SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Sting Open to WrestleMania Match—On One Condition
Sting is keeping next April 5 open on his calendar, even if he is unlikely to fill it with the date he has in mind.
Sting is 60-year-old Steve Borden, the former face of World Championship Wrestling. The wrestling legend, whose last match four years ago ended in a near-catastrophe when he suffered a neck injury against Seth Rollins, is open to the idea of stepping in the ring one final time and going out on his own terms.
Despite announcing his retirement in 2016, Sting would accept one last booking if he had the chance to wrestle The Undertaker next April at WrestleMania 36.
“If there was a ’Taker situation at WrestleMania, I would listen to that phone call,” said Sting. “I could get in condition and I could pull it off.”
Ever since The Undertaker’s disastrous match with Bill Goldberg in Saudi Arabia in June, WWE has wisely positioned both legends in a different manner by highlighting their strengths against younger talent. A match between Sting and The Undertaker, who is now 54, would stand in bold opposition to that booking philosophy.
Although he is aware that the match is unlikely to ever occur, that does not change the fact that he still wants it.
“I think my career is done,” said Sting. “I still think about the ‘Taker situation every year, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Thinking about The Undertaker, and the magic they could potentially create together, brought back memories of some of Sting’s former opponents.
“I was just thinking about Mick Foley and the matches I had with him way back when he was Cactus Jack,” said Sting, referring to the unforgettable work they created together in 1992. “I’d never seen somebody do more devastation to a human body, his own body, than Cactus Jack. I can still remember the sound of his body hitting the cement. I was also there the night in Germany when he lost his ear. Mick was unbelievable.”
Sting spent nearly his entire run in wrestling outside of WWE, and he experienced a career renaissance in TNA from 2003–14. One of his best opponents during that stretch was fellow WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle.
“Kurt was like Shawn Michaels, he never had a bad match,” said Sting. “He could have a match with a broomstick and sell the place out.”
Sting was part of this year’s extravagant build toward the release of the WWE 2K20 game, including its outstanding commercial.
Sting’s link to the 2K franchise is unique. Fans responded so strongly to his character being made available as a pre-order exclusive in WWE 2K15 in July 2014 that it ultimately helped lead to his WWE debut later that year.
“It’s a weird, wacky story, but this is a wacky business,” said Sting. “I’m grateful for all of the people at 2K. I’m always going to do it, and I’m going to do it again, but here is a shout out to [2K’s Global Director of Sports Marketing] Bryce Yang. Bryce is one of the reasons things clicked so well between 2K and myself. Honestly, I give Bryce so much credit for all of this.”
Sting’s on-screen debut for WWE took place at Survivor Series in November 2014. Even though he has been in professional wrestling for decades, he still feels the goosebumps from his debut in St. Louis, where he pieced apart The Authority and started the build toward a WrestleMania program with Triple H.
“I’m more and more humbled by the people and their support as the years go by,” said Sting. “That’s always been the case, but it’s probably even more so now.”
As for the newest edition of the 2K game, which features Becky Lynch and Roman Reigns sharing the cover, Sting shared his enthusiasm for “The Man.”
“Becky’s taken the women beyond where they’ve ever been,” said Sting. “To see her headlining WrestleMania, and the reactions that she and some of the other women are getting, it’s incredible.”
Steve Austin Praises Andrade and His Breakout Potential
Another episode of Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions ran Sunday on the WWE Network, with Austin interviewing former WCW megastar Bill Goldberg.
The longform conversation explored the career of Goldberg and touched on some of his most memorable moments in wrestling, as well as the human side. It was fascinating to hear him discuss how he wasn’t sure how to react after losing to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33. For anyone who was a fan of the WWE-WCW battles in the late ‘90s, the show is worth watching.
Austin’s new Network show has now featured The Undertaker and Goldberg, serving as a tremendous look back into wrestling’s past. Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Austin was asked to look into the future and identify WWE’s next top star.
“Right now, the people that are on top are the people that should be on top,” said Austin. “But I called this two years ago watching his match when he did the favors for somebody that night, and I said, ‘Man, this Andrade kid is going to be a player one of these days.’ I think he’s proving that.”
Austin expounded on what it takes to become a star in WWE.
“The people that have tremendous success either have a gimmick that is so close to them that it’s basically them turned up or it’s so far away from them that it cannot be missed,” said Austin. “It’s all about how you resonate with the people.
“Wrestling is a relationship, whether you’re a heel or a babyface, you’re establishing yourself as a brand. How do you make them feel? They’re living vicariously through your storylines. They feel strength, vulnerability, or power. If it works, you’re doing something that resonates with people in regards to entertainment and wanting to invest in a person.”
For Austin, he believes that Andrade is going to be the next talent to navigate that wave into superstardom.
“He still has a ways to go, but it’s just tweaking that character,” said Austin. “The kid’s a hell of a damn worker.”
Looking at Long-Term Storylines for AEW’s Revolution Pay-Per-View
AEW returns to pay-per-view on February 29 with “Revolution.”
The show is expected to be headlined by Chris Jericho vs. Jon Moxley for the world title, which is highly likely the point where AEW’s decision makers sign off on a title change, making Moxley the face of the company.
Following the AEW creative pattern, if Moxley is to win the belt at Revolution, it is unlikely he would stay champion for long. The money in wrestling is in the chase, which Vince McMahon expertly did with Steve Austin and his short babyface title runs. AEW has been smart to build their creative around a villain in Jericho and his heel Inner Circle faction, and the next two months of AEW programming will be centered around Moxley’s chase for the title.
If Moxley is a short-term babyface champ, who better to take the belt off him than one of the most talented heels in all of wrestling? That distinction, of course, belongs to Maxwell J. Friedman.
MJF is expected to face Cody Rhodes at Revolution. If MJF is to win that match, he would immediately be in the discussion for a world title shot.
The Revolution card has the potential to be AEW’s best pay-per-view yet. On the subject of the best, there is no one better than the Young Bucks in Ring of Honor’s famed “Ladder War” match. Could AEW take that concept and modify it for the Revolution pay-per-view? Putting the Young Bucks, Santana and Ortiz, and SCU in some kind of ladder war could lead to a phenomenal match. Christopher Daniels and Pentagon still need closure to their feud, as do the Joey Janela-Shawn Spears and Jake Hager-Dustin Rhodes rivalries.
Kenny Omega and Hangman Page are building toward a split, which is another potential match for the card. A win by Page would support the long-term creative philosophy Omega shared with Sports Illustrated.
Plenty of other questions still remain as the road to Revolution begins to emerge, primarily with the women’s division. Which direction are we headed? Will Riho be the long-term champ, or is the plan to shift the focus in the title picture to Dr. Britt Baker or Awesome Kong? Putting the title on a new acquisition, like Kris Statlander or Big Swole, is another option worth exploring.
Revolution will take place a month in advance of WrestleMania 36, and AEW is undoubtedly looking to make an imprint among wrestling fans through its build and delivery of its upcoming pay-per-view before all eyes are on WWE’s biggest show of the year.
Lance Archer Ready for Texas Deathmatch vs. Jon Moxley at WK14
Lance Archer has waited 19 years for a moment like the one he is approaching at Wrestle Kingdom.
Archer defends his IWGP United States championship against Jon Moxley, who has been the hottest commodity in wrestling since his departure from WWE and subsequent debut in AEW in May.
“The world is watching Moxley right now,” said Archer. “I’m getting a chance to wrestle on the biggest platform at Wrestle Kingdom against a worldwide phenomenon in Moxley. It’s an honor and a huge challenge, but I’m ready. It’s the biggest night of my career, and I’ll be ready for it.”
Archer meets Moxley in a Texas Deathmatch on January 4, the first half of the two-day Wrestle Kingdom affair. Known predominantly as a tag team wrestler and a prototypical big guy, Archer showed off an entirely different skill set in 2019.
“The business is about adaptation—you either adapt or die,” said Archer, who has dazzled audiences with a shockingly athletic, acrobatic style for a 6'8" monster. “People don’t know who I am, they don’t understand what I’m capable of, or who I’m going to be. Keep doubting me and I’ll keep surprising you.”
Archer won the United States championship on October 14 in Tokyo in a no-disqualification match against Juice Robinson. The title had been declared vacant earlier in the show when New Japan officials announced that Moxley was stripped of the belt for missing the event due to travel complications stemming from Typhoon Hagibis.
When asked if he ever thought a natural disaster would lead to his first-ever run in New Japan with a singles title, Archer laughed.
“My career has been full of different situations,” reflected Archer. “I got hired in TNA when someone else was supposed to get hired, but he went home to be with his pregnant wife as she had a baby, and I got on the show instead. A lot of different scenarios played into getting into the G1, which was a turning point in my career after being in Japan for over eight years.
“The situation with the typhoon, and getting a chance to be in that match, it was all about capitalizing on the moment. There have been a lot of crazy moments in my career, and I’ve done everything in my power to capitalize on every situation.”
New Japan is a massive company whose reach extends into multiple countries, and it only has four singles title belts. A proud Texan, Archer is honored to wear the U.S. belt.
“People who argue that the belts don’t mean anything are the ones who don’t enjoy pro wrestling,” said Archer. “Being a champion in New Japan is an honor in every aspect. It’s an award to yourself, an award to the fans who are watching, and it’s an award to the business.
“I wouldn’t be in a singles match with Jon Moxley at the biggest New Japan Pro Wrestling show of the year at the Tokyo Dome if I wasn’t United States champion. For me, to be here eight-plus years, predominantly as a tag team wrestler and now to have the opportunity to shine as a singles wrestler, it means the world to me to be United States champion.”
If Archer defeats Moxley on January 4, he then defends the belt on January 5 against Juice Robinson. But, with all due respect to Moxley and Robinson, he knows that his most pressing challenger looks directly into his soul every time he steps foot in the gym to train or in the ring to wrestle.
“I’m battling time to be the best,” said Archer, whose ambition for 2020 knows no bounds. “Time has no true challengers, but I’m doing all I can to hold that off and become something special and leave my own legacy. Part of that is evolving and becoming something different, and continue surprising wrestling fans.
“People were really surprised by so much of what I did this past summer, and that was a real reason for me to keep stepping up. If you think I can’t get better, hold on, because it’s about to get crazy.”
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
- The story on Raw with the gauntlet match for Rey Mysterio’s U.S. title certainly had some gaps in continuity, and 50 minutes was too long not to have a clear resolution, but the end goal was to arrive at a point that extended the Andrade-Humberto Carrillo program and also bring us to Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins next Monday.
- In a business where perception is reality, the executives from both NXT and AEW certainly want to win the weekly ratings battle—and NXT is giving itself a head start by opening Wednesday night’s show with a commercial-free title match between Adam Cole and Finn Balor.
- IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada will be one of the torch bearers of the Olympic Flame for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
- Is the “10YearLeChampionChallenge” trending yet?
- Jungle Boy, who was featured in this column last January, has the biggest night in his wrestling career later this evening when he shares the ring in a 10-minute challenge against Chris Jericho on Dynamite.
- Jim Ross offered some encouraging words to NXT UK star Piper Niven.
- Marty Scurll’s appearance was the biggest surprise at Saturday’s NWA “Into The Fire” pay-per-view.
- Congratulations to PCO, who defeated Rush at Friday’s Final Battle pay per view to become Ring of Honor’s new champion at the age of 51.
- The Milwaukee Bucks playfully went at each other on Monday night before their game against the Dallas Mavericks in a way that made fans of Santino Marella’s Cobra proud; in a true ode to Santino, the Bucks fell to the Mavs, snapping their 18-game win streak in the process.
- Mick Foley is helping spread the word on raising funds for wrestler Markus Crane, who is dealing with a severe head injury that is going to require a cranioplasty to repair his skull.
- Merry Christmas, everyone.
Next week’s column will run on Friday, Dec. 27.
Conrad Thompson Previews “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard”
Conrad Thompson returns this Friday with a new episode of the “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast, which will be a question-and-answer session with questions submitted from listeners.
“We’re doing #askbruceanything,” said Thompson. “We always do such deep dives in our shows, so it will be fun to cover many different topics instead. One of the things we’ll talk about for sure is Vince McMahon’s monologue from December of ’97.
“This is what Vince called ‘The Cure For The Common Show,’ when he said he wasn’t going to insult people’s intelligence with just good guys versus bad guys. Vince, under oath, had made it clear a decade prior what wrestling was when he wanted to avoid paying taxes in New Jersey. But this was the first time we saw him give a wink and a nod on TV in a real way, and not in the context of a character, but instead as the owner of the company. We’ll examine that and pick from the hundreds of questions that came in from listeners, so it should be a pretty fun episode.”
Thompson confirmed that he will work to add in a handful of questions for Prichard about the current product.
“We’ll certainly slide in some stuff,” said Thompson. “I’ve been better about Bruce opening up by saying, ‘I know we’re not supposed to talk about the current stuff, but...’ So we’ll certainly try to get as much of a peak behind the curtain as we can, present day.”
And, somehow, and it seems more remarkable each time we say it, the President of the United States is a WWE Hall of Famer.
Tweet of the Week
And, somehow, and it seems more remarkable each time we say it, the President of the United States is a WWE Hall of Famer.