I love old school pro wrestling. Always have and always will.
In my case, old school wrestling goes back to the 1960s and ‘70s when I first began watching and covering the business. For younger fans, their old school wrestling experience might be in the ‘80s or even the ‘90s.
But I think we can all agree that those days held a special allure, and that most of the characters resonated with the audience. Those were special times and special memories.
What I’m not a fan of is seeing legendary performers come back for one more match, one last payday, one final grasp at glory. Especially when their time to shine obviously ended long ago.
Today’s business has changed dramatically. What worked 10 or 20 years ago probably doesn’t draw a pop anymore. Today’s younger practitioners work a vastly different style, take more chances, and “flip and flop” at an increasingly alarming pace.
Physical capabilities diminish with the passage of time, and wrestling can be a very unforgiving profession. There’s a sobering reality about age that even the magic that is professional wrestling can’t hide.
I’d prefer to remember a legend in the prime of their career, shining within the parameters of that generation’s standards, not a legend whose ring skills have diminished and has younger fans wondering what the fuss was all about.
In other words, some legends might be well advised to refrain from going to that proverbial well once too often. Keep the memories golden.
What could have been
Steve Borden, whose Sting character was undeniably one of the most charismatic and wildly popular in the business, recently hinted on a WWE Network show at a possible return to WWE to work with The Undertaker.
Now that would have been a dream match 18 years ago when Sting, who had never before worked for WWE, had a chance to make the jump after WCW closed its doors. But he later chose to join TNA where, at the age of 44, he would become the centerpiece of the fledgling promotion.
It could have even been a dream match 10 years ago.
But not now. And not for the wrong reasons.
Taker (Mark Calaway), who at age 54 has worked a very limited schedule the past several years, is an icon whose presence in WWE still commands ratings. But injuries and more than 30 years in the business have taken a toll.
Sting, six years older at 60, worked his last match in September 2015.
After finally signing with WWE at the age of 55, viewed as the biggest star to never compete in WWE, Sting was welcomed as a true legend. Once dubbed “the Franchise of WCW,” he had been synonymous with the Ted Turner-owned company since its inception, and had never seriously entertained jumping ship to the opposition due to his loyalty to the WCW brand.
But his long-awaited WWE in-ring debut in 2015 at Wrestlemania 31 was against current WWE exec Triple H, not The Undertaker, the fans’ overwhelming choice for “dream match” candidate. While it was a nice touch of nostalgia, the match was far from epic.
All the bells and whistles disguised a carefully orchestrated match. Sting was defeated, and much of the shine that accompanied his arrival was quickly gone. It was Sting’s long-anticipated Wrestlemania moment, but it should have been with Taker.
And while the bout may have been of historical import, many fans questioned why Sting would have waited all those years to come to WWE, only to lose. Some suggested that the outcome was politically motivated and represented a final “WCW burial.”
But one could have predicted that disappointing result. As Scott Hall would later tell Sports Illustrated, “You need to remember that Vince (McMahon) is never going to go with something he didn’t create.”
He wouldn’t then, and he certainly wouldn’t now.
Sting’s tenure with WWE was relatively short-lived, as he suffered a potentially career-ending spinal injury during a match with Seth Rollins at WWE’s Night of Champions pay-per-view in 2015.
“Lord God, please don’t let it end like this,” he recalls of that fateful night.
To his credit, he was able to complete the bout in a losing effort, but with many questions surrounding his in-ring future, which had been rumored to be that long-awaited match with Taker several months later at Wrestlemania 32 in Arlington, Texas.
That never materialized, as doctors reportedly advised against Sting ever returning to the ring.
Instead, Sting was inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame during Wrestlemania weekend. And that was rightfully befitting a legend (even though he had only worked a grand total of four matches with the company).
It was at the Hall of Fame ceremony where Sting would announce his official retirement from wrestling. Following his announcement, Sting said to the live crowd, “I just want you to know that this isn't ‘goodbye,’ it's just ‘see you later.’”
Earlier Sting revealed that he felt normal and had decided against surgery for cervical spinal stenosis, the same condition that ended Adam “Edge” Copeland’s in-ring career at the age of 37.
That was three years ago, and there has been little chatter since. But on a recent WWE show, Sting hinted at doing something special with Undertaker, adding that he still had “unfinished business” with The Deadman.
Earlier this year WWE teased a potential Sting-Undertaker match on its official Twitter page with the caption “Imagine…”
In Dubai a couple of years ago to help promote a WWE video game, Sting recounted a conversation he had with Undertaker, implying that perhaps Taker didn’t share an interest in having that dream match.
“We’ve had a brief conversation, and I just told him, I said, 'man, I just always wanted to have that match.' It wasn’t necessarily reciprocated, so I’m not sure where he stands or if he had any interest at all, to be quite honest. But I did. I don’t mind saying.”
While it’s more likely that the two might engage in a “face-off” rather than an actual in-ring match, it has been rumored that McMahon would like to book the bout on one of WWE’s big-money extravaganzas in Saudi Arabia.
There’s no denying that it would have been a dream match. A decade or two ago. But not now. Not for the wrong reasons.
Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. And maybe, sometimes, it’s better to imagine what might have been.
Old School Wrestling
Old School Championship Wrestling will return to the Hanahan Rec Center on Dec. 8 with its final show of the year.
Featured will be former WWE stars Gangrel and Kevin Thorn, along with former TNA performer Caleb Konley, Cheerleader Melissa from Lucha Underground and the popular John Skyler. Also scheduled for the show are Team Fearless, Tracer X, Logan Creed, Brady Pierce, Drew Adler, Zane Riley, Francisco Ciatso, Stormie Lee, The Washington Bullets, Brandon Paradise, Kevin Phoenix, Savannah Evans, Josh Powers, Anna Diaz, Eric Darkstorm, Austin Jordan, Chris Valo and more.
Bell time is 5 p.m. Doors open at 4:30.
Adult admission (cash only at the door) is $12; kids (under 12) $7.
Advance discounted tickets are available online at https://oscwliveprowrestlingcaged.simpletix.com/e/49034.
For more information, call 843-743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMikeMooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham. His newly released book — “Final Bell” — is now available at https://evepostbooks.com and on Amazon.com