AEW’s Sting has revealed the origin of his face paint – and which WCW star inspired him to create his iconic black-and-white look.
Over his 40 year career, few can match the incredible run of The Stinger throughout the various promotion he has wrestled in. He became a huge star in WCW in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming the face of the company and a multi-time world champion. Known for his iconic blonde hair and colourful face paint, he was a hero to many and a fan-favourite who you simply could not boo.
However, he was replaced by Hulk Hogan as the number one man in WCW in 1994 and soon had a change of character. As the NWO took over the company, he changed his look into the famous look that we know today. He swapped the blonde spikes for long, dark hair and painted his face black and white, mimicking the movie The Crow, which was popular at the time.
The new look also coincided with a new gimmick. Sting changed from the happy-go-lucky surfer dude to an angsty, darker character who alienated himself from the WCW locker room and hung out alone in the rafters. He had a more “grunge” look, with an all-black attire complimented by a long, black trench coat and his trusty bat by his side. It was a contemporary attire for a new time in wrestling, where the anti-hero reigned supreme.
However, The Icon himself cannot take credit with the idea to base his new look of The Crow. While crow Sting was one of the most iconic characters of the Attitude Era, it was actually WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall who thought up the idea of his new look, something Sting is eternally grateful for.
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Sting explained how Scott Hall, who was known as Razor Ramon in the WWE, thought up the vision for the new character whilst in WCW. He told Sting to do “something mysterious” before laying out the entire basis of the new look.
“I would have to give most of that credit to Scott Hall. We were in Casper, Wyoming, at a hotel. I was having breakfast, and he was there with Eric Bischoff talking about things. Hall and Nash had created some cool vignettes that were going to air with the black and white. It was mysterious. Fans were starting to boo Hogan, and the business was changing.
“They wanted something dark and dirty. I thought my character had to change before fans started sticking their finger down their throat. I was trying to figure out what to do and Hall says, ‘You know what you should do? Get a trench coat, man. Paint your face white. Put some black around your eyes. Something mysterious. That’s what I would do, man.’
“I ended up painting my face, and it evolved into what it evolved into. It didn’t really have anything to do with The Crow at first, but there were some similarities, I admit.”
Sting debuted the black and white face paint on the October 21st, 1996 edition of WCW Monday Nitro. He came down to the ring during a match involving the Fake Sting and the NWO, attacking them and solidifying himself as their biggest defiant. His feud with the NWO would last for years, coming to its peak at Starrcade 1997 when he would defeat Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship, albeit in controversial circumstances.
The black and white face paint was a huge success for Sting. To this day he continues to wear this iconic look, and is particularly apt in his tag team with Darby Allin. Both men employ the same colour face paint, and even alter their own designs to match up with the other for the occasional big match.
While he has never reverted back to the surfer Sting face paint, others have done so in order to either mock or pay tribute to the legendary Sting. The two most notable examples come from two separate promotions, in very different circumstances.
During their 2011 feud in TNA, Mr Kennedy dressed up as the classic Surfer Sting, including face paint and jacket, to get into the legends head. He nailed Sting with his own Scorpion Death Drop to add even more heat to the rivalry.
The other time was much more recently. In All Elite Wrestling, Sting teamed with Darby Allin and CM Punk in a six man tag team match. They took on The Pinnacle, which was comprised of Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood (FTR) and MJF.
Before the match, CM Punk entered wearing the classic Surfer Sting face paint and tights. Sting also paid tribute to Punk, incorporating the lightning strikes on Punk’s t-shirt into his face paint design. The painted trio won the match on the Holiday Bash episode of AEW Dynamite, and it became one of the most memorable matches in AEW history.
The A2theK Wrestling Show recently spoke to AEW makeup artist Dani Dinino about how she helped Punk and Sting create their custom paint jobs for this match. She revealed that they were a last minute addition and were purely the idea of the wrestlers in question.
“Those guys literally came to me like 30 minutes before they were going out on stage. Sting always does his own paint. Sting is the only wrestler, going into working this job, he’s the only wrestler who I knew about. When he’s come for paint, especially in the beginning, that one made me nervous. That’s the only one I’ve been super nervous to do.”
“That’s the thing with Sting, because he usually does his own looks, it’s always very…I’ve done him a few times and it’s been very last minute. ‘If Dani has time, let me jump in the chair and we’ll have her do this.’ He’s kind of the type where, if not, he’ll do it himself. They came in, it was maybe an hour before the match, and he was like, ‘I want this’ and he brought me in a printout of the fist and lightning bolt. ‘I want this and I want you to put it on my forehead.’ I looked at him like, ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yeah, this is what I want.’ I was so nervous on that one. He is very particular about his looks.”
What is your favourite iteration of Sting’s face paint? Let us know in the comments down below what you think about the Icon’s paint work.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.