Last week, I officially returned my WWE Pushed to Punished column to Bleacher Report, where I look to analyze the controversial career of a specific Superstar and how their rise eventually led to their inevitable downfall. After an overwhelming response to last week's edition, this week's piece will tackle the topic who too has seen better days in WWE: Jack Swagger.
Exactly four years ago to this very day, Jack Swagger made his first WWE appearance on an episode of ECW. He sported trunks, used generic music as his entrance theme and even finished off the local athlete who just so happened to be his opponent with a Red, White and Blue Thunder Bomb.
However, it wasn't long before Swagger reverted to the classic wrestler's singlet, entered to Lance Cade's old entrance music and started using the Gutwrench Powerbomb as his official finisher. Swagger was announced as the All-American American, a moniker that fitted him perfectly given his wrestling background in high school.
For the remainder of 2008, Swagger would develop a winning streak that would make him one of the most unstoppable Superstars in the Land of Extreme. In doing so, he engaged in a rivalry with Tommy Dreamer, whom he defeated on three separate occasions to officially prove that he was indeed a "prodigy."
In early 2009, Swagger got his first taste of gold in WWE in the form of the ECW Championship after defeating Matt Hardy on ECW. He'd go on to successfully retain the title over the next few months against the likes of Hardy, Finlay and even the returning Christian.
That February, Swagger received his first singles loss at the hands of Finlay, but he was still more dominant than ever. Despite being ECW Champion, Swagger was left off the WrestleMania 25 main card, but instead appeared as a lumberjack for the pre-show tag-team title match.
At Backlash, the All-American American dropped his ECW Championship to Christian and failed to regain the strap in subsequent rematches at Judgement Day, Extreme Rules, and The Bash. He'd quickly become an afterthought in the Land of Extreme, so it was most definitely time for a change.
On an episode of Raw in late June, Swagger was surprisingly revealed as one of the brand's newest acquisitions a part of a Gauntlet match against then-WWE Champion Randy Orton in the main event. Instead of fighting the Viper, Swagger stated that he'd rather make an immediate impact by losing via count-out to garner respect from Orton.
As the summer season progressed, Swagger initiated a feud with MVP, who he claimed wasn't good enough due to his time spent in prison. This clash of the cultures would lead to an impromptu match at SummerSlam, where MVP would emerge victorious.
Swagger's major momentum going into his tenure on the flagship show would be quickly diminished, as he'd be seen as nothing more than a forgettable mid-card act for the rest of the year rather than a main-event star as promised in ECW. He'd enter a three-way rivalry with Kofi Kingston and The Miz over the United States Championship for a brief while, but he failed to capture the title.
Although he made a proclamation in October that he wouldn't lose a match for the rest of the year, that goal left a lot to be desired after losing to Evan Bourne in early November. He spent the remainder of 2009 on WWE Superstars and sporadically appeared on Raw with no real direction.
The following spring, Swagger qualified for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 26. Sure, he wasn't the odds-on favorite to win, but he'd still be meaningfully featured in the show of shows for the first time in this career.
Shockingly enough, the All-American American did in fact win the Money in the Bank Ladder Match that momentous night, meaning he earned a guaranteed shot at either the WWE or World Heavyweight Championships at any time of his choosing.
Jack Swagger wasted little time in attempting to cash in the opportunistic briefcase, as he nearly won the WWE Championship from John Cena the night after Mania. Although he failed to successfully cash in on Monday night, he waited until SmackDown that week to try his luck yet again, in which he was prosperous this time around.
After laying out both Edge and Chris Jericho that fateful Friday night, Swagger capitalized on the open opportunity, pinned Y2J and then became World Heavyweight Champion for the first time in his career. The fact he showed no emotion on his face might've taken away from the moment, but nevertheless, Swagger had truly shocked the world.
How Swagger went from jobbing to Santino Marella on WWE Superstars to becoming the World Champion in the matter of a month is beyond me, but it was heavily rumored that it was done to bring a top heel to SmackDown. If you can recall, the 2010 WWE draft really hurt the blue brand in the long term, so they were in desperate need of a new villain to carry the show.
Shortly after winning the title, Swagger was officially moved to the SmackDown brand and entered a brief feud with Orton in April. In what was one of his only clean victories during the course of his World title run, Swagger soundly defeated Orton at Extreme Rules to maintain possession of the strap, before eating an RKO following the contest.
Over the next two months, Swagger would be booked to look like a weak champion, where most of his wins came with the use of dirty tactics and his losses came in non-title matches. His promos were horrendously bad, but mostly boring to the point where no one cared for what he had to say.
Swagger's run as World Heavyweight Champion was quickly becoming a failure, so it came as no surprise that he eventually dropped the golden prize at Fatal 4 Way in June. He became more aggressive shortly after dropping the title and adopted the ankle lock as his newest finishing maneuver, but it was too little too late.
Once he lost his entitled championship rematch to Rey Mysterio at Money in the Bank, it was the last world-title opportunity Swagger has received to date. He was instantly dropped back down to mid-card following July, where he rekindled his rivalry with MVP for a few weeks before dropping off the radar completely.
The Soaring Eagle soon became a part of his gimmick towards the end of the year, but it did nothing but make him look like a fool. He failed to win at Hell in a Cell, Bragging Rights, Survivor Series and WWE TLC, so it was by this point that all hope had been lost for Swagger's once-promising future.
At the start of 2011, Swagger was named Michael Cole's official trainer for the commentator's match against Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania 27. With Cole as new manager, Swagger began to develop a winning streak that also saw him appear on Raw more often.
On the grandest stage of them all, Swagger was of course ambushed by Stone Cold Steve Austin, but how many guys can say that? Not many, so although Swagger was outmatched by the WWE Hall of Famer, it was still a proud moment in his brief career.
The former ECW Champion would continue to accompany Cole in subsequent months, but eventually walked out on the Voice of the WWE after being talked down to by Cole. Many saw this as a potential face turn, but Swagger later reemerged in that night's main event against then-WWE Champion John Cena in a losing effort.
In April, Swagger was moved back to the Raw brand via the 2011 WWE supplemental draft, but that did him no favors. His feud with Evan Bourne that summer was short-lived, and he was unsuccessful in winning Raw's Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
He continued to flounder until the night after SummerSlam, when Swagger sought Vickie Guerrero's services. She served as a manager for Swagger in months to come as he targeted Dolph Ziggler and his United States Championship, but the two soon became allies under Vickie's advisory.
Now tag-team partners, Swagger and Ziggler challenged Air Boom for their WWE Tag Team Championships at both the Hell in a Cell and Vengeance events, but they came up short. Despite having Vickie and occasionally Dolph in his corner, Swagger still managed to accumulate just as many wins as he did before: hardly any.
At the turn of 2012, Swagger was able to defeat an already-injured Zack Ryder to win the United States Championship. Given how much Swagger fit this title, this was the perfect opportunity to resurrect both his career and the title itself, but he instead used it as a prop for the next two months.
Hardly ever defending the star-spangled prize, few people actually realized Swagger was the U.S. Champion with the lack of title defenses he had during his reign. He ultimately dropped the strap to Santino Marella in March, and it hasn't meant anything since.
Of course, Swagger was on the winning side of a tag-team match at WrestleMania 28, but that was the last victory he picked up since an edition of WWE Superstars in late June. Also around that time, Swagger was removed from Guerrero's stable following a loss to Ziggler on Raw, so now the All-American American was left to fend for himself.
Following multiple losses to Sheamus, Tyson Kidd, Zack Ryder and Ryback in recent months, Swagger informed Raw general manager AJ this past Monday night of his immediate departure, stating that he was in need of some "time off" for the foreseeable future.
At this point, I believe it's the best thing for him. Most of his matches these days have become so painfully predictable that there's no point in investing in them or even Swagger himself.
Don't get me wrong, Swagger is a tremendous athlete and is capable of great things in WWE, but his character hasn't evolved in ages. Sure, he can wrestle, but that means absolutely nothing when the audience doesn't care about him whatsoever.
However, one question begs to be asked: Has Jack truly lost his swagger?
The reasoning behind Swagger's demise is simple: He was pushed to the top of the company too quickly without any real buildup. His reign as World Champion was so bad to the point where they've decided to not push him as aggressively ever again, which is a true shame given the talents he possesses.
Hopefully, the former United States Champion can return refreshed and rejuvenated, even if meant reverting into a fan favorite. With recent reports speculating that Swagger turning face is quite possible at this point, I'm positive that could be the change needed in order to make him relevant once again.
With Raw returning to Oklahoma in about a month, one can only assume that will be the night Jack Swagger returns to Raw as well as to relevance. There surely must be a point behind Swagger's hiatus, so I have my fingers crossed that they end up doing something with him upon his comeback.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on the rise and fall of Jack Swagger. Also, if you have any certain Superstar in mind you'd like me to analyze in a future edition of WWE Pushed to Punished, please include that as well.