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Sting on AEW: “It feels like I’m coming back home”
Past will meet present this week on Dynamite as Sting returns to Greensboro, N.C.
Teaming with Darby Allin and CM Punk, Sting will square off against MJF and FTR’s Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler. In addition to a compelling moment in pro wrestling—who could have predicted that Sting would ever partner with Punk, especially in 2021?—this Dynamite at the Greensboro Coliseum is steeped in history, which is particularly meaningful for Sting as he rewrites the final chapter of his legendary career.
“This means the world to me,” says Sting, whose name is Steve Borden. “I never thought I’d be back here like this. I thought I was just going to disappear from wrestling, and I didn’t like the thought of that. Then I came to AEW, and originally, we were just going to explore cinematic matches. And I got in the ring. I can still hear Cody [Rhodes] telling me about my kinetic energy and that I could wrestle a match. I was like, ‘Ease up now, Cody.’ Then I heard Darby say, ‘Steve, you can do it.’ This entire stretch, and now coming back to Greensboro, it has all been surreal.”
Sting’s first taste of notoriety occurred in Greensboro. He famously worked a 45-minute draw with Ric Flair for the NWA title at the Greensboro Coliseum in 1988 to headline the first Clash of the Champions, a show that ran on TBS in direct competition to WrestleMania IV.
“That is the match that put me on the map,” Sting says. “I will never forget that night—March of ’88 with the world title on the line, and we had the celebrity judges ringside. From then on, I’ve been forever indebted to Ric. He was like a mentor to me. I learned more in the first six months on the road wrestling Ric than I did my first couple years in the business, and I’ll never forget that night with him in Greensboro.”
A stronghold for North Carolina–based Jim Crockett Promotions, the Greensboro Coliseum was once synonymous with pro wrestling. The building hosted a plethora of historic cards, including Starrcade from 1983 to ’86. Sting’s first match in the Greensboro Coliseum took place in June ’87, when he teamed with Rick Steiner—whose son, Bron Breakker, is now tearing it up in NXT—against The Fabulous Freebirds’ Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy.
The six-man tag on Dynamite will mark Sting’s first match in Greensboro since defeating Flair at a WCW house show in June ’94. This is also the same venue where he wrestled Cactus Jack, Abdullah the Butcher, Stan Hansen, Larry Zbyszko, Eddie Gilbert, The Road Warriors, Lex Luger, The Great Muta and even Mean Mark, who went on to great fame as The Undertaker.
Now paired with Darby Allin in AEW, this match also affords a rare opportunity to see Sting share the same ring as CM Punk.
“CM Punk, he’s truly amazing to me,” Sting says. “Hearing the crowd respond to him, it’s made me turn back the clock and think of all the different memorable reactions over the years to different wrestlers. I’ve especially been thinking about The Road Warriors. Animal was really big on that. He would say, ‘This guy got a huge pop, but it wasn’t a Road Warrior pop.’ That’s what Punk gets.”
A pop is the way the crowd responds to a wrestler. The night that Punk debuted for AEW last August in Chicago, the pop was deafening.
“I had an idea of CM Punk’s greatness, but now I have experienced it,” Sting says. “His appearances are so electrifying. He is remarkable, and I am grateful to have this opportunity to be in the ring with him and Darby as their tag team partner.”
After wrestling a series of matches, including ones in Greensboro, against Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, the chance to lock up with a team as exceptional as FTR is also an exciting proposition. They met once before in a match at the “Grand Slam” edition of Dynamite in September, when Sting and Allin won a match at AEW’s Arthur Ashe Stadium debut—and he came away extremely impressed with Harwood and Wheeler.
“FTR, they’re a modern-day Arn and Tully,” Sting says. “They’re as good as it gets. I put them up there with anyone, and they’re one of the best tag teams in the world. When you’re in the ring with them, it’s game on. There is no playing around, especially the pace they can go, and I saw that firsthand when we wrestled.”
This run in AEW represents Sting’s farewell tour to pro wrestling. There is no current end in sight for the 62-year-old, but he knows his time in the ring is limited. That makes every match even more significant, especially against emerging modern stars like MJF.
There is still an aura and mystique when Sting steps between the ropes, and that will be both seen and felt on Dynamite in Greensboro.
“Not many people get to rewrite their final chapter, not at this level,” Sting says. “I had great matches at the Greensboro Coliseum with Lex Luger, and now I get to do it with Darby and CM Punk against MJF and FTR. It’s a great way to end my career. The crowd, their appreciation makes me want to tear up. It’s almost as if they don’t want to say goodbye.
“Grown men and women talk to me about how they had no relationship with their dad except for watching me wrestle. Those stories mean a lot to me. Coming back to Greensboro with a lot of my old buddies, I’m hoping some of my generation will be there.”
So much meaning is immersed in this match on Dynamite. It is Sting’s opportunity to express his gratitude for all those who have supported him and afforded him such unforgettable opportunities throughout a career that his spanned five different decades, and he plans to relish the moment.
“I am so grateful and thankful for Tony Khan, because he is where all of this starts in AEW,” Sting says. “This is also my chance to thank all wrestling fans across the globe. And I thank God in heaven above.
“Going back to Greensboro, it feels like I’m coming back home.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman were outstanding in their breakup last Friday on SmackDown. Applying sound psychology, Reigns and Heyman delivered authenticity and relatability in their dialogue. And how fascinating was it to see the crowd explode with cheers as babyface Brock Lesnar came to Heyman’s rescue? This is currently the single best program in WWE.
- Bianca Belair is in a league of her own. Her KOD on Doudrop this week on Raw was phenomenal.
- New Japan Pro-Wrestling released its card for the first, second and third nights of Wrestle Kingdom 16—and yes, Katsuyori Shibata will make his official in-ring return on Jan. 4.
- AJ Styles and Omos split this week on Raw. Styles’s return to singles wrestling is long overdue, and there is endless potential for Omos on his own.
- Jonathan Gresham made his first defense of the Ring of Honor title this weekend against AJ Gray at GCW’s Blood on the Hills show in Los Angeles. As Gresham promised, the match was wrestled under Pure rules.
- Scott Garland—better known as Scotty 2 Hotty—has a new YouTube channel. He will wrestle Joey Janela at GCW’s “New Year’s Day” show.
- With recent additions of Bandido, Lee Moriarty and Aramis, PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles field should be outstanding.
Bryan Danielson and “Hangman” Page highlight the best of this past week’s pro wrestling
Last week’s AEW title match pitting “Hangman” Adam Page against Bryan Danielson on Dynamite was a magnificent display of pro wrestling.
It was a world-class, precise display of the craft on a big stage, and the 60-minute draw now stands alone as the match of the year. It also opened the show, which was particularly important, as it would have been obvious that the match was running the full hour had it started at 9 p.m. ET.
By design, the time-limit draw finish is intended to be controversial. But it was the right call. Page simply could not lose the belt in his very first title defense, and Danielson should not be losing, either. AEW has reintroduced the draw in a meaningful manner, a finish that once had meaning in wrestling but has been degraded to a point where it was unlikely to ever return to relevance.
The draw did its job, especially following a match that was so gripping and compelling. That finish builds so much intrigue for the rematch. And after what we just witnessed, the anticipation will be incredibly high to see them run it back.
Danielson can craft and execute as well as anyone in the industry. Considering he clearly has so much left to give, it must have been torture for him to be forced into retirement due to concussions. My only complaint was that Jim Ross could not be there to call the match, as he remains home during treatment for skin cancer. His presence was definitely missed, and his call would have further enhanced this classic. Hopefully Ross will be back on headset for the rematch.
Page-Danielson was a pay-per-view main event that aired on TNT. And now there is a genuine story between the two, with Danielson unable to defeat the AEW champion—and the champ incapable of beating Danielson.
Tweet of the Week
Kevin Owens, who just signed a new deal with WWE, speaks the truth here about Hook.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.