To borrow a famous poetry passage from Robert Frost, Steve "Sting" Borden has taken the road less traveled.
And for TNA Wrestling, that has made all the difference.
After 26 years as one of the industry's top stars, Borden had a golden opportunity to make his WWE debut at "Wrestlemania 27" earlier this month. A source said that Borden was offered the chance to either wrestle The Undertaker or appear in a world-championship match with induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012. The fact "Wrestlemania 27" was being held in Atlanta -- home base for the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling when Sting was that company's flagship performer -- made the proposal even sweeter.
But unlike every other major WCW headliner from the 1990s, Borden once again rebuffed WWE and re-signed with TNA.
"I'm not going to lie to you -- who wouldn't want to say that they did 'Wrestlemania' at least one time?" Borden said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "It's the ultimate event in wrestling. It's still in the back of my mind that there's a chance of it happening someday, somehow. I think time may have run out completely now, but who knows?
"The timing couldn't have been better (to work 'Wrestlemania'), but I'm glad it turned out the way it did."
Borden has publicly said mistrust about how his character would be portrayed by WWE owner Vince McMahon played into his decision. Borden also cited "personal reasons that I don't want to talk about" during our Tuesday interview.
Borden's decision, though, was as much about his affinity for TNA as it was trepidation about joining WWE.
Once a contract dispute was settled and he signed a new deal, TNA immediately made Sting its world champion last month during his first match back on television since October 2010. Borden hopes his name value and grappling persona help TNA continue to expand its visibility in the WWE-dominated marketplace.
"Deep in my heart, I wasn't fulfilled. My mission was not accomplished with TNA," said Borden, who joined the company in 2006 after what was essentially a five-year retirement following WCW's demise. "It was like with WCW. I just hated the idea after all these years that I put in that this was the way it was going to end.
"I go back to when (TNA) was just this little company doing stuff out of the fairgrounds in Nashville. Now we're in 120 countries. I'd like the story to continue to grow."
TNA also enticed Borden with a renewal of his sweetheart contract. For a hefty six-figure salary, Borden only has to appear on television tapings for "TNA Impact" (9 p.m. EDT Thursdays, Spike TV) and pay-per-view shows.
Borden laughed when asked if he had the best deal in pro wrestling.
"After 20-something years, is that OK?" he said. "(Hulk) Hogan is in a similar boat. The difference between me and him is that he's not in the ring. Lord willing, I hope he gets back in there. But here I still am at the age of 52 bouncing around. Some of the other guys in WWE have the same deal like The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels before he left.
"After a while, some of us just can't hold it together anymore. I think I'm doing a pretty good job holding on."
Borden is essentially working on a year-to-year basis, but still has goals he would like to fulfill. Among them are farewell shows in the cities where he had his most famous bouts, a wrestling tour of Europe and matches to try and help elevate TNA's younger talent.
"It's amazing how many guys come up to me and say, 'I wanted to become a pro wrestler because of you. Before you're done, I want to wrestle you one time,' " said Borden, who debuted in 1985 as part of a tag team with Jim "Ultimate Warrior" Hellwig known as the Blade Runners.
There is one bout with a younger-generation star that Borden would like to forget. Numerous pro-wrestling news outlets have reported that Jeff Hardy was impaired when stepping into the ring to fight Sting on last month's "Victory Road" pay-per-view.
As a result, TNA changed its headline finish on the fly by having Sting pin Hardy in 90 seconds of what can barely be described as a match. The situation was so embarrassing that TNA even offered free Internet programming to fans who ordered the show and felt scammed by the abbreviated outcome.
Hardy, who has a history of substance abuse, hasn't appeared on TNA programming since. But TNA never offered a public explanation of what transpired, which has left some fans still puzzled by the result.
Borden said the situation left a "bad taste" in his mouth.
"On my first pay-per-view back with TNA and my first world-title match, are you kidding me?" Borden said. "I was already trying to overcome the 'Oh, they didn't put (the title) on him again did they? He's a dinosaur' stuff, and then you add, 'What just happened?' I know everyone's first reaction was, 'Wow, they're really trying to get Sting over (to the fans) so much now that it's ridiculous. They've totally ruined Jeff Hardy.'
"You know the real scoop. This is not what I wanted. I had something really good planned out and was ready to have an incredible match with Jeff that night. I'm very disappointed and hurt. So is everyone else."
Borden promises that he and TNA will make amends on Sunday night's "Lockdown" pay-per-view emanating from Cincinnati. Sting wrestles Rob Van Dam and Mr. Anderson in the main event of a card where every bout will be fought inside a steel cage.
"The ripple effect of that (Hardy) match is bigger than you can imagine," Borden said. "It's still hitting. We have to -- I have to -- deliver at 'Lockdown.' It's got to be an outstanding match. I'm doing my very best to get ready."
Kurt Angle vs. Jeff Jarrett, Mickie James vs. Madison Rayne and The Pope vs. Samoa Joe are other featured bouts on "Lockdown." For more information, visit www.tnawrestling.com.