Thursday, February 10, 2011

Will He...or Won't He?

One of the many reasons that the WWE was able to take over the wrestl...err...sports entertainment world is the simple fact that no one does hype quite like them. They can manipulate the fan or viewer into thinking just about whatever the company wants. It's a great asset for business, but one that also has led to disappointment for some fans over the years.

Raw on the night of February 21st will be an interesting show. For those of you who no longer watch, WWE has been running a series of vignettes displaying a cloaked figure, a shack, and the date "2-21-11." In the latest vignette, the Johnny Cash "Ain't grave can hold my body down" song lyric was added.

Initially, due to a plethora of rumors and theories already out there for WrestleMania, many fans thought that the cloaked figure was a sign of a WWE debut for Sting. In his nearly three-decade career, Sting has never worked for the WWE. Add to that the rumors that WrestleMania was to have a WCW theme, that Sting would be the perfect opponent for The Undertaker (in lieu of the unavailable Brock Lesnar), and that Sting had not signed a new deal with TNA and it seemed very obvious that this was the case.

On the other hand, "2-21-11" may simply mark the return of The Undertaker. Local advertising for the live show seems to indicate this as does the inclusion of the aforementioned song lyric. While you can't deny that 'Taker still has legions of fans and that his undefeated streak is a marketing point for WrestleMania, there are others who feel that the character is stale. Others will go as far as to say that the last remaining highlight in his career will be his Hall of Fame induction.

The WWE will no doubt make every effort to keep fans guessing until that night. They don't want to reveal their hand, and who is to say that the payoff won't satisfy everyone? Sting is officially off of the TNA roster. The Undertaker will no doubt be part of WrestleMania XXVII. The rest we will find out on the 21st.

Although Sting has never stepped foot into a ring owned by the greatest wrestling marketing machine ever, he has still had his fair share of merchandise. Arguably the face of WCW and a major part of TNA over the past few years, Sting has seen great times in the aisles.

Sting's mainstream debut into wrestling merchandise was with his "rookie cards" in the 1988 NWA Wonderama trading card set. He would have many cards over the years, but these cards chronicle the time with stars like Barry Windham, Eddie Gilbert, and Ric Flair just before Sting exploded into the spotlight.

It was with Flair that Sting came into said spotlight. At the inaugural Clash of the Champions event in 1988, Flair and Sting wrestled to a 45-minute time limit draw. This is almost universally considered to be the match that made Sting into a star. Despite a rocky road of buyouts, clueless executives, and curious booking decisions, it was from here that WCW had their own mix of Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior to carry the company through the 1990s.

Starting after the Clash, Sting began to appear on the cover of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, and all of the other wrestling magazine titles of the era. In the year 1990 after winning his first world championship, the Stinger's popularity continued to soar. The same year saw Galoob release their WCW action figure line (with Sting available in several different colored tights) and a kid-sized championship belt featuring a young doppelganger of the face-painted star on the box.

The late '90s saw the transformation of Sting and yet another rise in popularity for the grappler. Shunned by friends in WCW and betrayed by those who turned to the villainous nWo, Sting underwent a transformation from crew-cut, vibrantly colored, "surfer" Sting to brooding, baseball bat-wielding, black and white "Crow" Sting. In the era of the "Monday Night Wars" it was not uncommon to see Sting shirts being worn alongside the ubiquitous New World Order and Austin 3:16 tees.

Action figures of the new look were very popular. Perhaps the most beloved item of the time was a six-figure set featuring "The Evolution of Sting." The Toybiz-produced set included three figures from his earlier "surfer" days and three from the modern "Crow" style. Initially difficult to find, the set showed up discounted at Kay-Bee toy stores and is still coveted by collectors.

Even today, Sting merchandise is still scooped up by collectors young and old. Autographed items of the star have commanded high prices as of late and TNA merchandise with Sting's unique likeness are still available.

The fact of the matter is that nearly all of Sting's career is owned by the WWE. A WWE DVD release on Sting was scheduled and latter scrapped, most likely due to Sting's involvement with TNA at the time. Whether or not the man called Sting adds to that WWE-owned footage is his own choice. Regardless, he has had one heck of a career and a legacy matched by few.


Posi Jeff the Record Guy said...

Just discovered this blog and I love it. I've been collecting anything and everything pro wrestling related for around 10 years now, and its awesome to see another person who has the same interest. Keep it up!

J\/\/ said...

Glad you're enjoying it! Keep reading!