Damien Sandow has only been on the WWE’s main roster for six months now, but he’s already well on his way to becoming a big-time star.
Everything about the guy screams main-eventer—his look, his wrestling ability, his mic work and, perhaps most importantly, his gimmick.
I think that in a pro wrestling world where almost nothing is a given, it’s pretty much a given that Sandow will be at or near the top of the WWE in the near future. Like with anyone else, though, he’s going to need something—or someone—to help him get there.
We might not see it right now, but that someone may ultimately turn out to be none other than the man we love to hate, John Cena.
Although Cena has never been known for “putting other stars over” a la Chris Jericho, he has somewhat quietly turned into someone who serves as a catalyst to help rising heels get (or try to get) over.
This hasn’t really resulted in Cena losing to up-and-comers a whole lot, but it has resulted in Cena feuding with them in what may be a direct and discrete way to propel them to the top.
Just think about all the guys that Cena has feuded with over the years, where those guys were on the card before their feud with Cena and where the WWE was hoping they would get by feuding with “The Champ.”
When Cena was in the early phase of his seemingly never-ending run at the top in 2007, he found himself feuding with Randy Orton in a long-running rivalry that would extend well into 2009. Though Orton was already a big name at the time as well, his lengthy feud with Cena helped solidify him as a top guy.
In late 2009, a surprising twist in booking then led Cena to a WWE Championship feud with then-rookie Sheamus, who hadn’t even been on the main roster for six months. In what was one of the biggest shockers in recent memory, Sheamus would go on to defeat Cena in a Tables Match at WWE TLC in December of that year to win his first World title.
A relatively unknown rookie, Sheamus got his first big break in pro wrestling by feuding with Cena, beating him in the biggest match of his career and setting the stage for a magical run that has turned him into one of the WWE’s biggest stars.
Fast forward to late 2010, when Cena found himself involved with The Nexus and its leader, Wade Barrett. Barrett was an unproven rookie at the time, but he was paired with Cena in a long rivalry/angle that was meant, at least partially, to turn him into a star.
While Barrett may not have immediately won a World title or even earned himself a permanent spot in the main event, it was his feud with Cena that introduced him to the masses and turned him into someone who was labeled as a star of the future.
Not long after Cena’s feud with Barrett ended, he did essentially the same thing for The Miz.
Though their feud was a pretty lopsided one in which Cena was booked very strongly, it was, and still is, the absolute biggest rivalry of The Miz’s career. It led him to the main event of WrestleMania 27 against Cena and, ultimately, the main event of Survivor Series where he faced The Rock in his first match in roughly seven years.
Say what you want about Cena, but even though he doesn’t necessarily put rising stars over, he helps them transform from rising stars to bona fide superstars.
Want another example? Then look at CM Punk.
Yes, Punk is where he is at today (at the top of the WWE) in large part because he’s arguably the best all-around talent in all of pro wrestling. But you’re kidding yourself if you think that his 2011 rivalry with Cena didn’t help him reach the pinnacle of the WWE.
When Punk was breaking out last year, it was his feud with Cena that gave him that extra boost to ensure that he’d reach the mountaintop. After two absolutely phenomenal matches with Cena at Money in the Bank and SummerSlam, it was solidified: Punk would remain a top guy for the rest of his career.
The success that Punk and Cena had together in 2011 led them to “reunite” in 2012, as they are currently in the midst of the WWE’s biggest rivalry, which has already resulted in a fantastic match at Night of Champions and is sure to give us another whenever they meet again.
I know that Cena gets a lot of hate because he’s booked to be unbeatable, but even when that’s the case, he’s also booked to take upper-midcarders, strap a rocket on their backs and take them to the Promised Land.
He did it with Sheamus, Barrett, The Miz and, to a lesser extent, Orton and Punk. It’s safe to say that he’ll do it again.
And when he does, I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy he elevates to the next level winds up being Damien Sandow.
In a very short span on the main roster, Sandow has been ridiculously impressive. But when his tag team run with Cody Rhodes ends, and he’s ready to break out as a top-level singles star, he’s going to need someone to get him there.
That someone will likely be John Cena. History tells us so.