Hardtime: Damien Sandow- A Worthwhile Career
Many aspiring wrestlers dream of main eventing WrestleMania. Having their face in the advertisements for all the big shows, being everyone’s favorite (or most hated) wrestler. And to a lot of fans, your status on the card of a main stream organization defines your success as a sports entertainer. However, those dreams and those standards are quite unrealistic. Only a small percentage of performers ever achieve that, and few would be considered successful. When looking at Damien Sandow, most fans will point the finger and say “He’s a failure”. Never main evented a pay per view, never held a World Title. No chance in hell of becoming a Hall of Famer. Those last three statements are indeed true. However, I am going out on a limb and saying Damien Sandow has had a worthwhile WWE career.
From day one, Sandow was saddled with a gimmick that would hinder him from moving up the card. The gimmicks like I.R.S., Repo Man, Funkasaurus, and most similar to Sandow's, The Genius. Gimmicks that wrestlers could make work at the midcard level, but never at in the main event. Sandow joined the ranks of Mike Rotunda and Barry Darsow for guys who really made goofy stuff more entertaining than management probably intended. The "Intellectual Savior of the Masses" who entered to refrains of "Alleluia!" and enlightened the "ignoramuses", was figuratively given a cap on his kayfabe potential. Fans laughed at him, not with him.
Countless wrestlers have come and gone through WWE’s revolving door. Many don’t stay long, and ultimately have little to be remembered for. Justin Gabriel’s career was pretty forgettable. What's Ezekiel Jackson remembered for? Outside NXT, The Ascension’s done next to nothing. Curt Hawkins, Tyler Reks, Palmer Cannon, all names that did nothing memorable in WWE. But that’s not the case with Damien Sandow.
Sandow was able to make real connections with WWE's "Universe", despite not being in a position to do so. After he sold out Cody Rhodes to win Money In The Bank 2013, their rivalry wasn't that memorable, nor was their tag team "Rhodes Scholars". However, we did get one of the most memorable segments in Smackdown!'s history. Sandow jumping in the Gulf of Mexico after his briefcase. Anyone who saw it will always remember Sandow flailing his arms in the water, yelling "I can't swim!". What did Justin Gabriel do that was this memorable? The Dude Busters? T.L. Hopper?
Damien then put on one of the most exciting MITB Cash In matches we've ever seen. Sure, Cash In matches aren't meant to be great, as the challenger normally makes short work of a wounded champion. But so what. The match kept you on the edge of your seat for a long period of time. It was a breath of fresh air for three hour Raws that sorely needed it. Could Sandow do the unthinkable and beat John Cena? You kind of knew it wasn’t going to happen, but it was still a thrilling match none the less. And it was a little embarrassing for Sandow to lose to a one armed Cena, but this was the franchise player we're talking about. At the time he won Money In The Bank, there were probably no plans to unify the World Titles. While Alberto Del Rio held it, the WHC was the equivalent of the Intercontinental Title when it was held by a strong upper midcarder. That was a reasonable goal for Damien. Guys like Jack Swagger, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan had won it previously. Guys who, at the time, were unproven as main eventers (Punk and Bryan obviously proved themselves later).
While a match this caliber, with this atmosphere and excitement is something Sean Stasiak and many others never accomplished, something Damien can stick a feather in his cap for, it lead to a kayfabe downward spiral for his credibility. We all saw what happened next. Coming out week after week, dressed as some type of different person. Impersonating Paul Revere, Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, LeBron James, an astronaut, and other people. After he made the transition to being The Miz’s stunt double, we got one of the most memorable midcard storylines of the last ten years. Damien Mizdow got chants of “MIZDOW’S AWESOME”, chants WWE management never intended him to get. He was bottom of the barrel at this point, but fans still gave him great reactions.
The Mizdow storyline can be compared to Daniel Bryan’s push in 2013-14, on a much smaller scale. Bryan was entertaining as part of Team Hell No, once the “weak link” storyline started, Bryan got much stronger reactions than management hoped for. It forced them to let him main event Summer Slam, despite them being unsure about his drawing power. As time went on, it was clear WWE did not want Bryan to main event WrestleMania, but he turned every match and every segment he was in into gold. Management simply couldn’t ignore the “YES” chants any longer, and he was put into the main event of WM 30.
Mizdow was meant to be a nothing, a nobody. But management couldn’t ignore his reactions, and had no choice but to run with it, albeit on a small scale. The Miz played a huge part in this, with his heel work being excellent as he mistreated Mizdow. The truth is they had great chemistry together, with fans wanting Damien to finally stand up to The Miz and tell him off. It was a long, drawn out affair, one that saw them become tag team champions. The crowd popped during the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal when Mizdow finally, once and for all, turned on The Miz. We didn’t get much of a pay off in terms of a blow off matches (what we got was forgettable, with Summer Rae’s involvement at the end) but the journey was well worth it. After all the abuse, Miz slapping him, ordering him to shine his shoes and costing him matches, we saw someone the audience organically was connected with stand up to the jerk.
Really, maybe Sandow has been his own worst enemy for the last few years. What I mean is, most of his segments involved humor, most of which as a heel. Wrestlers generally are supposed to be taken seriously in order to advance up the card, but Sandow always put a comical vibe on everything he did, even before he dressed up as Magneto. He sort of came off as a joke, and using a phrase I used before, became someone fans laughed at instead of laughed with (unlike Chris Jericho). He certainly did his job as an entertainer, but maybe it wasn’t the right kind of entertainment. Maybe no one saw the long term ramifications of what he was pigeonholing himself into.
Today we see him as Macho Mandow. I have to admit, his impersonation of Randy Savage is dead on, to the phrases, wrestling and mannerisms. He and Curtis Axel are very entertaining together, but Sandow has become typecast. Michael Richards (before the racist outburst)got himself typecast himself as a comical fool because he did such a great job playing Kramer. I believe WWE management has labeled Sandow as someone who can never be taken seriously as a main eventer. His humor should have been used in a way similar to Chris Jericho, where you always viewed him as someone who could tell jokes, not BE a joke, and be taken seriously as the same time.
The future looks bleak for Sandow, but even if his career ended today, he can hang his head high. Throughout the years he made a true connection with the WWE Universe. If he didn’t, there’s no way managment could have justified giving him as much mic time as they did. He put smiles on people faces for years, even if his character wasn’t in on the joke. Macho Mandow, singing his own rendition of Randy Orton’s and Sheamus's theme songs, the aforementioned Gulf of Mexico segment, all things that fans remember and made them laugh.
Damien Sandow has not had a great career in terms of kayfabe achievements. A tag title belt and a Money In The Bank briefcase are all the hardware he’s had in his career. But in terms of giving us memorable programs and segments, he’s done that. Comparing him to people like the Ascension and Tyler Reks, and countless other forgettable WWE superstars, he has a lot to show for the years of hard work he put into WWE, even if mostly on an entertainment level. As it is, Damien Sandow has had a worthwhile WWE career.