Today we debut a new series of posts under the theme ‘Alternative Wrestling History‘. This series will look at some of the “what if?” moments from wrestling history. It’s not the only debut though, as it’s also the first post from our newest contributor John Carbery and he looks at what would have happened had Sting been the third member of the nWo.
It’s been reported, most recently on the Monday Night War, that the original choice for the nWo’s “third man” at Bash at the Beach 96 was slated to be Sting. When I first heard this I thought two things, “that’s a perfect choice” and “it wouldn’t have worked”. In this article I try and elaborate on those snap conclusions.
Thinking about it, Sting would’ve been a perfect choice to be the third man. He was a home-grown WCW star and the brightest white meat babyface they had from 88-96. Ever since his career making performance against Ric Flair at the inaugural Clash of the Champions Sting was everybody’s favourite action figure. He was colourful, high flying and fun. Can you imagine how much it would’ve hurt the kids who’d grown up believing in him if he’d turned heel on that night? To WCW fans it would’ve been a major event, to some WWF fans though it might be the first they’d heard of him as he aligned himself with two of their favourites.
The reason Hulk Hogan’s turn worked so well is that it brought in both WCW and WWF fans. WCW fans were finally given a reason to care about him whereas WWF fans were given a reason to care about him again. Hogan in 1996 was as stale as you can get. For two years he’d been holding a Hulkamania revival for himself in WCW to little effect. 94-96 were Hogan’s wilderness years, Hulkamania was running mild and his act just didn’t appeal to the more wrestling focused audience that WCW attracted and WWF fans had seen it all before.
I think both Sting and Hogan are equally important to the projected failure of this alternate nWo. In our timeline the nWo was a dominant heel faction that remade the wrestling business in their image and a lot of the reason that was allowed to happen was because of the creative control of Hogan himself. The nWo got over, because they went over every night. I can only imagine that if a red and yellow babyface Hogan was acting as opposition to a Sting led nWo the heel faction wouldn’t have been afforded the same win loss record.
Hogan probably would’ve no doubt viewed the young, hip Hall and Nash as a threat and would’ve undermined them the same way he had Ric Flair and would eventually do the Rock by exercising his creative control. Sting would’ve probably been given the same fate as his former nemesis Vader, crushed in a main event series. Sting’s nWo would’ve been the Dungeon of Doom in cooler gear.
Of course there are other characters to consider here. First let’s think about Sting’s tag partners at Bash at The Beach 96 Macho Man and Luger. Macho Man had joined WCW and immediately settled into second place behind Hogan as he had in the WWF of the 80s. In the initial months of the nWo feud in our timeline Macho led the opposition before eventually joining the faction himself. Maybe in the alternate timeline Macho would’ve eventually joined the nWo to run against Hogan once more? In the real world where Macho joined the nWo he STILL managed to fit in a feud with Hogan while a member himself.
Lex Luger actually benefited from the nWo storyline greatly in our timeline. In 97 while heel Hogan was on top The Total Package filled the main event babyface void quite well and even had a well-received short run as WCW Champion. I personally don’t see that happening in the alternate 97 with Sting’s nWo. Sting himself might become champion, defeating the Giant as Hogan had, but that title win would ultimately lead to a showdown with Hogan and sooner rather than later.
Whereas, in our timeline Hogan vs Sting was saved for Starrcade 97 (allowing Luger his time to shine) I can easily see Sting being subdued once and for all by the Hulkster before or at Starrcade 96 or by Superbrawl 97 at the latest. After this we could see nWo Macho make an appearance and carry Hogan through the spring/summer of 97 thought that feud would probably be more about the two of them rather than WCW vs nWo.
I can sadly see Luger losing out in this timeline when he should be featured centre stage. Heel Sting as champion would have the most reason to feud with Luger in this timeline. Sting and Luger were attached at the hip on screen and off for some time. Storyline Luger should feel his betrayal the hardest, and reflect the feeling of the fans at home. In a perfect world Sting would beat Giant for the title and play cowardly heel for an extended period of time before dropping it to Lex at the perfect moment. Though I think with Hogan’s politicking I could see this feud taking the semi-main event spot to Hogan vs Savage, months after the initial heat has died down and Hogan had already beat Sting anyway.
Hall and Nash meanwhile, would’ve probably received similar treatment to Bret Hart when he arrived in WCW. The idea behind bringing them in was a strong one, but I can easily see them getting lost in the shuffle. What’s easy to forget is that Nash and Hall truly made their name as main eventers in WCW and not the WWF. Nash as Diesel failed as WWF Champion, which has been admitted numerous times. Hall meanwhile was a great mid carder and Intercontinental Champion but that was it for him in New York.
In our WCW though, the Outsiders were able to take a back seat to Hogan who really brought them up to his level by treating them as partners in his nWo. After a few years as a headline tag team they were both true superstars, Nash in particular slotted neatly into the main events in 98. It’s almost impossible to state how over the Wolfpac were back then with him as their leader. I don’t think this would’ve happened without his years as an Outsider.
In this alternate timeline, I can honestly see them being left on the shelf and well way from Hogan’s main event. Eric Bischoff proved with Hart that if he’s preoccupied with Hogan on top he’ll easily forget about a hot new signing. I can see the exact same thing happening to Hall and Nash. They would have a good run as a tag team, but without their association to Hogan and with their association to a crushed Sting it wouldn’t have had half the impact.
If you’re wondering where I’m getting my assumption that Sting would just lay down and be scrubbed as the leader of the nWo, I’ll just point you to what happened to him in our timeline when he went up against them. Sting was the WCW’s hottest babyface once more in 97, his famous year-long feud with Hogan should’ve culminated in a red hot brawl at Starrcade where the Stinger vanquished Hollywood. Instead Sting allowed himself to be treated like a jobber by Hogan before meekly winning the title with a Scorpion Deathlock but only after he’d been pinned cleanly by Hollywood earlier in the match. Confusing, I know.
Now while it might seem like this is all doom and gloom, I honestly think there’d be one ultimate outcome of the Sting led nWo, WCW might still be with us. In our timeline the nWo kicked off a massive boom in the wrestling business that was ultimately a Mutually Assured Destruction scenario. The WCW killed itself trying to kill the WWF and they nearly succeeded in doing just that.
In the alternate timeline the Hogan led WCW would’ve been treading water and probably been better off for it. WCW and WWF were engaged in an arms race during the Monday Night Wars and WCW was throwing money at the wall to see if it stuck after their red hot nWo angle produced the White Hot Austin vs McMahon in response. Who knows, maybe they could’ve kept their spending under control and kept a steady audience if they hadn’t flown so close to the sun? Sure the wrestling landscape would’ve been a much blander place in 98/99 but things would’ve heated up eventually and maybe at a pace that could’ve sustained both companies. Their feuding could’ve continued to carry on into the 2000’s and with Vince McMahon’s appetite for success I’m sure he could’ve found a miracle format without the same level of prompting eventually. He did it in the 80’s after all.
There was an outside pressure coming from smart fans of ECW to update the product of both companies even in the early 90s that both WCW and WWF felt. With talent like Austin, Foley, Taker, HHH, The Rock and more on the roster surely the WWF would’ve allowed the cream to rise to the top eventually especially with the inevitable departure of HBK in 98?
Hogan would’ve continued to fizzle out as a babyface headliner in 97/98 worse than he had in 95/96 and maybe Bischoff being the mercenary that he was would’ve seen the writing on the wall and sent him out to pasture leaving room at the top for others such as DDP and Goldberg? Sting would’ve eventually turned babyface again and after the run he’d have no doubt had it’d probably be refreshing to him.
There are infinite possibilities with this scenario. How would a milder landscape have affected ECW? How many beloved wrestlers wouldn’t have had their shot as a result of a neutered nWO? Would there still be two major companies still operating in the US and who would they be using today? That I can’t speculate on right now, but if you move the pieces that were on the board at the time around in a different way than what actually happened a lot of interesting things start to happen.
Maybe you have a few ideas of your own on what could’ve happened had Sting led the nWo against Hulk Hogan’s WCW? Use the comments section below as your canvas as I’d love to hear them.