One of the greatest and most successful characters in all of WCW and in professional wrestling during the 1990’s, was “The Crow” version of Sting. For years, Sting was a very popular and charismatic character. He had the bleached blonde Brian Bosworth-esque hair cut, the colorful face paint and neon tights. Sting was one of the few true stars WCW had during a period of time in the early 1990’s.
By the time 1996 had come along, the fans in pro wrestling were changing and evolving. No longer were they cheering for the cartoon character gimmicks. No longer were they rooting for the “white meat babyfaces.” The fans wanted more realistic characters to support and get behind. When the NWO emerged in WCW, the fans instantly gravitated towards them. All the while, guys who use to be beloved like the red and yellow Hulk Hogan were being booed across the country.
Steve ‘Sting’ Borden saw the writing on the wall and made the decision to start tweaking his gimmick. He stopped dying his hair blonde and started growing his hair out long. Sting was coming up with different ideas of how his character could change with the times, including turning into a full fledged heel. None of his ideas seemed to fit to what he wanted to do.
Then one night, at a WCW show in Wyoming, the idea that would change his career and the course of WCW as a whole came to light. While Sting was getting ready for his match in the dressing room, he was approached by none other than Scott Hall. Hall went up to Sting and asked him if he was familiar with the movie ‘The Crow’ starring Brandon Lee. Hall began his pitch that Sting could wear a black trench coat and paint his face white.
Sting wasn’t opposed to the idea and actually was intrigued by it. He started doing research on the Crow character by watching the film and reading the comics and graphic novels. This was an idea that Scott Hall had since the movie came out in 1994. While still with the World Wrestling Federation, Hall had apparently pitched this same idea to Vince McMahon. According to Dave Meltzer, the idea was bounced around the WWF and there was some consideration of using that gimmick on Al Snow. It was ultimately nixed and never used.
In WCW, the storyline was set up perfectly. An bogus Sting look a like attacked members of WCW’s roster in a dark lit parking lot. The announcers thought it was the real Sting who betrayed WCW and joined the New World Order. They began bad mouthing Sting as being a traitor and that Sting could now stick it. This would upset the real Sting, as he felt that he deserved the benefit of the doubt and after carrying WCW on his back for the last nine years, he deserved better. From that point, Sting declared himself a free agent.
On October 21st, 1996, the new look Sting would come out and attack the bogus NWO Sting with the rest of the NWO just simply looking on. Afterwards, the NWO got in the ring with the real Sting and offered him a position with the NWO. The last words of Sting for well over a year would be, “One thing is for sure about the Stinger…nothing’s for sure” and with that, Sting walked away.
During the course of the days, weeks and months, Sting was rarely seen and never heard from. Instead, he would be spotted sitting in the rafters of the arena watching with a very ominous look. The transformation and build up to this new Sting was very well done. He didn’t have to cut a single promo to get over, not a single match to win favor with the fans, just stand in the darkness and be a mysterious character.
The Crow version of Sting worked on so many levels, because Sting was indeed becoming the character. He was in real life, living the gimmick. In real life, Steve Borden was miserable. He was living a life that was filled with prescription drugs, alcohol and women. Despite making more money than he knew what to do with, Steve Borden was never happy. You could see and feel the coldness in his eyes. This was something that was coming through with the Sting gimmick and for the gimmick purposes alone, it worked.
There was this macabre, fearlessness from the Crow Sting. A Sting that didn’t really care about anybody or anything, including himself. The transformation was so flawless and seamless, it became real and that is what wrestling fans were into during this period of time. The gimmick could not and would not work with anybody else the way it did for Steve Borden during 1996/1997.