REVIEW: WWE SUPERSTARS DAMIEN SANDOW
During the 1980's, when I first started watching professional wrestling, it seemed that most professional wrestlers had some sort of gimmick personality to help identify him and help him get over with the fans. Rowdy Roddy Piper was a rowdy Scotsman in a kilt. Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake carried a pair of hedge clippers around with him. Sgt. Slaughter used a soldier motif successful enough to get him assigned to the G.I. Joe team as several action figures as well as voicing his own character in the animated series.
Entering into the "Attitude Era" of the 1990's, over the top gimmicks seemed to give way in favor of wrestlers just presenting themselves as themselves -- just with, as one noted wrestling expert has put it, "the volume turned way up". Some longtime veterans still maintained their gimmicks to one degree or another, but for the most part, it seemed to be an ongoing contest as to who could just be the bigger, louder, meaner, and tougher.
Today, although I wouldn't exactly say we've entered a "quieter, gentler" age, it does seem as though some of the gimmicks have returned to some degree. Three guys who weren't faring all that well got together to form a faux rock band called 3MB -- and they're still not faring all that well. Brodus Clay and Tensai have formed a tag team and routinely come to the ring with a disco ball light show, and spend some time dancing in the ring, aided by a couple of dancing cheerleaders, before taking on their opponents. And don't even get me started on the wrestler named Fandango.
Then we have the case of the relative newcomer -- at least under his present identity -- of DAMIEN SANDOW. Sandow is presented as a refined, if extremely arrogant, intellectual, a definite "heel" character who comes out to the ring, and generally belittles both the audience and his opponent, regarding them as unworthy of his attention, and yet still trying to be, as he puts it, "intellectual savior to the masses". He typically concludes his monologue with "You're welcome".
For some odd reason, I sort of like the guy. And he has recently received his first ever figure in Mattel's line of WWE SUPERSTARS action figures, so let's have a look at the background of the man, and then have a look at his action figure.
Aaron Steven Haddad, born August 3, 1981, is contracted to WWE and appears under the ring name Damien Sandow. He previously appeared in WWE as Idol Stevens, and he has also competed for Ohio Valley Wrestling and Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council. Among other championships, he is a former FCW 15 Champion and FCW Florida Tag Team Champion with Titus O'Neil.
Stevens was trained by the legendary Killer Kowalski and Chaotic Wrestling and debuted June 23, 2001 losing to Chris Harvey. Stevens became the third member of the One Night Stand, along with Ronnie D. Lishus & Edward G. Xtasy. After two attempts, Stevens & Xtasy beat Little Guido Maritato & Luis Ortiz for the Chaotic Wrestling Tag Team Championship. They lost the title two months later, to John Walters & Vince Vicallo. In the next few years before signing with WWE, he had three title shots, two for the Chaotic Wrestling Heavyweight Championship and one for the Chaotic Wrestling New England Championship. He lost them all.
He made his World Wrestling Alliance debut on November 22 teaming with Edward G. Xtasy & Jimmy Snuka to defeat The Island Boys (Ekmo & Kimo) & Pat Piper. He beat Danny Davis for the WWA Heavyweight Championship and lost it to Jonah Adelman.
Stevens signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment after receiving numerous try-out matches on Heat against opponents such as Steven Richards, Team Angle, Johnny Nitro, and Maven. He also worked an angle where he had his fingers "broken" by Raven on Heat.
He later was reassigned to WWE's developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), dubbed Aaron "The Idol" Stevens. At a house show in 2004, Stevens and Nova beat Chris Cage and Tank Toland to win the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship.
On January 4, 2006, Stevens won the OVW Television Championship after replacing Ken Doane in a three-way dance with Brent Albright and then-champion CM Punk. Doane was injured halfway through the match and Stevens came out to replace him. After interference from Punk, who was eliminated earlier in the match by Albright, Stevens was able to pin Albright to win the title. At the March 8 television taping, Paul Burchill cost Stevens the Television Championship against Seth Skyfire.
On August 4, 2006, Stevens made his SmackDown! debut as "Idol Stevens" when he was introduced by Michelle McCool as one of her favorite "Teachers Pets". Along with KC James, the two went on to defeat Funaki and Scotty 2 Hotty with the help of McCool. The following week, Stevens and James defeated WWE Tag Team Champions Paul London and Brian Kendrick in a non-title match. On the August 18 show, Stevens and James ambushed the Tag Team Champions.
The two teams began feuding, with London and Kendrick bringing in Ashley Massaro to counteract McCool. The feud also briefly encompassed the team of Jamie Noble and Kid Kash, who also wanted a Tag Team title shot. Stevens and James got their Tag Team Championship shot against the tandem at No Mercy on October 8, but failed to win the titles. Soon after, both Stevens and James were taken off television and sent back to Ohio Valley Wrestling.
You know, I don't customarily videotape wrestling shows, and this sort of thing makes me wish that sometimes I did. I have no memory of this guy as Idol Stevens...
After being removed from the SmackDown! roster, Stevens returned to OVW. He lost to Charles Evans upon his return and no mention of his tag team venture with KC James was made. On March 14, 2007 he defeated Paul Burchill to win the OVW Heavyweight Championship. On May 9, after title defences against Cody Runnels and Mike Mondo, Burchill defeated Stevens to regain the OVW Championship. The championship was vacated and Stevens lost to Jay Bradley in a three-way match including Burchill. On June 8, Stevens defeated Burchill in a Number One OVW Heavyweight Contendership match.
He got his title match in a three-way match, again including champion Jay Bradley and Paul Burchill. The match was not only for Bradley's title, but also Stevens's car and Burchill's house. Bradley defeated both men and won all the stakes. His last match for OVW before his release was a two-ring steel cage flag match, which, along with Al Snow, Atlas DaBone, Chet The Jett and Colt Cabana, he defeated Michael W. Kruel, Ramon, Raul, The Belgium Brawler and Vladimir Kozlov.
Stevens made his return to the independent circuit at NWA 60th Anniversary Show losing to Mike DiBiase II in a match for the NWA North American Heavyweight Championship. He appeared for XCW Wrestling Mid-West and Derby City Wrestling for the next few months before re-signing with OVW. On November 7, 2008 he lost to Steve Boz at A Tribute Fit For The King, a tribute show for Jerry Lawler.
Stevens returned to OVW on November 12, 2008 surprising and defeating OVW Heavyweight Champion, Anthony Bravado, in a non-title bout. This win guaranteed him a title shot. On November 26, he won the Championship, becoming a two time champion. His last match for OVW was on February 11, 2009, a rematch for the championship which he lost.
Idol returned to Puerto Rico, in the World Wrestling Council, where he was the "protegido" of Jose Chaparro and a member of the "American Family". He debuted on February 28, 2009, defeating Angel. He defeated BJ for the WWC Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship, before losing it to Shane Sewell. On August 15, 2009, Stevens and Shawn Spears defeated Thunder and Lightning to become the new WWC World Tag Team Champions. Later Stevens feuded with Shawn Spears which ended at Euphoria 2010. Stevens won the WWC Tag Team Champion with King Tonga Jr. by defeating Thunder and Lightning.
On October 31, Stevens and Spears lost the Tag Team Championship back to Thunder and Lightning. On February 20, 2010, Chicano named Stevens his new Tag Team Championship partner to replace Bryan. On March 13 Thunder and Lightning defeated Stevens and Chicano to win the titles. After Stevens regained the titles with King Tonga Jr., the duo lost them to Los Aerios (Carlitos and Hiram Tua) on April 24, 2010. Stevens regained the Tag Team Championship from Los Aerios on June 11, 2010, this time teaming with Abbad and lost it to Thunder and Lightning in a three-way match, also involving BJ and Chicano, on July 11, 2010. His last match for WWC before signing with WWE came on July 31, losing to Joe Don Smith.
On July 14, 2010, it was reported that Stevens had signed a new developmental deal with the WWE, and changed his ring name to Damien Sandow while also adopting a new gimmick. On December 3, Sandow won the Florida Tag Team Championship with Titus O'Neill by defeating Xavier Woods and Mason Ryan in a match for the vacant championship. They lost the championship to Richie Steamboat and Seth Rollins on March 25, 2011. After losing the title, Sandow turned on O'Neill and joined the group formed by Lucky Cannon, Aksana and Maxine. Following the dissolution of the group, Sandow adopted the gimmick of a verbose intellectual before defeating Seth Rollins on September 22 to win the FCW 15 Championship. On January 13, 2012, Sandow lost the FCW 15 Championship to Richie Steamboat.
On the April 6, 2012 episode of SmackDown, Sandow, presenting his new gimmick of a grandiloquent pedant, appeared in a pre-taped interview denouncing today's popular culture and extolling his virtues. After weeks of vignettes, Sandow made his WWE in-ring re-debut on the May 4 episode of SmackDown, but refused to compete in his scheduled match against Derrick Bateman, claiming that the audience would neither learn nor benefit from him facing an inferior opponent.
On the May 18 episode of SmackDown, Sandow again refused to wrestle against Yoshi Tatsu but after Tatsu accused Sandow of cowardice, Sandow assaulted him. On the May 25 episode of SmackDown, Sandow defeated Tatsu decisively in his debut match.
The following week, Sandow refused to face Ezekiel Jackson; despite Jackson forcing the match to begin, Sandow won the match. On the June 8 episode of SmackDown, Sandow had intentions of attacking Hornswoggle, who was mocking Jim Ross, but was intercepted by Tyson Kidd before he could do so. The following week on SmackDown, Sandow defeated Kidd in a match.
On the June 29 episode of SmackDown, Sandow defeated Zack Ryder to qualify for the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank ladder match at Money in the Bank. However, he was unsuccessful as the match was won by Dolph Ziggler.
At Raw 1,000, Sandow confronted D-Generation X regarding their sophomoric and disgusting behaviour which he believed had brainwashed society; Sandow also declared that he would be a martyr if DX disposed of him. Despite this, DX assaulted Sandow and laid him out.
Sandow then began a feud with Brodus Clay the on July 30 episode of Raw, attacking Clay when he laughed at a video of Sandow's beatdown at the hands of DX. The following week on Raw, Sandow attacked Clay again before their scheduled match. Sandow and Clay finally faced off on the August 20 episode of Raw, where Sandow won after a roll-up but he was attacked by Clay after the match. On the August 31 episode of SmackDown Sandow had his first singles loss after being intentionally counted out against World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus.
Sandow then aligned himself with Cody Rhodes, attacking WWE Tag Team Champions Daniel Bryan and Kane on the September 24 episode of Raw and vowing to become the next champions. The team, known as Rhodes Scholars, were entered in a Tag Team Championship tournament four days later on SmackDown, and defeated The Usos to advance.
Sandow's undefeated streak came to an end on the October 1 edition of Raw, when he was pinned by Sheamus in a singles match. The following week on Raw, Rhodes Scholars defeated Santino Marella and Zack Ryder to advance to the finals in the tournament. Rhodes Scholars ultimately defeated Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara on the October 22 episode of Raw, to win the tournament and become the number one contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championship. Rhodes Scholars got their title opportunity against Daniel Bryan and Kane at Hell in a Cell, where they won by disqualification, thus Team Hell No retained the titles. Rhodes Scholars received another shot at the WWE Tag Team Championship on the November 14 of WWE Main Event, but were again defeated by Kane and Bryan. During the match, Rhodes suffered several legitimate injuries, placing their partnership on hold.
On the November 23 episode of SmackDown, Sandow unsuccessfully challenged Kofi Kingston for the Intercontinental Championship, his first singles title opportunity in WWE. From December 2012, Sandow begun a search for an apprentice by quizzing members of the audience. Sandow and Rhodes reunited on the December 10 episode of Raw, where they defeated Epico and Primo, Prime Time Players (Darren Young and Titus O'Neil), and the Usos in a fatal four-way tag team elimination match to earn the right to face Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara in a number one contender Tables match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. Six days later at the pay-per-view, Team Rhodes Scholars defeated Mysterio and Sin Cara to become the number one contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championship. Team Rhodes Scholars received their title shots on the following episode of Main Event, but were again defeated by Kane and Bryan.
On the January 7, 2013, episode of Raw, Team Rhodes Scholars defeated Kane and Bryan in a non-title match to earn another shot at the WWE Tag Team Championship. The title rematch took place on January 27 at the Royal Rumble, where Team Rhodes Scholars once again failed to capture the tag team titles. On the following episode of SmackDown, Sandow and Rhodes mutually decided to dissolve Team Rhodes Scholars and remain "best friends". However, they reunited during the pre-show of Elimination Chamber on February 17, but were defeated by the team of Brodus Clay and Tensai. Sandow and Rhodes then aligned themselves with The Bella Twins as they began feuding with "Tons of Funk" (Brodus Clay and Tensai) and The Funkadactyls (Cameron and Naomi). The two teams were originally booked to face each other in a eight-person mixed tag team match on April 7 at WrestleMania 29, but their match was cut due to time constraints. The match instead took place the following night on Raw, where Tons of Funk and The Funkadactyls emerged victorious.
Sandow would then return to singles competition. He marked his return by defeating the debuting Baron Corbin on May 8, edition of NXT with his new finisher, called The Silencer. After that, he declared to challenge Big E Langston to a match for NXT Championship on the following week, but was unsuccessful. He remained in singles competition regularly as a midcard talent, by went up losing to Kofi Kingston on May 13 of RAW, The Miz on May 17 of SmackDown and defeating Alex Riley on May 23 of Superstars. He also seems, as of this writing, to be starting up a feud with Sheamus, which will certainly get him out of midcard status.
So, how's the figure? It is a most splendid, stupendous, articulated formation of moldable, high molecular mass organic polymers. At least I suspect that's how he'd put it.
Seriously, though, it's a very impressive figure. One of my criteria for bringing in a new WWE Superstars figure into my collection is how accurate the likeness is. It helps that the package card includes an actual photograph of the real person. In Damien Sandow's case, the likeness is superb.
I'm not quite sure why, but the figure's looks a little more like the real Damien Sandow when viewed at a three-quarter view or a profile rather than head on. But regardless, it's an excellent likeness.
The facial expression is appropriately stand-offish and arrogant. Sandow has one eyebrow slightly raised, and a rather dismissive look in his eyes. Sandow has black hair, slicked back away from his forehead and somewhat long in the back. This has been very effectively sculpted and painted, as has the full black mustache and beard that Sandow is also known for.
Mattel has created a good variety of body types to be used in the WWE line, and the one that they have used for Damien Sandow is excellent. It's appropriately muscular without being overly musclebound. Sandow has a good physique for a professional athlete, and the sculpted musculature of the figure is at the right level of detail.
Then there's Damien Sandow's ring gear. I have occasionally criticized the WWE Superstars line for an excess of black. It's not really their fault. Black seems to be a common color for quite a few of the actual superstars. Consider it something of a holdover from the "Attitude Era."
Damien Sandow is not dressed in black. Well, he has black elbow pads, but that's it. He has white painted around his wrists to represent athletic tape, fairly high white boots with very neatly sculpted laces -- and pink trunks and large purple knee pads.
Precisely what this particular color scheme might have to do with Damien Sandow's in-ring personality as an intellectual, I have no real idea, but it's certainly distinctive. And I find myself wondering just a bit if the real Sandow was taking maybe too much of a ribbing for it in the locker room, because lately, Sandow has switched to white trunks. He still has the purple knee pads.
Obviously, the figure was manufactured before the switch. And while the color choice may be a bit -- atypical, it's certainly distinctive. I have no real objection to adding a bit of costume color to my WWE Superstars collection, even if it's pink.
The knee pads are quite a bright purple, and are rather large. Both they and the elbow pads are separately molded pieces, made from flexible plastic so as to not hinder the articulation of the figure, and attached to the figure during assembly.
The part of Mattel's manufacturing facility that work on imprinting details like tattoos and intricate costume details caught a serious break with Damien Sandow. He doesn't have any visible tattoos, and the color of the trunks and knee pads pretty well speak for themselves. There's no initials or graphics on them whatsoever.
Damien Sandow is articulated at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. The figure lacks what might be considered expected articulation at the mid-torso, upper leg swivels, and the legs move forward and backward, but not outward. However, it should be remembered that the Superstars line is pretty much the basic WWE line. There are more articulated, and more expensive, WWE figures from Mattel, but I'm pleased with the Superstars line, and for the size and quality of the figure, their price in most retail outlets is a bargain.
So, what's my final word? Although he's clearly been around for a while under other names and identities, the man now known as Damien Sandow is definitely a rising and prominent superstar in the WWE Universe, and I'm pleased to see that he's received his first-ever action figure in Mattel's WWE Superstars line. It's an excellent figure, and if you're a fan of Sandow, or the WWE in general, then you'll certainly enjoy adding this figure to your collection.
The WWE SUPERSTARS figure of DAMIEN SANDOW definitely has my highest recommendation!