It's been a particularly strange year in WWE. The product has often come across as being stunted, with little momentum being consistently built. Sure, a few things have picked up over the last few weeks, what with the beginning of the build towards a CM Punk/Brock Lesnar feud, Daniel Bryan making cracks in the glass ceiling and the imminent arrival of the world eating, buzzard following Wyatt Family. Before I get too excited however, we still have to deal with wank motion inducing segments where Vickie Guerrero is getting belittled and Triple H tries to stay relevant in THIS BUSINESS. There have been high points, but you best believe there have been low points as well.
I'm a positive guy and I try to stay optimistic about it all. It isn't easy though. There have been too many moments of inconsistency, stop-startism, injury and bad luck. Ryback has gone from being a wrecking machine to someone who seems to avoid actually wrestling. Cody Rhodes and Antonio Cesaro have gone from the future to the maybe never. Maybe the most frustrating of all of these, and a character who has constantly frustrated since his arrival on WWE TV, is the case of Jack Swagger.
Jack Swagger returned to our screens that past February after a 6 month absence. Prior to this he was saddled with the always ridiculous and always pointless losing streak gimmick, which has never helped anyone in the history of anything. When he returned, he was quickly aligned with Zeb Colter and jumped full on into an anti-immigration xeno-patriot gimmick. Sure, it was a little offensive at times, but he was a heel, and heels should be awful people. The gimmick itself was fresh though, and had a natural end game in the xenophobic, anti-immigrant bad guys being vanquished. The presence of a top level Mexican babyface in the form of Alberto Del Rio was even more perfect.
Surely the whole thing wrote itself. Give Swagger a few months of solid build, let Colter's rants grow and grow to a frenzy, and then say six months down the line you have the anti-immigrant nationalist patriot against the American dream living Mexican. It was logical, it made sense, it would have been a great slow build story.
What happened? The whole thing was, for want of a better word, botched. Within two weeks of returning, Swagger won the Elimination Chamber match and was thrust into one of the WrestleMania championship matches. This after losing every match for three months, disappearing for six months, beating Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder, and being in the right place at the right time to pin Randy Orton. With practically no build, no chance to build any real steam and a confused crowd reaction, Jack Swagger was almost set up to fail. He was booked into a corner. He wasn't ready for another World Title run, and losing would hurt him. Where is the character to go? What should have been a drawn out, slow build six month story was rushed and floundered within six weeks. If you start reading a book and immediately jump to the last twenty pages, the characters are practically meaningless.
This is nothing new for The All American American though. There aren't many more people on the WWE roster who you feel that those in creative are absolutely desperate for us to get behind or rally against. He was supposed to be the WWE's version of Kurt Angle. Obviously Kurt Angle spent the majority of his career with the 'E, but Jack Swagger was supposed to be Angle v2.0, entirely constructed from the cloth of Connecticut. He was even given the Ankle Lock (now named Patriot Lock) submission finisher. He is more than decent in the ring, but for some reason he has never really caught on with WWE audiences. Why is that? Let's delve into this mess.
Let's get this out of the way early. Jack Swagger was arrested for doing an unbelievably dumb thing in the middle of the biggest push of his career. Taking the wrestling out of it for the moment, driving under the influence of any sort of substance is incredibly dumb, and completely inexcusable. He is lucky to have a job, let alone any sort of major standing within the company. Even so, I don't really think this misdemeanour (to put it lightly) has much to do with the inconsistency of his pushes. He has never been able to generate a particularly large crowd response. Why?
When researching this, I assumed that Swagger's problems would stem from some aspect of his performance. Maybe his offence wasn't strong enough, his selling was too hammy. Maybe it was his lisp, and the quick to judge/accept differences of crowds. Heck, maybe his character had never been deep enough to illicit care. After going over his career, it became clear what one of, if not the major problem of Jack Swagger has been. He has always played second fiddle. In every story, every partnership, Swagger has always been the second man. Even when it seemed he would soar like an eagle (yes, that’s a reference), someone else would come in to take centre stage.
He was quick to ascend to the top. On March 30th 2010, he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase against Chris Jericho to become World Heavyweight Champion, less than 18 months after debuting on WWE television. Whilst this should have been the beginning of 'Jack Swagger: Superstar', this was the beginning of the end for him in the limelight. His world title run is widely regarded as one of the worst booked in history. The poor guy couldn't buy a win at the time, a state of affairs that should never apply to someone who is considered the World Champion. He could not have looked weaker during this run, almost only serving to make others seem stronger, to re-establish former stars such as The Big Show and Rey Mysterio.
Going into WrestleMania XXVII, Swagger was involved in another major storyline. Sure, it was one of the worst stories in recent WWE history, but it got a heck ton of air time. I'm talking of course of the Michael Cole/Jerry Lawler, erm, saga. He was hired as the trainer of Michael Cole for this train wreck, but it was plainly clear that he was purely in the story to drag a match out of Jerry Lawler and to receive a stunner from Steve Austin, who was the Guest Referee for the match itself. Second fiddle.
Not long after this, Swagger entered a partnership with Vickie Guerrero. A good idea, as Swagger's mic work has always been questioned. The only problem was that Guerrero was already aligned with Dolph Ziggler at the time, so Swagger was always competing for space with the former Spirit Squad man. It just so happened that Ziggler was on a major up curve at the time, so Swagger couldn't look like anything other than second fiddle, and so it was. The American Perfection team could have worked, as a faction or a tag team, but unfortunately they were lost in the shuffle during their partnership, and Swagger was lost in the shuffle of team Guerrero.
Then comes the losing streak. The losing streak must be one of the most infuriating things in all of the wrestling universe. Jack Swagger was saddled with it, to the point that he was storyline written out after telling then General Manager AJ that he needed to take time off. After spending 6 months on Mars (depending on what you red), he returned for the biggest push of his career. Surely this time it would all go to plan?
Well, apparently not. Not long after returning, he became aligned with Zeb Colter. Whilst obviously supposed to enhance Swagger, Colter quickly became the main attraction of the duo. His rants were questionable in content, but his delivery of them was so fantastic that Swagger quickly became second best once again. Colter was doing the talking, but instead of doing the walking Swagger was stuttering. Now he is aligned with Antonio Cesaro under Colter's tutelage, and it's difficult to assume anything other than more time playing second fiddle. It's the story of his career so far.
As much as anyone on the roster, Jack Swagger needs freshening up. The obvious end game would be for him to grow tired of Colter and Cesaro, and become the All American American babyface that he should have been on returning. What is more likely however, is mid card purgatory and eventual release. It's hard to be optimistic all the time.
And that's that. Where do you stand on Jack Swagger? Why has he never really taken off as WWE would like him to? A problem with his character, in ring work or something else? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, or find me on the web via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or twitter (@pingvinorkestra). I'd love to talk. I'm off to celebrate the Lions demolition of Australia. That's Rugby folks.