good:
    • We begin in WCW circa 1990. Pre-Hogan, Sting was usually the #1 or #2 babyface depending on what Flair and/or Luger were doing at any given time, and was often the one to lead the charge against the top heels. He assembled a stable to stand Against the Four Horsemen in Summer 1990, and The Dangerous Alliance from late 1991-mid 1992.
    • In 1993, he announced in front of a live audience that he had recruited a Mystery Man to help combat Sid Vicious—inadvertently triggering the most embarrassing moment in WCW history.
    • After the nWo ran him out of town on a rail, Sting returned and formed his own splinter group in 1998: nWo Wolfpac, an admission that the "babyfaces" of yesteryear were inept clowns who couldn't fight modern heels on even terms. Although he wasn't successful at beating the nWo (it was Bischoff's and Hogan's show, after all), he did fracture it by convincing Savage and other wrestlers to align with him. Previously, Sting was supposed to be a rallying force of babyfaces against the nWo, but the stupid finish at Starrcade '97 completely scuttled that.
    • He helped to organize the Main Event Mafia because he felt the younger guys in TNA were getting too disrespectful. From the very start, he expected most of its members to eventually betray him, but at the end of the day, his uncompromising beliefs inspired the younger guys to accept his help. He left after the Bound for Glory main event in 2009, in which new world champion AJ Styles beat him to retain the title and then gave him the floor as a sign of ultimate respect. With Sting's mission being what the Mafia accomplished all along and Kurt Angle's maniacal ambition instead being all but abandoned, it was Sting who had the stroke to years later be able to call on the Mafia as a unifying banner to serve as the Good Counterpart to the Aces & Eights.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Scorpion Death Drop (an Inverted DDT) isn't exactly the most exciting finishing move, but you'd be a fool to think that slamming someone on the back of their head isn't a believable finishing move.
  • Captain Ersatz: Fire Pro Wrestling has one for him.
  • Career-Ending Injury: After suffering whiplash during his match with Seth Rollins at Night of Champions 2015, he was diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, the same disease that ended Edge's career in 2011. As a result, Sting officially announced his retirement at his Hall of Fame induction. He would later reveal in 2017 that he is still medically capable of wrestling, but has decided to stay retired anyway. Subverted in 2020 when Sting came out of retirement to join All Elite Wrestling as the mentor for Darby Allin. He revealed he'd gotten the same kind of spinal repair surgery that had allowed Edge to come out of retirement after 9 years away from the ring and was cleared to wrestle again.
  • The Cassandra: When Sting saw through Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff's good guy personas in TNA and knew they were plotting to Take Over the World, only Kevin Nash, D'Angelo Dinero, and smarks believed him in his Necessarily Evil crusade. Also a subversion of Crying Wolf, as this was the one notable time he saw the evil plan coming before it happened rather than naively embody the Good Is Dumb and Stupid Good tropes. However, because he had to be cryptic with the hints (possibly so as not to catch a slander case due to absence of evidence), and possibly in part because of his history of failure as a judge of character, few believed him.
  • Cassandra Truth: While there were more factors, the main reason why Sting waited so long to go to WWE after WCW folded is because he was worried that WWE would bury him like they did to the majority of the WCW buyouts. Considering that Sting lost both of his major single matches, the commentators trashed his career and he was forced to retire due to injury before he got to wrestle Taker, it's hard to say that he was wrong (though it's possible that things may have been different if he'd gone sooner.)
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • The only thing that's for sure about Sting... (Dramatic Pause) is Nothing's For Sure. — the last words he ever spoke before transitioning into his "Crow" gimmick.
    • It's SHOWTIIIIME, folks!
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Was a bodybuilder before getting into wrestling and, in his prime, he was strong enough to slam super heavyweights such as Vader and The Giant (Big Show).
  • Clothes Make the Legend: His "Crow" gimmick is the longest running of his career now and is more-or-less stable. Black and white face paint (red and black with the Wolfpac). Black bodysuit with scorpion motif (he later started wearing his merch shirts over them as he got older). Black trench coat. As time went on with TNA, red became one of his "official" colors, too. He would sometimes have traces of red in his makeup (especially Joker Sting), or on his ring gear. He had at least three different red trench coats off and on, but invariably always went back to black.
  • The Comically Serious: His "Crow" gimmick. Inverted with his "Joker" gimmick. This is the origin of Joker Sting, actually. Mr. Anderson kept following him around and guffawing like an internet troll — until the Stinger snapped. Really.
  • Composite Character:
    • Wolfpac Sting was a throwback to the cocky, goofy, early-90s peroxide Sting. His post-Wolfpac Crow persona carried that over as well.
    • A straighter example is when Sting wrestled Jeff Jarrett at TNA's Bound For Glory in 2006 for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He wrestled shirtless and wore a jacket like Surfer Sting, had the hair and facepaint of Crow Sting (with some Surfer Sting designs mixed in with it) and his tights were red and black, the colors he wore during his time with the nWo Wolfpac.
  • The Con:
    • This happens a lot to him in his WCW run, often at the hands of Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen or Lex Luger. Perhaps the most famous example occurred in an angle involving our hero and Flair in 1995. Flair lost a match to Arn Anderson at Fall Brawl due to interference from Brian Pillman, and spent the next month trying to convince an extremely wary Sting to be his partner against the duo for Halloween Havoc. After weeks of vehement refusal, Flair finally got Sting to relent, but not before the latter threatened to mess up the former real good if he got screwed. Before the match, Anderson and Pillman ambushed and seemingly injured Flair, forcing Sting to face the heels by himself. However, in the middle of the match, as Sting was getting his ass kicked, Flair appeared to the roar of the crowd and took his place at Sting's corner. Sting played Ricky Morton for a long time, getting closer and closer to making the tag to Flair each time. When he finally made the tag, the arena went nuts, and Flair looked prepared to kill Arn and Pillman...and then proceeded to immediately lay out Sting, revealing that the entire incident was a setup to re-form The Four Horsemen and humiliate Sting.
    • It got so bad that in one match it was lampshaded when Sting gave Flair's valet Elizabeth a can of mace to use in case any of the heels tried to make a move on her. Predictably, she turned around and used the mace on Sting later in the match—only it wasn't mace, it was silly string! This was the only time Sting ever managed to outsmart someone.
  • Consummate Professional: Sting is often noted to be a company man and incredibly professional. He stuck with WCW to the very end and went with every stupid angle they thought of with minimal protest. He even refused to shoot on and seriously injure a stoned Jeff Hardy at Victory Road 2011 even though the fans wouldn't have held it against him at all and would be every bit as livid as he was once they found out why. Instead, he gave Hardy a few stiff shots and then forcibly pinned him as soon as possible to prevent Hardy from injuring anyone. That being said, the Hardy situation was so asinine that Sting didn't hesitate to agree with a fan that it was complete bullshit while he was still on camera.
  • Cool Old Guy: Worked his retirement match less than three weeks before turning 65, and could still keep up with guys much younger than him. To put this in perspective, he's SIX YEARS OLDER than The Undertaker, the longest serving member of the WWE before his own retirement in 2020.
    • Watching him in AEW is something to behold. While he understandably lacks the acrobatics of many of his contemporaries, most of his opponents weren't even born yet when Sting started wrestling, and he not only comes out on top most of the time but makes it look credible.
  • The Cowl: One week before Halloween, Surfer Sting showed up wearing the nWo colors — black trenchcoat and white facepaint — then floored Bischoff by clobbering his men in the ring. The nWo honchos rolled in and offered Sting an opportunity to "be The Man, be the Leader" in their organization. Sting gave a Delphic response, as if weighing his options, then dropped the mic and vanished. From that night onward, he started wearing the familiar corpse makeup, rarely spoke, and haunted the rafters like a Phantom. The (kayfabe) reason for all these theatrics—though not outright stated—was Sting couldn't challenge the nWo directly, and wanted to con a few of them into joining him first. That was pretty much his schtick ever since.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Despite the gothic style, Scorpion motifs, and omnipresent black bat, Sting was pretty much always a face even as a designated heel. One of his gimmicks for much of 2011 took a good bit of inspiration from The Dark Knight version of The Joker, including face paint, being Laughing Mad, and even having a small horde of clown masked Mooks. And yet he was most certainly a face.
  • Darker and Edgier: His "Crow" gimmick is this compared to the previous "Surfer" one.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • This became increasingly apparent in late-era WCW. In late 1999, Lex Luger was using a can of mace as a weapon. During the Sting-Luger match at WCW Starrcade 99, Luger's valet Miss Elizabeth tried to interfere by spraying the mace — but it turned out to be filled with Silly String.
    • During his stint at TNA he once hid underneath a mask to ambush Rob Van Dam. What kind of mask? A Sting one.
    • He'd used the same tactic on the October 13, 1997 WCW Monday Nitro, when the nWo were suddenly swarmed by people leaping into the ring in Sting masks, getting beaten up and thrown out. Finally, Sting himself, also in a Sting mask, entered the ring. Buff Bagwell punched him and Sting no-sold it, thus confirming it was the real guy. He gave Bagwell the Scorpion Deathdrop and unmasked, sending a panicked Hogan and the nWo running for their lives.
  • Demoted to Extra: After the arrival of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in WCW, Sting was reduced to working in tag team and midcard feuds until he transformed into Crow mode.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: Before they split, he and Ultimate Warrior were a pair of interchangeable big guys/pretty boys, who evolved into a ripoff Road Warriors, after they broke up, they eventually became two of the most distinct characters in wrestling, with very little in common except a penchant for facepaint.
  • The Dreaded: His "Crow" incarnation was well and truly feared in WCW, to the point that the nWo would be absolutely terrified in his presence.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Surfer Sting would qualify to those used to Crow Sting, especially considering that he didn't use the Scorpion Death Drop until the Crow years. Just by looking at the two Stings together, it's hard to believe it's the same person. Even weirder to think that Sting changed his look because the nWo wheeled out an imposter (Jeff Farmer) to drum up audience support. The ultimate irony is that Fake Sting immediately changed his makeup and wardrobe once he saw Crow Sting, making smarks wonder aloud why Sting hadn't simply gone sans fards.
  • Elemental Rivalry: With Cody Rhodes in AEW; his winter-themed entrance video contrasts well with Cody's flame and pyrotechnics-filled one.
  • Enemy Mime: You might have been forgiven for mistaking him for one during the last few months of 1996 and most of 1997, what with the whiteface, frowning black mouth, and silent treatment. But this trope was ultimately averted because 1) Sting eventually did start speaking again; 2) he was always meant to be Dark Is Not Evil; and 3) the makeup itself eventually Took a Level in Badass.
  • Epic Fail:
    • This is really the only way to describe the way Sting lost to Bobby Roode at 2012's Victory Road pay-per-view. A steel chair had been set up in the ring. Sting apparently forgot it was there, and went to give Roode the Scorpion Death Drop—with the chair right behind him! He ended up smacking the back of his head on the seat of the chair, knocking himself out and allowing Roode to pin him for the three.
    • How countless fans see his WWE run. His debut match (against Triple H at WrestleMania 31) devolved into yet another "WWE vs. WCW"-fest, and he (and, by extension, his fellow WCW alumni) lost on top of it. And while he was booked to win his next match (against Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions 2015) as compensation, a Career-Ending Injury forced him to lose that too — meaning that his whole WWE run and final in-ring moments were spent as a Jobber. At least he was paid a truckload.
  • Evil Counterpart: Vampiro was a self-professed "antihero" to Sting. The pair continually tried to one-up each other with horror movie traps: blood buckets, Graveyard Matches, Human Torch matches (somewhere, Vinco Russo shudders in ecstasy), burials, etc.
  • Evil Is Hammy: He seemed to be having a lot of fun in his 2010 heel run.
    Sting: "The blood isn't on my hands Hogan! You brought this upon yourself!"
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Sting stopped bleaching his hair in late 1995 and let it grow long over the next three years, which coincidenced with his switch to the Crow gimmick.
  • Face: One of wrestling's best known and constant He's usually not a "babyface" in the most literal sense of the word, though.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • Attempted and denied. WCW tried turning him heel in 1999, and the fans completely no-sold the turn, cheering Sting over all the babyfaces and booing everyone who tried to "bring him to justice". After a month or two they just dropped the angle, re-turned him face and pretended it never happened.
    • During his Main Event Mafia run, Sting attacked fan favorites Samoa Joe and AJ Styles and even then only got mixed reactions. He did not participate in any Mafia beatdowns and still, for the most part, acted like a face.
    • He underwent another Face-Heel Turn in 2010 after attacking Hulk Hogan on the first Monday night edition of TNA Impact. It lasted for about ten months, and he only turned face because Hogan himself turned heel... (This appears to have been an Author's Saving Throw, since it is obvious that Sting is too unconvincing as a heel.)
  • Facial Markings: Ever since his Blade Runners days, alongside the future Ultimate Warrior and "Cowboy" Bill Watts (Mid-South/UWF territories).
  • Failure Hero: Sadly often. On top of his Good Is Dumb moments — he ultimately couldn't depose the New World Order (the nWo would later drive WCW into the ground, at least in-kayfabe) Team Dixie, or The Authority from their companies.
  • Fast-Roping: It's STING.... in THE RAFTERS! Never fails to please.
  • Fighting Fingerprint:
    • Most fans knew the nWo Sting was an imposter in the WarGames match before the reveal. ("We want Sting!" chants could be heard while Farmer was in the match). Not only was Jeff Farmer noticeably larger than Steve Borden, but his movements were slower and more sluggish and his Stinger Splash was way off. Lampshaded by Tony Schiavone when the real Sting eventually did come out: "There's no questioning the elevation of those Stinger Splashes! That is Sting!"
    • When Crow Sting first came out to destroy nWo Sting, the nWo didn't initially recognize him until he started doing most of his signature moves. After witnessing him go to work Kevin Nash admitted nWo Sting was a bogus impostor, even though it was already obvious at that point.
  • Finishing Move: For most of his career, the Scorpion Death Lock submission, which many people attribute as stealing from Bret Hart's Sharpshooter (Sting was doing it years before Bret did), but in fact can be attributed to Japanese wrestler Riki Choshu (it helped that the actual name Choshu used, "Scorpion Lock", for looking like a scorpion upon execution, fit Sting's gimmick). In late '96, Sting would add the Scorpion Death Drop, an inverted DDT, to his moveset, which would become his primary finisher in his later years.
  • Five Moves of Doom: As Crow Sting. No-Sell opponent's offense, hulk up, beat chest, punch, backhand, punch, Irish whip into corner, Stinger Splash, Scorpion Deathlock.
  • Game-Breaking Injury:
    • At Clash of the Champions X, February 6, 1990, Ole and Arn Anderson returned to reform the Four Horsemen with Ric Flair and kick Sting out of the group. During the main event cage match between the Horsemen and J-Tex International (The Great Muta, "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer and Dragon Master [Kendo Nagasaki]), Sting tried to climb the cage to attack the Horsemen, and blew out his knee in the process. This put Sting on the shelf for months and forced Lex Luger to turn face in order to unsuccessfully challenge Flair at the next two PPVs, WrestleWar 90 and Capital Combat
  • Genuine Imposter: A favourite tactic of his is to disguise himself as someone pretending to be Sting; from his Ringer Ploy against the nWo in WCW, to his ambush of Rob Van Dam in TNA, and again to ambush the Andrade Family Office in AEW.
  • Good Is Dumb: The constant recipient to scams in WCW.
    Jay Hunter: (Halloween Havoc 95) To be fair, I blame Sting. Himself and Flair have been feuding since 1988, and Flair has turned on Sting twice.
    V1: "But I swear, brah! I promise!"
    Jay: Shame on you, Sting.
    • Became a lot smarter to this in TNA, until Bully Ray came along (though Ray had everyone fooled, and Sting ultimately reforms the Main Event Mafia upon realizing they're too much for him on his own).
  • Greater Need Than Mine:
    • Nikita Koloff had returned to WCW at WrestleWar 91 and attacked WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Lex Luger following his successful title defense against Dan Spivey, still angry about a loss to Luger from back in 1987. During the Sting/Luger-Steiner Brothers match at WCW SuperBrawl, Koloff, who had squashed Tommy Rich earlier that night, ran down to the ring with his Russian chain around his arm to attack Luger. Sting pushed Luger out of the way and took the shot himself. Sting would feud with Koloff for the next few months until Koloff disappeared again, with Luger going on to win the WCW World Heavyweight Title at the disastrous WCW Great American Bash 91 PPV.
    • During the War Games between Sting's Squadron (Sting/Koloff/Ricky Steamboat/Dustin Rhodes/Barry Windham) and the Dangerous Alliance (Rick Rude/"Stunning" Steve Austin/Arn Anderson/Bobby Eaton/Larry Zbyszko) at WCW WrestleWar 92, Koloff appeared to be arguing with Sting about something, but then pushed Sting out of the way and, to quote Jim Ross, "took the bullet from Anderson and Austin" himself.
  • Groin Attack: One of Sting's signature maneuvers involved a spot where he and his opponent were exhausted. Sting's opponent would fall in front of him, spread eagle, and Sting would fall forward delivering an "inadvertent" headbutt to the groin.
  • Guile Hero:
    • Come the entry of Hulk Hogan into TNA, Sting was seen watching Hogan and Bischoff carefully up in the rafters on Day 1, which longtime fans instantly knew meant that Sting didn't trust them. A few weeks later, he finally made his move in the midst of the latest round of Hogan and Flair's feud at the time, assaulting Hogan with his bat even though that was technically the heel move. He spoke only in cryptic language and hints when later explaining his actions, knowing some of the fans would catch on, rather than shout what he knew/suspected from the rooftops and make himself look like the typical envious old-time bastard attacking the hot new toy in town. Not only did Hogan and Bischoff out themselves at BFG 10.10.10 as crooks, but EVERYONE Sting attacked over the last seven months leading up to it was either in on their conspiracy or being used. Sting's efforts ensured that the entire TNA roster would not be completely blindsided by the power grab and a line of resistance, however thin, would be there to stand against it when he and Kevin Nash walked, as both of their contracts were running out at the time. The dumbest man in wrestling certainly grew a brain in 2010.
    • He came back in March (which seems to be a regular thing for him) of 2011 and defeated Immortal's "champion", Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight title (and retained in an infamous squash which even he thought was disgraceful) thanks to some aid from an anonymous network representative which turned out to be Mick Foley. Sting, his pal, and the face-turned Fortune basically foiled Immortal at every turn, despite Hogan's increasingly-hollow boasts that he now held full control of the company.
    • Even Joker Sting was a work. After Mick was kayfabe fired and Sting got screwed out of the title, Obfuscating Insanity followed suit. The night of his rematch with Mr. Anderson, for example, five guys dressed as circus clowns (actually Kurt Angle and four members of Fourtune) ran interference on Immortal to ensure a fair bout. The implication being that he saw the interference coming and perfectly planned for it to work to his advantage, luring Immortal's members into a trap and subduing them along with Anderson. Other highlights include pretending the Network put him in charge in order to get Immortal to go along with matches that were entirely out of their liking, including an Anderson vs. Angle steel cage match with Fortune at ringside, and working Ric Flair into practically handing him his path to Hogan so effectively it caused fans to wonder whether Flair was acting as The Mole. Then there was the night he got Hogan to snap in front of the audience, which eventually led to Hogan's face turn as well as the end of any semblance of power for Immortal. For more details, see TNA.
    • In four months since taking power as General Manager, the salty, no-nonsense veteran who rightly accused Hulk Hogan of protecting his favorites and engaged him through practically-clairvoyant psychological warfare that lasted almost two years, has now been reduced to a borderline bureaucrat trying to screw Bobby Roode for not embracing the kind of wrestling style he favors—and failing badly at it. Every 'inescapable situation' he put Roode in would prove to be pretty damn escapable: in fact, Roode utterly played Sting at Against All Odds into helping him beat Jeff Hardy to keep the belt. This was later shown to be another swerve, with Sting playing the ineffectual obstructionist in order to get Hogan back in the chair as an honest face so he could get back to taking an active role in the ring.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Near the end of WCW, and during the Main Event Mafia's first run in TNA.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: After a battle with depression in the mid-90s caused Steve to turn to alcohol, pills and other women, he eventually became a Born-again Christian in August of 1998.
  • Heroic Silent Bob: Rarely spoke on-camera from October 1996-January 1998.
  • Insult Backfire: Anytime he goes into his Joker phases, trying to call him crazy out of frustration with his antics will be met with a thank you for the compliment. Two notable examples would be Karen Jarrett on 7/28/11 who called him crazy and promptly took a thank you when he intruded on Immortal's office meeting wearing a mismatching red suit, and Bobby Roode calling him a lunatic repeatedly before an impromptu match with Bully Ray on 3/8/12.
  • Invincible Hero: During his time as a wrestler in AEW, Sting won all 29 matches he had in the promotion.
  • Jack of All Trades: Sting in his prime was strong enough to lift super heavyweights, quick and agile enough to keep up with high-flyers, could trade holds with technicians, trade fists with brawlers, and was at least competent on the mic.
  • Keet: WCW Magazine ad explains why Sting’s so gullible. HE HAS A CHILD'S BRAIN.
  • La Résistance: "Dudes With Attitudes," his loose assemblage of faces fighting against the Four Horsemen in Summer 1990, comprised of himself, Lex Luger, the Steiner Brothers, the Junkyard Dog, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and El Gigante. Crow Sting had the nWo Wolfpac and Main Event Mafia, which masqueraded as forces against the nWo Hollywood and Aces & Eights respectively.
  • Laughing Mad: As part of his mind games with Hogan in 2011. This includes laughing his head off as he's getting beat up. That really got under Hogan's skin, which was likely exactly what he had in mind.
  • Leitmotif: CAW CAW CAW.... Vigilante Sting got an original theme tune for 'Mania 31, "Out of the Shadows".
  • Lightning Bruiser: Back in his prime during the 90's, while he was never exactly what you would call a high flier, he was ridiculously fast and agile for a guy his size. Even in 2015 at 56, he was still doing dives from the top rope out of the ring.
  • Looks Like Cesare: "Crow" Sting.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: As revenge for being imitated, Sting later hired his own body doubles to play mind games on the nWo. He did it again when the group reformed as Immortal. In fact, just the sight of a stagehand wearing a trench coat was enough the give commentators the heebie-jeebies.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: "What does it feel like to die? I believe it's a choice. See, you can choose darkness and finality, gnashing of teeth. Or you can choose life."
    WrestleCrap: Just so I have this straight…for Sting, dying feels like a choice, wherein one of the choices is in fact to live.
  • The Mentor: To Darby Allin in AEW. Before Sting's debut Darby had been regarded as an Alternate Company Equivalent and Spiritual Successor to The Icon, and during his debut he closely studied the younger man, who was the only one in the ring (out of Darby, Cody Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes and Arn Anderson) who had the guts to stand up and look Sting in the eye. He must have liked what he saw, because Sting took Darby under his wing to assist and guide him during his TNT Championship reign- not fighting his battles for him, but helping even the odds against heel cheating, joining him for a cinematic street fight against Team Taz at Revolution, and -when Darby's reign finally ended at the hands of Miro- teaching him that it's OK to lose as long as you go down fighting. The two of them also went on a long-term tear through the tag division that culminated in them winning the AEW Tag Team Championships together in early 2024 and holding them until Sting's retirement at Revolution.
  • Monster Clown: Played with as part of his "Joker" gimmick, but he's still basically a good guy.
  • Mysterious Watcher: Sometimes it seems like Steve does more of this than actual wrestling, though that's probably not really the case.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: His name evokes the scorpion, whose nasty telson on its rear has enough venom to kill most small animals.
  • Nice Guy: Surfer Sting fit the bill (until he was properly enraged). Steve Borden in real life is notable for being one of the few legends in wrestling that no one had any backstage heat with. Even the most bitter and jaded wrestling personalities have nothing but good things to say about him.
  • Nominal Villain: While Sting was a baby face for his entire TNA run, he was a nominal heel while leading the Main Event Mafia, which was a de facto heel stable due every other wrestling in the group being a heel and Sting doing nothing to reign them in. He tried, verbally, sometimes, and did not engage in cheating or ambushes himself, but this only resulted in Kurt Angle kicking Sting out for not being evil enough and taking control of the group. However, the Main Event Mafia still became de facto baby faces due to increasing friction with another Power Stable, World Elite. In the end, Angle saw the wisdom in Sting's words and pulled a Heel–Face Turn.
  • No-Sell: He's no sold strikes from Samoa Joe, during Joe's Nation of Violence phase no less! He's no sold a baseball bat to the face from Kurt Angle (Sting tried to catch it but missed). Well Sting didn't sell the bat but it did bust him open.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Has done this in 2011, acting like the version of The Joker from The Dark Knight and generally pretending to be totally crazy to get under Hulk Hogan and Immortal's skin. And then he channelled this persona again to attack Bobby Roode.
  • Odd Friendship: With Lex Luger. And Ultimate Warrior, at least for a while.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: His hyped up Puerto Rican debut at WWC Aniversario 2013 ended up being a dark match.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Beginning with his nWo feud.
  • Older Hero Versus Younger Villain: He wrestled against Triple H and Seth Rollins in 2015.
  • Older Than They Look: Borden was 37 when he transitioned to Crow Sting, 47 when he started full time in TNA, and 55 when he debuted in WWE. In all instances, he looked at least 5 years younger. (The face paint does hide most of the wrinkles). He's starting to look his age now that his hairline's receding.
  • One-Mario Limit: Averted as the musician shares that name as well. Though it's a Two-Mario Limit in this case.
  • Parent-Child Team: His sons would get involved in his final match dressed as the Surfer and Wolfpac versions of their father. Complete with a Stinger splash both of The Young Bucks as retaliation for attacking them earlier in the feud.
  • Parts Unknown (in his Mid-South/UWF days): "Every Man's Nightmare"
  • Perky Goth: "Crow" Sting after 1997. He still kept the black and white face-paint during the nWo angle but has gone back to his upbeat showman persona of his Surfer Sting days
  • Power Stable:
    • (in Mid-South/UWF): "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert's The First Family -> Hyatt and Hot Stuff International
    • The Four Horsemen (briefly, at the end of 1989-beginning of 1990, when Flair and the Andersons [Arn and Ole] kicked him out at Clash of the Champions X.)
    • The nWo Wolfpac
    • The Millionaires' Club
    • The Main Event Mafia
  • Practically Joker: His "Insane Icon" gimmick in TNA is about as close as you can get within the boundaries of copyright law. Chaotic, clown like mannerisms? Check. Weird sense of humor? Check. Makeup so close to Heath Ledger's from The Dark Knight that it skirts the line of legality? Definitely. He even brought with him a gang of masked henchmen on a few occasions.
  • Precision F-Strike: Sting never curses. Even before turning to Christianity, he rarely used obscenities on TV. However he does occasionally use semi-profanities such as "crap", "piss" (as in pissed off) and "hell" (usually referring to the actual place). One notable instance of him actually swearing was telling Kevin Nash "I'm tired of you bitching about that stupid powerbomb!" back when the powerbomb was banned in-story.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Wore pink tights several times as surfer Sting.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gives an positively epic one to Hulk Hogan on the Nitro after Bash at the Beach '96, also after Scott Hall and Kevin Nash interfered in his match with Arn Anderson, upon being interviewed and asked about these events by Gene Okerlund in the ring.
    Sting: I am not at all surprised! What happened last night, I'm not surprised about coming, from the two Outsiders. But I will say that I'm very, very surprised at you, Hulk Hogan. But I shoulda known. I shoulda known when you were travelling to town in that big, fat limo! I should've known because you didn't wanna travel with the Macho Man and the Total Package, and the Stinger! Ah, you were too busy, making big movies, and coming in for a little cameo appearance. You were too busy walking on the dark side! I shoulda known, when you referred to the Macho Man and the Total Package, and me, as three little dogs, waiting for a chance to wrestle the great Hulk Hogan. I shoulda known when I looked into your eyes. But you know something, I made a mistake. But you made a bigger mistake, because LAST NIGHT, YOU WIPED OUT AND TRASHED EVERY SINGLE LITTLE KID! Every single person that was a part of your life, that PATTERNED THEIR LIFE AFTER YOU! YOU TOLD THEM TO BELIEVE IN THE MAN UPSTAIRS! YOU TOLD THEM, TO SAY THEIR PRAYERS AND TO TAKE THEIR VITAMINS! YOU TOLD THEM, TO BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES and you know something, it's a good thing you TOLD them to believe in themselves because they SURE AS HECK CAN'T BELIEVE IN YOU! And last but not least, to put the cherry on the top, ALL THOSE LITTLE KIDS, you told them to stick it! No. You stick it, Hulk. YOU STICK IT! (Gene takes the microphone away as Sting keeps ranting)
  • Red Baron: The Stinger, The Franchise of WCW, The Icon (post WCW), The Insane Icon (in TNA as Joker Sting), The Vigilante (in WWE).
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Blue to Warrior's Red.
  • Redemption Demotion: During a Heel–Face Turn. Subverted when TNA's final attempt to turn him heel failed. Sting kept what he had during the previous Heel run and actually got even tougher.
  • Religious Bruiser: Borden is Christian and a mentor who's busy coaching his troubled friend, Lex Luger, back into the light. He also starred in the low-budget 2004 biopic Sting: Moment of Truth, an unintentional comedy classic about his path to becoming a Born-again Christian, rather than his wrestling career. It also omits all graphic content from Sting's life — including the supposedly bad stuff that led to his conversion.
  • Ring Oldies: Retired at 56, after 31 years in the business — then came out of retirement in 2020 to rejoin it. Then officially retired again on his own terms weeks before his 65th birthday.
  • Ringer Ploy: When feuding with the nWo, Sting would sometimes make use of a veritable army of Sting look-a-likes, waiting within the crowd for the right moment to strike.
  • The Rival: The Great Muta in The National Wrestling Alliance and WCW. Teamed up in Hawai'i Championship Wrestling.
  • Secret Test of Character: His routine of pointing a bat directly under his opponent's chin. Even Hunter sold it as though he'd stuck a sawed-off shotgun in his face.
  • Shout-Out: Worked in traits of The Dark Knight version of The Joker into his character in 2011, including face paint and having a Laughing Mad mentality.
  • Signature Move: The Stinger Splash.
  • Slut-Shaming: Karen Angle tried to convince Sting to become Kurt Angle's tag team partner, playing to his utilitarian side and the difference they could make for children. Sting ended up teaming with Angle to become tag team champion in the long run but at the offer he told her to change her dress if she really cared about children.
  • Spot the Imposter:
    • On live television, Scott Hall tacitly suggested that Borden is a nobody without the makeup— which was evident when his cronies duped the WCW faction with Fake Sting; proving that, when it comes to wrestling gimmicks, the whole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts. Since that time, Sting has been involved in angles surrounding imposters or clones trying to replace him (known as "nWo Sting" or "Fake Sting").
    • Halloween Havoc 2000. Finally settling the question of "who is better, Surfer Sting or Crow Sting?", Sting was attacked by incarnations of his past selves that kept interfering with his match with Jarrett.
    • On iMPACT, Sting, cunningly hidden under a cheap Sting mask, popped out and clobbered Rob Van Dam with a chair. The idea was to make him look like a fan until RVD got close enough for him to strike. Ever since his WCW days, he's been waiting to one-up Fake Sting — thus giving us Fake Real Sting.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: He can cut the lights somehow, warp from the cheap seats to the center of the ring, and also summon clones of himself. He has not yet found a way to stop Metallica from blasting when he appears, however.
  • Still Got It: While people were thrilled to see Sting show up again in AEW, there were questions hanging over whether he was really in any condition to actually wrestle, as he was already in his sixties. AEW were initially very restrained in their use of him- in the first few months he took a few bumps and dealt out a few moves in promo and beatdown segments, but his only actual match was the street fight he and his young protégé Darby Allin had against Team Taz at Revolution 2021, which was a prerecorded cinematic match which allowed AEW to carefully protect him and let him look his best (ironically the same thing WWE had done with The Undertaker's Boneyard Match against AJ Styles at WrestleMania 36). Then at Double or Nothing 2021 he had his first live in-ring match in front of the first full-capacity crowd since the COVID-19 Pandemic began, teaming with Darby again against the team of Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky, where he finally proved that yes, he does still have it!
    • Over the 3 years of his final run, from Revolution 2021 to his retirement match at Revolution 2024, Sting would frequently wrestle in big tag matches where he consistantly performed at a level that belied his age, performing increasingly insane stunts and bumps and yet never getting an injury, ending his AEW career with a flawless record of 29-0. It's considered possibly the finest retirement run any senior wrestling legend has ever had, proving that the Icon would indeed still have it right to the end.
  • Student–Master Team: With Darby Allin. All of Sting's matches from his 2020 return through his final retirement in 2024 saw him team up with Darby (and occasionally others for larger matches) to take on a team of heels.
  • Stupid Good:
    • Sting was welcomed into the Four Horsemen, only to be turned on and kicked out of the group by Ric Flair. And this happened twice. In fact, Sting has for most of his career pretty much embodied Stupid Good, almost always trusting the people who were setting him up. Surprisingly, TNA gradually went from subverting this a lot to completely averting it.
    • May have started going right backwards again, though, with his angle with Bobby Roode since becoming the Impact Wrestling GM.
    • Then he led TNA in declaring a man champion in the fight against Aces & Eights who turned out to be their leader. Though Ray had everyone fooled, and Sting ultimately has the bright idea to reform the Main Event Mafia to take on Aces & Eights.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Steve usually wears sunglasses during his public appearances when he isn't wearing his Sting facepaint.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: nWo "Sting" played by Jeff Farmer. Used at first to make people doubt Sting's loyalties and then sent over to New Japan (where he was quite popular) to be part of their nWo. Farmer's bogus Sting was quite long-lived, lasting 3 years in WCW, off and on. He even competed under the gimmick independently well into the early 2000s until his retirement.
  • Tag Team:
  • Threatening Shark: Compared himself to one in his promo before his "WCW International World Heavyweight Title vs. WCW World Heavyweight Title unification match with Flair at WCW Clash of the Champions XXVII.:
    Sting: I am an 18-foot great white shark (imitates shark sounds) and I'm hungry!
  • Took a Level in Dumbass:
    • Sting is renowned as the "dumbest man in wrestling" for the sheer amount of times he's allowed himself to be duped and betrayed over the years, infamously trusting the Four Horsemen twice.
    • Things began to change in the middle of his career with TNA, as he began making moves which were seen as Heel Turns but were actually part of a Long Game for good causes, and each time his plans came to fruition somehow. See Big Good and Guile Hero for further analysis. Safe to say, he's no longer the idiot from WCW, and any evidence of Sting's "stupidity" should be treated with extreme caution.
  • Tranquil Fury: Look no further than his infamous 2011 Victory Road match against Jeff Hardy. It's clear that Sting is pissed out of his mind, but he refuses to shoot on Jeff and doesn't say a thing until after pinning Jeff and hearing a fan shout "That was bullshit!", at which point Sting turns around and very clearly replies "I agree" directly into the camera, on live television, twice.
  • Verbal Tic: Has a tendency to repeatedly say the name of the person he's talking to in promos.
  • Villain-by-Proxy Fallacy: Two of his targets while uncovering the Immortal conspiracy, Rob Van Dam and Samoa Joe, were themselves being conned by Jarrett, Hogan, and Bischoff. In Joe's case, though, Sting and Nash had figured this one out, telling him repeatedly not to stick up for those guys, but Joe bullheadedly insisted on continuing to fight them even after Jarrett walked out on him at Bound for Glory.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Once Crow Sting started speaking again, his hyper personality, medium-pitched voice and California accent clashed with his ghostly appearance.
  • The Voiceless: For over a year, when he went into Crow mode. WWE seemed to be going this route until he started cutting promos mid-March 2015.
  • White Mask of Doom: Sting's trademark appearance since 1996.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He has Stinger Splashed women before. Miss Elizabeth (by accident), Madusa and Miss Madness are examples.
  • Wrestling Family: His sons Garrett and Steve Jr. were both physically involved in his final match at Revolution 2024, each dressing as one of his past in-ring personas (Garrett as "Surfer" Sting, Steve Jr. as Wolfpac Sting). Garrett's wife Katelyn works in AEW's office.

Alternative Title(s): Steve Borden


Sting's Disguise

Sting wears a mask of himself to ambush RVD. It works.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / PaperThinDisguise

Media sources: