Thursday, May 1, 2014

Overqualified on a Public Stage: Damien Sandow and Roles in Pro Wrestling

He entertained as Magneto, but why won't WWE let Sandow do more?
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In a perfect world, everyone would get the proportionate responsibility or role at work according to their talent levels. As nearly everyone who has ever attempted to get into the workforce can attest, that case is an ideal that is hard to attain. If you are reading this post and you have never been overqualified for a job you had, you truly lead a charmed life. In this turbulent economy, having any job can feel like a victory, but at the same time, if you go to school for advanced training, only to be an infernal, eternal understudy to someone who got the job because he knew someone, working in a role that is too easy, regardless of the paygrade (which to be fair usually is way below what the upper positions requiring specialization are), can feel frustrating. Most of jobs, however, are not in the public eye, and thus are fodder for family, friends, and co-workers to kvetch over rather than the crowd doing so in referendum.

Damien Sandow, however, is obviously and painfully in a public position working in a role within WWE that he is woefully overqualified for. His turn as dime store Magneto Monday was the latest in a series of "court jester" vignettes where he was set up to be an obvious and immediate punchline for instant gratification to the crowd. No doubt the man is good at what he's doing; crowds react to him getting hip-tossed by celebrities or knocked the fuck out by The Big Show because he can rile them up in short bursts of time. However, the problem is that he's been typecast into a role that maybe isn't beneath him inasmuch as it only utilizes a fraction of his talent.

On one hand, Sandow has a job with the most lucrative company in the world. Whether that job allows him to make the most use of his immense talents or not is irrelevant. He's probably making decent coin relative to his peers, and he's definitely better off than anyone else in an American wrestling company save for the tippy-top of the card in TNA. To bemoan his state within the company or feel bad at how he's "misused" feels a bit selfish without knowing exactly how he feels about his role.

Then again, if someone has shown the ability to perform at a higher capacity than what they currently are doing, then is the crime of wasted potential greater than any desire to stay with the less-demanding role? Regardless of desire of the performer/company or the efficacy of current role, if a wrestler excels at something better than what he or she is doing at the current time, all parties involved would be better served at advancement and letting the people who have fewer dimensions occupy those lesser roles. It's not like Sandow hasn't shown proficiency in something other than the instant punchline.

He's proven that he's an able and excellent villainous wrestler within the ring, a quality that bodes exceedingly well for a wrestler to have long term viability as a black hat. The fact that he's had stellar showcase matches with opponents like Dolph Ziggler, John Cena, and Sheamus (two out of three who are clearly in WWE's long term plans at least) should point to him as at the very least a strong, heat-mongering opponent for a B special event who can provide a solid payoff match. His absolute ceiling, at least in my estimation, is as a top-level heel who can headline WrestleMania, one of the only current non-established wrestlers whom I think can do so from that side of the ledger. Obviously, he's not going to get to that plateau by dressing up like a supervillain and getting his ass handed to him by a celebrity who can barely perform the most basic offensive maneuver in pro wrestling.

I'm not saying that Sandow can't dabble in those kinds of exercises in pro wrestling pageantry and excess, but when the only thing he's doing is getting stripped of the things that made him special and showing his ass for instant gratification, something is wrong with the picture. He's doing the wrestling equivalent of "Charlie work" when WWE already has at least one trio of perfectly capable Charlie Kelly-types in 3MB. Then again, Drew McIntyre definitely is in the same boat as Sandow, while Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal might also qualify. That premise is fodder for a whole other argument.

The greatest disappointment in an art such as wrestling is to waste potential. Sandow is good as the comically overmatched blowhard served up for a cheap pop, but he can do better. Much like your company probably can give you a better platform and more responsibilities, WWE can certainly let Sandow spread his wings a little bit wider. Even if sometimes, the buzz around his lot in the company can be wrong-headed, it still comes from a place of empathy. Much like the vocal viewers who may or may not be frustrated with the dead end natures of their jobs, Sandow feels like he's as far as he could go with this role and could use something a bit more complex and meaty. For those fans, living vicariously through him as a symbol is never a bad thing.