Killer Kowalski has had a long and accomplished career in the ring that spanned over 50 years and included countless championships. However, most modern fans know his name as an excellent wrestling trainer, as he has taught Triple H, Chyna, Kofi Kingston and Damien Sandow.
Sandow, aka Aron Stevens, had a six-year run in WWE that included winning the Tag Team Championship alongside The Miz and winning the Money in the Bank contract. He recounted his first day of training at Killer Kowalski during an interview with Giancarlo Aulino.
“I was 16 at the time and I remember Killer Kowalski or Walter as he was known to his students and to people who knew him. He taught me to lock up – it was outside the ring in front of a mirror – I don’t forget that. He taught me to lock up and taught me a hammer and all that, ”Sandow said.
“The first day I got in the ring which was pretty cool and it was a big deal. And then, of course, some of the older guys were like, ‘Who’s that kid that gets in the ring on day one?’ Because I guess it wasn’t a thing back then. And you know, it was interesting – I took my bumps and bruises and I wasn’t in any danger, but the older students gave me a bit of rough handling. But that was, you know, it made you harder and I don’t know if wrestling is like that these days. I can say I don’t think it is but I haven’t seen it, as far down as downstairs when people break in and things like that because I don’t hang out with wrestlers a lot. It was my personal experience with it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. ”
Sandow was only 16 when he started his wrestling training under Kowalski, but he made it clear that he was not treated unfairly by older wrestlers and that was the normal learning of the ropes.
“Just let me clarify, there was no hazing or anything like that… no it was just fine, this kid wants to be in a man’s world and you know what it is, they don’t. didn’t want to make exceptions for me. It wasn’t like that. It was just like, “Okay, you’re with us. Let’s make sure you know how to be here “and this and that,” Sandow said.
He’s had three different stints in WWE under three different names. First he was Aaron Stevens and worked about a dozen matches in 2002-03 before returning to the OVW. He was then recalled in 2006 where he passed through Idol Stevens before being released a year later. Sandow then returned to FCW in 2010 and made his main roster debut as Damien Sandow in 2011.
Sandow would stay with WWE until his release in 2016 and through all of his stays, Sandow has described WWE’s travel schedule.
“You have a day and a half at home. Your plane lands at 11:30 a.m. [am] on a Wednesday. You know, you’ve been up since 5 a.m., catching your flight, doing your laundry. Then Friday, you wake up six in the morning, catch a flight, three house shows, then you make two televisions [tapings], then you start over. Yeah, it wasn’t the time at home, ”Sandow revealed. It’s funny because now I hear how the calendar is and I’m like, ‘Oh my God’… well, it’s also pre-pandemic… yeah, like that calendar is nothing [laughs]. You know, for what they did and what they expected from us. ”
Unlike all other sports, there is no off season for professional wrestling. They don’t plan any events around the holidays either, so Sandow was asked if wrestlers have free time for special events like the holidays.
“Boxing Day we were leaving and coming home for New Years which was a really lucrative loop which was cool. And people have free time like, ‘Oh, I need some free time.’ We would never think of doing that… never think of doing that. I think you know what with some guys, I think they’re just for some reason they’re more forgiving, but I’ve never, ever had any special treatment from the office or anything like that, ”a said Sandow. “Like I’ve never … nobody’s ever made an exception in my case and they would with some guys, but that’s what they do and it’s like that in any business.”
“It’s not fair, ‘Oh, the bad WWE.’ No, it’s just that sometimes some people have breaks, sometimes others don’t, that’s all. They compensated me and life goes on. ”
After leaving WWE and spending around a year in Impact Wrestling, Sandow took a hiatus from the business in 2017. He will resurface at the end of 2019 with NWA where he is the current Tag Team Champion alongside JR Kratos.
Sandow spoke of working for the promotion and for NWA owner Billy Corgan.
” Unbelievable. I think Billy is someone who is very in tune with the audience and at the same time, he’s an artist above all else and I’ve always approached wrestling like that, ”said Sandow. “You know a lot of guys would be like, ‘Oh, just let me go do my game’ like no, that’s performance art. It’s 100% performance art and it’s funny, him and I are very much on the same page in terms of character development. It was a very, very positive experience and an honor to work with him. ”
The National Wrestling Alliance dates back to 1948 and boasts legendary champions such as Ric Flair, Harley Race, Lou Thesz and Sting. Sandow is now part of that story as he held the NWA Heavyweight Championship for almost a year.
Sandow spoke about NWA’s rich history as well as what makes NWA Powerr so fun to watch.
“In my opinion, WWE is only about 20 years old, something like that, right? But, okay, you had the WWF, you can trace the lineage of the WWF and this and that but before that the NWA… as if there weren’t three letters in active professional wrestling today that have a tradition like these three letters, ”Sandow said. “I mean, in my opinion, it’s not for debate. Even though you are far enough back in WWWF, it was part of the NWA, so how the roots run deep there.
“You know, the presentation of NWA Powerrr and how it was all sort of laid out, you take that traditional model and you take the fun to watch matches model with separate characters, promotions that help the characters recover, for me it was an easy to watch show. . It was a fun show to watch – people wanted more. But you are also able to think outside the box a bit and that for me keeps the product relevant today in 2020 … 2019 when it first came out. This keeps its relevance; it keeps it state-of-the-art, so you’re not essentially looking at a 1985 carbon copy because if you did it wouldn’t work. You know the style of wrestling is different, everything is different – society is different. But at the same time, it’s like you are rooted in tradition while making your own way and I think it’s just a wonderful thing that NWA is doing. ”