What Ever Happened to: Damien Sandow?
If I had told you a year ago that at in 2016 WWE would be seeing its lowest ratings in nearly two decades, would you have believed me? Would anyone have figured that we'd be having conversations of professional wrestling's demise now that there is essentially one game left in town? I didn't.
WWE was never this bad, nor was there an aura of complacency surrounding the television product. Even in the modern era of PG, immediately post 'Mania WWE felt as though there was urgency in capturing us as a viewer. Adam Rose, Damian Sandow, Dolph Ziggler felt untouchable and seemed to be destined for greatness.
However, here we are. Ratings? In the toilet. Crowd Reactions? Silent. The face of the company, John Cena is nearly booed out of the building, and The Cosmic Wasteland has wrestled the Ascension more than a dozen times in three weeks. Things are... not great. You know, on second thought I'll just let my friend, the legendary James Cornette fill you in on the state of the wrestling industry in 2015.
“I want to see some people who have some respect for the traditions of the wrestling industry. Have some respect for the sport of wrestling.”
That is a quote from a spot aired during an edition of Monday Night Raw in 1997, one in which he described the state of the industry in that year. During this point, WWE found themselves at the height of the Monday night wars and was losing. Now, nearly two decades later, virtually every word spoken in this legendary promo can be applied to the state of the business today.
I too want to see wrestlers wrestling on a wrestling program. Despite what I, and clearly what the other fans of wrestling want, that's not what we've gotten. Recently, we've been spoon fed this circus sideshow that Cornette warned about all these years ago. Unfortunately, along the way, there have been causalities.
At one point Damian Sandow appeared on the cusp of breaking back into the world title hunt. The former Mr. Money in the Bank was embroiled in a high-profile feud alongside easy heat generator, The Miz. As the former's stunt double, Sandow slowly and methodically won back the hearts of fans who may have passed him over as yet another gimmick performer.
In the past, fans had good reason to do so. For some time, Sandow would imitate characters from Vince McMahon to Davy Crockett, using the former to help introduce Adam Rose but more on him in a later article. As WWE's resident doppelganger to the stars, Sandow would do the job for nearly everybody on the roster, including former tag team partner, Curtis Axel.
However, it was during a lumberjack match where fate seemed to intervene. Dressed as a summer tourist/scuba diver, Sandow appeared defeated, and he wasn't even in the contest. Apparently, the days as a sideshow were taking its toll on a man who had previously wrestled for a world title, only to get buried by John Cena.
The Miz, also in need of some revitalization in his career took Sandow under his wing, employing him as his “Stunt Double.” Under The Miz's employ, Sandow would imitate his boss's every move and action. From mockingly moving his lips to pretending he was on the receiving end of a clothesline from an invisible assailant, Sandow rocketed into the hearts of the WWE Universe with his entertaining antics.
Then, the team struck gold with a brief stint with the WWE Tag Team Championships. The storytelling had never been better, with Miz taking credit for the win and holding both belts, reserving his assistant to enter the ring with toy replica titles. During matches, Miz would rarely tag in his partner, only doing so to either give Sandow the loss or to send him into peril. However, Sandow, with the backing of the crowd would grow tired of his employer's abuse.
As the audience would turn further towards the side of Sandow, he would begin to appear more and more defiant. By taking the time to show that he was on the cusp of leaving his abuser, he allowed the crowd a chance to engage and relate with their fan favorite. Sandow made us part of the crusade to liberate himself from The Miz.
Finally culminating at Wrestlemania, Sandow finally told The Miz, “No,” as he eliminated Miz in the final three of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. The Crowd roared as Sandow was finally free from his abuser. Sandow would later thank the audience during a house show for believing in him and cheering him on during his matches, revealing he was going to retire from the business had it not been for the crowd.
The question though is, where is Sandow now?
After his freedom from The Miz, Sandow would wrestle in a few throwaway matches, never seeming to get his footing back after his split. Sandow would then later team up with Curtis Axel, who was knee deep in his “AxelMania” gimmick. However, to add some relevance to his team, he would return to his days of imitation by donning the moniker of “Macho Mandow,” a tribute to the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage
The crowd would grow silent as the gimmick was clearly going nowhere. Sandow was back to square one, dressed in a Halloween costume only to lose to other guys who would then go on to lose themselves. Sandow was in a precarious situation, and things were only going to get worse.
After using some choice language to describe the prospect of African-Americans dating his daughter and homosexuals living in his childhood home, Hulk Hogan was all but erased from the hallowed halls of WWE history. However, as all references to Hogan were purged, so too would be AxelMania. No AxelMania meant there was no Macho Mandow. Sandow was in trouble.
These days, Sandow hardly even works dark matches, and when he does, it appears that he has returned to his dreadful, “Savior of the Masses” Gimmick. From one thing that didn't work to an unforgettable run with the tag belts and back again, Sandow's is a story of a man that deserves it all and got none of it. However, this begs the question: How the hell could WWE have made so many missteps in the handling of his character?
At what point did they gauge the roar of the crowd “post-Miz” and figure that the best course of action was to return Sandow to the days of prancing around in a Spirit Superstore costume. While I am not trained in the ways of booking a global wrestling program, even a fan such as myself can see that that is just plain nonsense.
The decision to return Sandow to his old ways is certainly a bizarre one. However, even more odd is the decision to remove him from television entirely. After his spat with The Miz, he was given new entrance music before adopting Macho Man's, so it would seem that there was something in the works as far a character change goes. Why or how that never came to fruition is beyond me, but it would seem that any alternative would be better than what eventually became reality.
Perhaps moving Sandow to NXT is the correct answer at this point. Spending time down at Full Sail has worked wonders for Superstars that have made the journey previously. Before his attempted murder at the hands of one Samoa Joe, Tyson Kidd was poised to become the hottest thing in the tag division alongside his partner, Cesaro. Zach Rider also appears to be benefiting from his time in Florida and Titus O'Neil received a boost in his popularity after his return.
Unfortunately, NXT appears to be getting a bit too big for its britches. Going from Developmental to full blown Federation can spell doom for those on the main roster looking to hone their skills a bit or in Sandow's case, perhaps needing a much-needed break from the politics of the main roster.
In either case, Sandow's story certainly is a tragic one... the ending of which I hope hasn't been written yet. Sadly, in this past year, Sandow isn't the only casualty of 2015. From Adam Rose to the Intercontinental Title, WWE has slaughtered their way through the company and their roster. Join us as we examine just a few of WWE's victims in future articles.
As for Sandown, here's hoping that the next time we see Sandow it is as his character, not a stranger behind another mask.