Damien Sandow is a Breath of Fresh Air, Shows Why WWE Missed the Boat
Rolling Stone – Last week, several superstars were released by WWE. Fans reacted to all the cuts – in one way or another – but one in particular had them howling: the company’s decision to part ways with Damien Sandow.
That was undoubtedly a testament to his talents as both a wrestler and a performer, because over the span of his relatively brief WWE run, Sandow repeatedly showed that he could get just about anything over. He debuted in 2012 as the “Intellectual Savior of the Unwashed Masses,” turned into a Rhodes Scholar and then became Mr.Money in the Bank in short order. But after an unsuccessful cash-in of the MITB briefcase, he fell by the wayside, only to eventually reemerge as the Miz’s endlessly entertaining stunt double.
That winning turn earned Sandow plenty of accolades – and his lone WWE title, a Tag Team Championship with the Miz. Their dynamic was a staple of the company’s programming through WrestleMania 31, yet for whatever reason, WWE never really capitalized on their chance to build a new face, and Sandow was seen only sporadically in recent months.
But whether he was a regular on Raw or merely a bit player, Sandow routinely received some of the biggest reactions of the night. It’s part of the reason he plans on embarking on a wrestling “Thank You Tour” (while working under the name Aaron Stevens) before turning his eyes to other projects – one of which has the potential to truly amaze.
In his first interview since being released, Sandow opens up about his time in WWE, his relationship with the fans and what happens next.
Take me through what happened last week, when you received the phone call from WWE.
First of all, I know a lot of people within the wrestling community were a little surprised. With me, I was more grateful for my time there. Looking back, I had a great four years there. The truth of it is, as a performer, the goal is to get the audience to feel something, to evoke some kind of emotion. In the WWE, from the second I debuted, there was an extreme feeling of dislike towards me. They really did not like me from the second I came on. Which was huge. A lot of guys spend years and years trying to get that kind of a reaction. They gave me the platform to do that character. Then, as time went on, especially with the Mizdow thing, the fans went from hating me to loving me. The crowd invested as me as a person. I never thought that I’d get that level of popularity as far as being cheered. As a performer, in that genre, the only thing we can ask for is fan response, especially genuine fan response. It’s the most satisfying thing. In reviewing my WWE career, which I did instantly when the call came, I was just grateful, and excited for the future.
Were you surprised they had decided to release you?
Not really. I had some conversations with them before, where I had said that I think, as a character, we had gone through the gamut. What more could I do with that character? Some people say, “This company should have done this, or that.” No, the company gave me a platform, and I maximized my opportunity. That’s all I can ask for. In maximizing it to the point that I did, as a character, sometimes all you can do is get a new coat of paint. As a television show, the WWE, they have so many talented performers there. There is so much talent in the WWE. I have no problem with them needing time to let the other guys show their craft. I am not selfish in that respect. When I was on TV, they knew they’d get a reaction. When you look at it, if you know you can plug me in any spot, and you don’t have to invest the TV time, then it makes sense to give TV time to guys who need to build their reactions. Just look back at the Royal Rumble in January, when I was on the preshow. I was in the ring for the first time in months, and fans were chanting my name, when I was just standing on the apron. That, to me, means more than any title I could have won in WWE. That means the world to me.
After the news broke, what did you think of the fan reaction on social media?
The funny thing about that is, the first thing I did when I got off the phone was clean my shed out. I had been meaning to do that for years. With my schedule in WWE, I really hadn’t been able to do that. My girlfriend was ecstatic. I hadn’t been able to do anything around the house in years. So I thought I’d use the time positively. I cleaned the shed out, I played with the dogs and then just relaxed. That night, my phone was ringing a lot. I checked in with my family, who were wondering if I was OK. I was fine, I told them not to worry about it. Then I turned my Twitter on. I was amazed. I was shocked that people cared that much. In the entertainment world, it’s always about, “What’s the next big thing?” It meant the world to me that people cared. It meant more than winning titles, to see the outpouring of emotions. And the feeling is mutual. It’s clichéd to say that without the fans, there’s no WWE. But it’s true. Without the fans, I wouldn’t be the performer I am.
I have always listened to them, the fans. I viewed my boss as whoever paid for a ticket. They always dictated my performance, in whatever genre I’m in. There’s a lot of opportunities that have been opening to me. Due to my commitments in WWE, I couldn’t pursue them like I wanted to. As I go and pursue these opportunities, the fans will always dictate to me what’s the best thing to do as a character. That’s who I am. That’s who Aaron Stevens is.
Did WWE say why they were releasing you?
No, not really, and they didn’t need to. Parting ways is never a pleasant thing. It’s funny, because we took some test one time, and my empathy was measured on some ridiculous level. When I was being called, I was thinking about the other guy – the guy who has to give a guy this news. I was just more like, “Oh, cool. Thank you for everything. It was awesome.” It was somewhat mutual. I had expressed to them that maybe, if they didn’t have anything for me, then yeah, there are other guys who need a chance. I had already run that spectrum with the fans. A lot of times, in pro sports, you have egos involved. My ego was solely about getting the fans to react one way or another.
When you say it was mutual, do you mean your release had come up before, or that you were OK with their decision?
Not so much my release, but all the options. I had asked about being a commentator if they weren’t going to have me on as a wrestler. There were many different options I was exploring. It wasn’t a doom or gloom situation. I just wanted to look into every route that was possible.
What were some of those routes? Over the past year, particularly after the ‘Macho Mandow’ experiment, were ideas pitched to get you back on TV?
I actually kind of wanted to cool off for a month or two. What more could I have done after that? There were talks about repackaging me. There were talks about me doing a parody of current events. There were several things that were on the table. For one reason or another, they didn’t go through. There’s so much that goes into getting characters on TV. The WWE is great at defining and presenting characters in the best possible way. You can pitch ideas, but there’s so much that goes into the television shows, as far as where the character will fit in, or how it’ll fit in, and sometimes it just doesn’t fit. All I could do was hit a grand slam every time I got to go out there.
I don’t have a bad thing to say about WWE. I wanted to be a wrestler since I was a kid, or I should say I wanted to be a “performer” or whatever you call us now. I got the opportunity to do that. I traveled the world. I had a bunch of fun. What more could I ask for? It was awesome. There’s other opportunities out there. There’s other avenues in life that I want to pursue. Now I can go into those other avenues. WWE gave me my first global platform, but it won’t be my last. I will always be very proud of being associated with them.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/sports/features/damien-sandow-on-life-after-wwe-and-his-thank-you-tour-20160513#ixzz48jJ3oJk1
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Seriously, what a breath of fresh air Damien Sandow is. Guys in his position are usually bitter and angry and take every opportunity to bury the company that just employed them. Instead Sandow took the high road and showed exactly why WWE missed the boat on this guy. Just based on this interview, how could this not be a guy that the company couldn’t find a spot for? He was entertaining, a solid in ring performer and someone who was actually over with the crowd. He also seems to be a quality human being who realizes how fortunate he’s been in life, in spite of just losing his dream job. Here’s hoping Damien Sandow finds much success in his life after WWE, whether it be in wrestling or not.