Big Van Vader vs. Sting (WCW SuperBrawl II 2/21/93)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by GUTHRIE over on my Ko-fi account.

It’s the back blood one.

About halfway through the bout after dropping to the floor and taking a big lashing from the Stinger, Vader’s down on the concrete trying to recover as Harley Race hovers by his side. Watching it back now knowing what’s to come, it’s clear to me that Race is there to cut up Vader’s back for him so we get that real gruesome image. It’s such a striking thing because we just don’t get that kind of bloodletting from the back outside of deathmatch wrestling.

It’s not even the last bit of blood we get in the bout. Later on, after absorbing some of Vader’s trademark punches and clubbing blows, Sting gets a bit of a trickle in as well. Not an especially great bladejob from our hero, but still just enough to add a little more color to this bout.

It speaks to the level of violence that comes forth from this match in comparison to their past encounters.

These two always did their best with the classic babyface/monster dynamic which doesn’t always need the most overt violence to make it work. In fact, in their first two matches, it’s really more a test of both strategy and wills as Sting struggles to wear down the big man and exploit all openings until he finally falls. Here, we get something more direct. Not lacking the substance of their best work at all, but definitely reliant on a more elemental kind of violence, two massive forces just crashing into each other at full speed.

The best moments are the simplest ones. Sting getting absolutely rocked in the corner, and how that pays off beautifully in the final moments with that vicious flurry of punches that drop Vader in the corner as well. Sting’s not someone I often associate with top tier punches, but when he’s laying it in, the smacks of flesh just audible on the camera, and bringing that big man down to his ass, he feels like a hero right out of mythology. Fuck yeah, Stinger, get him.

As viscerally satisfying as those raw moments of conflict are, the minds at work are clear here too. In particular the stipulation itself demands a lot of thought from these two. The best part about it how they work it though is that you almost never see the gears turning in their minds, they’re both just clever enough to make everything feel spontaneous and true. Early in the match, it’s not weird for Vader to soak in and gloat when he gets Sting down to the mat. The viewer doesn’t even register that the strap is right between his legs. So when Sting yanks hard and groins Vader repeatedly on the strap, it’s every bit the surprise it should be, and draws our admiration towards Sting’s cleverness even when using something of an underhanded attack.

There’s so many tricks of construction like that sprinkled throughout. Things like Sting getting yanked repeatedly by strap, only then learning to anticipate it later on to hit a spinning kick on the big man. Or take for example how when Vader goes to touch the corners, he’s hauling Sting’s carcass around the canvas. But when Sting tries for the same, he hoofs the big man right onto his shoulders in an infinitely cooler and more admirable means of achieving the same effect. Those are the smarter touches that elevate the more obvious viciousness throughout.

It really just is a fantastic Sting babyface performance. Not just the fire, but also the Steamboat rule manifesting in the smallest ways like clinging to the ropes with his legs to try and stop Vader from getting to the corners. That mix of pure determination and cleverness that speaks to why so many point to this time of Sting’s career as an almost proto-Cena run.

It is not entirely perfect. There’s opportunity for those strap shots to get laid in a bit more, the finish can feel deflating and anti-climactic though I’d argue it’s better for Vader to have fallen ass backwards into this win than getting another big defining victory over Sting. Heroes win, heels squeak by, even the monsters.

Predictably great in a series so powerful, any ranking of the three feels true and right.

IS IT BETTER THAN 6/3/94? It’s a little closer on this watch than the last. 6/3/94 benefits from having that incredibly impactful finish behind it—a real decisive climax, one of those rare epics that concludes at the exact peak of the danger and excitement. That being said, I’d argue that Sting/Vader here put in a little more thought for all the smaller moments than Kawada and Misawa did. The King’s Road bout feels much more cleanly structured, but the strap match here occasionally taps into something a little more raw and vibrant.

It is close enough though that I’m willing to pick the neatness of the King’s Road match here, but my thoughts might change with the winds on this particular comparison.

King’s Road for now.

Rating: ****1/2

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