One of the bigger stories over the past week that has been somewhat brushed aside due to Fastlane and WrestleMania was the release (or lack thereof) regarding Jack Swagger.
We don’t know the full ins and outs of the situation, but what it seems to boil down to is Swagger requesting to be let out of his contract so he can go elsewhere, as he was just sitting at home and felt as though he wasn’t being properly utilized. Although WWE officials have not spoken much on the subject, it would appear they feel like he’s not worth the time to invest in, yet they clearly don’t want to just let him go and will be dragging this out as long as possible to prevent him from wrestling in other venues.
Why is that the case? If he’s not valuable, who cares if he pops up on Impact or ROH or Lucha Underground? If he is, why has he been sitting on the sidelines for so long? It can’t be both at the same time.
For that matter, who is to blame for why he’s in this position to begin with? He’s a veteran at this point and a former world champion, yet he’s leaving the company in a less than favorable fashion compared to others who have mutually parted ways and been welcomed back with open arms.
Is this an instance where he didn’t match up to WWE’s standards and it just took a long time for the guillotine to chop his head off, or is this an oversight on the company’s end?
But First, a Little Backstory…
Swagger came into ECW as a top prospect in September 2008 and by January 2009, he was already the champion of that brand, defeating Matt Hardy—a noteworthy conquest despite it not being the equivalent of ending Undertaker’s streak. He would lose the title to Christian in April 2009 and then transition to Raw, where he was a prominent midcarder. By April 2010, he was cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase to win the World Heavyweight Championship from Chris Jericho.
That title reign didn’t work out that well, but he would go back to his midcard status, tagging with Dolph Ziggler and being managed by Vickie Guerrero. This was an interesting duo that could have held the tag titles, but that didn’t come to pass, although he would eventually win the United States Championship.
The next time he would get any real significant traction was when The Real Americans kicked off, which would see his next true push as a main eventer, but even then, it was half-assed. For those in attendance of WrestleMania 29 like myself, he didn’t even get a proper entrance during his title match against Alberto Del Rio and it felt like it was a dark match more than anything else. Not only did he come up short, but the very next night, he was overshadowed by Dolph Ziggler’s cash-in and world title win.
Essentially since that point onward, Jack Swagger’s done jack shit.
The Case for WWE’s Fault
We’ve seen this happen so, so many times in the past: WWE signs someone and pushes them to the moon for a couple of months only to get bored with them and move on to the next flavor. Since that person was skyrocketed from nowhere to the top very quickly, there’s no experience adjusting to the ups and downs of the business. Without having any context of how to navigate the roster’s hierarchy without the machine behind them, they get lost and struggle.
Some people subscribe to the mentality that you should throw someone in the deep end to see if they can swim. The problem with that, though, is they might drown and you have to take part of the responsibility. It isn’t all on them if you’re their teacher tasked with coaching them along the process.
If Swagger wasn’t ready for a world title victory and to be the headliner of SmackDown, WWE should have realized that and not given him the ball to run with in the first place. They’ve been in business longer than he’s been wrestling and they’re the authority here calling the shots. Sometimes, it’s worth a risk and it pays off, but other times, you just piss off fans who haven’t warmed up to him yet and you put all the weight on his shoulders to pass or fail while he’s still arguably learning the ropes.
Arguably the two best times Swagger has been the most entertaining was when he had a manager, as Vickie Guerrero and Zeb Colter helped offset his lack of personality. When they were taken away from him, WWE had to know it was a downgrade and that they weren’t giving him the proper tools to succeed.
His biggest weakness has always been a lack of character and instead of providing him with options to circumvent that, they left him to his own devices. When he’s been so inconsistently booked for such a long period of time, what is he able to really get over with the crowd? The only people who would be familiar with him would be those on Main Event and nobody watches that.
Rather soon after the draft, they must have come to the realization that they had no use for him on Raw and moved him over to SmackDown. It seemed for at least a week or two that he would be having a resurgence on the blue brand, but his feud with Baron Corbin was dropped very quickly and nothing else ever came about for him.
Why bother moving him if you had no plans? For that matter, how do you not have plans for someone who is a former world champion amongst other accolades?! He’s a wrestler’s wrestler—just put the guy out there and have him wrestle! You don’t even need a storyline most of the time!
Whether he was a heel or a babyface, there were plenty of people for him to lock up with that could have provided interesting bouts. To my recollection, he’s never had a match with Apollo Crews, either member of American Alpha, AJ Styles, or even maybe Dean Ambrose or Kalisto. All of those are just on SmackDown and there are still other choices on Raw to pick from, too.
Wrestlers are responsible to go out and perform their characters, wrestle for the crowd, and try to improve things as much as possible by getting over with the audience and bringing new things to the table, but there are so many cases of people not getting an opportunity to test things out or to have any momentum. Sometimes, those people fail even if they’re given a shot, but other times, you end up with The New Day or Stone Cold Steve Austin and it goes over like gangbusters.