Jack Swagger: Sorting out WWE's World Title Picture in Light of DUI Arrest
The professional wrestling world has been taken by storm with the news of Jack Swagger's arrest in Biloxi, Miss. His WWE future is suddenly very much in question, and the creative team could be in a position where it needs to scramble and develop a new WrestleMania feud for World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio.
According to TMZ.com, Swagger was pulled over and arrested on Tuesday night following the WWE SmackDown taping. It is alleged that Swagger was driving under the influence and that he was in possession of marijuana.
All of the particulars are unclear at this point, but alcohol reportedly was not a factor; Swagger was ultimately released on his own recognizance.
Who should step in for Jack Swagger if he is punished?
There is no doubt that this entire situation looks bad for Swagger, but we still don't know how the WWE will decide to handle it.
There is some precedence in a situation such as this one with Rob Van Dam being arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and Vicodin pills in 2006. Van Dam was both WWE and ECW Champion at the time, but he was forced to drop the titles and was subsequently suspended for 30 days.
As bad as that sounds, the penalty could potentially be even worse for Swagger. According to the WWE's substance abuse and drug testing policy, a talent who is arrested, charged or admits to drug possession or use is in breach of contract and could be terminated at the company's discretion.
The WWE also reserves the right to punish Swagger in the same manner as someone who violated a drug test would be punished, despite the fact that Swagger hasn't failed a test.
I don't want to speculate on what will happen with Swagger since all the facts have yet to come out and since I can't speak for WWE management, but my gut tells me that the best-case scenario for him is a 30-day suspension, and it would be really tough to keep him in the world title picture if that ends up being the case.
Since this is Swagger's first offense of any kind, hopefully there is some leniency and he is at least allowed to keep his job.
As much as I would love to see the WWE let this slide to some degree and allow Swagger to continue pursuing the World Heavyweight Championship, Swagger made a huge mistake at the worst possible time.
Coming off an Elimination Chamber win and developing an intriguing gimmick alongside Zeb Colter, it seemed like Swagger was ascending back to main-event status; however, that may no longer be the case.
If Swagger is stripped of his World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania, as I unfortunately expect him to be, the WWE will have to follow up with a contingency plan.
Prior to Swagger's recent run of dominance, I pegged Mark Henry as the favorite to win the chamber match and face Del Rio on the big stage. There are quite a few candidates who could step in for Swagger, but I consider Henry to be the best.
Regardless of who Del Rio faces at WrestleMania, the expectation is that he will win. The WWE has spent a lot of time building Del Rio into a fan favorite by having him vanquish Big Show. It's almost as if the WWE is aiming to make him a giant killer of sorts.
That makes Henry the ideal stand-in for Swagger, as he is easily one of the most physically imposing superstars on the entire roster.
In addition to that, it doesn't appear as though Henry has any type of solid storyline in place at the moment. The Great Khali came out to challenge him on Raw, and Henry proceeded to mock him.
I'm quite sure that nobody actually wants to see Khali compete in a match at WrestleMania, so getting Henry away from him and having him face Del Rio instead would be great for The World's Strongest Man.
Although I actually prefer Henry to Del Rio and would like to see him win the title, I fully understand the situation at hand. The goal is to make Del Rio look as strong as possible, so Henry will have to put him over if Swagger is removed from his perch.
This could also set the stage for a potential Dolph Ziggler cash-in with an angry Henry attacking Del Rio following the match.
There is no shortage of possibilities aside from Henry, though, as there are many potential contenders waiting for a shot.
Randy Orton and Chris Jericho are both options, but since they are faces, it seems unlikely. There is also a chance that Ziggler cashes in on Del Rio between now and WrestleMania to set up a singles match between them instead. If nothing else, the WWE is lucky that it has a lot of depth on the current roster.
Henry has never had a world title match at WrestleMania, but he has put so much time and effort into the business that he deserves one.
The WWE is in an incredibly tough position right now and I won't fault the company regardless of what it decides. This is totally a judgment call and it couldn't have come at a more vital time.
As a fan of Swagger, my hope is that some type of agreement will be reached that will allow him to remain No. 1 contender. That is probably wishful thinking at this point, though. If Swagger is punished as many expect him to be, then Henry should be the next man up to face Del Rio at 'Mania.
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