As long as there has been professional wrestling, there have been heels who have tried to usurp the fan favorites atop the business. Heels have been portrayed many different ways over the years, but the current flavor of the month is the cowardly bad guy.
One person who may be revolutionizing what it means to be a heel is Damien Sandow.
The WWE's main goal is usually to make the face look strong, and that is done by booking the heels to look incompetent. Guys like current WWE champion CM Punk and The Miz have had success despite weaseling their way out of tight situations, but many fans get upset when their favorite heels back down instead of standing up to their face counterparts.
Then there are the polar opposite heels who can go toe-to-toe with anyone, such as Big Show. These types of bad guys are few and far between, but Big Show is obviously the poster boy. His immense size prevents him from having to be a coward and his dominance was proven at Hell in a Cell when he beat Sheamus cleanly for the World Heavyweight Championship.
One guy who doesn't fit into either category, though, is Damien Sandow. The self-professed Intellectual Savior of the Unwashed Masses has risen up the ranks quite quickly during his short time in the WWE. His initial run with the company as Idol Stevens back in 2006 produced few results. It wasn't nearly as successful because there were no distinguishing characteristics about his gimmick.
Sandow is one of a kind at the moment, as he has brought an old-school act back to the forefront. If there is one type of person the fans love to hate, it's a guy who thinks they're better than them. That is the entire basis of Sandow's character, and it has worked quite well for him as he has received big-time heat since day one.
Many heels talk down to their opponents and the fans, but nobody does it quite like Sandow. He uses advanced vocabulary in his promos and his utilization of words that many may not understand leads to even more booing. Sandow's gimmick is actually pretty simple, but I can't remember anyone executing it as effectively as him since perhaps "The Genius" Lanny Poffo back in 1989.
There are obvious parallels between Sandow and The Genius as they both have used superior intelligence to belittle others and even share a cartwheel taunt, but I believe Sandow will find much more success. The Genius wrestled occasionally, but he eventually became a manager because he simply wasn't a good enough talent to excel as a competitor.
I don't anticipate that being an issue for Sandow. He is far from the best in-ring worker in WWE, but he acquits himself well and improves every week it seems. Also, the fact that he is teaming with Cody Rhodes is only going to help his wrestling. Sandow is already one of the best in the company on the mic, and I'm sure he can soak in a lot of knowledge from watching Rhodes perform on a nightly basis.
Heels are usually made to look inferior to faces in every way, but Sandow is blazing a new trail. He has proven that a guy who isn't a cookie-cutter heel can get heat from the fans, and I hope that he continues to push his gimmick to the limit. He still has a long ways to go before he reaches the main-event level, but he has all the tools necessary to do it.
The most important thing in wrestling is to stand out from the crowd and Sandow does that in a very obvious way. While versions of his character have been tried before, I believe that Sandow does it better than his predecessors. There are only certain gimmicks that work in the PG Era, and Sandow's is one that should have no problem standing the test of time.