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Thank you, Sting: Wrestling icon retires

By Alex Al-Kazzaz

As of March 3, 2024, Sting, one of pro wrestling's biggest legends, has officially retired from competition. With quite a unique and illustrious career spanning nearly four decades, no pro wrestler has had quite a journey like Sting. The Vigilante has worked for the likes of World Championship Wrestling, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment, and All Elite Wrestling.

Sting is a 12-time World Champion and is in the WWE Hall of Fame, along with the TNA Hall of Fame, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. The Vigilante first retired from wrestling in 2016 but would return to the ring in March 2021, wrestling his first match since September 2015. Sting's list of accomplishments is endless. No performer will ever be able to accomplish what Sting did. Furthermore, there will be another Sting in pro wrestling.

Since the beginning, Sting's popularity with the fans has been through the roof. Before he took on the iconic "crow" persona, he had a surfer-like character and had a great rivalry with The Four Horsemen in the early 90s, during which he was world champion twice. Around 1996, when the New World Order was formed, Sting began to change character, ultimately introducing the "crow" Sting to the world where he would engage in a lengthy rivalry with the nWo. His match against Hollywood Hogan at the 1997 Starrcade was a moment to remember for good and bad when he would win the world title only to be stripped of it about two weeks later because of a controversial finish stemming from a legitimate botch involving the outcome of the match. Sting would win the vacant title soon after.

In 1998, the nWo began to crack and eventually became two different groups, with Sting joining the nWo Wolfpac, who feuded with nWo Hollywood. Until 2000, Sting would bounce around through different feuds/storylines and eventually turned heel (villainous) when he won the world title for the sixth time. After becoming a face (good guy) again, he feuded with Lex Luger, his former tag team partner.

When WCW folded in 2001 and was purchased by WWF owner Vince McMahon, Sting did not make the move to McMahon's company. On the final episode of WCW's Monday Nitro, Sting defeated longtime rival Ric Flair in the main event. Interestingly enough, Sting wrestled Flair on the first episode of Nitro; therefore, in a sense, it ended where it began.

It's never entirely been clear and/or understood why Sting didn't sign with McMahon's promotion after the closing of WCW. The Vigilante confirmed that he spoke to McMahon, but he said that lack of comfort played a role in his decision not to go with McMahon. It's largely believed that a segment between The Rock and Booker T (a former WCW performer) is the reason why Sting did not go to WWE.

In 2003, Sting arrived at Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (NWA: Total Nonstop Action at the time ) and would soon engage in a lengthy rivalry with Jeff Jarrett. During his time with TNA Wrestling, he enjoyed memorable rivalries with Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, Christian Cage, Hulk Hogan, Bully Ray, AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Abyss, and Jeff Hardy. Sting had numerous tag team encounters with Styles, and despite only TWO one-on-one encounters, both matches are well-remembered; Sting would defeat Styles in 2008 to retain the TNA World Title, and Styles defeated Sting in 2009 to retain the world title.

Sting was inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame in 2012. He would depart the promotion in early 2014 and eventually made his way to WWE later that year.

In July 2014, WWE began selling Sting merchandise, and that same month, Sting made his first WWE public appearance. He didn't make his official debut for the promotion until November at the Survivor Series PPV. He began a rivalry with Triple H, culminating at WrestleMania 31, where Sting lost.

Sting disappeared shortly after WrestleMania but eventually returned in August 2015 to challenge then-WWE Champion Seth Rollins. During his match with Rollins, Sting suffered a neck injury, which eventually resulted in his announcing his first official retirement from wrestling. The announcement was made when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Shortly after announcing his retirement, Sting remained under contract with WWE. In early 2019, he appeared on a segment on Monday Night Raw, which turned out to be his last appearance for the company. In May 2020, it was announced that he was officially no longer with the promotion.

Sting made his debut for AEW on December 2, 2020. His debut on AEW programming marked his first appearance on TNT in nearly 20 years (WCW Monday Nitro programming was also on TNT). He confirmed that he was All Elite the following week and soon formed a tag team with Darby Allin.

Sting's program with Allin was well-received by the fans. In August of 2021, Sting would wrestle on TNT programming for the first time in two decades. During his time with AEW, Sting seemed better than ever, as he was working tremendously. In addition, he was still taking serious bumps in the ring and even outside the ring. Sting would appear in the AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door in 2022 and 2023 and even appeared at The Great Muta Final "Bye-Bye," teaming with Allin and Muto in a winning effort.

Everything Sting did in AEW was positive. He finishes with a perfect 29-0 record. The rivalries he and Allin had as a team told one good story after another. Who'll forget he and Allin teaming up in a Coffin match in August of last year? So many positive and impactful moments for The Vigilante with AEW.

Sting announced in October of last year that he would soon be retiring. Last month, he and Allin captured the AEW World Tag Team Championship. After the match, they were attacked by The Young Bucks, setting up a match for the AEW Revolution event. Sting's match at the event would be his retirement match, and he and Allin defend their world tag team titles in a tornado tag match with Sting's longtime NWA and WCW rival Ric Flair in their corner. Fellow legend Ricky Steamboat was also at ringside.

Sting's entrance for this match has to be considered one of the best pro wrestling entrances ever. The Vigilante's two sons were part of the entrance and even got involved in the match. What's so interesting is that Sting's two sons cosplayed two of Sting's past personas; one as the original surfer Sting and the other as nWo Wolfpac Sting with red face paint.

The Vigilante and Allin successfully retained their titles in what truly had to be the best retirement match in pro wrestling history. Without a doubt, it was one of the best main events not only in AEW but also in pro wrestling PERIOD! Sting's promo at the end officially closed the chapter, and the audience in attendance and fans all over social media expressed their gratitude. Fans are overjoyed that Sting retired as a champion.

Now that Sting is officially done as a competitor, it's unclear where he goes from here. In the foreseeable future, he could certainly land a backstage role for AEW and have a position in creative. Regardless of the opportunities that are out there for The Vigilante, the best thing for him right now is to take a break.

AEW founder and co-owner Tony Khan said that the AEW World Tag Team titles are vacated, and a tournament to crown new champions will be taking place. The likes of The Young Bucks and FTR are sure to be participants.

Sting's career could not have ended at a better moment. Honestly, it couldn't have ended in a better way. The Vigilante, The Icon, The Legend gave it his absolute all night in and night out in his 40-year career. His legacy, influence, popularity, and success can never and will never be outshined.

Thank you, Sting 🦂

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