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.

Got something to say about this match, or the project, or anything wrestling-related? Reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Ricky Steamboat & Sting vs. Rick Rude & Steve Austin (WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII, 1/21/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Ricky Steamboat & Sting vs. Rick Rude & Steve Austin (WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII, 1/21/92)

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

Let’s presume that, if you’re reading this, you join me in being a fan of the professional wrestling.

Now, if you’ve been a fan for a while, imagine going back and telling 10-years-ago you “one day, there will be SO MUCH wrestling available to watch that you’ll never be able to see it all. Much less just keep up with all of the current stuff that’s accessible online.”

“No way,” 10-years-ago you would say in response.

“Way,” current-times you would reply.

Anyhoo, one of the biggest benefits for me in doing this project is going back and watching some of the good stuff. The Four Pillars. Joshi. Old-school Portland wrestling. Et cetera, et cetera…

The Dangerous Alliance’s run occurred during one of those times when I wasn’t paying a ton of attention to wrestling. And so, I’m hitting some of the high points of their heyday — nearly 30 years later (!), no less. case in point: our match selection for January 21, with Ricky Steamboat and Sting joining forces against the Alliance pair of Rick Rude and Stunning Steve Austin from Clash of the Champions XVIII.

UPDATE: Now that Peacock has rights to the WWE Network, and migration of the archive remains inconsistent, none of the WCW Clash events have been uploaded as of April 27. Luckily, you can find this match on Dailymotion, or embedded below:

The Context

Since our last visit to WCW in 1992, the Dangerous Alliance have been busy little bees. Five days before this Clash, Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton just won the tag titles from Steamboat and Dustin Rhodes at a house show in Jacksonville. Rude remains the U.S. Champion. Austin still holds the TV Title. Yep, it seems as if everything’s coming up Milhouse for Paul E. and his crew of ne’er-do-wells.

Earlier on this show, Paul E. cuts a tremendous promo promising to cripple one of the fan favorites before the end of the night. Right before this match, Barry Windham, Ron Simmons, and Rhodes get the best of Arn, Eaton, and Larry Zbysko in a really fun six-man tag sprint you should check out after watching this match (or before… do what you want… I’m not your supervisor). Adding to the mix for this match is that Sting, while battling the Alliance, is also set to challenge Lex Luger for WCW’s World Title at Superbrawl the following month. Luger attacked Sting at the last Clash back in November, wrecking his knee and leaving him easy prey to drop the U.S. Title to Rude.

Also, in case you didn’t know, WCW ran these Clash of the Champions events as special supercards on free TV. In these days, marquee matches between stars on free TV were few and far between. Times definitely have changed now, on that end …

The Match

Adding Sting to the mix for this match definitely brings the crowd interest and enthusiasm to a different level. We have to wait to see Sting in action, though, as Steamboat and Austin start out. I always felt these two had outstanding chemistry with one another in the ring and I saw nothing different in this match to alter that opinion.

Rude goads Sting into the ring with a slap to the face that we miss because the camera cuts to a random crowd shot (oh, those WCW production values…) I always liked Rude because he has this pretty-boy gimmick but he wrestles like a longshoreman in the middle of a bar bawl, which, if you believe some of the stories about Rude, is pretty in line with his real-life attitude and persona.

What’s interesting about this match is that the traditional face-heel dynamic shifts. Sting and Steamboat, in an effort to get the better of the Alliance, stoop to the level of their opponents — whether that be with illegal switches of the legal man while referee Nick Patrick is distracted or Sting unleashing some back rakes on Rude. The match maintains a brisk pace throughout with control ebbing back and forth between both teams. Ultimately, the fan favorites prevail by bending the rules once more; Austin has Steamboat up for a slam when Sting leaps off with a flying cross body — Steamboat’s own signature move — and Sting and Steamboat stack up on Austin for the pin.

The Alliance get the upper hand, though. Rude delivers a pair of Rude Awakenings to Steamboat, then uses Dangerously’s own belt to start whipping “The Dragon.” Sting covers Steamboat with his own body (I’m always a sucker for that spot) while Paul E. and Austin lay waste to a bunch of local and enhancement wrestlers decked out in Security shirts. This battle is over, but the war is sure to continue …

Random Thoughts

-Watching Rick Rude sell atomic drops (be they regular or inverted) always is a delight. I’m not alone on this; there’s even a Twitter account dedicated to chronicling Rude’s sells of this variety.

Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura pair on commentary for this match in what marked Jesse’s debut with WCW. They’ve got good chemistry and work well together. Ventura was so good in the antagonist color commentary role.

-Unfortumately Superbrawl in 1992 happened on February 29, a Leap Day, and thus, absent from the 2021 calendar. Oh, the cruelty of it all …

Final Rating: 6.0

There’s lots to like about this match. It showcases four of the top talents in WCW at the time, in the midst of a heated feud centering on the Dangerous Alliance faction. It’s also a tantalizing glimpse at Steamboat and Sting as a team, something that WCW didn’t really explore during any period where both were on the roster. This is a good match that is definitely worth watching, but I honestly preferred the six-man involving other members of the Alliance on this same cCash card.

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

What’s Next

An All Japan mainstay and a master of the mist welcome a pair of visitors from Badstreet.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.