In the last several weeks, the WWE Universe has been repeatedly condescended to by the "Self-professed Intellectual Savior of the Masses" Damien Sandow.
Sandow accuses fans on a weekly basis of being blissfully ignorant and insists that he has come to WWE to save them.
Honestly, I thought I was going to hate it, but it really is an effective gimmick. Superstars can draw cheap heat by insulting the local cuisine, tourist attractions (or lack thereof), or sports team, but the most effective way is simply to accuse the fans of being stupid, and proving it by being measurably more intelligent than them.
But beyond being a heat magnet, Sandow, as one of few Superstars with an actual gimmick, can do a lot of good. Perhaps he really can be a savior in a sense.
Some of the great feuds in the past were rife with symbolism, which made them easy to connect with. Undertaker vs. Hulk Hogan, for example, pitted Hogan's Christian faith against the very concept of death itself. It was an interesting and compelling allegory.
Similarly, Austin vs. McMahon pitted the foul-mouthed, beer-swilling everyman against his boss, the corporate juggernaut with immeasurable power and a penchant for injustice. Every fan could relate to the idea of hating their boss, and that connection formed the cornerstone of the Attitude Era.
Sandow, with his extensive lexicon and taste for the finer things in life, in addition to Handel's Hallelujah Chorus playing him to the ring, represents intellectualism. He is smug, self-satisfied, condescending and almost assuredly smarter than you, the average WWE fan.
On the most recent episode of Smackdown, Sandow sauntered to the ring for a match, but passed by Zack Ryder, who was filming the opening sequence for his show, Z! True Long Island Story. WWE, whether they meant to or not, had stumbled on a great idea.
Before they even said a word, I knew instantly, almost on a sub-conscious level, why Sandow would and should dislike a guy like Ryder, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. If Sandow represents intellectualism and enlightenment, then Zack Ryder, the fist-pumping, hair-spiking, YouTube Superstar represents every lowbrow, idiotic, senseless thing Sandow has come to WWE to eradicate.
Rather than a brief backstage interaction, why not get these guys in a proper angle with each other? Sandow is going to have to wrestle eventually. And with guys like Ryback, Brodus Clay, and Lord Tensai monopolizing the jobber squash market for the foreseeable future, Sandow needs to be introduced into a meaningful and logical feud right off the bat.
Zack Ryder is the man to go to. His career is in the toilet right now, let's be honest. It seems like the guy hasn't won a match in months. He needs a chance to shine again, and he can't do that without being given the resources in the form of promo time.
If Ryder and Sandow cross paths again, there needs to be a more meaningful interaction than a simple look of disgust from Sandow. If Ryder asks Sandow what his problem is, only to be ignored, he needs to press the issue and confront Sandow. After a thorough verbal upbraiding, Ryder should challenge Sandow to a match.
The other thing that makes feuds so great is juxtaposition. We're supposed to believe that smart is good and stupid (for lack of a better word) is bad. But Sandow, clearly the more intellectually gifted of the two, is the heel.
I can't stress enough, though, that if this feud were to take place, two things must happen. Ryder must not be made to look obviously stupid. Yes, he is less intelligent than Sandow, but it must be made clear that Ryder is not too stupid to live. He's just smart in a different way, and although he is easily grouped in with Jersey Shore, the club scene and other similar exploits, he's not necessarily an idiot.
Secondly, Ryder has to actually win some matches. It's tempting to feed him to Sandow as a sacrificial lamb for the purposes of boosting Sandow's credibility as a debuting Superstar, but this is a feud that has potential to go somewhere. This is pay-per-view quality stuff from two young mid-card talents, exactly what WWE has been missing for a while now. Ryder can re-establish some of his lost credibility with victories leading up to a match with Sandow, and even some victories over Sandow himself.
WWE seems to believe that losing destroys the credibility of a debuting character, but Sandow's gimmick largely exempts him from that. If he loses a match, at the end of the day he's still smarter, better looking and more enlightened than you, he'll reason, and he'll return armed with plenty of rationalizations about why he lost that will only serve to reinforce his status as the guy people love to hate.
WWE would do well to throw it back to a time when feuds had meaning and the symbolism was evident. Ryder vs. Sandow is a good way to get started.