365 Wrestling, Day 52: White Castle of Fear, Sting vs. Big Van Vader (WCW, 2/21/93)

365 Wrestling, Day 52: White Castle of Fear, Sting vs. Big Van Vader (WCW, 2/21/93)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Certain combinations of wrestlers just bring out the best in one another. One of those magic pairings, in my opinion, is Sting and Vader.

In his book, Vader Time, Vader (whose real name was Leon White) had high praise for the Stinger, describing him as “one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

“We never had a bad match, ever,” Vader added in the book. “He knew how to sell for me, he knew how to come back, and we got to know each other very well.”

Lasting for about a year, the feud between Sting and Vader is one of my personal favorites, even though it didn’t yield big box-office success for WCW. In today’s entry for 365 Wrestling, we take a look at a match I missed from their rivalry: the White Castle of Fear from Superbrawl III.

The Context

Sting and Vader first crossed paths in the spring of 1992, with Vader going after Sting’s WCW World Title. Vader won the title at the Great American Bash in 1992, then finally bested Vader at Starrcade that year in the King of Cable tournament. By early 1993, Vader had regained the title from the man who took it from him — Ron Simmons — and saw Sting as his greatest threat. And so the champion challenged Sting to an unsanctioned match at Superbrawl, looking to remove his greatest competition.

But not just any challenge. The video sums up things better than any words can …

The Match

Wrestling changes and evolves like any artistic medium and one of those changes has been the use, or absence, of blood. It’s been well more than a decade since WWE intentionally used blood in matches, although All Elite Wrestling definitely has shown no qualms about employing crimson as a storytelling device. In the case of this match, the use of blood as a storytelling device significantly elevates the entire tale being told.

After an early few minutes where Vader has the upper hand (a departure from the traditional wrestling match structure where the fan favorite controls the opening), Sting gains control and starts delivering some shots across the back with the leather strap. Vader rolls to the floor, where his manager Harley Race goes to check on Vader… and blades his back. The cut keeps bleeding for the remainder of the match, and serves as a fantastic early sign of the viciousness the strap can unleash.

Later, Sting is bloodied following a withering-looking array of strikes in the corner by Vader. “He’s bleeding!” Race crows from ringside, exhorting the champion. Given Vader’s reputation for being incredibly stiff in matches, it’s hard to say whether the punches are worked, legitimate, or whether Sting’s rubber-legged stagger is selling or genuine.

Sting’s comeback elicits the third and final use of blood in the match. I’ve always felt Sting was underrated as a wrestler, and his incredible, fiery comeback here serves as good evidence for my stance. He turns the tide with a rolling kick, followed by a German suplex, then unleashes a brutal series of punches battering Vader into the corner. To this point, Vader has been built as the massive, unstoppable force in WCW and Tony Schiavone on commentary responds with the appropriate amount of shock and awe. Vader blades again, this time on his left ear — the chief target of Sting’s punches. As it turns out, Vader cut too deep, actually severing an artery.

Sting meanwhile throws Vader up onto his shoulder and begins to circumnavigate the ring in an attempt to touch all four ringposts in succession and win the match. While en route to the fourth and final corner, he trips over referee Nick Patrick — bumped a few moments earlier and Vader comes crashing down on Sting.

There’s been a healthy debate through the years about the finish of the match; some feel it ruins the whole match. I actually liked it. After weathering pummeling and punishment from his massive opponent, Sting makes his last-ditch attempt to finish things with his Herculean lift-and-carry of the 450-pound Vader. When this falls short, Sting is drained and has nothing left. Vader drags Sting around the ring, touching three of the four corners, but Sting shows the requisite amount of fight to deny Vader the fourth corner. Ultimately, Sting’s desperation kicks knock Vader sprawling backwards into the corner, ending the match. Sting loses, but if perception is reality, it’s the champion who looks like the loser given his battered and bloody condition, especially considering this is Vader’s touted specialty match and he fails spectacularly in his attempt to eliminate Sting for good..

Random Thoughts

–This pay-per-view was historically significant for WCW as it marked the return of Ric Flair, who made an appearance just 11 days after leaving the WWF.

–Schiavone and Jesse Ventura are on the call for this show, and they show good chemistry and teamwork playing off of one another.

–One of my favorite pieces of “window dressing” in this match occurs early, when Sting is lashing Vader with the strap and the camera catches some grandmother in the crowd screaming “Hit him!” repeatedly. You won’t find that in the Thunderdome…

Final Rating: 8.2

I’ve seen this discussed as the best strap match ever and I have to agree with that. The video building up this match might be the height of early 1990s schlock, but Vader and Sting work some magic here. The level of violence here was unexpected, welcome, and, as mentioned, assisted by the use of blood as a storytelling device. This is a great match you should definitely watch if you’d missed it in the last 28 years, as I had.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

Up Next

We’re staying in WCW, (and breaking the “rules”) but jumping ahead six years for a battle between the Sharpshooter and the Spinarooni.

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