Recently on 83 Weeks With Eric Bischoff, WCW’s Starrcade 1997 was discussed in detail. Among many other things, Bischoff, the former Executive Producer and President of WCW, talked about changing the planned finish of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship main event match between ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan and a man called Sting. According to Bischoff, Sting returned to WCW unmotivated, untanned, and out of shape. This would apparently lead to the planned finish of Sting going over strong to win the title being changed to a controversial finish with the match being restarted on a nonexistent fast-count pinfall.
On the subject of Starrcade ’97’s much anticipated main event bout, Bischoff said he agrees with the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which wrote at the time that that the myth of Sting died as the man made his way to the ring.
“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.” Bischoff continued, “and, actually, that’s the same way that both Hulk and I felt earlier in the day.”
Bischoff was alluding to the meeting he and Hogan had with Sting prior to the match. According to Bischoff, as soon as Sting entered the room for the meeting, Sting looked underwhelmed and lacked presence.
“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.”
Bischoff suggested that Sting was living the Crow gimmick to a certain degree at the time.
“I didn’t know as the whole Crow angle began, and the character just kind of showed up in the rafters, he didn’t really talk, and he didn’t really engage with anybody. Well, that wasn’t just the character. That was what was really going on with Steve Borden.” Bischoff added, “he was almost like a ghost. He was very similar to his character, believe it or not. So what we didn’t realize, what a lot of us didn’t know, was just the depth of the personal issues that he was having in his life. It wasn’t apparent to us.”
Apparently, Bischoff did not realize that Sting had not been working out or tanning until the day of Starrcade. Bischoff went on to say that he and Hogan were shocked to see Sting had become a “shell” of his former self.
“I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but none of us had seen Steve without his gimmick on, right? We didn’t realize that he had quit working out. We didn’t realize, for example, I know it sounds artificial or superficial, I should say, and childish, but he didn’t even bother to tan. I know that sounds funny to people who aren’t in the business, but I guarantee you that everybody that you love in WWE spends a certain amount of time maintaining their tan whether they do it naturally or unnaturally. You’ve got to take care of your body. You’re out there in your underwear for crying out loud. You’ve got to look the part. And when Steve came in, he was substantially smaller. He obviously had not been to the gym,” Bischoff said. “There was no preparation, physically, on Steve’s part. He didn’t even bother spending 20 minutes getting a spray tan for crying out loud. And Hulk and I talked about it after the fact, long after the fact, certainly not in that moment, but I think we both recognized the same thing, that this guy that just walked into the room, Steve Borden, is a shell of the Steve Borden that we thought we were going to see. And it was almost shocking in a way.” Sting continued, “what we expected, given the magnitude of what we had built, and where we knew where we were going to go, what we were planning on doing, we expected somebody to come in that room ready to play at the very highest level.”
During the podcast, Bischoff claimed that the original finish was for Sting to go over strong, but he was not concerned with the details of how it would all play out.
“This is going to piss a lot of people off. The original finish was Sting was going to go over. How he was going to go over, that wasn’t my deal. I didn’t ever get involved, even at this, in the details of the finish. It just wasn’t my strength. I can’t emphasize that enough. And rather than engaging myself and involving myself in things that I knew I didn’t really know enough about, I let the talent have a lot of say, especially someone like Steve and Hulk Hogan.” Bischoff remembered, “we knew what the finish we wanted was before we even got to the building, before we got on a plane. We knew about it months in advance. We knew we wanted Sting to go over. How he went over, he had to go over strong. We had to end the story exactly the way the audience wanted it to end, on the highest note possible. That was the finish going in. How we were going to get there on a step-by-step basis, I couldn’t tell you because I wasn’t involved.”
As for the reasons Sting may have seemed dejected, Bischoff mentioned above that Sting was going through personal issues at the time of Starrcade. Additionally, Bischoff noted that he got the impression that Sting assumed he was going to get screwed over and stopped caring or trying several months prior to the big pay-per-view.
“Now, in terms of the changes in light of really feeling and believing, and as much as I liked Sting as a human being, as a friend, as a performer, as one of the most loyal WCW talents on the roster, he wasn’t up for it,” Bischoff stated. It’s like he? I’m going to try to do an adequate job of explaining this without overstating it? it’s almost like he didn’t believe it was actually going to happen, long, long, long, months ago, maybe when the whole angle first started. I’m not saying he felt this way. I’m saying this is the impression I had. I’ll speak for myself. The impression I had is that through this whole big build up, he never believed it was going to happen. He believed he was going to get screwed out of an opportunity and he quit six months before this event. He quit caring. He quit taking care of himself. He quit preparing. He showed up with no energy with no anticipation, no enthusiasm. It was just like, ‘okay, you guys are going to f–k me, so let’s get it over with.’ That was the vibe I got.”
To Bischoff’s recollection, when Sting left the meeting, Hogan told Bischoff that Sting was not ready to go and Bischoff agreed. At that point, the decision was made to change the finish of the match.
“After Steve walked out of the door, [Hogan] and I just looked at each other. And [Hogan] said, ‘brother, he’s not ready. He’s not into this.’ And I agreed with him,” Bischoff admitted.
Bischoff reiterated that Sting’s lack of tan was only one reason for changing the finish of the match. What is never explained in the podcast is why Sting ultimately still went over in the match or why Sting was fit to be world champion, but not to go over Hogan strong.
“The tan was one aspect of it,” Bischoff said. It may be a small aspect to you and to the fans listening to this, but when you’ve got a talent that shows up and is totally not prepared or engaged, has had 12 or 16 months to get ready for this moment where we’re going to make this huge, huge change, in the direction of the company and the guy shows up like he just heard about the match 45 minutes ago. It tends to make you rethink your position… it makes you change your direction and it wasn’t because of a tan. It was because of a combination of a whole lot of things that suggested to us that this guy’s head as not in the game, which, by the way, Steve has admitted later, after the fact, due to the circumstances in his personal life. He was going through a lot of s–t and his head was not in the game. We recognized it and made a decision afterwards. That’s the truth.”
Check out the podcast here. If you use any of the quotations that appear in this article, please credit 83 Weeks With Eric Bischoff with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: 83 Weeks