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Damien Sandow On In-Ring Improv Skills, Giving Credit To Dr. Tom & Killer Kowalski, Working Through Creative Lows

Former WWE Superstar Aaron Haddad (Damien Sandow) was a recent guest on the Why It Ended with Robbie E podcast. Sandow opened up about a myriad of professional wrestling related topics related to his time in WWE. Highlights appear below. 

(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)

On How He Met Killer Kowalski:

I was at an indie show with my buddy and Killer Kowalski was there. I ended up talking to him and he asked me how old I was. I told him straight up [I was 16], but he goes, ‘If your parents sign a permission slip, I’ll let you train.’ That really took some convincing with my parents – especially on mom’s part, but I kinda made it happen.  

On What It Was Like Training W/ Killer Kowalski At Such A Young Age:

It was kinda cool because I was the only person under 18 there at the time. In fact, I don’t think there even was anybody at 18 there, so it was a bunch of grown men and me. I don’t want to say ‘protected,’ but he’d always look out for me. You get in the ring with some of the older guys and you get roughed up a bit. You just learn to shake it off and you go on and pay no mind to it, so that was kind of instilled in me no matter what happens, ‘You keep going no matter what. You just keep going.’ Even in matches like when I was younger, one of the veterans would light you up or whatever, ‘OK, I just got to make it through this match and I’ll be fine.’ That was always my mentality and it kind of translated into my philosophy later on in life, but it’s something I learned at a very young age. When you’re 16 and you’re sitting in homeroom – I went to a Catholic school, so you have a nun telling you to tuck your shirt in and then hours later you’re at Lynn Armory getting a steel chair swung out. It makes for a very interesting high school life.

On Improvisational Skills Being Lost In Some Wrestlers Today:

Some people are like, ‘Oh, wow something went wrong and you fixed it and called it in the ring.’ They think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, ‘No, I’m a professional. That’s kind of what we should all be able to do, if things happen.’ I think that’s kind of lost. I’m not in the business anymore. I really haven’t done in anything in almost two years…my opinion is my opinion. I’ll preface the rest of my interview with this: I’m not familiar with the rest of the product and what’s going on today, so forgive my ignorance on the current situation or the state of pro wrestling, but this is all based on a few years ago when I was in it.

The people that were really pros, I don’t know where that got lost where you have people in major organizations where everyone jokes about how terrible they are. It’s like, ‘Alright, why would you hire someone like that?’ If I was coaching the Patriots, I wouldn’t have a Division III college player—nothing against Division III college players, but an unproven Division III college player with poor stats—be my starting quarterback. I think it’s kind of the same thing, but again that would be approaching it as a sport when you look at a particular skill set. From an entertainment standpoint, anything goes. Wrestling is that weird blend and it was always interesting to me. I didn’t say ‘a lot.’ I said ‘there are some people’ and again, I’m not trying to knock the business or anything. There is a percentage of people that I have encountered that really do not know what to do when variables happen.

On The Hegemony Of Training Among Wrestlers Today:

Yes [it is a contributing factor] to a degree. Having everyone in one training facility is great in a way. From a corporate standpoint you can kind of control everything and focus on who you want to focus on and develop them as such, but creatively, if you only have a certain number of minds, you can give someone freedom, but how much freedom will they actually have? It will always be within the margins of what someone (whoever that someone is) says you have to keep them in and at the same time it’s like, ‘Think outside the box, think outside the box.’ It’s a very tricky situation. I don’t know what kind of drills they’re doing. Are they doing drills where people mess up?

You can do drills ‘til you’re blue in the face, but there’s nothing that will replicate a live crowd and you can do all the in-house shows you want and little spot shows here and there, but I’m not sure – the developmental system – how produced their live events are now and that I think would be a deciding factor in terms of whether people are comfortable enough in their skill set where if something happens they can just pick up where they left off, no big deal, crowd doesn’t know. Again, it’s all how you handle it internally and also who’s teaching you, what they’re teaching you, and are you getting the reps in, are you getting the freedom to go out there and mess up? That’s how I learned.

Sandow Gives Credit To Tom Prichard:

I was, in college, getting two SmackDown and two RAW tapings a month, so I was pretty comfortable in the WWE locker room. This was all courtesy of Tom Prichard, Dr. Tom as he is known in some circles. I owe my career to Tom Prichard. Killer trained me and obviously there is a big debt to him, but to have a career where I was able to make money and have the career I had, that is Tom Prichard. He’s the guy who believed in me. I got hired both times because of him. I can’t put him over enough.

On Whether He Was Ever Hazed In WWE:

Not one [guy took liberty on me]. I’ve never been through the hazing or anything like that. I’m a very easy going person or at least I try to be. My whole thing is, ‘You don’t mess with me, I don’t mess with you.’ I respected the hierarchy. I was a young kid at the time and I wasn’t going to overstep my bounds, but there was never any hazing.

On Goals He Would Have Liked To Accomplish & Working Through Creative Lows:

It would have been nice to win the world title. That would have been cool and again, obviously, from a creative standpoint was I completely happy with everything that was ever handed to me? No, not at all. In fact, quite the opposite, but I’ve always kind of removed my personal opinion from whatever was given to me.

It took awhile, but I said, ‘OK, this isn’t about me. This is about the fans. What do I have to do to make this the best possible segment for them?’ Because ultimately that reflects on me and there have been so many guys that have been put in situations where they’re not happy with it and it translates to the screen and it translates to the live audience. I am kind of too much of an egomaniac when it comes to my own performances to be selfish and I know that’s a weird paradoxical statement, but hopefully I’ve explained the reason behind that to you just now.

Sandow also opens up about his IMPACT Wrestling run, working with Billy Corgan, and his future in wrestling. Readers can listen to all that and more below:

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