Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter have a very bright future together.
After debuting out of nowhere this past week on Raw, a man once known as Uncle Zebekiah lit a fuse under wrestling rings across the country. Initially being peppered with "what" chants, as most WWE newcomers are, the character quickly gained the crowd's undivided attention with piercing hate speak.
Uncle Zeb's khaki fisherman's vest was a mini allegory that screamed "this land is my land!" His rather grizzled handlebar moustache whispered "...not your land."
Colter rooted his alliance with Jack Swagger by mentioning that he and Swagger's father served in Vietnam together. He stuck with the patriotic, All-American theme that has been synonymous with Swagger since day one. But this time around, the red, white and blue theme had a particular emphasis on the white part.
"I look around and I see a country I don't even recognize," snarled Colter with the disdain in his eyes virtually cutting the promo for him. He continued:
"I see people with faces—not like mine. I see people that I don't even know what they're saying. They can't even talk to me.
"And I look around and I say 'where did all these people come from?' But most importantly I think: 'How do we get rid of them?'
The promo appeared to be part of a well-crafted relaunch of Jack Swagger. Previously, all that had been noteworthy of Swagger's return to WWE TV was a new hairdo and a new name for his finisher. The WWE had to do better if they were serious about salvaging his career.
With the addition of Zeb Colter, Swagger's comeback tour now seems like it should lead him to a feud against newly-minted Mexican hero Alberto Del Rio, possibly with the world title on the line.
So far, so good.
Initially, Colter may find difficulties getting the Kaufman-like heat he and Swagger seem destined for. A thinly-veiled anti-immigration tour in the historically conservative south (Nashville, TN on Raw; Little Rock, AR on SmackDown) won't create too many enemies.
But as WrestleMania season rages on, Colter will have opportunities to agitate hotbed cities. The next several weeks take WWE's traveling circus through places like New Orleans, New York and Washington D.C. Racial fodder of note include Hurricane Katrina, September 11 and the Million Man March, respectively.
Don't think for one second the WWE is above exploiting any of them.
Racially-charged gimmicks can easily be seen as a cheap way to get heat. But in the PG era they have been few and far between, if not nonexistent.
Just as shoot promos, like CM Punk's 2011 pipe bomb, are made effective by their rarity, so are race-baiting characters like Zeb Colter.
Colter is a well-traveled, veteran wrestling mind with a knack for manufacturing star power. He knows exactly what he is doing. Hopefully Jack Swagger's 6'7" 260-pound frame is big enough to fit on his coattails.