The WWE very well may be in the midst of a golden age when it comes to up-and-coming heel talent. Several guys who are coming through the pipeline appear to have main event potential, but perhaps the most intriguing among them is Damien Sandow.
This isn't Sandow's first go-around in the WWE as he previously competed under the name Idol Stevens in 2006. His run was short-lived, however, and it led Sandow to toil on the independent circuit. He eventually caught back on with the WWE and debuted his new gimmick earlier this year.
Although every wrestler is going to have detractors regardless of how talented his is, Sandow appears to be universally liked for the most part. He's obviously booed by the general audience since it's trained to despise the heels, but based purely on an overall talent standpoint, the hardcore fans realize that he has the ability to accomplish big things in the WWE.
Sandow is great because his gimmick is somewhat of a throwback. A lot of people like to compare him to The Genius since they both deliver verbose promos and do cartwheels, but that's not really a fair assessment. The Genius would read long, winding, boring poems and he received the famed go-away heat that many have dubbed "X-Pac heat."
Sandow, on the other hand, is extremely entertaining on the mic and uses his vast vocabulary to degrade the fans. He gets booed as well, but it seems like the audience is far more engaged with him than it ever was with a guy like The Genius. Sandow is undoubtedly over as a heel because of his mic skills and gimmick, and that is going to help him in his quest toward the main event.
With that said, though, there are undoubtedly some areas in which Sandow can improve. The most obvious among them is his in-ring work. While Sandow isn't terrible in the ring by any means, he's very basic and isn't cut out for wrestling a long match. The majority of his offense is made up of neckbreakers, snap mares and chinlocks, so he needs to expand his horizons a bit.
His signature moves are an elbow drop with theatrics as well as a Russian leg sweep, and his finisher is a straight-jacket neckbreaker, so he isn't going to mystify the fans with his wrestling prowess. Sandow is a very big man at 6'4" and 247 lbs, though, and he would benefit from adding some high-impact moves into his arsenal as he would look far more physical and vicious.
Also, Sandow needs to run through the midcard before he can be considered a main event contender. I liked what the WWE was doing with him as one half of Rhodes Scholars alongside Cody Rhodes because they likely would have eventually gone over Team Hell No and won the Tag Team Championships.
Rhodes suffered an injury on Main Event a few weeks ago, however, and is likely to be out for a significant period of time, so Sandow is back on his own. Had he and Rhodes won the tag titles, they could have beaten established guys like Kane, Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara and others, and that would have helped both of them transition to the main event scene more quickly.
Sandow will have to do it on his own, though, but he definitely has the talent necessary to reach the next level. Aside from his brief rivalry with Team Hell No, Sandow hasn't really had a true rivalry in the WWE, particularly as a singles star. He has beaten essentially every low-card guy on the entire roster, but he'll need something bigger to take the next step.
One feud that would undoubtedly elevate Sandow is a potential program with Randy Orton. While Orton hasn't been in title contention for over a year, he is a multi-time world champion and is still one of the company's top faces. Orton has put over quite a few guys over the past year and Sandow ought to join that list.
Sandow still doesn't have a signature win as an individual, so a victory over Orton would immediately move to the top of the list. I wouldn't mind seeing a three-month feud with them trading pay-per-view wins before Sandow finally gets the last laugh. It would give Sandow a reason to be boisterous and it would only further the arrogance of his Intellectual Savior character.
It is clear that Sandow has everything you look for in main event heel. He simply needs a little polishing in the ring, an important feud to kick-start him and a little more time. His second WWE run is still less than a year old, so he is very much on track.
Sandow obviously has a lot of guys to compete with for a top spot such as Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett and Antonio Cesaro to name a few, but the fact that he has a refined character and elite mic skills may very well push him to the front of the pack soon enough.