The enigmatic man they call Sting (real name: Steve Borden) is pretty transparent when you ask him an honest question. Days before his first-ever WWE World Heavyweight Championship title shot, against incumbent Seth Rollins, he’s happy to discuss any suspicions about his character development up to this point, and just how directly he’s influenced it. The 56-year-old former face of WCW and TNA, now in his second calendar year of improbable employ for Vince McMahon and Co., is also pretty open about Jesus and a relentless gym routine keeping him from falling apart.
How it all comes together at Sunday’s Night of Champions remains a mystery. In the meantime, Sting helped us clarify how this unexpected feud with Rollins came to pass, whether fans should worry themselves about him putting HHH (or anyone else) over and how he determines which side of the versatile vigilante – i.e. silent assassin or merry prankster – we see from week to week.
Was it an expressed desire of yours to not just go up against WWE legends like HHH, but also some of the younger stars?
To be straight with you, no. Although, man, if presented to me, I would wanna walk through that door, because there’s so many new, young, incredibly talented people – Seth being the best, I believe, as far as creativity and innovation in the ring. So you just can’t get much better than this. It’s just the nature of our business. Everything is always subject to change, and you never know what’s gonna happen next. It was unexpected for me too, but again, the door opened, and I chose to walk through it.
Has it been difficult to sell the rivalry in such a short period of time?
I suppose I could say yes or no, although I think it gets washed away, because the truth of the matter is Seth is the man right now in the WWE. He has a lot of respect from wrestling fans because of his ability to carry a storyline as well, so it’s not just me. It’s him. I will plug myself in and try to enhance it and make things as unbelievable as I possibly can.
A lot of fans felt like your Raw promo a few weeks back ‘put Triple H over’ at the expense of yourself and your feud with Rollins. How do you respond to that?
I don’t pay attention a lot of times to what’s out there, so this is the first time I’m hearing any news of that. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s going to carry all that to Night of Champions and think about that, because the bottom line is, my focus is Seth Rollins. Triple H is Triple H, and he’s worth the put-over.
Are you coming up with your own promo material now or is it more collaborative to help facilitate the story?
I’m working collaboratively, but there’s no one looking over my shoulder making sure this or that is being said. I am definitely allowed to ad-lib and be Sting.
Should you lose at Night of Champions, does it paint a picture that you were brought to WWE primarily to put others over rather than enhance your own legacy?
I had my time. There’s no question about that. For a guy my age to be where I am right now is, to me, next to impossible. And yet, I’m here. It’s not about Sting, not anymore. You’re asking a straight-up question, I’ll give ya a straight-up answer. That’s it, and I am just fine with that.
You mentioned your age. At 56, is it a challenge to keep performing at a high level? Do you find yourself working out and wondering, ‘What the hell am I doing?’
You said it. I try to get that heart rate up and keep it up for as long as I can, and that’s exactly what I’m doing, and hitting the weights at the same time. When I’m right in the middle of it [mimics heavy panting], I’m like, “What did I get to myself into?” And then I finish and I realize, “OK, I’m improving, and by the 20th, I’ll be ready.”
You’ve presented the serious, stoic Sting in this rivalry, but also the so-called ‘Joker Sting‘ as well. Is the idea to demonstrate all the different ways your character can play mind games?
I suppose it is. This is one of the things I always try to tell the younger guys when they ask for advice. I try to tell them to step outside of their comfort zones, try something different. “Joker Sting” – some people loved it, some people hated it. To this day, some people say, “I wish you’d go back to the blond flat-top haircut.” Don’t have enough hair anymore for that. That ain’t gonna happen. No more neon colors. And some people just want the Crow, and, “Oh, just go up to the rafters, we wanna see that again.” You can’t please everybody all the time, that’s for sure, and I can’t say that I have blown it or failed over the years by trying different things and trying to evolve and show different sides of my character. Hopefully, it’s working.
In your mind, what’s the secret to maintaining relevancy, and being more than just a nostalgia act at this stage of your career?
I know the nostalgia that comes into play is huge, and I thank God I was able to get to a certain status and maintain it for as many years as I have. If [fans] see a work ethic in the ring, somebody who year in, year out, through injuries, stuck it out… it’s almost like they don’t wanna say goodbye. The nostalgic part of the whole deal is maybe what drives it. Aside from that, it’s longevity and continuing to try. Taker does the same thing. He’s evolved over the years, but he still has the same characteristics always. My character’s the same way.
How have you avoided the degeneration in health and quality of life that’s sadly become commonplace when wrestlers age?
Taking care of yourself physically, obviously. Taking care of your body and not putting in the wrong stuff. Too many of the guys put in the wrong stuff, and I’m not just talking about food – I mean alcohol, drugs, steroids and all that. There’s a new breed of guys now, and they’re smarter than we were [and] taking care of themselves. And for me, it’s my faith also. I believe in God. Jesus Christ is my lord and savior, and this is what, to me, works.
Considering the demands on your time and health, do you have any regrets about signing with WWE?
It has been gratifying. After 30 years, I’ve learned to really appreciate the fans and the wrestlers and everybody in the whole industry a lot more. I held off on doing [public appearances] until WWE, and now I’m picking and choosing some things that I’m doing here and there, Comic-Cons and whatever. And the fans are so respectful, so there’s a much higher level of appreciation now than there ever was.
So does that mean we’ll see you becoming more engaged with fans on social media?
[Laughs] Is there anything sacred in this world anymore? I don’t care where so-and-so had lunch today. Social media’s always been hard for me. I’ve always been a private guy. I suppose there’s gonna come a day, and it probably will be soon, that I think I will be. But as long as I’m still in the ring, doing my thing, it’s just hard for me.