Over the last few weeks, wrestling fans have felt a variety of emotions from anger to fear to outrage to despair due to TNA’s booking of senior stars Hulk Hogan and Sting. The non-wrestler Hogan appears in more segments than Steve Austin during the Monday Night War, and “The Icon” Sting (by the way, isn’t the nickname “The Icon” just a nice way of saying “old guy”?) has singlehandedly neutralized a gang of big, scary bikers and become number one contender to the World Heavyweight Title after cleanly defeating a man twice his size and twice his speed.
I’ve had since October of 2009 to get off the fence, and I’m finally ready to say it: Hulk Hogan isn’t putting anyone over in TNA. He will continue to promise (or threaten) to take every Tom, Dick, and Joey Ryan to “a whole ‘nother level,” but we will never look back at the history of Impact Wrestling and fondly marvel, “Remember when Hogan made that guy?”
On the other hand, I believe there is still hope for Sting to have one more big moment and give something meaningful back to the company that’s pushed his greatness and touted his legacy even harder than WCW ever did. Call me crazy, but I see Sting as the Obi-Wan Kenobi of TNA. How is Sting like old Ben Kenobi, you ask?
- He’s old. It’s obvious, but both men have all the positives and negatives of age. They’re simultaneously worn down and venerable.
- He’s still willing to fight for what’s right, in spite of his obviously reduced skills.
- He has ties to a legendary but largely eliminated order of heroes. Sting is to NWA main event stars as Obi-Wan Kenobi is to Jedi Knights.
- He’s hanging around to correct a personal mistake. Kenobi trusted Anakin; Sting trusted Bully Ray.
- The most meaningful thing he has left to give is to help elevate a young learner.
Yes, he’s at least one decade past his prime and lacks the energy that made him special when he was so, so special, but he still has one last battle in him – the one where Darth Vader kills him.
It doesn’t have to be an exciting, dramatic battle – in fact, it shouldn’t be. Ben Kenobi’s duel with Vader is short, stiff and mechanical. The point isn’t to show that Kenobi is a legendary fighter (which TNA constantly attempts to do with Sting), but rather an old man who knows he will lose but believes it’s the right time to bow out and pass the fight to the now-mostly-ready younger generation.
If Obi-Wan never dies, Luke never goes to Dagobah and trains with Master Yoda. He never becomes the self-assured, self-reliant Skywalker who walks into Jabba the Hutt’s palace with only his lightsaber and his wits. Luke becomes the biggest babyface in the galaxy because his security blanket isn’t there anymore.
There is still a great moment out there for Sting. Only one moment, though – his last. For three or four years, it’s felt like TNA has been searching for the right angle to build Sting up to gigantic, heroic stature. The problem, however, is that they’re casting him in a role he can’t and shouldn’t play. Turn off the tractor beam, get squashed by Darth Vader, and vanish. That’s it.
Then, every babyface in the company has a shot to grow into Luke Skywalker – fighting Vader to avenge their old mentor and discovering more about themselves and their true power as they go. That’s storytelling. That’s wrestling.