The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WrestlingINC.com or its staff.
If I were to ask wrestling fans to name an old-washed up wrestling legend who was constantly stealing the spotlight from younger talent, by far the most common answer would be Hulk Hogan. While the Hulkster is far from guiltless in his quest to remain relevant in wrestling society, there is another man of an advanced age who constantly is thrust into prominent roles at the expense of younger talent: Sting.
Sting has been a part of TNA for quite a long time, he made his debut for the company in 2003. In fact, outside AJ Styles, Chris Sabin and Christopher Daniels, Sting is the longest tenured wrestler in TNA. When Sting arrived in TNA, he helped give the company credibility. After all, Sting was a bona fide top draw in WCW, and at 44 years old, it was not inconceivable that he had a few good years left in him.
But all that was 10 years ago, Sting is now 54 years old, yet he is still main-eventing Impact, still getting title shots, and still all-over the product with involvement in all of the company's biggest storylines. TNA is very grateful for what Sting did for them, especially since he there were no doubt more lucrative offers elsewhere, but it appears that they have either chosen to ignore Sting's decline, or they have failed to decline any of Sting's demands or suggestions when it comes to his character and his role in the company.
Sting had been around wrestling for a spectacularly long time. Sting became a main event wrestler around 1989 during his feud with the Four Horsemen. Bret Hart, who had a long and successful run as a top draw, did not become a main event star until late 1992. Hart retired in 2000, and Sting is still going today! Sting's longevity is impressive, but it is not necessarily a positive attribute. Sting has been around for a long time, but his work rate has declined in the ring so severely that it is almost embarrassing to watch him lace up the boots each week.
Sting has not wrestled a singles match that went longer than 15 minutes since Slammiversary IX in 2011 (an atrocious match against Mr. Anderson that went 15:51 for the record). That figure includes numerous title matches, street fights and matches on PPVs. Say whatever you want about Cena's work rate as a WWE Champion, he could always be counted on to go 20-30 minutes for a PPV match. Someone that is so limited that they cannot wrestle beyond 15 minutes is someone that should not be a prominent member of the roster and consistently pushed into big matches. Even Hogan, with his five moves of doom, could be counted on to go the distance when it came to a big title defense.
Sting physically, is still in reasonably good shape for a 54 year old man. However, he is not in good shape for a professional wrestler, certainly not one who has been a world champion as recently 2011. For typical Impact matches, Sting does not even bother to take off his T-Shirt for his matches. How am I as a wrestling fan supposed to take a wrestler seriously if they refuse to take off their T-Shirt like a fat middle schooler at a pool party?
Although Sting is incredibly limited as a worker and as a performer, his situation would not bother me so much if he settled into more of an ambassador's role. Instead, Sting is relevant in everything going on in TNA. Who was challenging Bully Ray for the World Title at Slammiversary this year? Sting. Who led the fight against Aces & 8s? Sting. Who reformed the Main Event Mafia? Sting. Who fought off Immortal? Sting. Who has main evented Bound For Glory more than anybody else? Sting.
A characteristic of TNA's relative lack of success is that they have failed to capitalize on the cultivation of their promising young talent. The reason young talent failed to be put in the proper storylines is because, presumably, TNA had someone better that they felt could fill that role. That person, as noted above, was often Sting. Sting has some qualities, and he has always been one of TNA's more over wrestlers. But at this stage in his career, should he really be someone that the company should be building up for the long term future of the company?
A perfect example was Sting getting the World Title shot at Slammiversary earlier this year. Last year, TNA did a very good job building up Austin Aries as a big-time babyface for the company. This year, Aries's momentum has mostly been shot, as his development this year has lacked a lot of direction and he is basically in the same place that he was in at the start of 2012. Aries could have easily been given the shot at Slammiversary, and been the guy to lead the charge against Aces & 8s. Instead, TNA elected to once again peg Sting as the guy to be the face of the feud, pushing down younger talent with a brighter future.
Sting is a legend of wrestling, there is no disputing that. Whether you liked or hated him, you cannot deny that the man drew a lot of money and was very, very popular for an extensive period of time. However, at this stage in his career, it is time for Sting to step away from wrestling, and for him to walk off into the sunset before things get even worse.