Ordinarily, hearing a pompous, condescending, presumably overeducated man bloviate and self-promote doesn’t provide for engaging entertainment. Being able to experience Damien Sandow doing said bloviating and self-promoting, however, means an exception to that rule.
“Well, the first time I saw WWE, I was a very small intellectual savior at the age of 5. I realized that the WWE is without a doubt the world leader in entertainment,” says the nefarious pro wrestler, speaking from Louisville, Ky., during downtime from doing uncharacteristically charitable activities with the Louisville-based, children-focused Kosair Charities. “Globally, we have such an impact on people. I knew right then and there as I was saving the unwashed masses in the sandbox at Bright Start Academy Preschool that the WWE would eventually be my end means to save the unwashed masses as a whole.”
An expertly done throwback to the colorful, over-the-top “heels” of World Wrestling Entertainment (then the World Wide Wrestling Federation) in the 1980s, Sandow has nailed the details of his persona for maximum love-to-hate-ability. Though billed as a resident of Palo Alto, Calif. (a city inextricably tied to Stanford University), Sandow—who will be performing during a WWE live event in Salt Lake City on May 24—is really more of a caricature of sneering, hoity-toity East Coast intellectuals. The only difference is that this one happens to have a muscular, athletic frame and a most unusual occupation. He chastises fans and other wrestlers in WWE as plebeians, throwing out barbs peppered with 50-cent words (“ignoramuses” is a favorite) and ultra-condescending comebacks such as “You’re welcome” and “Thank you for your irrelevant opinion.” He enters the ring to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” and he calls himself the Intellectual Savior of the Masses. Since he doesn’t want to stoop so low as to use Twitter himself, he has an unseen lackey named Ignatius post his thoughts for him. WWE couldn’t build a more classic wrestling villain if they tried.
The 6-foot, 4-inch, 243-pound Sandow’s physical details are similarly striking. He sports an ample but well-maintained beard, an entrance robe that’s half bathrobe, half smoking-jacket, a mysterious fondness for purple and pink ring gear, and a perpetually smug expression. When speaking, he holds the microphone like a snifter. When doing autograph signings, he uses a feather quill pen. (Merely engaging in signings seems to go against his character, but you can also buy that this guy relishes the huge ego boost he gets from all the attention.) His moves in the ring between bells are much more brutish and fast than you’d figure. Vicious-looking knee and shoulder strikes are a fundamental part of his repertoire, and he often lets out the grunts of a tennis player to emphasize his aggression. Still, Sandow does have a couple of particularly absurd moves. He waves his hands like an orchestra conductor before dropping an elbow called the Cubito Aequet. Sometimes, while pinning a prone opponent for the three-count, Sandow puts his hand under his chin, looking like an especially punchable Shirley Temple posing for a photo on graduation day at finishing school.
As is the case for the majority of the WWE roster, Sandow’s ring name isn’t the same as his real one. Known offscreen as Aaron Steven Haddad, he had a previous run in WWE circa 2006 as the generic, very un-Sandow-like character of Idol Stevens. After the Stevens character flopped and was taken off television, Haddad bounced between WWE-affiliated developmental organizations and independent leagues. He returned to WWE in spring 2012 as the Sandow character. Nowadays, when most wrestlers speak to the press, they generally downplay their onscreen personalities or shelve them entirely for the sake of conversation. As Sandow, Haddad does the opposite, staying in his alias for our entire interview, except for when praising his company or discussing the charity.
As a character, Damien Sandow has an answer for everything. Fittingly, Haddad has embraced that quality, too. He uses a question about Sandow-branded bathrobes WWE has begun hawking as another springboard into his shtick. “Any time I can get my message out there, whether it’s on the microphone, on my T-shirts, on my action figures or on a bathrobe, it’s great,” he says. “I have also been informed that they now sell Damien Sandow onesies and bibs for the small children of the world, so it’s starting them early, and that’s great. But again, I can have all the merchandise I want, but there’s nothing like hearing me live.” Then he launches into the hard sell for the Maverik Center show where he and Cody Rhodes will face the New Age Outlaws. “Above all, you are not only going to be entertained, you’re going to get a chance to better yourselves as human beings by listening to me speak live, and there’s no amount of money that can equal that. However, you can get that for the small price of admission.”
WWE RAW WORLD TOUR
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Friday, May 24, 7:30 p.m.