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TNA Legends of the Ring
by yo go re

Since the WWF went national in the early '80s and became the premiere wrestling organization in the country, everybody who's anybody has worked for the company. Well, almost everybody. There's one major star who's never set foot inside Vince McMahon's ring: Steve Borden. But you know him better as...

The man known as Sting got his start in a small Tennesse promotion called the CWA, where he was in a tag team called Power Team USA. He was Flash, and his partner was Justice. When they failed to get over with the crowds, they turned heel and changed their name to the Blade Runners. Together they bounced around the southern conferences for a while, but when "Justice" left Texas, Sting stayed behind and started working on his own, turning face a year later. By 1988 he was working for the NWA (precursor to WCW) and feuding with Ric Flair. Together they fought to a 45-minute draw during Clash of the Champions, TBS's free counterprogramming to Wrestlemania IV - the match that put Sting on the map.

When Jakks Pacific lost the WWE license to Mattel, they wasted no time in picking up the TNA Wrestling license from ToyBiz. So far, their TNA toys have followed the same pattern as their WWE toys: a couple lines of current stars, and one line of old favorites. TNA Legends of the Ring is the equivalent of WWE Classic Superstars, but it also has access to NWA archives, meaning we can get wrestlers not covered by the history of WWE, WCW or ECW.

Jakks is still using the same generic bodies they used for WWE, so Sting fits right in with any of those you might have. He gets a fairly buff upper body, as he should, and is wearing long pants and high boots. Unfortunately, either Jakks' molds are really starting to show their age, or the factory is getting sloppy.

Do you know what a parting line is? It's the spot where the two halves of the mold press together. When plastic is injected to the mold, it can creep into this gap, leaving a line of "flash" around the parts. Whenever you look at a figure and see a seam (other than where pieces were glued together), that's where the parting line was. Sting suffers from a lot of molding flash all over his body. It's worst on the boots, but the torso and arms have it pretty blatantly, as well. We've honestly never seen it this bad on a modern toy from a major company like Jakks. If we had to guess, we'd say the fault lies with the age of the molds, because the head (a new piece) isn't nearly as bad: all it gets is a molding artifact on the jawline, and that sort of thing can vary from figure to figure anyway.

This figure is Sting from his "Venice Beach surfer" days, before he started imitating The Crow. He's got the bleached blonde brush-cut, and he's covered in facepaint (a gimmick started during the Blade Runners days, and one which both he and his ex-partner would use continually through their separate careers). The expression on his face is very plain - there's no energy there.

Sting never really had one defined "look" - it was always flashy colors and facepaint, but the details changed from week to week. This particular design, with orange boots, blue trunks with a scorpion on the right leg, and orange, black and blue facepaint, comes from a WCW photoshoot, which was also the basis for one of those large cardboard standups at some point. There's no way we can place the year, but this isn't just something Jakks made up. Honestly, Jakks could make 100 variations of this figure by doing nothing but changing the color of clothes and the design of the facepaint, and they would all be 100% accurate. That's probably why they went for such a normal face, so it would work in a variety of eras and settings.

Sting gets no accessories, but that's not unusual - so far the TNA figures aren't coming with the same kind of garbage the WWE toys had. This was at least a decade before he started carrying his trademark black baseball bat, too, so that wouldn't have been appropriate. The figure has the standard Jakks articulation: balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, hinged and swivel wrists, swivel waist and hips, and hinged knees and ankles. It's not the best thing ever, but it's on par with all the WWE Classic Superstars, and that's enough.

Despite a nearly 35-year career in the spotlight, Sting has always been very consistent: always near the top of the roster, and almost always a "face" (a good guy). Even when he was supposed to be a bit darker and unlikable, the fans still cheered him over everyone else. He's been called "the dumbest man in professional wrestling," but only because always being the face means always falling for the tricks of the heels; you're trusting, and therefore gullible. But he was smart enough to trademark the name "Sting" for a performer, which not only means that he gets to keep it wherever he goes, but also that Gordon Sumner has to pay him to use it.

He was the face of WCW right up until the end - in fact, the last WCW Monday Nitro match ever held pitted Sting against Ric Flair, and Sting was given the win. Since he was one of the only guys not making the jump over to the WWF, that's a great honor. Sting seems to be retired now, which would mean his string of not working for the WWE survived intact - and considering how Vince treated wrestlers who gained popularity without him, that is a very good thing.

-- 02/16/11

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