Jack Swagger made his long-awaited return to WWE programming on the most recent edition of SmackDown, but it couldn't have possibly been any less impactful. Swagger had the same theme song, attire and character, and that is unacceptable for a wrestler who needed to be repackaged in the worst way.
Swagger had been off television since September after enduring a lengthy losing streak. He took some time off, but was featured on house show cards for the past few months and seemed to be biding his time before returning. Swagger wasn't resonating with the fans during his previous run, so something had to be done in order to change that.
The obvious move would have been for Swagger to turn face. He has been a heel for his entire WWE career, and he pretty much ran his course in that regard. Both The Miz and Alberto Del Rio have turned face in recent months, and while they have had varying degrees of success, both men have been embraced by the fans and are suddenly relevant again.
Swagger received next to no reaction when he returned on SmackDown and that was perpetuated by the fact that he utilized the same exact gimmick he always has. In fact, the only thing that was different about Swagger was the fact that he grew a beard and slicked back his hair. Not surprisingly, those changes weren't enough to captivate the WWE Universe.
The All-American American has an impressive resume and the WWE should do more to capitalize on it. Not only was he a star amateur wrestler and football player at the University of Oklahoma, but he has also accomplished a lot in the WWE as well. He is a former ECW Champion, United States Champion, World Heavyweight Champion and Money in the Bank winner.
However, you wouldn't know that from looking at him, as he was thoroughly ruined prior to his respite. In fact, Swagger has been booked like garbage ever since he won the world title. Swagger was given one decisive victory as the World Heavyweight Champion, but he proceeded to drop the belt to Rey Mysterio and never recovered after that.
Swagger has essentially lost all credibility as a heel, and the right move would have been for him to return and feud with United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. While Cesaro is currently in a program with The Miz, Swagger would make a lot more sense as a potential opponent. Rather than just calling Swagger an All-American American, he could truly embrace his Americanism and use it to defeat the evil foreigner in the form of Cesaro.
Instead, Swagger returned to little fanfare and cut a run-of-the-mill heel promo. He went on to defeat Kofi Kingston later in the night and looked good doing it, which was promising after losing so often previously, but that won't be enough to generate interest. Swagger needed to do something big, and turning face was the smart and obvious move.
On the surface, Swagger has a lot of necessary tools that should help him succeed in the WWE. He has ideal size, a good look and is excellent in the ring. It's difficult to find big men who can work, but Swagger definitely fits in that category. His mic skills don't really measure up to the upper-tier guys in the company, but he has cut some decent promos before and could potentially be much better on the stick as a face rather than a heel.
I don't hate the fact that Swagger is going after the World Heavyweight Championship by participating in the Elimination Chamber match, but he has essentially no shot at winning. He'll pick up a couple more wins heading into the pay-per-view, then he'll lose and be right back in the same position he was in prior to taking a hiatus. Entering such a convoluted situation simply won't allow Swagger to build momentum.
The only hope at this point is that Swagger will go through the motions and then finally turn face following Elimination Chamber. The face turn has to happen at some point, and even though it would have been better to do it immediately, executing the turn at any time would be positive. There is an obvious foe waiting for him in Cesaro, and it would be an injustice for them not to feud.
There don't seem to be many Swagger fans out there right now, but that is to be expected. His reign as World Heavyweight Champion feels like it took place a lifetime ago and he hasn't done anything of note since. Despite that, I'm still a big believer in his abilities and feel as though he has the pedigree and skill set necessary to be a main-event guy in the WWE.
If the creative team keeps him on the same path that led to his demise initially, though, there is no hope for him. Things could have been rectified upon his re-debut, but the WWE did nothing to change Swagger, and that could ultimately lead to him ending up on the bottom of the food chain yet again.