Jack Swagger is back. On SmackDown, no less.
His return was, much like the recent re-emergence of Jinder Mahal and Bo Dallas, a little underwhelming.
While Mahal’s was outright weird, Swagger offered absolutely nothing in his first outing back on mainstream TV. Initially, it looked promising. It is important that WWE starts developing lower card feuds to keep the roster busy from top to bottom, and to prove that you don’t need a title hanging in the balance to keep a rivalry intense. The further intrigue we had from his backstage interview, in which it was revealed that his contract with Raw had expired, also portended a positive step.
But to throw all of that down the toilet the very next night on SmackDown, bizarrely interrupting Corbin’s beatdown of Apollo Crews, was a poor decision. It renders his interference pointless if Corbin and Crews are going to continue their program (as they should), and it sets up a poorly motivated rivalry with Corbin if the plan is to have him go against Swagger.
It also doesn’t help that WWE took no opportunity to deliver an explosive or noteworthy repackaging of Jack Swagger. Apart from his admittedly rather catchy “you don’t know Jack” catchphrase, he’s still going with his “We the People” gimmick, a jingoistic and xenophobic side that makes no sense now that he is no longer explicitly hating on foreigners as he was a couple of years ago with Zeb Colter and Cesaro.
He’s like a lower card version of Roman Reigns. His former contemporaries have gone on to better things, developed their characters, and offered something new. Now he’s just on his own, with the same music, the same style and the same base-level personality. Except now, he bears no stars and stripes, makes no reference to his heritage in his promos anymore, and yet he’s still being announced as a “real American.”
Stone Cold Steve Austin once told of a story from his early days as “Stunning” Steve Austin. He was asked, by a buddy who was riding with him at the time, “what makes you so Stunning?” It was an important lesson, for him, in owning and being the moniker that you’ve given yourself as a wrestler.
Jack Swagger is already failing to demonstrate why he’s still a “real American,” and he’s barely even a day into this great new run that we’re supposed to be excited about.
In fact, Jack Swagger’s introductory SmackDown promo played more like a profuse apology for being so lame over the past few years. No, seriously. He literally told the fans to forget everything that they’ve seen from him. WWE has been more self-aware in its storytelling as of late, but this is grasping at the pinnacle of absurdity. He may as well openly tell fans that creative is going to start booking him to win more matches.
Swagger’s lack of confidence on the mic, as well as a vague attempt at a new personality that isn’t nearly as fleshed out as it should be, doesn’t inspire much confidence in his return. A full repackaging, with no reference to him the night before on Raw, would have made more sense.
By putting Swagger in this strange halfway house — a cross between an old gimmick that isn’t lived up to anymore, and a new one that doesn’t make sense — there isn’t much reason to get excited about the “Real American’s” return to television.