What happened to the once-promising push of Damien Sandow?
Over the course of the last few weeks, I've brought back my Pushed to Punished series to analyze the controversial careers of past and present WWE Superstars. With this being the final edition for the foreseeable future, I'll be tackling the topic of one of WWE's most underutilized talents today, Damien Sandow.
Sandow arrived on the WWE scene in April 2012 and was almost immediately said to be a pet project of Triple H. He went on to dominate SmackDown before aligning with Cody Rhodes in the final few months of the year.
Known as Team Rhodes Scholars, Sandow and Rhodes had perfect chemistry as a tandem. However, it became apparent over time that Sandow was primed for a successful singles career.
In July 2013, Sandow took a step in fulfilling his full potential when he won the World Heavyweight Championship Contract Money in the Bank Ladder match. From there, though, Sandow would lose almost every match he was involved in.
Even after a stellar performance against John Cena for the World Heavyweight Championship in October, Sandow has still been booked to be an enhancement talent. It is such a shame to see someone with so much promise get completely overlooked for no apparent reason.
Here, I'll break down every peak and valley in the career of Damien Sandow in an attempt to discover where exactly he went wrong.
Five days removed from WrestleMania 28, a video package aired on SmackDown giving viewers their first look at Damien Sandow. He briefly wrestled under the name Idol Stevens from 2006 to 2007 but then underwent a gimmick change during his time down in Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE's developmental territory at the time.
In his various vignettes, Sandow proclaimed himself the Intellectual Savior of the Masses, a persona similar to that of Hunter Hearst Helmsley in the mid-90s. He finally arrived on the May 4 edition of SmackDown but refused to face Derrick Bateman after deeming him "unworthy."
This trend continued in subsequent weeks, which helped Sandow garner a great deal of heat from live crowds. It wasn't until May 18 that he made his in-ring debut on the blue brand, quickly defeating Yoshi Tatsu.
Over the next month, Sandow scored victories over the likes of Ezekiel Jackson, Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel. On June 29, he qualified for the World Heavyweight Championship Contract Money in the Bank Ladder match with a win over Zack Ryder.
At the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Sandow had an impressive showing and came close at one point to obtaining the blue briefcase, but he came up short. Of course, it was still too soon for Sandow to receive that type of push, but he still proved to the world that night that he was ready to climb the ladder to success.
At the historic Raw 1000 eight days later, Sandow made his initial appearance on the flagship show by interrupting the reunion of D-Generation X and was on the receiving end of finishers from Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
The fact he was even involved in a segment featuring legends of the business on such a grand stage was truly telling that Sandow was well liked by officials. It was merely a sign of what was to come for the former Idol Stevens.
Coming off of his involvement in the high-profile D-Generation X reunion on Raw 1000, Damien Sandow began his first real feud on the main roster with Brodus Clay on the July 30 Raw. The two were set to do battle the next week on the flagship show, but Sandow's assault on Clay as he made his entrance prevented it from coming to fruition.
It was believed among fans that they would face off at SummerSlam, which would have done wonders for the careers of both men, but it unfortunately wasn't meant to be. However, six days prior to the event, Sandow defeated former world champion Christian in one-on-one action, the biggest win of his career up to that point.
The rivalry between Sandow and Clay came to a head on the Aug. 20 Raw, where Sandow beat Clay after resorting to dirty tactics. Following the contest, The Funkasaurus laid out Sandow, concluding their feud.
It was fitting for Sandow to target Clay given that he was one of the WWE's leading "ignoramuses," but a win over him didn't do much to boost his credibility. Though Sandow dominated most of his feud with Clay, he was still in need of more direction as a singles star.
Damien Sandow's undefeated streak in singles competition came to an end on the Aug. 31 edition of SmackDown following a loss to then-World Heavyweight champion Sheamus. Despite having an equally impressive showing against Randy Orton a few weeks later, it was clear that WWE Creative had no plans to push Sandow to the moon any time soon.
He aligned with Cody Rhodes on the Sept. 24 SmackDown to face Team Hell No in the main event, the two vowing to become the next WWE Tag Team champions. They found instant chemistry as a tandem, later dubbing themselves Team Rhodes Scholars.
Sandow and Rhodes entered a tag team tournament to become the No. 1 contenders to the straps, knocking off The Usos and Team CoBro in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. They defeated Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara on the Oct. 22 Raw to win the tourney, setting the stage for their Tag Team title encounter against Team Hell No at Hell in a Cell.
At Hell in a Cell, Kane and Daniel Bryan unintentionally disqualified themselves, giving Team Rhodes Scholars the win but not the belts. They would meet several more times over the next few months, with Team Hell No emerging victorious each time.
In November, Rhodes was sidelined with a shoulder injury, briefly putting his partnership with Sandow on the back burner. They reunited on the Dec. 10 Raw but still did not find much success.
After coming up short of capturing the WWE Tam Team Championships against Team Hell No at 2013's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow decided to go their separate ways on the subsequent edition of SmackDown.
One would think that Creative had plans in mind for Sandow and Rhodes as singles stars, but that apparently would not be the case. They lost to the likes of Sheamus, Randy Orton, Alberto Del Rio and others in the month that followed.
At Elimination Chamber, it was announced that Rhodes and Sandow would reunite for one night only against Brodus Clay and Tensai on the pre-show. Despite losing that match, the two "best friends" were seemingly back together full time.
Team Rhodes Scholars continued to feud with Tons of Funk from that point forward before being eventually joined by the returning Bella Twins. An eight-person tag team match between the two stables was scheduled for WrestleMania 29, but it was cut from the show, reportedly due to time constraints.
Sandow, along with Rhodes, entered a mini-feud with Sheamus in June, leading to a match between the two at WWE Payback on the pre-show. Although Sandow lost that match (and every other match he had against Sheamus), he proved during these series of matches with The Celtic Warrior that he was capable of hanging with the top-tier stars in the WWE.
Tension was teased between the members of Team Rhodes Scholars starting in the spring of 2013, but despite that, they still vowed to remain "best friends." In late June, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow were named participants in the World Heavyweight Championship Contract Money in the Bank Ladder match.
In the weeks leading up the event, Sandow and Rhodes appeared to be on good terms. However, at the end of the matchup, Sandow shocked the world when he tipped over the ladder with Rhodes on it and claimed the blue briefcase for himself.
It was at this very moment that it became apparent that WWE was finally following through on Sandow's big push as a singles competitor. He had practically won the world title when he captured the contract, so everyone foresaw a bright future for the Intellectual Savior of the Masses.
The next night on Raw, Sandow attempted to make amends with Rhodes but to no avail. The two feuded from that point forward, leading to their first-ever one-on-one encounter at SummerSlam.
Although Rhodes had a strong wave of momentum going into the show, people predicted that it would be Sandow who would come out with the victory. Regardless, it was the multigenerational star that picked up the win, leaving a blemish in the loss column for Sandow.
A rematch was held the next night on Raw, which was also won by Rhodes. This led to speculation that a third and final match between the two would be held at some point with the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line, but it appeared Creative had other plans instead.
The feud between the two was dropped abruptly afterward, as Rhodes was later "fired" from the company and began a program with The Authority. Needless to say, this left Sandow directionless once again.
Once his feud with Cody Rhodes was dropped, Damien Sandow floundered all over the card. Despite being Mr. Money in the Bank, Sandow wasn't involved in a substantial feud and was left off the Night of Champions card.
In the two months that followed, Sandow racked up losses to the likes of Rob Van Dam, R-Truth and even Santino Marella. However, as history has shown us, most Money in the Bank winners lose a lot of matches to make their eventual cash-in that much more of a surprise.
One night removed from the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, Damien Sandow brutally attacked John Cena in the opening segment and challenged him to an impromptu match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Cena had just returned from elbow surgery the night prior, so this looked to be easy pickings for Sandow.
Sandow took Cena to his absolute limit, hitting him with everything in his arsenal. Cena gave Sandow his best match to date and made him look like a million bucks by selling each of his moves perfectly.
Although Cena was technically a one-armed man, Sandow still lost to him following an Attitude Adjustment. With this, Sandow became the first man in WWE history to lose a Money in the Bank cash-in match decisively via pinfall.
At that point, it probably would have been the wrong move to put the belt on Sandow, as no one would have taken him seriously as world champion. This was due to the fact that he jobbed out to almost everyone on the roster and was made to look like a complete laughing stock.
However, many people believed that Sandow benefited more from losing than he would have had he won. He had such a strong showing against Cena that he could have easily been inserted into the main event picture shortly thereafter, but as time would tell us, that wouldn't the case.
Damien Sandow's brief feud with John Cena lasted only another week, losing to the then-World Heavyweight champion in tag team matches on Raw and SmackDown, respectively. Once that concluded, Sandow found himself right back where he started.
Although Sandow's win-loss record didn't change much, he tweaked his character a bit in November. This included losing the signature robe, debuting a new version of his entrance music and developing more aggressive traits.
He then moved into a mini-rivalry with Dolph Ziggler, competing in various gimmick matches against him before becoming the No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship on the Dec. 2 edition of Raw. He went on to challenge Big E Langston for the Intercontinental Championship at WWE TLC but was unsuccessful.
Sandow made mention of his lengthy losing streak on the final Raw of 2013, vowing to quit if he couldn't beat his opponent that night. His opponent was later revealed to be The Great Khali, whom he defeated within mere minutes.
Despite that, Sandow's 2014 hasn't been much better thus far. He lost to Khali in a rematch on Old School Raw before coming up short against Superstars such as R-Truth, Kofi Kingston and Darren Young in the weeks that followed.
Although Damien Sandow has only been on the main roster for close to two years, it is shame to see how far he has fallen in such a short period of time. That being said, there is still plenty of time for him to bounce back from his recent string of bad luck, but with one world title now in WWE, it remains to be seen if he will ever reach his full potential.
There were rumors late last year of turning Sandow face, an experiment that lasted all of one night on the Oct. 11 edition of SmackDown. It was a refreshing change of pace for his character, but he is more fitting in the role of a heel, and I don't think a face turn would bring him much success.
Sandow has the complete package in terms of in-ring ability, mic skills and character development, so it is mind-boggling to me why WWE isn't doing more with him at the moment. His 30-second loss to Darren Young on the Feb. 14 SmackDown basically sums up how much he and his tremendous talent are being wasted.
As previously mentioned, not all hope is lost for the Intellectual Savior of the Masses, as there is a chance that WWE will come to its senses and start using him correctly soon. However, with it being the road to WrestleMania right now, I fear that he will be lost in the shuffle and won't be pushed for at least another few months.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on Damien Sandow's career in WWE and what you think the future holds for him going forward. Also, include any potential topics you would like to see analyzed in upcoming editions of Pushed to Punished.
Read every archived edition of Pushed to Punished here.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.