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The Five Count: Top Five Sting Feuds

This past weekend, the official Twitter account for the NWA wished Sting a happy birthday. Very kind of them, of course, but then they asked a question that got me thinking: “who has been Sting’s greatest in-ring rival?”

Sting has had many great rivalries over the years. But which feuds were better than others? Which opponents will go down in the history books as the top five rivals of the Stinger? There were two names that immediately sprung to mind for Sting’s best feud, but how would I rank them? Who would come first?

There’s only one way to find out…

5. Hollywood Hogan (and the NWO)

Sting locks Hollywood Hogan in the Scorpian Deathlock as Bret Hart checks for the submission

It’s hard to really put across how exhilarating and fresh the Sting-NWO feud was during the Monday Night Wars unless you were there. The tragic storytelling of the larger than life surfer Stinger being doubted and betrayed by the promotion he loved, only to come back as the deathly, Crow-influenced Sting watching from the rafters like an avenging angel as he declared bitter war on the invading NWO.

The fact that WCW kept the ease up for at least four months as to whether Sting would betray WCW and join the NWO until Sting unleashed a torrent of violence at the super-exciting conclusion of Uncensored ’97 was a masterstroke in storytelling and building tension. Once Sting nailed his colours to the mast, so to speak, his physical and psychological warfare against Hollywood Hogan provided some of the most compelling wrestling TV, at the time and even now—all the more remarkable considering this is Hogan we’re talking about.

In fact, Hogan might have been higher up the list if WCW hadn’t failed so spectacularly to stick the landing, presenting a highly anticlimatic match-up at Starrcade ’97 with a botched finish to boot, as well as a dull follow up at SuperBrawl VIII.

4. The Great Muta

Sting and The Great Muta face off at Starrcade 1989

In 1989, Sting was on the verge of being built into the next thing, having gained a massive burst of momentum since his famous star-building match with Ric Flair at the inaugural Clash of the Champions. It was clear by ’89 that Sting had the might of the promoters and the audience behind him; he just needed that one opponent to tip him over the edge. The man, luckily for Sting, was The Great Muta.

Muta had debuted for WCW at the start of 1989 and completely dazzled the audience, bringing a sense of exoticism to American rings with his stark, mysterious appearance, alien charisma and beautiful athleticism. Luckily for audiences, he had immediate chemistry with Sting, putting on a series of high octane, high-action matches that were nothing like American audiences had seen at the time. It’s sometimes easy to forget how fast Sting was at the time; while he couldn’t match Muta in the dazzling aerial display department, he more than made up for it with energy, speed and excitement. The TV title became the centre of their feud, giving both wrestlers prestige via association with the gold.

Their matches at the Great American Bash ’89 and the NJPW/WCW Supershow 1991 events are must-see. Check out their match at Starrcade ’89 as well, plus their tag team match involving Ric Flair and Terry Funk in the Thunderdome Cage at Halloween Havoc ’89, which is worth a watch.

3. Cactus Jack

Sting leaps onto a dustbin-covered Cactus Jack

Simply put, Cactus Jack is the man who brought the hardcore out of Sting. While the Stinger had taken part in some wild brawls with Muta and Terry Funk before, Mrs Foley’s baby boy took Sting to a place he had never been before. Originally brought in by Lex Luger to take out his former best friend, Jack turned his commission into a vendetta and put his body on the line in the process, taking some insane bumps during a series of wild brawls that still hold up to this day.

According to Foley, Sting loved his creativity and you can really tell when rewatching their matches; the chemistry is evident and Sting looks like he’s having fun. Not only did they tear it up on Power Hour and at Beach Blast ’92 but their series of matches on the house show circuit on the time have become the stuff of legend (if anyone happens to have footage of these, don’t be shy—share!)

Just don’t mention their TNA feud…

2. Ric Flair

Ric Flair backs away from a powered up Sting

For a lot of people, Flair would be number one on their list of Sting’s feuds and I completely get why. As WCW looked to establish its own identity away from the NWA, Sting vs. Flair became the perennial, defining feud for the company, the one match they could always rely on. In fact, so entwined were Flair vs. Sting and WCW that they were even chosen to main event the very last Monday Nitro. That’s how important this feud was to WCW.

While an argument has been made over the years that Sting and Flair had a certain type of match together, one whose formula very rarely changed, that formula was so goddamn satisfying that I could watch any Sting vs. Flair match and be seriously entertained. The model of the sneaky, desperate Flair and the righteous, powerhouse Sting proved to be an excellent archetype for the face vs. heel match, and still gives me fuzzy, warm feelings now when I watch any of their matches together.

Their best matches? The time limit draw at the inaugural Clash at the Champions is a corker, as is Sting’s inevitable Heavyweight title win at the Great American Bash ’90. But they also had some underrated belters in the main event at Starrcade ’89 and at World War III in 1995.

1. Big Van Vader

Sting has the Scorpion Deathlock applied to Vader, who's reached the ropes

As good as Sting-Ric Flair is as a feud, it never got any better than the David and Goliath battles between the Stinger and Big Van Vader. The chemistry between these two was insane. The idea was that Sting was on the back foot, having to find a way around the awesome might and vile temper of the big man. Vader battered him from pillar to post, broke his ribs, took his Heavyweight Championship. So when Sting finally overcame the odds and beat the big man, it was a momentous deal. David truly did beat Goliath.

It helped that Vader was perhaps the best big man to ever do it in the squared circle. Legendarily stiff, he brought a sense of legitimate threat and harm to Sting in all of their matches. Sting always looked like he was fighting for his life, and he probably was. Seeing Sting having to think his way around how to wrestle differently to beat Vader was always a psychological treat, and by the end Sting probably beat Vader more than Vader beat Sting. But it was us in the audience who were always the real winners whenever this pair tangled.

Written by Chris Flackett

Wrestling obsessed since '91. Lived through the Monday Night Wars and is still here to tell the tale. Major fan of Strong Style, technical and Super Jr. Wrestling, as well as big versatile hosses smacking the hell out of each other. Lives in Manchester, England.

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