Examining Jack Swagger's Direction, Upside and Long-Term Potential
Don't compare Jack Swagger to the legends of the past; just let him be the Mack Truck in the ring that he can be.
Following a successful college wrestling career at the University of Oklahoma, Swagger's WWE career has seen him win the World Heavyweight Championship early on, flounder at times and deliver suplexes in the shadows of icons.
Swagger went from snatching the world title from Chris Jericho to bottomfeeder to world title contender to one-half of a midcard tag team in the whirlwind that was the last few years for him.
Depending heavily on Zeb Colter's mic prowess and ability to create controversy, Swagger now stands on the periphery of WWE's spotlight.
Colter revitalized his career by adding a new element and speaking for him. He provides a bridge from the ring to the audience that Swagger struggles to create on his own. In spite all of his physical gifts, Swagger doesn't attract our attention the way the top stars do.
"The All-American American" is a throwback to wrestlers of yesteryear who infused their offenses with moves from amateur wrestling. He carries on the traditions of Jack Brisco, Baron von Raschke and Verne Gagne but won't follow those men into the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps in another time, when wrestling was less about spectacle and a far grittier product, Swagger would have risen to the top. Instead, he struggles to keep atop the WWE ladder because he lacks in spark and stage presence.
Still, there is plenty of talent to showcase in Swagger. Keeping him bearded, angry and destructive with a manager at his side is the best way for WWE to maximize it.
Silver Medal in Toughness
The word "tough" comes up a lot when describing Swagger. That's something Swagger can certainly take pride in.
Matt Hardy pointed out Swagger's toughness via his Twitter account.
It's not Hodge most people compare Swagger to; it's more often Kurt Angle.
Both have a background in amateur wrestling and use that as part of their gimmick. Angle, though, is that rare talent, an elite mat wrestler who is also a tremendous showman.
Angle tweeted that Swagger couldn't hold his jock strap.
@WOZ93: tell Wwe Nobody Can Be Me. Swagger Couldn't Hold My Jock Strap.— Kurt Angle (@RealKurtAngle) February 11, 2013
While that may be true, it's equally true for all but a few who have ever stepped into the ring. There's no shame in finishing second to Hodge in toughness or not being able to match a legend like Angle.
The Olympic gold medal winner had some positive things to say about Swagger as well.
So did Ross.
Jack Swagger will never b Kurt Angle but Swagger can still be a damn great Jack Swagger. comparisons are natural. @FooFighterJ— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) November 4, 2010
It's not all compliments and admiration headed Swagger's way, though. Comments like the one from indy wrestler El Ligero aren't uncommon.
A lack of in-ring ability isn't why some fans show disinterest in what Swagger does in the ring. It's that he doesn't have the intangibles that make Angle so great.
The Art of Aggression
Some wrestlers who excel at mat wrestling get labeled "boring." Folks like Bob Backlund and Dean Malenko have had that criticism thrown at him.
Swagger doesn't have the kind of stage presence that had Hulk Hogan's success surpass his talent level, but he's capable of being more than just an amateur wrestler in a WWE setting.
He is at his best when asked to call upon his fury.
When delivering brute force and aggression, Swagger can be mighty entertaining. When he returned from hiatus early in 2013, he showed off that side of him.
He tore Zack Ryder apart in their match on WWE Raw.
Swagger charged at Ryder's leg with a vicious chop block and hurled him into the corner hard enough to rattle the ring. Channeling this part of Swagger's game is the key to getting the most out of him.
Portraying him as the smug, grinning jerk he was as champ doesn't allow Swagger to be at his best. He needs to be going full throttle to flourish.
His match against Rey Mysterio at Money in the Bank 2010 is one of the best of his career for that reason.
Watch as Swagger attacks Mysterio's ankle like DeMarcus Ware going after a quarterback. Allow him to tap into this predatory side more often and the great matches will follow.
Needing a manager to be one's mouthpiece doesn't take away from one’s greatness. Brock Lesnar's dependence on Paul Heyman is proof of that.
Swagger is explosive, powerful and a great athlete. Not being skilled on the mic on top of that means he won't be in the discussion of the all-time greats, but he can still be an awesome force at WWE's disposal.
When Swagger cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Jericho in 2010, what prevented his world title reign from taking off was his inability to connect with the audience through the microphone.
His promos, like the one below, were fine, but not all that impressive.
Swagger's charisma here isn't enough to compel audiences to tune in, to affect ratings the way the best talkers in the business do.
So for Swagger to reach his full potential, he's going to need men like Colter at his side.
Colter has irked crowds around the country, stirring up emotions and allowing Swagger just to be asked to be a wrecking ball in the ring. This is the formula for Swagger's success.
Swagger isn't the type of all-world talent who thrives regardless of his situation. He doesn't have enough "it factor" for that.
With the right opponent and the right story to best funnel his ability, he's plenty capable of big things.
Don't expect Swagger to stay a tag team competitor or a Superstar asked to lose to the likes of The Great Khali. He's just too powerful a force in the ring not to get another shot at being on the marquee.
Swagger's long-term potential includes him adding a Match of the Year award to his resume and a few more runs with the World Heavyweight Championship.
Expect Swagger to reach Alberto Del Rio's current spot a few times, riding bursts of momentum before slipping back to his current position.
He's not multi-talented enough to stay on top, but his toughness and in-ring skill will keep him hovering around the world title picture. WWE has too many men on the roster who are better showmen and more charismatic to have him be more than that.
Swagger's best bet is the second highest rung, the second tier, to be a perennial silver medal winner.
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