Damien Sandow was last seen in action alongside Darren Young in a Fatal Four Way elimination tag for a Rumble spot during the Royal Rumble kickoff. Prior to this match, he was last seen on television on the November 14, 2015 episode of Main Event, defeating Heath Slater. And let me remind you that further to ditching his popular Mizdow and absurd Macho Mandow gimmicks in early 2015, Sandow was really nowhere to be seen for the remainder of the year, relegated to wrestling dark matches or at live events only.
Standing back, I’ve come to realize that it’s been a long and steady fall for the “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” and former Money in the Bank briefcase winner. One could argue that from his debut push in 2012 and his rise to the upper-card in 2013 was somewhat rushed. Suffering a loss on his cash-in against John Cena sent Sandow on a long losing streak and his Intellectual Savior character got more or less buried. Sandow’s in-ring skills, and above all his talent on the mic, were alarmingly misused as his character lacked creative direction. He was reduced to impersonating different characters in questionable costumes for what felt like a very long time. Yet being one of the better talkers on the roster Sandow managed to remain relevant. He was able to work with the scraps provided and struck gold becoming Damien Mizdow.
What was initially laughed off as bottom category comedy act, gained in popularity among WWE fans. The stunt double gimmick worked; Sandow’s charismatic Mizdow was able to garner sympathy when Miz’s narcissist and patronizing Hollywood A-lister treated him like a lackey. Folks chanted “We want Mizdow” when he was at ringside or unfairly tagged out in matches. When Mizdow finally turned on Miz at the André the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31, he received an even bigger crowd pop. The audience rooted for him. Heck, they even rooted for him when, as the Intellectual Savior, he talked down to the crowds.
Given a meaningful feud or some semblance of direction, Sandow can thrive as a face or a heel. He is skilled. And above all, he is over with the WWE audience. So the question begs: why is Damien Sandow one of the most underused talents on the WWE roster today? Why is WWE ignoring his fanbase’s chants? Go figure.
When the Social Outcasts faction was created, Heath Slater, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel were given a new lifeline. Who knows how long they will last, but at least it keeps these superstars on television. Sandow cannot claim the same. That being said, Slater makes a good leader, but he lacks the “je ne sais quoi” to manage the group and take them to another level and make the audience care. Sandow has that ability to give the Social Outcasts direction and purpose. But to much of the WWE audience’s surprise, he’s not part of them. Pairing him with Darren Young for the Royal Rumble kickoff was never explained, neither did it lead anywhere. Now he has gone AWOL again. He’s not even an afterthought for WWE Creative – and that makes his case all the more worrisome.
WWE cannot simply give up on Sandow or allow him to be lost in the shuffle as the roster is depleted at the moment. Sandow can continue to be relevant in WWE today. I’m not advocating a huge push for the superstar as he’s clearly not a priority, but what has WWE to lose by keeping him relevant?
I’d be in favor of a slow yet intriguing return to the mid-card. To start off, he needs his television presence brought back. Let him wrestle on Raw; occasionally at first, once per week if he’s still the crowd-pleaser he used to be. Whether he wins or loses won’t matter to begin with. Then, slowly but surely, let him have a string of victories as a heel.
He could have a few harsh words backstage with the Social Outcasts for not having considered his superior genius to lead their group and having chosen that hillbilly, Heath Slater instead. That could lead him to wins against Rose, Dallas, Axel, and finally Slater. These matches could take place on Raw and Smackdown. No need to push these on pay-per-views.
At WrestleMania 32, Sandow could participate in the André the Giant Battle Royal. The ringside commentators could talk up the fact that he nearly won the WrestleMania 31 edition of the said Battle Royal, only to lose out at the very end against Big Show. Sandow needn’t win, but he could survive in the ring for a while and cause a few surprise eliminations. Fan support would continue and he’d be one of the post-WrestleMania talking points.
After Mania, still as a heel, he could savagely attack the babyface superstar who eliminated him from the Battle Royal: either someone lacking direction and who could benefit from a mid-card feud with a proper heel, or a legitimate upper mid-carder who could ultimately put Sandow over (I’m thinking Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho, or why not Ryback?). After the feud which would culminate at Payback in May, Sandow would be on the cusp of challenging for a mid-card belt (most likely the U.S. Championship), or he could be inserted as a wild card in the ladder match at Money in the Bank in June.
In both cases, he doesn’t need to win. Let him get close, tease the audience with a possible Sandow victory, but let him fall short. However, if he does indeed prove to be a hotter commodity than expected, WWE Creative can always pull the trigger at that point in time and either crown him U.S. Champion, or seek to right the wrong by enabling him to be Mr. Money in the Bank and give Sandow a vote of confidence and a new opportunity to prove his worth.
WWE is notorious for pulling the plug on superstars’ rises. They can always resort to such practice should Sandow fail to re-connect with the crowd. But something just tells me that Sandow – given the chance – can easily pick up the ball and run with it.