Ever since the Money in the Bank ladder match and contract concept exploded onto the wrestling world at WrestleMania XXI, wrestling fans have talked about who was going to fail to cash it in. When CM Punk won for the second time, there was an assumption he would lose. When Daniel Bryan won it in 2011, we figured he would be the first to take the failure. John Cena would end up being the first and, up until Monday, only person to fail when cashing in the briefcase. It didn't hurt him a jot, and it never was going to. Cena is an anomaly in every aspect in modern pro wrestling, Money in the Bank contract included. Saying that, when Randy Orton won the red briefcase, many thought he would become the second to fail. He is in the top three in the company in terms of star name, and losing wouldn't have hurt him too much.
This past Monday on Raw, Damien Sandow became the second man to fail to cash in the briefcase. He lost to Cena, despite destroying the injured triceps of the Superman via briefcase, chair, steps, barricade and everything else. By conjuring up strength I can only assume was passed on to him by a combination of the people of the Cenation, the Hulkamaniacs, the Warriors and Bolievers, Cena defeated Damien Sandow, trained by Killer Kowalski, with a single arm.
The immediate reaction of most, myself included, was total and utter disappointment. Sandow is one of my favourite characters on TV, and seeing him denied his big moment by Cena, JOHN FREAKIN' CENA of all people, was deflating. As soon as the briefcase was passed to the referee, I forgot that pretty much every other briefcase winner has been booked as a terrible champion, and couldn't wait to see the Intellectual Saviour of the Masses with the Big Gold Belt. An AA later, and it wasn't to be. But, with almost a week to take stock of it all, the truth may be far from what I assumed. Maybe Damien Sandow wasn't buried in this failure to cash in. Maybe he was made.
Ever since winning the briefcase, Sandow has been booked terribly. This is nothing new, and almost seems to be a pre-requisite of winning a case. There was something different about Sandow though. Where as Ziggler lost constantly to Cena, Daniel Bryan lost matches to guys on the same level (at the time) such as Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow was losing to R-Truth, clean as a whistle. A feud with Cody Rhodes immediately followed his winning of the case, but regardless of the results of the matches it can't be argued that Cody Rhodes has come out of this years Smackdown ladder match the winner.
Let's get hypothetical. Sandow comes down to the right this past Monday, He obliterates Cena, much as he did, cashes in the briefcase and wins. By that I mean he wins directly after destroying Cena, like the vast majority of people who have cashed in. Then he goes on the typical championship reign, losing non-title matches to everyone in his vicinity before having his run end with a whimper as he returns to the purgatory of the midcard. This is what has happened to Dolph Ziggler, it happened to Punk after his second run and it happened to Jack Swagger. There is no reason to believe Damien Sandow wouldn't have suffered the same fate.
What actually happened? Well, Sandow came out to a hot crowd and delivered a strong promo in ring with Cena. He looked absolutely vicious in his attack, displaying a comfort in character that is every bit as impressive as the joy Bray Wyatt is doing. The 'rise above THIS' as he hurled Cena into the barricade was particularly pleasing. His Kowalski-influenced mean streak, so often played up by the announcers but seen so infrequently, was out in full. That pre-match attack was every bit as violent and calculated as any other I can remember seeing in WWE. Sandow looked like a dangerous, dangerous man.
What about the match itself? I defy anyone to produce a match where Damien Sandow has looked this good. He has been consistently decent since making his début on WWE TV, but there hasn't really been a single stand-out performance. In this match against Cena, which I would without doubt put in my top 10 RAW matches of the year, he put in his career-defining (to date) performance, and was presented as a genuine threat. Gone had any memories of falling prey to whatever R-Truth is using as a finisher these days, gone were the constant chokeslams that punctuated the Team Hell No/Team Rhodes Scholars feud. Here was a wrestler who looked like he belonged in the spotlight being afforded to him. Whenever I think of a Damien Sandow match, until a better one it will be this one that comes to mind, and that has nothing to do whatsoever with the added intrigue of the briefcase.
Where WWE goes with Sandow from here will be the proof in whatever pudding is being baked. If he goes back into the midcard, beating Justin Gabriel on Main Event and losing to CM Punk in 3 minutes on RAW on a weekly basis, then this is all for nothing. The way he has been booked has undoubtedly derailed him a little, just as there are still aspects of his in ring work that need solidifying.
For instance, he needs a finisher and he needs one soon. The Terminus and the You're Welcome are fine as big moves, but neither comes across too well as a finisher. His character is one of in-ring violent surgeon at time, so I put forward that it would benefit Sandows character to take on a submission as a finisher, but which one? The Crossface is too close to the Yes Lock, Del Rio has a monopoly on armbars, and Miz was butchering the Figure Four on a weekly basis not long ago. The Sleeper has died it's death, so why not a Dragon Sleeper? Whilst not as big market as many other submissions, the thing is intense, looks all sorts of painful, and can come out of nowhere. The hallmarks of all good finishers.
Either way, Sandow was made to look like a top player this past Monday, success or not. Unlike previous cash ins, he did the attacking himself. When Swagger cashed in on Jericho, Edge did the damage. When Punk cashed in on Edge, Batista did the damage. The difference here is that it was Sandow himself that put the attack in. It was his doing, as opposed to preying on a cadaver left by another.
This also does wonders for the briefcases themselves. As soon as the match was made into a feature-length pay-per-view, there was a worry that things would get stale. What happened with Damien Sandow on Monday will push some new life into future stories. No longer will there be an assumption every time a champion is attacked. Intrigue has returned.
Whatever happens in the future, Damien Sandow managed to look like a complete star despite failing to cash in. He proved that he had the in-ring chops to match his wonderful microphone work. If he ends up being squashed by Hornswoggle on a weekly basis, I'll hold my hands up and say he was buried here. If he ends up a total star, we'll look at this as the making of Damien Sandow.
That'll do for now. What do you think? Was Sandow buried or made on Monday? What should he take on as a finisher? Has it spiced up the Money in the Bank a bit? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, or we'll get into it on twitter (@pingvinorkestra). Let's go Penguins.