Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sting: Into the Light

To honor the man they call Sting’s WWE Hall of Fame induction a couple months ago, today I am covering last year’s release put out by WWE Home Video, Sting: Into the Light (trailer). Sting has only been under contract with WWE for a year and a half, and Into the Light marks his second WWE Home Video release. In early 2015 WWE rushed out The Best of Sting, which is mostly a collection of matches and recycled interview clips from Sting early in his WCW career. Into the Light on BluRay has 20 new matches in this collection on top of a career-spanning feature length documentary.

As I mentioned in many past entries on this blog I am a fan of WWE’s documentaries as they are usually pretty thorough and do their best to highlight most key moments of a career. Sting’s clocks in at 75 minutes on the disc, and while it does hit most of his big moments and marches along at a brisk pace, it could have easily went to two hours and cover more of his big feuds throughout his career. It is worth noting the Into the Light documentary is available on the WWE Network for all subscribers, but for whatever reason the version available on the network is 20 minutes shorter than the version on the BluRay.

The documentary has an overall theme every couple of chapters when it jumps to modern-day Sting in a car on his first trip to WWE Headquarters in Connecticut and touring the building and meeting with Triple H and other top WWE officials. Aside from these mini-chapter breaks, the last half hour of the documentary focuses on his first several months in the WWE where he made his debut at Survivor Series 2014 all the way through to his big match against Triple H at Wrestlemania 31. This is obviously a big transition and the biggest moment of his career, but to dedicate nearly half the documentary to just his latest few months in the business and the other half to his previous 20 years in the business is simply absurd.

If you were curious to how WWE was going to address Sting competing in TNA Wrestling for nine years from 2005-2014, they did what I expected and have Sting give it a brief mention by saying he spent some time competing over there before moving right along. I do not blame them for not going in depth about his career there since TNA is still a competing promotion and WWE does not own any of the rights to their footage (yet). That is too bad because I would have loved to see Sting comment about some prime TNA memories like Kurt Angle beating up his son and the Stinger running amok as “Joker” Sting.

The documentary quickly moves through Sting’s childhood years before moving along to how he got into bodybuilding which was how he met up with Jim Hellwig/Warrior and how they formed a tag team to break into the wrestling business in the mid-80s. Seeing some of this vintage old-school footage of Sting & Warrior teaming in Memphis Wrestling and Mid-South/UWF in the mid-80s was a trip to take in just because of how green both Sting & Warrior were at the time. Make sure to check out the extras as there are a couple early matches of Warrior & Sting teaming up where they do nearly nothing for practically the entire match, and even the announcers call them out for how new they are to the business. While the matches are admittedly ugly, they are fun in a nostalgic way just to see how far they have come since. The documentary did a great job in this early-years portion of Sting’s career by including interviews relative to this timeframe with Warrior shortly before he passed away, Jerry Lawler, and Warrior’s replacement partner in Mid-South, Rick Steiner!

Sting was most famous for his NWA/WCW run from 1988-2001, and the documentary covers it as best as it could in about a half hour. A decent amount of time was spent how Sting modified his look into the bleach blond/spiked up hair “surfer” Sting look and how he quickly moved up the ranks of WCW before emerging as a headliner in a big match against Ric Flair at the first Clash of the Champions. I will give props to the filmmakers for including interviews here with Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Rick Steiner, DDP, Ron Simmons, Goldberg, Vader, Jim Ross and Big Show to give a good consensus on how Sting had “it” and how he was a natural fan-favorite throughout his WCW career.

There is a fun jump to current-day Sting going through boxes of his old merchandise in his barn to relive some old WCW stories you do not want to miss. He uses them as a nice transition to reinventing his character and becoming the black and white ”Crow” Sting during the Monday Night Wars era of WCW. The WCW portion of his career in the documentary wraps up by going in depth about the year-long build to fight Hulk Hogan at Starrcade ’97 and how backstage politics ruined the finish of the match. Sting kind of goes on to say how backstage in WCW in ’98 was a bad time in his life and lead to him becoming a born again Christian. That comes full circle at the end of the documentary where it concludes on how Sting remarried and interviews family and friends that are part of the church he attends to end the feature on a happy note.

I am relieved the documentary ends there so I did not have to re-watch Sting’s career-ending neck injury against Seth Rollins at the Night of Champions 2015 event that ended his wrestling days. I enjoyed how the documentary showed a few shots of Sting’s home life on his ranch and I got a better idea of how Sting is in a good place in his personal life now. It gave a legit look at the real Sting outside of wrestling and just hearing him reminisce while digging up old merchandise and while building a bonfire gave a authenticity to his candid thoughts on the business. Make sure to check out nearly 30 minutes of bonus feature stories/deleted scenes that did not make the final cut of the feature. There are a few fun tales to check out here like fun pranks with Lex Luger and Rick Steiner, Sting admitting how he did not have the best promo skills, protein shake tips with the Stinger and Sting playing the latest WWE videogame, WWE 2K15 with the game press award winning member, Greg Miller.

As far as the 20 extra matches on Into the Light goes, I feel they have a really good variety covering all the key eras of Sting. As I mentioned above there are three matches you must watch from his early tag team days in Memphis & Mid-South just to see how raw Sting was back then. Nearly all his WCW matches feature hot crowds that you can tell are definitely behind Sting no matter how good or bad the actual matches are. Sting’s 45-minute time limit draw with Flair on the first Clash of Champions features a fair amount of rest holds, but the two pros had the crowd in the palm of their hands every time Sting teased a comeback and especially in the final several minutes when the action heated up.

Other noteworthy surfer-Sting era matches included are when he teams with Luger against the Steiners in a tag bout where everyone was on Sting said in the documentary this was a match he was very proud of. There is the modern day equivalent of an I Quit match in 1991 against Cactus Jack that turned into a great hybrid of wrestling and brawling all over the arena. There is an intense “against all odds” match against Vader from Slamboree ’94 where the two slug it out and Sting has to overcome the brute that is Vader and interference from his manager, Harley Race. There is also a really good back-and-fourth match on here against then “Stunning” Steve Austin in his final months with the company in 1995.

There are a lot of good match ups from the Nitro years on here which fall into a pattern of a lot of good wrestling, but a lousy DQ finish to the match to make you pay for the ultimate payoff at the monthly PPV. Matches on here that follow that formula are a rare hero vs. hero encounter against Hulk Hogan in ’95, a surprisingly good bout against Goldberg in ’98 and a really good battle against Bret Hart in ’99. Only exception to that rule is when Sting won the WCW World Title from Diamond Dallas Page on an April ’99 episode of Nitro in an excellent PPV quality match with a clean finish. This was my first time reliving that match since I attended it live at the Fargodome 17 years ago, and it brought back an incredible rush witnessing a rare World Title change they usually save for PPVs.

The matches part of this collection close off with his WWE debut where he came out in the closing moments of the Survivor Series 2014 main event and facing Triple H at Wrestlemania 31. If you own the BluRay though you get a little over an hour of exclusive extras featuring four matches and two Sting promos from WWE last year. A couple of those matches on here follow the above-mentioned Nitro formula of a crummy ending with otherwise-really good wrestling against Brian Pillman, a pre-Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner, and teaming with Dusty Rhodes against the Four Horsemen. The only BluRay exclusive match with a shenanigans-free finish is against Booker at Spring Stampede 2000 (this was when Booker T was in a storyline where he was robbed of the “T” part of his name, thank you Russo!).

This is the Sting collection you want from WWE. While The Best of Sting has the edge in quantity and quality of matches featured, there is still a solid round-up of Sting’s best matches on Into the Light. More importantly for newer fans you definitely want to see the documentary for why Sting has meant so much to the business, and for long-term fans it is a nice quick Cliff’s Notes refresher on his career.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unrealeased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
RoH Supercard of Honor IX
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
Wrestlemania 31
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015

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