In a plot twist that WWE figurehead Vince “Mr.” McMahon and his group of creative writers
couldn’t have even whipped up, the 30-year-old former World Heavyweight Champion Swagger – whose real name is Donald Jacob Hager – was pulled over by police officers in Gulfport, Miss. on Tuesday night around midnight, according to The Sun Herald. Swagger had apparently just finished taping an episode of the WWE’s weekly Friday Night Smackdown TV show in front of a live audience at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi.
Gulfport Police initially made the traffic stop due to Swagger excessively speeding in his 2013 Ford Taurus (who says wrestler don’t get paid?), but by the time the proverbial dust settled he was taken into custody on several additional misdemeanor charges – including driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. He is due to appear in court for the charges on March 12.
Swagger had just recently made his “return” to the WWE after taking several months off in an attempt to repackage and reinvent his character – as his shtick had gotten quite stale and predictable. In fact, the arrest also comes at the heels (no pun intended – you’ll get it in a minute) of his huge win last Sunday at the annual Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, where Swagger took out five other WWE superstars – including Dancing with the Stars contestant and fellow comeback kid Chris Jericho – to become the number-one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship belt. Arguably one of Swagger’s biggest career victories, it assured him of a headliner spot at one of the main events in the upcoming Wrestlemania XXIX on April 7 in the New York City area. His opponent… well… we’ll get to him later.
Swagger’s character, since he debuted with the WWE’s now-defunct ECW brand in September of 2008, was that of a blue-blooded, patriotic, cocky, college athlete referred to as “The All-American American.” Even after winning multiple titles and accolades during the first five years of his career in the WWE – including the aforementioned WHC title, which is arguably its second-biggest title - Swagger never really connected with the fans as a heel (which is a pro wrestling term for “bad guy’). Actually, he never really connected with anybody whatsoever.
At first glance, Jack Swagger has all the genetic and physical tools that any successful or capable pro wrestler needs. He is 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds of knotted muscle fiber and stretchy tendons, with some of the longest arms I’ve EVER seen on a human being outside of a comic book. If the NFL ever runs out of goalposts (it could happen) he could literally step in, spread out his wingspan, and dare the first kicker to “hit the crossbar.” He is a former collegiate wrestler and winner of multiple accolades at the University of Oklahoma. He is extremely powerful, deceptively quick, and able to move around the ring in a fluid and smooth manner.
Swagger’s problem has always been his ability to talk and connect with the fans. Basically, in pro wrestling speak – he cannot “cut a promo” to save his life. A lot of his speaking problem stems from his very noticeable lisp, which practically forced the WWE powers that be to give him a valet or a manager – a mouthpiece, if you will. After suffering a 3-month losing streak, Swagger told the on-screen “management team” that he was going to “take some time off.” That was September of 2012.
Fast-forward to February 2013. Many wrestling experts (sorry, even writing this term makes me feel silly) thought that Swagger would be repackaged as a babyface – which is wrestling speak for a “good guy.” He actually returned to action as a brooding, “monster heel” (basically, this means” giant bad-guy” in WWE speak) attitude. He also sported a new look consisting of a scruffy, amber-hued, dirty beard and long, greasy hair with stringy bangs. Most importantly, about a week after his re-debut, he was finally given a proper mouthpiece – one that meshed with his old “All-American American” attitude and his new “monster-heel” motif…
Without getting too much into the recent media controversy behind the character of Zeb Colter or the relationship between the characters of Colter and Swagger – as it was already well-covered by Michael Sullivan’s article for EntertainmentTell.com – I will say this. This is probably not the direction that the WWE creative department had in mind for this suddenly resurrected wrestler’s career and/or the talked-to-death, Tea Party-esque Colter, which has arguably become the biggest WWE-related story that the outside media has covered since The Rock “CAME BACK” to the WWE to wreak havoc and win the WWE Championship from popular, “pipe-bomb” laying, heel superstar (who held the WWE championship belt for over a year, which is unheard of in these days of fickle, wrestling fans and execs) CM Punk.
Real quick idea: Maybe they can remake The Rock’s… sorry, Dwayne Johnson’s new movie that comes out this week “Snitch” and replace the actor that plays Rock’s jailed-on-a-drug-arrest son with Jack Swagger. There’s an interesting way to capitalize on the unfortunate situation and turn a bad thing into a good thing. Just sayin’ is all.
The real story will be how the WWE handles the arrest of Swagger and if they punish him right away or even at all. I mean, since his return, Swagger has been thrust into the Smackdown main event scene almost immediately. They have recreated his character from a fake, patriotic jock to that of a focused, no-nonsense, dominant, bigoted bully. The thing is that the combination of his next opponent was scheduled to be the current WHC title-holder Alberto Del Rio – who is very proud to be of Mexican descent – plus the fact that he and his manager Colter is anti-immigration and possibly the most xenophobic character since Hudson from “Aliens” was really shaping-up to equaling some quality sports entertainment.
In layman’s terms, since the introduction of Colter as his manager, the Swagger/ Del Rio Wrestlemania match for the WHC title has gone from a simple, filler match on an already star-studded card to a match that everybody (including major media outlets) has been talking about.
Another quick thought, if I may: I can’t believe they have reached number 29 with Wrestlemania. I actually remember the second Wrestlemania more than the first one, as my childhood idol and the first and only “Real American” (not to be confused with the Swagger’s “All-American American” OR his new identity - the familiar-sounding “Real American” ) hero Hulk Hogan taking on the quadruple-chinned behemoth King Kong Bundy in a steel cage match during the mid-1980’s, back when it was called the World Wrestling Federation or WWF . Goddamn, I’m getting old. Next thing you know, Michael Jordan will turn 50 or something. What was that? No… really? Seriously… did he? sigh…
It seems as if the powers-that-be at the WWE really hit the mark with the new-and-improved version of Jack Swagger.
Then Donald Jake Hager had to go and screw it all up for himself by smoking some weed and driving fast.
It’s not like Vince McMahon hasn’t faced this before. Just look up the name Jeff Hardy (or his brother Matt, even) and you’ll find a medicine cabinet full of problems and cautionary tales – for wrestlers, as well as for promoters and owners. The difference is the timing and the surprise factor. I mean everybody in the wrestling community, from fellow performers to writers and analysts, knew that Hardy had a substance abuse problem before McMahon decided to give him the keys to the company by putting the title belt on him. So when Hardy basically shit on every opportunity hr ever received due to his irresponsible, drug-induced behavior, nobody was surprised.
Now, I’m not saying that Swagger’s arrest has the same shame-factor as the Chris Benoit incident .You know the incident of which I speak, and if you don’t know and want to know more, check it out for yourself. However, it is a huge loss for the WWE money-making machine. Swagger and Colter were becoming big news, thus their upcoming Wrestlemania match was just the tip of the iceberg. I just don’t know how the WWE can ignore the arrest.
The thing is, Swagger didn’t technically violate the WWE’s “Wellness Policy” with the arrest – as he didn’t test positive for any substances during a company drug test. However, based on Swagger and Colter’s right-wing, conservative, law-abiding characters – how can they “write” this incident into the WWE Universe and his feud with Del Rio without seeming like hypocrites or pushovers? When Hardy violated the Wellness Policy for the second time in 2008, they used his drug-using, free spirit image to pit him against the straight-edge, holier-than-though, genius of CM Punk. Shortly after Hardy had himself a “freak-out” at a Nashville Airport, the powers-that-be apparently had enough of Hardy’s shenanigans and passed the torch to Punk, who eventually “retired” Hardy from the WWE in 2009, and took his title to boot.
They can’t do the same thing with Swagger as they did with Hardy, as Swagger is a young, essential building-block in the future of the company and Hardy was more trouble than he was worth and was on his way out of the company. Just a quick footnote: Jeff Hardy is the current top-draw and Champion for TNA Wrestling (a.k.a. Impact Wrestling or whatever they feel like calling it that day) – which is the second-biggest pro wrestling organization in the United States, behind (you guessed it) the WWE.
My prediction is that you have most likely seen the last of Jack Swagger in the WWE, as Emperor Vince is, without a doubt, ROYALLY pissed right about now.
In fact, as I write this, I uncovered on wrestlezone.com that Swagger was being pulled from upcoming WWE live events on the weekend of February 22nd to the 24. As of right now, there is no indication that this was due to the arrest (although, I have my suspicions) and/or if he will be pulled from next week’s “Monday Night Raw “or Smackdown TV tapings.
That means, in less than a week, the WWE has gone from having positive publicity in major media markets to having negative publicity in every market and the Emperor McMahon likes his company coming out of every situation smelling like a rose.
However, thanks to the actions of Jack Swagger, the WWE smells like some skunk right about now.