It was during TNA Impact Wrestling’s first anniversary show in 2003 that Sting made his surprising debut.
Rather than follow the same path of many of his other former WCW co-workers to WWE, the Icon decided to give the emerging company out of Nashville a chance.
Now as TNA celebrates 10 years in business, Sting finds himself in a world championship main event against Bobby Roode at Slammiversary 8 p.m. [EST] Sunday, June 10. Much like his career in WCW, Sting has remained loyal to TNA and really started believing in the product after making several early appearances.
“Spike was coming on board, and they were interested in my return to wrestling, along with [TNA President] Dixie Carter, Jeff Jarrett and even his father, Jerry, at the time,” Sting remembered during a recent conference call to promote the Slammiversary pay-per-view.
“It was just something that I said, ‘It’s now or never.’ I didn’t like the way wrestling ended in 2001 for me, so I took it on. I loved the brand. The difference between then and now [with TNA] was then you were in the [Nashville] Fairgrounds, which isn’t even there anymore, in front of ‘x’ amount of people, not very many.
“Now you are in 120 countries worldwide. We filled up the Wembley Arena earlier this year, which was phenomenal, unbelievable. The interest we have and ratings we have in other countries and growing here in the United States every year 10 years later, we are a growing company, and it feels good. Good growing pains.”
Sting recalled the first time walking through the curtain at the Fairgrounds and the Impact Zone at Universal Studios Orlando as almost life-changing events.
“It had been so long since I had been in the ring,” Sting said.
“You are wondering, ‘Have people forgotten who I am?’ Then when you get in there with the fans chanting, ‘You still got it.’ That to me was the defining moment.”
Sting worked with many of the top young stars in TNA over the years. Among them is his opponent on Sunday, Bobby Roode, who is the longest reigning heavyweight champion in company history.
“Bobby Roode, whether you love him or hate him or are indifferent, he brings it every single night,” Sting said. “He looks the part. He can work with anyone. He can have a great match with anyone. I think he carries himself well. I have personally pushed to keep him where he is. I poured into him. I think there is still some good fruit, and we are all witnessing it now.”
Despite being over 50, the face-painted veteran still maintains his performance level in the ring. That was evident in a recent match on TNA Impact Wrestling [8 p.m. EST Thursdays Spike TV]. It takes hard work.
“It is very difficult,” Sting said. “I was in the gym every day this week. Every time I have to work with a Bobby Roode or a Kurt Angle I’m trying to get that cardio in. I’ve got a trainer who I’ve been working with the last three months. We’ve made some huge strides into getting some more mobility and flexibility in my movements in my body, my knees, my back and the whole package. So I’m training a lot differently now.
“I’m probably training more consistent now and harder than I have in a long time, combined with eating the right way. I think that last Thursday night [May 31] I could tell there was a difference in the way I felt in the ring. I had lots of people and fans, including some of the wrestlers make comments. I think the next week it will be better. The next eight weeks, 16 weeks, I’m hoping to get back to where I was 15 years ago.”