The name "Zeb Colter" meant absolutely nothing to wrestling fans just one month ago, but suddenly Colter is arguably one of the most compelling characters in the WWE. Colter has been in the business for many years and knows what it takes to connect with the fans, and he has done precisely that thus far.
Many fans likely know Colter as Dutch Mantel. He was a legendary wrestler in the South and he eventually took on many other jobs in the wrestling business, most notably announcing for WCW and booking for TNA. Colter is a renaissance man in professional wrestling and he has certainly been around long enough to know how to create a buzz.
Colter has succeeded in doing so in a very short period of time as Jack Swagger's manager. Colter's character is that of a Vietnam War veteran who has grown disillusioned with the direction in which the United States is heading. His main area of concern is immigration as he believes that people are "crossing our borders and stealing our jobs."
Immigration is a huge issue in the United States today and it was obvious from the start that Colter would garner some national attention. His promos have played off real-life issues and the real-life feelings of many, and he has brought a certain edge to the product. Vince McMahon loves mainstream attention as well and he has gotten it thanks to conservative personalities such as Glenn Beck addressing Colter's character.
Wrestling fans fully realize that Colter is playing a character and that the ideals of that character in no way reflect what he believes in real life. The manner in which Colter delivers his promos is so convincing that it's tough for some people to make that connection, though. Beck in particular bashed Colter's character for being racist and said that it made a mockery of the Tea Party.
The fact that a political pundit like Beck is so enraged by Colter's character is a testament to how perfectly Colter has played his role to this point. There are a lot of people out there who actually share the same beliefs that Colter's character has espoused, and Colter seems to have captured the essence of them. One of the biggest challenges in wrestling is making things seem realistic, and Colter has been flawless in that regard.
One aspect of Colter's gimmick that I particularly enjoy is his YouTube channel. The WWE has created an account for Colter called "WeThePeopleZeb." On that channel there are several promos featuring Colter and Swagger explaining their platform and furthering their heel personas by bashing immigrants.
Among the topics that Colter has discussed are immigrants "stealing" jobs, immigrants not speaking English and the presence of immigrants changing the balance between the majority and the minority in the United States. All of these issues are things that have been heavily debated in the political realm, and the WWE has used that to its advantage.
The WWE also decided to do something extremely unconventional with Colter and Swagger, as they addressed Beck directly in one of their promos. In the middle of that promo, however, it was revealed that the wall and Gadsden flag behind them didn't actually exist. They were standing in front of a green screen and they proceeded to break character by introducing themselves as Wayne Keown as Jake Hager respectively, which are their real names.
Colter then went on to explain to Beck that he and Swagger are in the entertainment business and that what they say on WWE programming isn't indicative of their actual beliefs. He jokingly referred to himself, Swagger and the WWE's many fans as "stupid wrestling people", as Beck used that term to describe them on his show.
Colter essentially treated Beck like a six-year-old child as he explained to him that the WWE is just like many television shows, some of which depict racist or otherwise offensive characters.
There were some mixed reactions after that promo was released, as there are fans who don't appreciate the WWE breaking kayfabe, but it was effective in that instance and Colter seamlessly transitioned back into his on-screen character afterwards. Colter simply has the perfect tone and delivery to pull off the character that he has been given.
Swagger was an absolute non-factor prior to taking a five-month-long hiatus from WWE programming. His potential was always obvious, but his World Heavyweight Championship reign was booked terribly and he was never used properly after that. Swagger has always had the in-ring skills necessary to be a main-event attraction; however, his ability on the mic has been lacking.
The WWE tried pairing him with Vickie Guerrero, but they didn't click. The second time was a charm, though, as Colter has already proven to be an ideal fit. Swagger's shelf life beyond WrestleMania is in question due to his arrest last week, but I'm hopeful that Colter continues to be featured and perhaps even expand his stable of proteges moving forward.
Good managers are few and far between in wrestling these days, but Colter brings an old-school mentality and presentation to the table that makes him great. The subtle nuances are often the things that matter most in wrestling, and there is no question that Colter has them down pat. He is already one of the WWE's most interesting characters and will continue to be down the line.