Eric Bischoff has spoken up about the reasons why Sting didn’t win cleanly at Starrcade 1997 in his blockbuster match against Hulk Hogan. The Icon faced The Immortal One in the main event of the show in a match that had been built up for a year and looked set to end the monstrous reign of the New World Order’s grip on the WCW Championship.
Hogan had held the belt for most of the year and was in the peak of his career, some would argue. His heel turn the year prior had reinvigorated his career and made him the top heel in wrestling, and is still remembered to this day. The NWO shirt he made famous is still sold in droves today and is reported to make him thousands of dollars every month.
Sting had been kept out of the ring for a year in anticipation for this big match. He had undergone a dramatic character change, from the bleached blonde, charismatic Surfer Sting to the moody and dark Crow Sting. He dressed in black and painted his face black and white, inspired by hit movie The Crow.
He would beat Hogan at Starrcade but only after Bret Hart overturned the referees decision and restarted the bout after Hogan pinned Sting. He came out to stop him being “screwed”, alluding to the Montreal Screwjob that happened months prior, after the referee was said to do a fast count on Sting. However, the referee did no such thing, making Sting look week and everyone involved in the match look rather stupid.
The match continued and Sting beat Hogan, but the win was tainted and would be the start of the decline of WCW, who went from being the hottest company in the world to being bought by WWE in just four years time.
Eric Bischoff has explained the reason why he curtailed Sting’s push and had him not win cleanly in the first place, citing issues in his personal life that stopped him being able to be the man to beat Hogan clean and take the WCW Championship as a hero, instead needing a dirty finish to help protect Hogan (this reason is not explained).
On the episode of 83 Weeks (Eric Bischoff’s podcast), the former head of WCW stated;
“I’m not going to get in to Sting’s personal life, that’ll be up to Steve Borden some day, it’s not my position, love the guy too much, respect him too much, not going to go there. But it is fair to say that, yeah, when Steve showed up, in my opinion as well as Hulk’s, not prepared, yeah, the tan was one aspect but as Dave [Meltzer] pointed out, visibly he was not the same guy, and there was a reason for it, and it was a human reason.
I understand it, and I’m not trying to deflect criticism, not trying to justify, I don’t give a fuck what people think anymore about it, I really don’t, it is what it is, I can’t change it, but to really understand it, those listeners who really want to feel like they’re getting a little bit more than just a topical explanation of things, Steve Borden, the human being, was not prepared, mentally or physically, as Dave Meltzer pointed out, or emotionally. He was not prepared.”
Bischoff then shot down any rumours that Sting may have been intoxicated during the match. Sting was known to have issues with alcohol and drugs during that time (before he found Jesus ,like Shawn Michaels), although was never said to have an issue with being unable to perform inside the ring due to being drunk or high.
He did note that the match had to be changed due to personal issues in Sting’s life, which may have made his alcohol and drug issues worsen, but they did not have a direct impact on the booking of the match. It was simply that Eric Bischoff didn’t think that he was in the right headspace to wrestle Hogan and beat him clean due to his personal circumstances and the correct thing to do was to throw out a year long storyline because of it (yeah, right).
“No. That’s not it, that was not it, it’s got nothing to do with it. And if I have ever said anything to imply it, I want to make it clear right now, I didn’t mean that, that was not the issue. It was a personal issue, not related to drugs or alcohol.”
Sting would later sign for WWE in 2004, after a decade wrestling for TNA. He signed for AEW in 2020 and continues to wrestle there with Darby Allin as his partner.