Damien Sandow's momentum had its tires slashed as he failed to capture the World Heavyweight Championship from John Cena on Monday's WWE Raw.
Sandow's plan was villainous genius. He waited until Cena survived a match against Alberto Del Rio at Hell in a Cell, then teased as if he wasn't going to cash in during Monday's Raw before attacking Cena with his Money in the Bank briefcase and everything solid within reach.
Only then did he make the cash-in official.
Cena's arm hung lifelessly at his side. The champion was suddenly a limping gazelle in a lion's sights.
WWE chose the wrong end to the story, though. Instead of giving Sandow the biggest moment of his year, the company chose to add to Cena's Superman lore.
There are those who argue that Sandow benefited from the match and near-victory, but what ever benefit comes out of the loss is usurped by the negatives.
A man with a well-established legacy gets the rub while the rising star achieves a moral victory of sorts. Sandow didn't just earn a defeat, either; he looked weak not being able to put away a one-armed Cena.
Beyond the loss, it places Sandow on the wrong side of history. He's now the answer to a trivia question.
Who is the only man to lose after a non-announced cash-in?
He's the least successful Money in the Bank winner in WWE history. How can that benefit his career?
Instead of getting the career boost from a successful cash-in that men like CM Punk, Edge and The Miz earned, Sandow ends up on the same level of Mr. Kennedy—a footnote in failure.
Mick Foley took to Twitter to defend the booking.
Foley is right that many of his most beloved matches are losses, but losing to Undertaker at Hell in a Cell after being sent hurtling from the top of the cage or losing to Edge after crashing through a flaming table isn't the same as losing to a badly wounded foe after a half-strength Attitude Adjustment.
The losses he refers to don't include Foley using a steel chair to try and turn a recently repaired elbow into liquid by way of steel chair shot. Foley didn't lose to a one-legged Steve Austin or to Triple H when he was more fit for a hospital room than a wrestling ring.
Sandow, at 100 percent, lost to Cena, who was, what, 60, 70 percent healthy?
Cena wasn't only hurting from his match with Del Rio and working with an unwell wing, Sandow smashed that limb with the ring steps, the ring post, a steel chair and a crossface. Sandow hit him with every move in his arsenal and moves we'd never seen from him before.
That would have been the perfect way for Cena to lose.
Having Sandow fire all his guns and have to search for more afterward would have made Sandow look resourceful and Cena like a warrior. Instead, none of it was enough.
If all Sandow threw at him wasn't enough to beat him, what would have been?
The result says that Cena is so much better than Sandow that, short of "The Intellectual Savior" amputating Cena in the middle of the ring, he simply can't beat him.
Dolph Ziggler tweeted praise for Sandow's performance, but his last line is a telling one.
That's the issue—Cena is on his own level. Cena can certainly be booked as being better than everyone else, but putting him in a separate league hurts his opponents.
WWE's top stars should be better than those on the tier below them, but the disparity presented between Cena and Sandow on Monday's Raw was too much.
Sandow should be able to beat Cena when he brings his A game and Cena has an off-night. Having one's arm incapacitated certainly counts as an off-night.
Sandow getting props for hanging with and looking good against Cena when he could barely lift his arm is like the compliments the Jacksonville Jaguars received after not getting blown out by the Denver Broncos.
Ziggler's Money in the Bank moment on Del Rio was the perfect blend of uncertainty, the champion resisting defeat and the man cashing in looking brilliant thanks to his timing. Sandow's moment looked to be of the same ilk.
Instead, the focus shifted to Cena.
Rather than the audience leaving impressed and/or infuriated with Sandow's use of the Money in the Bank contract and his predatory ways, the lasting image is of Cena surviving. This becomes Superman's tale, not the story of a new villain implementing a perfect plan to thwart him.
When Foley talks about how much he lost but still managed to enter the Hall of Fame, he's leaving out the fact that he had his big victories as well, his first WWE Championship win chief among them.
Sandow stealing the world title from Cena had the potential to be a moment like that one.
It would have been his career peak, the ultimate bragging right. The Miz still talks about beating Cena at WrestleMania, because there is no bigger trophy to hunt in WWE than the Cenation leader. It was Sandow who ended up with his head on the wall, though.
He will surely get another shot at the champ and have more opportunities for career-defining wins, but for now, Sandow has to settle for being more Mr. Kennedy than Edge, more Microwave Man than Lex Luthor.
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