Once upon a time, Jack Swagger mattered.
When he made his WWE debut on ECW in in September 2008, it was clear from the very get-go that he had a bright future ahead of him. That only became clearer when he won the ECW Championship just five months later in January 2009.
Swagger looked poised to become a breakout star, and just more than a year later, he took one step closer to doing so by winning the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania 26. A week later, he defeated Chris Jericho to win the World Heavyweight Championship, his first World title in the WWE.
By the looks of things, this was the start of something special for Swagger and for the WWE, who seemed to have found a long-term main eventer in the 6’6”, 260-pound former college football player.
But as quickly as Swagger rose to the top of the WWE, he fell from it just as fast.
His reign as World Heavyweight Champions was an incredibly lackluster one in which the creative team clearly didn’t have enough confidence in him to book him strongly, and once he dropped the title, he slowly but surely evolved from World title contender to nearly irrelevant.
Despite glimmers of hope here and there, Swagger found himself doing a number of ridiculous things, such as utilizing the “Swagger Soaring Eagle” mascot or being Michael Cole’s “trainer” for Cole’s WrestleMania match.
Just like that, Swagger the superstar had become Swagger the jobber.
In the span of a year, “The All-American American” went from main eventing pay-per-views to losing to anyone and everyone, even becoming Ryback’s personal jobber of sorts not too long ago.
But there’s a bright side to Swagger’s drastic fall from grace: He can only go up from here.
Swagger has spent much of the last two years losing match after match, getting saddled with ridiculous storylines, jobbing to guys he’s more talented than and just generally being a total afterthought in the eyes of the creative team.
It can’t possibly get any worse than having a personal mascot, being left off the WrestleMania card while two announcers get a match on the show or losing so many matches in a row that no one ever expects you to win anymore.
That’s why, despite the atrocious booking of Swagger for what has actually been most of his WWE career, I’m cautiously optimistic about his future.
Why? Because now is the perfect time for Swagger to change things up a bit.
Where will Jack Swagger be in 2013?
Other than some reported attitude problems, I think that Swagger’s biggest issue is that he’s simply too stale. He’s had the same “arrogant jock” character since he entered the WWE roughly three years ago.
He needs a gimmick overhaul more than just about anyone on the roster, and it appears as if the WWE is finally giving him a storyline that just might allow him to do that.
After Swagger suffered yet another loss to Sheamus in quick-and-easy fashion on Raw a few weeks back, he told Raw General Manger AJ in a backstage segment that he was “taking some extended time off” because he was “better than is.”
I agree with Swagger—he is much better than the booking of his character might indicate. And that’s precisely why the creative team needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with something, well, better for him.
While Swagger’s “All-American American” gimmick worked for a while, it did what just about all gimmicks eventually do: It got boring, repetitive and monotonous.
Now, however, Swagger couldn’t possibly get any lower unless the WWE were to release him.
Since that doesn’t appear to be happening, though, Swagger’s time off from TV might be a blessing in disguise. He can go away for a while, come back refreshed and reinvigorated and, hopefully, return with either a new gimmick or in a new role as a babyface.
The WWE hasn’t even tried to let Swagger change, so you never know if his “All-American American” shtick might work as a face (kind of like Kurt Angle) or if a renewed push as a different type of heel may save his career.
At this point, it’s worth taking a risk on either of those things, though, because nothing is going to hurt Swagger anymore than the booking of his character over the last two years already has.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!