Apologies for getting this up late but Damien Sandow spoke with Rolling Stone earlier this month to discuss his WWE release and more. Below are highlights:
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.
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.
What were some of those routes [he was exploring]? 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.
Looking back, do you have any regrets about your time in WWE?
Look at the reaction I got this week, out of all the guys who were released. Look at the reaction I got from the crowd when I was there. It was because I put everything I had into my performance, and it always showed. I did in four years what it takes some people ten years to do. I took the audience through the whole spectrum of emotions in four years. If that’s my legacy, as far as the WWE is concerned, I’m grateful, and I’m grateful for them for giving me the platform to do that. I had fun. I think the fans had a lot of fun.
WWE fans, they know their stuff. They know what’s good. Do I have regrets? Absolutely not. I’m trying to think if there’s one thing I would have done differently. Not really. I can’t think of one. I maximized my time. I had a great time doing it. And it’s presenting me with new opportunities that I’m going to look to take advantage of now.
So what are some of those opportunities?
After I got the call last week, I was actually looking forward to spending time at home for a while. But, as offers started coming in, I took select dates, because I wanted to say thank you to the fans. I want to meet them, and have a chance to talk to them. I wanted to go out and thank them, in my own way. My career is because of the fans. WWE gave me the platform, and I’m eternally grateful for the WWE, but I’m here because of the fans.
However, even as I was with WWE, I had questions come up of if I’d ever do anything on film or acting-wise. I was taken aback, because I’m a wrestler. It started coming from more than one person though. People started to talk to me about it, and I started asking questions about it. I started taking acting classes on my off-days, just to see what it would be all about. I found that acting, in terms of putting on the mask of a character, is different in a lot of ways then what I did, but it’s also very similar. My passion started to be really character-based, figuring out what the details of playing different types of characters would be. It’s definitely a craft, but it’s a craft that I’m really committed to. Over the past year or so, I’ve been taking classes and reading and it’s really interesting. I love it. There have been a couple of offers, however, I’m very lucky. I have a good team of people who know what they’re doing. The first move is going to be crucial. It’s all about sifting through and figuring out what works. I can promise you this though: I will put the same amount I put into my wrestling into whatever I do.
Could you see yourself returning to wrestling on a full-time basis, whether that’s in a company like TNA, ROH, Lucha Underground, or somewhere else?
When you say full-time, full-time in the WWE is very different than full-time elsewhere. I am not going to rule out anything. I don’t want to limit myself. It’s not like when I finish up my “Thank You Tour,” I’m going to be burning my boots. It is an aspect of performance, and if I can use whatever avenue to perform. If the fans want it, and they’re digging it, if it coincides with whatever project I decide to take, then I’m open to anything. It’s a very exciting time, and I’m not opposed to performing in a wrestling ring. You never know.