Just a few short years ago, it looked as if "The All-American American," Jack Swagger, might be the next big thing in WWE. He quickly won the ECW Championship before winning the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania XXVI and cashing it in to win the World Heavyweight Championship from Chris Jericho, but since dropping the title, Swagger has gotten lost in the shuffle.
He had a run with the United States Championship, but it was a novelty more than anything, as Swagger wasn't given enough momentum to ascend back to the top. Swagger has the look and the in-ring ability to be something special, but it remains to be seen if he will ever be given another chance.
Keep reading for yet another edition of my 25-superstar countdown in which I break down the upside, direction and long-term potential of every established and rising star in the company. Today, I'll examine whether Swagger can be a world champion in the WWE once again.
Swagger's background is an impressive one, as he was a defensive tackle on the University of Oklahoma football team as well as an All-American heavyweight wrestler. Talent scout Jim Ross saw a ton of promise in Swagger, so the well-known Sooners fan offered Swagger a developmental contract, which Swagger signed when he graduated in 2006.
Swagger was a dominant force in Deep South Wrestling, Ohio Valley Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling, where he defeated Heath Slater for the FCW Heavyweight Championship. Swagger would drop the belt to Sheamus before debuting on ECW in 2008. It wasn't long before Swagger defeated Matt Hardy for the ECW Championship, a title he would hold for 104 days before dropping it to Christian.
He was eventually moved to Raw, where he experienced mixed results. Swagger was actually on a downturn heading into the previously mentioned Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania XXVI, so it came as a surprise to many when he won it and an even bigger surprise when he successfully cashed it in just a few days later on Smackdown. Swagger had his moments as champion, but wasn't booked strongly enough to look legitimate.
For the better part of the past year, Swagger has been part of a stable with Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero. When the partnership first formed, it seemed like it would be good for Swagger, as he was floundering, but he hasn't really seen much success. He and Ziggler have challenged for the Tag Team Championships on numerous occasions and come up short. Aside from a pointless run with the United States Championship, Swagger's pairing with Vickie has largely been a failure.
In recent weeks, Ziggler has been badmouthing his arrangement with Vickie and Swagger, and now that he is the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship, it looks like Swagger and Vickie may soon be on their own. Ziggler eliminated Swagger from the No. 1 contender Fatal Four Way match on Raw, so that is likely the beginning of the end when it comes to their alliance, as I believe Swagger and Vickie will somehow cost Ziggler his match at No Way Out.
This should result in Swagger essentially assuming Ziggler's position as a mid-card heel with Vickie as his manager. Ultimately Swagger needs to be on his own if he is ever going to get back to the level he once reached, but if he can re-establish himself with Vickie by his side, like Dolph has done for the past couple years, then he will be in a better position to do so.
Swagger doesn't get a lot of love these days, but it's important to remember what made him such a hot prospect a couple years ago. His biggest asset is his in-ring ability. There are very few big men currently in the company who can truly work a good match, but Swagger is certainly one of them. Aside from Sheamus, I would go so far as to say that he is the best big-man worker in the WWE. He obviously can't measure up to smaller guys like Ziggler, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in that regard, but he can work a good match with anyone.
The issue is that he is never put in a position to showcase his wrestling ability anymore. He is often jobbed out in short matches that aren't indicative of what he can really do. Swagger's amateur wrestling background cannot be understated because he is a legitimate grappler who can do a lot of things in the ring that his counterparts can't. When you combine his wrestling ability with his pure size, Swagger has all the makings of a great in this business.
Swagger's overall look is also something that he has in his favor. At 6'5" and 260 lbs., he is deceptively big, and he has somewhat of a classical look with the parted hair and wrestling singlet. If Swagger never had to talk he might be the perfect superstar, but unfortunately for him, that is a big part of the business.
There is no question that Swagger needs work when it comes to cutting promos. I actually don't consider him a trainwreck like many do because I remember his World Heavyweight Championship run well, and I recall him being quite entertaining on the microphone. He is given very little occasion to speak these days, though, and because of that, it is tough for him to be impressive or to hone his craft.
Swagger is barely given any time to have matches currently, so it should come as no surprise that he doesn't get to speak much either. I understand why some people think he is a terrible talker, though, because he has somewhat of a strange accent as well as a lisp. While it can be said that those things are detrimental, he can certainly work through them. His mic skills need improvement, but I don't believe he is doomed in that regard at all.
Aside from that, many are bored by Swagger. I'm a fan of his talents, so I'm not bored by him, but based on the way that he is booked and rarely featured, there isn't much reason to get excited about Swagger. That isn't entirely his fault, but it wouldn't hurt him to add a little bit of, well, swagger to his character. He is supposed to be a cocky heel who is a legitimately better wrestler than everyone else, and it's time for the creative team to let him be precisely that.
For somebody with such excellent in-ring skills, Swagger hasn't really had the opportunity to show them off, but one match that really sticks with me was his World Heavyweight Championship defense against Randy Orton at Extreme Rules in 2010. Swagger was largely made to look weak and cowardly during his title reign, but for whatever reason, the creative team allowed him to be Orton's equal in this particular match.
Swagger and Orton went at it in an Extreme Rules match, and they matched each other blow-for-blow, with Swagger ultimately coming out on top as he reversed Orton's RKO onto a chair and hit the gutwrench powerbomb. This match proved that Swagger beating a top guy cleanly is something that could easily be the norm rather than the exception. It also showed that he can put on an excellent match with another solid worker.
Sadly, that was the only time during Swagger's entire title reign that he looked good as he looked cowardly against Big Show and was continuously punked by Rey Mysterio. He also never receives such a high-profile match on pay-per-view anymore and isn't given a true opportunity to show what he can do. For as much as people like to talk about how poor Swagger's title reign was, he could have been a success if he was booked that well throughout rather than in just one match.
Seeing as Swagger has already been a world champion, I suppose he has already reached the top, but his stay was quite short. The real question is whether his cup of coffee as a main-eventer will remain just that or whether he will be afforded the opportunity to sip from that cup once again. As Swagger is currently constructed in terms of his gimmick and overall situation, it's tough to imagine him getting out of the mid-card purgatory.
Under the right circumstances, though, I could see Swagger rising to prominence once more. It is all a matter of him being given an opportunity and then Swagger running with it. The main-event scene is extremely thin when it comes to heels right now, and if it weren't for Ziggler, Swagger probably would have been next in line to face Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Championship with Alberto Del Rio injured.
Over the long-term, however, maybe Swagger will be better off as a face. It is difficult to say right now, but I doubt that he can get back into the title picture with Vickie Guerrero guiding him. There is no doubt that Vickie is a great heel who draws heat from the crowd, but it's a simple fact that all of the top guys these days are on their own. Eventually Swagger will have to be as well.
How He Gets There
Swagger can't leave Vickie until the natural progression of their partnership runs its course, but I can see Ziggler's eventual split from the group leading Swagger to leave as well. If Ziggler goes off on his own after Sunday as anticipated, then Swagger can continue on with Vickie for the next couple months until the losses continue to mount. By that point, Ziggler will be having some success, so Swagger can decide to replicate that success by going off on his own.
I would leave him as a heel initially in an effort to get him some matches with high-caliber faces like John Cena, CM Punk and Sheamus since those guys are practically begging for new opponents at this point. Once he establishes himself as an upper-level guy again, he can slowly transition to being a face, much like Sheamus did last summer.
There wasn't really a defining moment that prompted Sheamus to become a face, but he started opposing faces and heels, and that, in turn, made him popular. Swagger actually has a Kurt Angle-esque gimmick that people can get behind. He tries to portray himself as an American hero, and rather than making that a negative thing, the WWE should try to make the crowd embrace it. That wouldn't guarantee that he would become a world champion once again, but if Swagger remains status quo, then he'll be relegated to his current spot for a long time.
Check back daily for new entries in this WWE 25-superstar countdown. Here are the five most recent editions for your viewing pleasure:
19. Brodus Clay
18. David Otunga
17. Kofi Kingston