Sting returned to singles matches in 1989, starting the year off by wrestling Flair to a one-hour draw in Atlanta's Omni on New Year's Day. He would also have his first experience in Japan with a brief tour in All Japan Pro Wrestling , with his most notable match in AJPW against Dan Spivey on January 25. After a long push, Sting won his first title in the NWA when he defeated Rotundo for the NWA Television Championship at a live event in March.  Sting defended the Television title actively but tended to face sub-par challengers such as The Iron Sheik . In mid-1989, The Great Muta challenged Sting at The Great American Bash . The match was booked with a classic, controversial Dusty finish even though Rhodes (the namesake of the technique) had been fired months earlier. Sting got the three-count and was announced as the winner, but a replay showed Muta's shoulder was up at the count of two. The NWA decided to declare the title vacant.  Sting and Muta battled in many rematches for the vacant Television title, but they always ended in disqualification, giving neither man the championship. Eventually, Muta won a No Disqualification match against Sting at a live event in September by using a blackjack to get the win and the title.
WWE helped promote it through an on-screen angle (a fictional storyline used in wrestling). This involved the heel Chris Jericho criticizing legendary retired wrestlers such as Ric Flair , who he felt were embarrassing themselves, as well as Mickey Rourke for his portrayal in The Wrestler . At the 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards , Rourke announced he would be competing at WrestleMania XXV , specifically targeting Jericho.  The announcement led to a confrontation between the two on Larry King Live , which showed signs of second thoughts from Rourke.  On January 28, it was announced through Rourke's spokesperson that the actor would not compete at the event,  and he was soon after announced instead as a guest.