In today's WWE, having elite in-ring skills doesn't make you a top star. For example, few members of the current roster can match Tyson Kidd's mat ability, but Kidd, even before his recent knee injury, found himself below many lesser wrestlers on the WWE ladder. What Kidd, and guys like him, are missing is a connection with the fans. In order to get over with the WWE Universe, a superstar has to have a good gimmick. Without a gimmick, a great wrestler can become mired in the midcard forever. In today's WWE, there are a few guys with top-notch gimmicks. One of them is "The Intellectual Savior of the Masses." Damien Sandow has the perfect gimmick to succeed.
While Sandow, whose real name is Aaron Steven Haddad, doesn't lack in-ring ability, it's his persona that will take him to the top of the WWE. He's always been good in the ring. When he first signed with WWE back in 2002, he wrestled several tryout matches on Sunday Night Heat first. His in-ring ability was strong enough that he was signed to a developmental contract as Aaron "The Idol" Stevens.
After toiling in Ohio Valley Wrestling for a couple of years, Sandow made his SmackDown debut as "Idol Stevens" in 2006. He had some solid matches and got a bit of TV time as part of Michelle McCool's stable before being sent back to OVW. He was later released from his contract.
It was only upon being re-signed by WWE in 2010 that he developed the Damien Sandow persona. It was also then that he finally began to gain some traction with WWE audiences.
Why does Sandow's gimmick resonate so well with the WWE Universe?
Sandow's intellectually superior persona works in much the same way as some of the old-school WWE gimmicks did. Think back to Mr. Perfect or "The Million Dollar Man," Ted DiBiase. Those gimmicks were over-the-top heel personae and gave the fans a reason to boo. While DiBiase and Curt Henning had great mat skills to back their heel characters, even average workers like "The Genius" Lanny Poffo could get over with these cartoon-like gimmicks.
Another reason that this gimmick works for Sandow is that he can play the same character as either a singles act or as part of a team. Though most of Sandow's high profile work has been done as part of Team Rhodes Scholars with Cody Rhodes, he was able to maintain some momentum when Rhodes went down with an injury last year. Instead of fading out of focus when his partner was shelved, Sandow managed to elevate his character by doing a series of skits with the audience.
There's no doubt that working with Sandow has helped Rhodes, who seemed to be struggling as a singles act before the formation of Rhodes Scholars.
In fact, there are those who argue that Sandow will rise to the top of the WWE hierarchy before Rhodes, who is regarded by many as a future WWE or World Heavyweight champion.
The gimmick works because it's broad and obvious. "The Duke of Decency" character is an intellectually superior heel. It's an easy role to play, both on camera and off. Even Sandow's Twitter account demonstrates his superiority to the rest of the social media world. He doesn't deign to Tweet, but instead has his "trusted scribe Ignatius" do it for him. Because the character is fanciful and not based on Haddad's real personality, the creative team can have him do or say anything it wants. There's no worry about Sandow being true to himself. He's merely playing a role. Ironically, the fact that the character is fictional is what allows Sandow and the writers to give it depth.
In order to succeed in the WWE today, a wrestler has to have a great gimmick. Does anyone remember "The Ringmaster?" No. People remember Stone Cold Steve Austin. How about Rocky Maivia? Hard to believe that that guy eventually became "The People's Champion." Which persona do you suppose Glenn Jacobs has made the most money off of: Kane or Dr. Isaac Yankem? It's the gimmick that gets a guy over, and Damien Sandow has the perfect gimmick to succeed in the WWE.
Do you hate "The Lord of Literacy?" What are your favorite gimmicks from the past? Do you think Sandow is on his way to the top, or doomed to midcard mediocrity? Speak your mind in the comments section below.