Hulk Hogan vs Sting was one of the biggest matches in wrestling history, but not everything quite went to plan…
At Starrcade 1997, the eyes of the wrestling world were firmly on WCW. They had built up a 15 month storyline, starting with the rise of the New World Order with Hulk Hogan‘s heel turn, and ending with the much anticipated Hulk Hogan vs Sting match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
The match had been built to perfection. Sting hadn’t wrestled a match for a year, and had been slowly and methodically stalking and eliminating the NWO one by one en route to facing Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship.
Sting had changed from his bright coloured face paint and colourful tights to a dark and broody look, couple with black and white face paint and a black leather trench coat.
The stage was set to oust Hogan as the champion and make Sting the face of a new generation, ready to face new WCW signing Bret Hart in the new future in one of many huge matches WCW could book at the time.
However, in typical WCW fashion, they completely blew it. Hulk Hogan vs Sting has gone down as one of the most disappointing and frankly ridiculous finishes in the history of wrestling, and started the long and depressing descent for WCW that would end in them being purchased by Vince McMahon, absorbed by WWE and made a complete mockery of during The Invasion.
Here is how WCW ruined Hulk Hogan vs Sting.
Hulk Hogan vs Sting
The obvious ending to the match was clear. Hulk Hogan would get beaten by Sting clean in the ring to signal WCW’s triumph over the long dominant NWO, who had dominated WCW for the best part of 18 months. Hulk Hogan was the symbol of their dominance, having held the WCW title hostage with no signs of letting it go.
So naturally when it came time to end his reign, the oft-disagreeable Hulkster proudly proclaimed “That doesn’t work for me, Brother!”. Hulk Hogan had famously been hard to work with and had a creative clause in his contract that stipulated that he did not have to do anything in the ring that he did not want to do.
When it came time to put over Sting, that became the biggest issue. However, it was not the only issue. Eric Bischoff revealed that when Sting met himself and Hulk Hogan prior to the match. He felt Sting’s energy and involvement in the character were not there, and not just the often misrepresented “Sting wasn’t tanned” that has spread around the internet in recent years.
“The mythical character and the illusions that we had spent 16 to 17 months creating kind of dissipating halfway down the aisle, I agree with that. And, actually, that’s the same way that both Hulk and I felt earlier in the day.” Bischoff said on 83 Weeks With Eric Bischoff
“We knew what the finish was going into this thing, so there was no question about who was going to win and who was going to lose,” Bischoff recalled. “We’d known that. We’d known that for 12 months. The question was, ‘how do we get there?’, so Sting showed up in my dressing room. Hulk was already there and he walked in, and I don’t want to overdramatize this, and I’m also going to say I’m not going to share everything in this recall because some of the stuff is personal to Steve Borden, a.k.a. Sting. And since he [has] never shared it [publicly], it’s not up to me to do it.”
“I’m just not going to do it, but I will give you as much information as I can. So Sting walks in and [Hogan] and I had the same reaction. We didn’t acknowledge it to each other, but we both had this similar reaction, which was, ‘wow, he doesn’t look very excited about this.’ Before we had one syllable of a conversation, about what the finish was going to be or how we were going to get there, Sting, during Sting’s walkout, he had the same lack of energy, or presence, is an even better way of saying it.”
“It was almost as if he was only half there when he walked in the room. Now, Sting had, I think he has acknowledged in the past that he was going through a lot of personal things in his life at the time.”
Sting’s lack of energy and commitment to the character was the alleged reason why Bischoff and Hogan decided to change the finish to what it was. However, that does not explain why WCW still decided to make Sting win the match and the championship and just change the finish to something that didn’t make sense, was completely botched (or sabotaged?) and made everyone involved look worse coming out of Hogan vs Sting.
Hogan vs Sting – The Finish
The main event of Starrcade 1997 should have been a simple one. Sting should have hit Hulk Hogan with the Scorpion Death Drop, lock him in the Scorpion Death Lock and watch as the fans explode when Hulk Hogan taps out and Sting wins the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
But of course, due to Sting’s lack of energy (possibly due to him being told “we’re changing the finish to make you look worse” before hand), WCW decided they needed to protect the WCW Champion who had reigned over the roster for the past year.
The plan was for referee Nick Patrick to fast-count when Hogan pinned Sting, thus awarding the victory to Hulk Hogan. However, he would be interrupted by new WCW signed and former WWE Champion Bret Hart, who would force the match to be restarted, not wanting to see a repeat of his infamous Montreal Screwjob.
However, whether by accident or with Hulk Hogan in his ear, Patrick did not do a fast count. He counted at completely normal pace, and Sting did not kick out of the pin before his hand hit the mat for a third time. For all the fans in the crowd, they had just seen Hulk Hogan defeat Sting after over a years build up, with Sting’s big return being a complete dud.
Bret Hart still came out after the pin. He restarted the match, claiming it to be unfair although nobody could really figure out why. Hulk Hogan had won fair and square, and while they were happy to see The Hitman come and save the match, it definitely took a lot of shine off Sting.
Eventually, after interference from the NWO and with Bret Hart, somehow, acting as the referee, Sting locked Hulk Hogan in his Scorpion Death Lock (as he pointed to Bret Hart, who used his own version of the move called the Sharpshooter). Bret Hart called for the bell as Hogan submitted and Sting became the WCW World Champion.
Sting was joined in the ring by the WCW roster, who lifted him above their heads as they celebrated him finally defeating the NWO and saving WCW from their tyrannical reign.
But, the moment was ruined. The aura of the new Sting was ruined. Hulk Hogan’s hotdogging and grandstanding ruined what should have been a fantastic moment, and one that could have kept WCW alive for many more years to come.
However, the next night on Nitro, WCW announced a rematch between the two. Sting was still the WCW Champion, but due to the controversy pitched for Hulk Hogan vs Sting to have their rematch just one night after. Not build to another pay per view match, just have it happen again.
And it did. But once again WCW messed it up. The TV show ended before the match, so fans had no idea who won the match.
Hulk Hogan vs Sting was destined to be a disaster. In WCW, and even later in TNA.
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