Over the past couple months the WWE has debuted several new superstars, but perhaps none has been more intriguing than Damien Sandow. His character is that of a refined and snobbish scholar whose goal is to enlighten the ignorant masses and to rid the WWE of unsophisticated things.
After weeks of vignettes in which he denounced social media and pop culture, Sandow debuted on SmackDown. Although he has had only one match to this point, there is no shortage of opinions from the WWE Universe about exactly how far Sandow can go.
Keep reading for the first in a daily series of in-depth breakdowns regarding the upside, current direction and long-term potential of every meaningful WWE superstar. I'll be counting down from No. 25 to No. 1, and it all gets started with Sandow.
Despite the fact that Sandow has only been on the SmackDown roster for three weeks, he is actually a veteran of the WWE and its developmental territories. He debuted in Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2002 as Aaron "The Idol" Stevens, and he went on to win several titles, including the OVW Heavyweight Championship.
Sandow got his big break in 2006 as he teamed with KC James as Idol Stevens and formed a tag team named Teacher's Pets. They were managed by Michelle McCool. The pair scored a non-title victory over Brian Kendrick and Paul London but ultimately failed to get over and was sent back to OVW.
Just a year later, Sandow was released, and he toiled on the independent circuit until 2010 when he joined WWE's new developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling. He was re-branded as Damien Sandow and eventually adopted his new intellectual character before making his WWE re-debut at the age of 29.
Seeing as Sandow has only been on television for two weeks he hasn't had much time to develop within a storyline, but it has already become abundantly clear what type of character he is. Sandow is an arrogant heel who enjoys referring to the WWE fans and many of its competitors as ignoramuses.
He has an extremely wide vocabulary and has already succeeded in getting heat thanks to his condescending tone. Rather than competing in his first scheduled match against Derrick Bateman a few weeks ago, Sandow decided to refrain from wrestling because nobody would have benefited from him defeating an inferior opponent.
Sandow was set to do the same against Yoshi Tatsu two weeks ago, but Tatsu called him chicken, so Sandow lost his cool and attacked Tatsu. That mini feud culminated in Sandow's first official match this past Friday as he squashed Tatsu. Now it is incumbent upon the creative team to create something long-term for Sandow.
There is no question that Sandow has a lot going for him.
First, undoubtedly, is his superior work on the mic. It often takes superstars years upon years to find their voice in promos, but Sandow already seems to have that. Based on the manner in which he speaks, Sandow sounds like he truly is a pompous intellectual, and that is only going to get him an even greater reaction.
Additionally, Sandow's experience is a big mark in his favor. Most debuting superstars are in uncharted water as they have never had the benefit of performing in the big time, but Sandow got a little taste of it in 2006. It wasn't a success in retrospect, but it allowed him to get his feet wet and get used to the WWE way, so he should be much better prepared this time around.
The general audience hasn't had much of an opportunity to see Sandow wrestle aside from his brief bout with Tatsu last week, but he seems to have a solid, varied move set. He doesn't do anything particularly mind blowing, but he mixes a classical, technical style with some innovative maneuvers such as his straightjacket neck-breaker finisher. Furthermore, he does a great job of departing from his refined personality in the ring as he morphs into a ruthless, dominating presence.
While Sandow's experience can be called one of his greatest strengths, it may be a disadvantage at the same time. It's true that 29 years of age isn't exactly old when it comes to wrestling, but he may have less time to impress than a younger wrestler would. When you add to that the fact that he has already failed once, it stands to reason that he could be on a short leash and might not get very long to do something with the push he is given.
Also, although I don't necessarily buy it, there are already whispers that his gimmick is too similar to that of The Genius. The Genius was played by Randy "Macho Man" Savage's brother, Lanny Poffo, from the late 1980s into the early 1990s. Sandow has some similarities such as his educated vocabulary and the fact that he did a cartwheel after his match, but Sandow is unquestionably a wrestler, while The Genius excelled more as a manager.
That comparison is likely lost on newer fans, but entrenched fans often like to push such agendas like chanting "Goldberg" during Ryback matches or "Albert" during Tensai matches. Nothing of the sort has happened with Sandow yet, but he has to ensure that he carves out his own niche and can't be compared to superstars of the past.
Seeing as Sandow has only had one match under his new gimmick, he obviously doesn't have any other options for his greatest match, but there was a lot to like about his win over Tatsu. You couldn't learn much about his pure wrestling skills from the bout, but it's already quite clear that he has a lot of athletic ability based on his roll up after the Russian leg sweep, as well as the cartwheel he did afterward.
His transformation from prior to the match to during the match reminds me a lot of Waylon Mercy, who was played by Dan Spivey in the WWE in 1995. Mercy was a Southern gentleman who would shake hands with his opponents, but when the bell rang he became absolutely vicious. Sandow was very similar on Friday as he was a completely different person between the ropes.
Sandow's wrestling attire is also a nice touch, as the pink trunks and purple knee pads aren't seen very often anymore. His character is completely different, but the look is certainly reminiscent of Rick "The Model" Martel.
Pretty much everything about Sandow is decidedly old school, and that is refreshing to see in wrestling today.
As much as I have enjoyed Sandow thus far, I can't see him ever winning a world title with his current gimmick. Don't get me wrong, because I think the gimmick is great, but it is tailor-made for the mid-card and not the main event. Main eventers today like John Cena, CM Punk, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and others don't really have a gimmick, per se.
Although that may not be for the better, that's just the way it is.
With that said, there is no reason why Sandow can't become either the Intercontinental or United States Champion at some point. That isn't a knock on Sandow; rather, it should be considered a compliment. When the world title was of great importance in the 1980s and 1990s, all-time greats like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Mr. Perfect never sniffed the WWE Championship.
Both Piper and Perfect won the Intercontinental Championship, however, and they are still considered two of the best all-around competitors ever. The mid-card has been neglected for far too long, but a guy like Sandow with supreme mic skills and solid wrestling ability can very well bring some legitimacy back to the IC or US strap.
How He Gets There
As much as squash matches have been maligned of late since Ryback and Brodus Clay have been running through everyone in their respective paths, squashes are a good way to ease in a new talent and make them look strong. It used to be done all the time, so I have absolutely no problem with it. That means that the likes of Trent Barreta, Tyson Kidd and, more impressively, Ezekiel Jackson should be fed to Sandow in the coming weeks.
Once the process of getting him over is completed, Sandow ought to cut a promo on Santino following one of his matches. With Santino's poor grammar, cobra finisher and trombone celebration, he is the complete antithesis of what Sandow believes a WWE superstar should be. Because of that, Sandow and Santino would be perfect candidates to feud with one another.
Santino is a really nice guy to have in the mid-card because the fans relate to him and he gets a good reaction, but the title means nothing to him. Whether he's United States Champion or not, the fans are still going to love him. In order to truly establish himself, though, Sandow could really use that championship as a springboard.
I don't believe that Sandow is going to be a world title contender at any point, but if he wins the United States Championship and does a great job with it—a la The Miz a couple years ago—you never know.
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