The Stingers franchise was awarded in 1974 as part of the WHA's ill-conceived attempt at expansion. They entered the league for the 1975-76 season along with the Denver Spurs. Most of the league's existing teams were not financially stable, and franchise relocations were commonplace. The Stingers achieved enough stability that they were the only one of the WHA's five expansion teams that lasted through to the end of the league, but they were left out of the NHL–WHA merger in the summer of 1979. The WHA insisted on including all three of its surviving Canadian teams, though below-average attendance made it unlikely that the Stingers would have made the cut. The Stingers, along with the Birmingham Bulls, were paid to disband when the WHA ceased operations.
The Stingers were the first professional team of long-time NHL stars Mike Gartner and Mike Liut, and the second pro team for Mark Messier, who scored one goal on a line with Robbie Ftorek, one of the league's top scorers.
After the WHA shut down, a minor professional version of the Cincinnati Stingers began the 1979–80 season in the Central Hockey League (CHL). The CHL team included only three players from the 1978–79 WHA Stingers; Dave Debol, Byron Shutt and Paul Stewart, but disbanded 33 games into the season.
Stingers's attendance records were set three months apart in 1978. The record smallest crowd of 4,048 watched the home team beat the Houston Aeros, 5-3, on January 4th, and the record largest crowd of 13,951 saw a 2-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers on March 11.
In a 1978 episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, a Stingers sticker can be seen on the wall of Les Nessman's "office" (actually an open area with black masking tape on the floor, signifying where the office's walls would be), as well as a Stingers pennant hanging on the wall regularly.