Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of The Silver Lining. Looking back on my previous columns, I cannot help but notice that I have not evaluated a wrestler since my first piece which featured Sheamus. Well I think it is time to fix that. On this weeks Silver Lining, in honor of WrestleMania 26, I will be discussing the rise, fall, and then rise again of the new Mr. Money In The Bank, The all American American American American….American….American! Jack Swagger! Wait, dont go! This guy is actually worth talking about, I swear. For all the missteps that the creative team has taken with the Swagger character, he actually does have the prerequisites for becoming a top notch heel and a future world champion. Ok, so technically he is already the world champion, but for the sake of argument let us pretend he has not won the belt just yet.
I am going to start off by being honest. I at first did not care for Swagger. When he first appeared on my screen during an episode of ECW, I just saw him as a goofy Kurt Angle rip off. His matches with Tommy Dreamer were about as far to the top as I imagined he would go. Then when he actually won the ECW title by defeating Matt Hardy, I imagined that would be as far as he would go. Then when he went to RAW and feuded with MVP and Kofi Kingston, I thought that would be as far as he would go. You see where I am going with this? I consistently believed that Swagger was going to become an afterthought, a footnote in WWE history. And when I heard the news that I am not supposed to mention because it is not Friday yet, I thought for sure it was an April Fools Day joke. Then when I saw video proof, I lost count of the number of times I banged my head against my refrigerator door out of both shock and anger. One painful headache later, and I started to realize that maybe I was wrong about this guy. Maybe there was something about Jack Swagger other people could see that I, for the life of me, could not. So I took it upon myself to research the man behind the gimmick and try to see what Vince sees in him. Perhaps it will give be a better understanding of how the mind of Vince McMahon works. I just hope I do not lose my own mind in the process.
So Swagger, or Hager as he was known at the time, actually did start out as an amateur wrestler, and a good one at that. During his time in college he was in fact an All American wrestler, and he gathered the most pinfalls in one season. Heck, he might have mirrored Kurt Angles career if he had gone pro and wrestled in the Olympics. Nevertheless, he falls alongside guys like Angle, Benjamin, Hass, and Lashley as a successful professional wrestling with an amateur background. In addition, it was Jim Ross himself who scouted Hager and convinced him to try out for professional wrestling. So he has a legitimate wrestling background AND has the Jim Ross approval. So far so good for Mr. Swagger.
Now we move on to the developmental years. Starting around 2006, Hager began wrestling in Deep South where he worked a few dark matches until the beginning of 2007 where he go moved to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). For those of you unaware, at the time OVW was a developmental territory of WWE meaning that the wrestlers who were involved OVW at the time were groomed and crafted to become future WWE superstars. By the next year WWE ended their relationship with OVW as a development, but they still scout the area from time to time. This was good timing for Swagger because he was not only able to take full advantage of the same type of grooming process that future world champions John Cena and Batista had, but he was also in a situation where the fall of one territory led to the rise of another, that being Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). FCW was created in 2007, the exact time that Hager was on the rise in the developments. Because of this, plus his look and amateur background, Hager quickly rose to the top of the FCW food chain by 2008. He won a battle royal to become the first FCW World Heavyweight Champion, and he defeated FCW Southern Heavyweight Champion Heath Miller (you know him best as Heath Slater on NXT) to become FCWs undisputed Heavyweight Champion. Now those are highlights I would like to have for my wrestling resume. And in an ironic twist, do you know who he lost the FCW title to right before leaving for WWE? Sheamus! It all comes full circle, people. It was not until September of 2008 that Jack Hager became Jack Swagger and made his official debut on WWE television.
So now you know the pre-WWE history of Swagger. Arent you happy? I know I am. Because now that I see how well he was trained in all three territories, and how advantageous he was in having his own amateur background, I see good things coming for Swagger. But, and this is a big but, poor booking can still cause his downfall. In fact for a rather lengthy amount of time Swagger was on the edge of becoming the very footnote I made mention of earlier. The man was losing to Santino (Santana? Sandusky?) Marella more than once. That is about as bottom of the barrel as it gets. Well, unless you are losing to Hornswoggle week after week for months at a time. Sorry, Chavo. I still love you. There was even a period of time where creative had “given up” on Swagger and went on to other storylines. For most, when a character is given up and stops appearing on television, it usually means we will be wishing them the best in their future endeavors. I was almost certain that would happen with Swagger. Boy was I ever wrong. I do not know if Vince just decided to give Swagger another shot, or if he wanted to do something shocking for the online community that can usually predict what is about to happen. Then of course there is the recent news that Chris Jericho was summoned to sequestered jury duty and will be out for six weeks, meaning that a new champion had to come into the picture. Considering the news came out today, I am not 100% certain of the validity of this news, but it would make sense for being the reason why Jericho had to do what he did on Friday. Add on the fact that Michaels is out of the picture, and WWE needs to gather some new main eventers quickly. Consider this yet another “right place at the right time” moment for Swagger.
But for all of Swaggers good points, he does have some trouble in a couple areas; most notably his mic skills. He is not the worst person to ever be given a mic, but he also lacks that pizzazz that only the true giants of the industry are blessed with. That, coupled with the mockery that comes from his lisp, makes it hard for anyone to take him seriously when he speaks. I just cannot picture Swagger making a serious promo that might one day be used in a trailer for a future WWE pay per view without picturing a pissed off Sylvester. Do not get me wrong, the production crew could probably make it sound better than it is, but it just loses that flair (woo!) that one comes to expect from the old Rock/Austin promos, or even packages involving Edge, Jericho, Cena, or even HHH. These guys have exceptional mic skills, and if Swagger is going to be sent into the main event picture along with them, he is going to need help. I fully recommend that Swagger gets a manager as soon as possible. He needs someone to help him develop and grow his character into someone that speaks with his actions instead of his words. I know I have said this before, but Paul Heyman was famous for his strategy of hiding the negatives and accentuating the positives. If Swagger had a manager, that manager could do all the talking for him and make him out to be a destructive beast a la Brock Lesnar circa 2002. There is nothing wrong with having a manager, and I am shocked that managers have been left out of the picture. But I already wrote about that, so I will not go into more detail about it. Another smaller problem with Swagger is the way he expresses his emotions on television. I might be nitpicking a bit, but when I see a strong, agile guy like Swagger move about in the ring, I do not want to see his pearly whites while he is in the ring. With his blonde hair and facial structure, Swagger has that “prissy college grad born with a silver spoon” look that the average American will always find irritating. Christopher Nowinski had a similar look, mainly because he was really a Harvard graduate. I could easily picture Swagger standing on a yacht wearing a sailor outfit with a captain hat smiling for the entire world to see. But he also has that egotistical American athlete look that Kurt Angle perfected back when he started in 1999. Hopefully in future shows Swagger will be able to not only master this look, but also generate enough heat for the fans to see him as a credible World Cha—err, “future” World Champion.
Alright, so here are my main discussion points for this week:
-Jack Swaggers background is damn impressive. You would not know it upon seeing him for the first time.
-Swagger has gotten very lucky when it comes to being at the right place at the right time, especially when being trained.
-Swagger is not only good in the ring, but he has a certain look that could generate the perfect heel character.
-His mic skills are not so great, so he should either work on minimizing that lisp, or get someone like a manager to speak for him.
-Like I said, he has a nice look, but he also has a goofy look when he is in the ring. He needs to have less teeth showing; having more of a scowl or sketchy grin would do him wonders.
My Final Statement: Jack Swagger is not only a decent wrestler, but has enough background to legitimize his rise to fame. I only pray that Vince and the rest of the creative team know how to properly book him. An immediate feud with Edge would be a great start. He is still young, so he has plenty of time for the fans to buy into his gimmick.
And that about wraps it up for The Silver lining this week. If you have any ideas for what my next Silver Lining should be, or if you think I enjoy fish sticks as much as Batista, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And remember, every ring is bound to have a silver lining.