Although it hasn't been much more than a month since Jack Swagger returned to WWE programming after a five-month hiatus, he is already the talk of the company. Despite the fact that Swagger was arrested last week, the WWE is moving forward with his push, and I believe it is the right move for the company.
As TMZ.com reported last week, Swagger was arrested for erratic driving in Biloxi, Miss. after last week's SmackDown taping and was charged with both DUI and possession of marijuana. Most immediately jumped to the conclusion that he would be suspended or perhaps even released for his transgressions, but no publicly-known disciplinary action has been taken.
This has rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way as they believe he should be held to the same standard as others. I wouldn't have blamed the WWE had it derailed his push and went in another direction, but the company technically didn't violate its own wellness policy. Marijuana possession isn't necessarily a suspension-worthy offense, and while the WWE reserves the right to suspend or even terminate a superstar who is in violation of the law, the WWE decided not to exercise that right with Swagger.
That could be viewed as hypocritical since others in similar situations have been suspended in the past. The Rob Van Dam situation in 2006 comes to mind as he was arrested for possession of pot and Vicodin while holding the WWE and ECW Championships. RVD dropped those titles in the following days and was then suspended for 30 days.
Cameron Lynn was arrested last year and charged with a DUI, which prompted the WWE to suspend her for 15 days. Swagger's situation is a mixture of RVD and Cameron, so it can be argued that he deserved a lengthy suspension at the very least. At the same time, the WWE has to think about what's good for business and there is no question that Swagger and Zeb Colter have taken the WWE by storm and garnered plenty of national attention as well.
Prior to his television return, I was a big fan of Swagger, but even I can admit that he was floundering. There wasn't much to his character and he was being used largely as a jobber.
Swagger's talent was always evident, however, he needed some direction and a suitable mouthpiece. The WWE hit a home run when it brought Swagger back into the fold as he was paired with Colter and given a "real American" gimmick.
Swagger and Colter have spoken out against the way things are going in the United States and they have been particularly critical of immigration. Since immigration is such a hot-button issue in the country, Swagger and Colter have naturally become known commodities. Many conservative personalities have made mention of the gimmick, including radio host Glenn Beck who went off on the WWE for the angle as he believed it was racist and reflected badly upon the Tea Party.
The WWE loves publicity any way it can get it, and there is no doubt that Swagger and Colter have helped WWE become mainstream to some degree. The creative team has knocked it out of the park with their characters and it would have been a shame to throw all of that away. Even though Swagger probably deserved to be disciplined, the collateral damage would have been devastating had the WWE stripped him of his No. 1 contendership for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Not only would a compelling feud with Alberto Del Rio have come to an end, but Colter would have been left out to dry despite his incredible mic work. Also, the writers would have had one of their best angles in years destroyed before it ever really got going.
The biggest losers in the situation would have been the fans, though. The World Heavyweight Championship so often feels like a secondary title, but this current storyline has given it plenty of meaning.
There are several different arguments that can be made regarding whether or not Swagger deserves a high-profile match at WrestleMania against Del Rio, but I truly believe that he does. Swagger's initial main-event push was botched so badly by the writers that it didn't seem like he would ever recover. He was owed some restitution in that regard and he is finally getting it.
Swagger is also an underrated in-ring worker and his acumen in that area has been highlighted since his return. It's amazing how much better a wrestler looks when he isn't taking the brunt of the punishment. Swagger has a new, vicious attitude that makes him look like a constant threat. The WWE doesn't have a lot of big guys who can truly work in the ring, but Swagger is certainly capable.
When you take all of that into account as well as how much he and Colter have resonated with the fans as heels over the past few weeks, it's clear that the WWE did what it had to do. Some fans will continue to complain, but the truth is that we don't know how difficult it is to run a company with the size and scope of the WWE. On top of that, we aren't the morality police either, so we have no right to tell the WWE what it can and cannot do with its talent.
Should Swagger be on a short leash after what happened last week? Absolutely. With that said, though, it was his first offense and I'm quite sure that most people believe in second chances. It looks like Swagger is getting his, and I'm confident that he will ultimately make the most of it.