Sting - The WCW franchise turned WWE gold standard
For many fans, me included, the invasion angle that the WWE did when they newly acquired WCW was redundant and served only to feed Vince Mcmahon’s bloated sense of accomplishment that he had finally put his competitor to rest. Not many of the top, already established talent from the WCW roster was part of that angle, and it hurt the WWE’s image rather than displaying its supremacy over the WCW, as it was intended to. The association between the WWE and WCW was undeniably strained, and the invasion angle offered an opportunity to settle the affair, albeit on the WWE’s turf. While looking back in hindsight, one can then understand why Vince Mcmahon HAD to let the invasion angle play out in 2001 - A cry of victory, if perhaps nothing else.
The New World Order, that had supposedly been running the WCW, was conspicuously absent during the invasion angle, and all that the WWE achieved in actuality was getting the mid-carders in the WCW to “job” to the WWE superstars. Even though the NWO did eventually join the WWE, it was after the invasion storyline, which had hurriedly culminated at Survivor Series due to the lack of a personnel and star power.
Wrestlemania 18 that followed, then went on to be headlined by The Rock and Hulk Hogan, thereby producing one of the strongest and most memorable audience reactions in the history of Wrestlemania. The invasion angle’s lack of impact was forgotten at least, if not entirely forgiven, and the WWE machine rolled on, reveling in its new found breathing space at the top of the food chain.
Casting thoughts, however, back to the invasion storyline, one cannot help but feel that the WWE dropped the ball back in 2001. That the WCW/ECW Alliance did not have an in-ring leader who had enough mainstream popularity with the fans, meant that the WWE had to turn Stone Cold Steve Austin heel and have him side with the Alliance. The angle then lost most of its validity, since it was Austin who had primarily led the WWE’s charge against the WCW during the furore that was the Monday night wars. Added to that, the team that represented the Alliance at that Survivor Series pay per view, comprised of only one wrestler from the WCW – Booker T, and one from ECW – Rob Van Dam, along with Kurt Angle, Shane Mcmahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin, all of whom were from the WWE. The lack of a real leader for the WCW/ECW Alliance hurt the angle immensely, and though the Mcmahon family politics that got intertwined with the storyline offered viewing entertainment, from a wrestling standpoint, the invasion angle fell flat.
Perhaps it was 13 years too late, but there was an element of poetic justice when Sting made his first ever appearance in a WWE setup at Survivor Series last year, intervening to put the Authority out of business. Seeing Sting in the WWE was in itself an indication that the business of wrestling had finally moved on from the Monday night wars, and the attitude era. Sting had held off signing with the WWE on previous occasions as he did not trust how his character would be used. It was a pity he felt so, because the invasion angle could have revolutionized the wrestling business had Sting took up the fight, and his rightful place as the leader of the WCW, 13 years prior. Steve Borden the man, did not regret his choices though and spending time with his family so he could be a good husband and father also took precedence over the urge to test the waters of the WWE, back in 2001.
By 2014 though, the WWE had undergone a multitude of changes, in many aspects of its functioning. Vince McMahon was phasing himself out of TV, and the audience got the idea that the locus of creative control seemed to be transferring from Vince to Triple H. Add to the mix the advent of NXT, Triple H’s brainchild, and we find this claim further evidenced. The recognition of the Ultimate Warrior’s legacy, years after his falling out with Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan, led to a mystical, disbelief-inducing scenario where he was finally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, only to pass away the day after the subsequent Monday Night Raw episode. However it is worth mentioning that it was none other than Triple H who sought for the Ultimate Warrior to be recognized and respected by the WWE Universe as he deserved. Triple H’s growing handiwork behind the scenes was becoming apparent, and perhaps this is why the WWE finally had some luck in enlisting the services of Sting.
One can understand the initial reluctance Sting had, in joining the company. Vince McMahon was so embroiled in the heat of the Monday night wars that he could be forgiven if he felt that he wanted to make an example out of WCW. Sting, just did not want to be that example. However, Sting’s recent foray into WWE territory shows us that enough water has passed under the bridge, and both parties have a more conducive mindset towards working together now. Triple H’s increasing influence in the WWE has paid dividends, leading to a dream match-up between the two, at Wrestlemania 31.
This could yet be the beginning of a fruitful association, as WWE has stated that Sting will be “bigger than ever” in 2015. Wrestlemania 31 promises to be a spectacle, and though Steve Borden the man is 55 this year, and surely not in the best in-ring shape he’s ever been, his incomparable charisma, and immeasurable experience should stand him in good stead. It would be unfair if I did not mention Triple H in the same breath as Sting, especially when we are talking about in-ring savvy and technical know-how. Triple H is undoubtedly “that damn good”, and now he has a chance of putting on a memorable match at Wrestlemania 31, with the Icon.
It would be counter-productive to the character that is Sting and all the marketing that the WWE has done with his merchandise if he were to lose his first match at Wrestlemania 31. Hence I can only see this match transpiring in one way. Sting has to pick up the victory, and probably will stay on in the WWE to have a match at Wrestlemania 32- possibly against the Undertaker. However, that depends on the health condition of the Undertaker, and all we can do is keep our fingers crossed as fans.
To the new generation audience that have not seen Sting before, the match at Wrestlemania 31 promises to be a lesson on the history of the business that is wrestling. My only gripe with the whole situation is that it should have happened 14 years ago. Sting is called the Franchise of the WCW, and perhaps that moniker would have had much more temporal relevance had Sting taken up the fight during the invasion angle. Today though, it merely offers a nostalgic moment in the making. Yet, one cannot help but feel that this was the missing piece in the jigsaw back in 2001, and as a wrestling fan, I am delighted to see the invasion angle finally come full circle.
Further words cannot do justice to the impression that Sting makes on the audience. Here was a man who did not talk on the mic or wrestle for a whole year in 1997/8 and yet remained a babyface and elicited some of the loudest crowd reactions when he used to drop down from the rafters and attack the NWO. I cannot cite a greater example to highlight the man’s charisma, and come this Wrestlemania 31, I am going to tune in to Sting vs Triple H purely as a fan whose dream of watching Sting in the WWE has finally panned out, after 14 long years.