Money In The Bank 2017 has been and gone with a fair amount of controversy, so what better time to look at the most controversial MITB (male) winner, Jack Swagger. ”Controversial” isn’t the word I’d normally use but you have to fit words like that into the introduction of an article (preferably in all caps) to get people’s attention. Swagger’s run is generally regarded as something he wasn’t ready for and commentators sounded embarrassed to bring this credential up when he’d appear alongside a man in an eagle suit. But are we remembering this run all wrong? Was Swagger’s three-month stay in Hotel Main Event misunderstood? Fuck it, let’s have a look.
Swagger had been entertaining on ECW on Sci-Fi, having gradually improving matches with the likes of Fit Finlay & Matt Hardy, as well as sauntering around the place as ECW Champion with a grin and well, swagger. Jack had ‘potential’ written all over him despite his sometimes awkward promos. Someone on Raw figured he was ready so he was drafted on June 29th 2009 where he dramatically…lost to Randy Orton as part of a gauntlet match by getting himself counted out. Swagger explained on the mic he respected Randy and this was his way of making an impact. We’re off to a great start.
Jack started a meh feud with deserved-better MVP with Swagger bringing up Porter’s criminal background in an attempt to garner heat but their match at Summerslam 2009 couldn’t have lit a match. As if Jack wasn’t neutralised enough he started a three-way feud over the U.S. Title with The Miz and Kofi Kingston. All three men tried but their match at Hell In A Cell 2009 was instantly forgotten by most thanks to the lack of feud and being the comedown match before the main event. Swagger tread water until qualifying for the MITB match at Wrestlemania XXVI (the last ‘Mania MITB) by beating the mighty Santino. Swagger looked sure to become a regular member of the Guys Who Does Cool Shit With Ladders club with Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Dolph Ziggler etc. The MITB match was even more spotty than usual thanks to the inclusion of ten men all eager to do something cool-looking to remain employed. Swagger eventually dropped majority-favourite Christian off the top to retrieve the briefcase. I say ”eventually” because Swagger struggled with it like he was trying to fit a SCART lead into the back.
With no momentum going in, Swagger’s win was a surprise but then again, none of the participants had much going on. That would continue the next night on Raw as Swagger would attack John Cena but Cena would glare at him like Deebo from Friday, causing Swagger to scarper because obtaining MITB has a 20% chance of turning you into a pussy. Which is OK if it fits your character like Edge or Rollins but you’re kinda fucked if your only trait is ”lisp.”
World champ Jericho talks very slowly about how Edge may have speared him through the barricade but he’s still the champ. This was when Jericho would call the fans whatever it was he found on his word-a-day calendar and Edge would encourage fans to chant SPEAR so it’s not bad but it’s not their best work either. Like AC/DC’s Flick Of The Switch. Edge wanders out in street SPEAR clothes and SPEAR wants his rematch SPEAR now. Jericho declines so Edge gives him an Edgecution DDT and SPEAR, removing Jericho’s suit and revealing his wrapped ribs. Edge poses over him until his music plays and he leaves the ring…only to get blasted by Swagger’s briefcase as Jack sprints to the ring. He waits to see if Jericho’s moving and when he realises he’s out cold, he cashes in by shouting ”get a ref out here now!”
Jack Swagger vs. Chris Jericho (World Heavyweight Title)
Gutwrench Powerbomb, 1-2-3.
Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: Jack Swagger
Well he didn’t sound amazing when he grabbed that mic but at least he was interrupting a mid-level Edge vs. Jericho feud so he wasn’t out of his depth. Shame his finisher didn’t have a ”real” name, shows how much thought they put into him I guess. Full Metal Jack-It, Move Like Swagger, Jack Off etc.
Later on the same show, Swagger reads a script (as in ”reading a piece of paper”) and tells the crowd he’s happy to be HBK’s replacement as the greatest living wrestler. Jericho interrupts, demanding his title back until Edge walks out and challenges him until Teddy Long goes HEY HOW ABOUT JERICHO WRESTLES EDGE NEXT WEEK AND THE WINNER GETS SWAGGER. Swagger distracts Edge so Jericho plants him with a Codebreaker, but Swagger takes advantage of that to Gutwrench both of them (separately, although doing both of them at the same time would have been cool). Swagger’s promos weren’t amazing in ECW but literally reading a script sounds like half-a-rib.
Oh so despite Swagger being the Smackdown champion he’s still appearing on Raw because the only thing the brand split meant in 2010 was your name was red or blue during your entrance.
Swagger insists he simply changed his mind about cashing in on Cena, if he had decided to cash-in he’d have pinned him quicker than he defeated Jericho. DOOT DOOT DOOT DOOOOOOOOOOT here’s WWE Champ Cena who calls Swagger the luckiest wrestler in the world (SHOOT) and takes exception to Swagger’s words about no-one on Raw being better than him and offers to make it title vs. title tonight while pointing out how much Swagger’s sweating in that suit of his. Poor fucker looks ready to melt but luckily Orton’s here to interrupt. Catchphrases are dropped until Guest Raw GM David Otunga (with the Raw logo shaved into his hair) makes some matches and Orton RKOs Swagger. By-the-numbers Raw intro segment and everyone sounded mechanical in 2010.
Jack Swagger vs. Randy Orton
We’re informed on the Raw before Wrestlemania, Orton pinned Swagger which sums up the long-time plans they had for him. Swagger gets kicked in the face and takes a Garvin Stomp and knee-drop. How the hell do you take a Garvin Stomp at the start of a match? You have to be down for like ten seconds. It gets two, Swagger recovers and slams Orton and sends him outside into the break. Orton escapes a Swagger bear-hug but gets ejected outside and into the barricade. Swagger locks in an Abominable Stretch but Orton doesn’t tap because it’s not 1979. Swagger takes an elevated DDT for two, complete with delay because Orton. The ending sequence of quick slam, neckbreaker sets up the RKO but Swagger punts him away. Swagger lands the Vader Bomb twice but tries the Gutwrench and gets RKO’d for the win.
Winner: Randy Orton (Swagger could have been anybody in this match as Orton got 90% of the offence.)
So a week after winning the title, Swagger got called a coward by Cena and lost to Orton.
Swagger awkwardly reminds us what happened last week despite the commentators doing that during his entrance and the live crowd watching the dramatic recap on the titantron. I hate that, WWE can be like watching a normal wrestling show through treacle. Swagger tells us he’s the odds-on favourite to win until John Morrison interrupts and OH GOD he’s a good guy so this is going to be death. Morrison shows clips from Raw and mocks Swagger’s same-old haircut, nickname and speech impediment. Swagger says JoMo is living in the shadow of The Miz, JoMo agrees but at least he doesn’t have a speech impediment. Morrison should have just rubbed the mic against his abs rather than talk.
Jack Swagger vs. John Morrison
JIP after the break, JoMo tries a fancy tornado DDT but Swagger turns it into a slam. He rides Morrison amateur style until he sends him running into the kitchen sink low knee. Ref halts the action as Swagger has a tiny cut above his eye and a doctor runs in to towel it off. They carry on where they left off with Swagger slamming JoMo with a dramatic slam. Swagger methodically pounds away until sending JoMo flying off the top with a Belly-to-belly. Swagger misses the Vader Bomb and JoMo makes a fiery comeback before Swagger goes for the Gutwrench and they make a dog’s dinner of it.
Morrison gets two-count of a Sunset Flip but Swagger moves out of the ring after a flippy flip. JoMo tries to follow but Swagger cuts his legs out from under him. That would have looked better had JoMo not waited ages for Jack to do his thing. Swagger finishes with the Gutwrench.
Winner: Jack Swagger (The action was decent but Swagger looked exactly the same as he did pre-title win so it was fairly competitive but that wasn’t for Swagger’s benefit.)
At the very end of the Batista vs. Orton main event, Swagger runs out and Gutwrenches Orton. Yeah, that’s more like it! Then Cena runs out and immediately clotheslines Swagger like an afterthought on his way to attack Batista. Oh.
Suited Jericho lets us know he’s not happy Orton’s taking on Swagger at Extreme Rules, because he’s a Raw guy and Swagger is the Smackdown champ. Guy’s got a point. Teddy Long lets us know it’s Jericho and Edge’s fault for going to a No Contest last week so fuck it, it’s a three-way for the title tonight.
Jack Swagger vs. Edge vs. Chris Jericho (World Heavyweight Title)
Tony Chimel does the introductions but sadly his voice doesn’t break on Rated R Sooooperstar. Swagger immediately plants the still-wrapped Jericho with a belly-to-belly so he takes a breather. Edge sends Swagger outside so Jericho comes back like it’s musical chairs. Swagger sticks to belly-to-bellies before him and Jericho both end up outside and both take a baseball slide. Some awkward brawling carries on until we go to break. So far it’s been very clunky as both Edge & Jericho seemed injured or worn out without having Swagger inserted into things. Swagger locks in an armbar on Edge as the crowd weakly gets behind Edge. Backbreaker gets two so Jack walks up and decks Jericho. Vader Bomb gets two so Jack raises his hands so the crowd know to boo him. Edge doesn’t appreciate that so he hurls him outside and Jericho and Edge go at it for a bit in the best bit of the match so far. A load of moves occur as the match finally has some coherence as a spear gets turned into a Walls of Jericho. Swagger interrupts it so he gets a Walls of Jericho too. Edge breaks that up and gives Jack an Edgecution DDT, looks for the spear but gets dumped mid-run by Jericho. Edge spears Jericho but Swagger pulls Edge off (not like that) and pins Jericho instead.
Winner and still World Heavyweight Champion: Jack Swagger (That was dreck before the break but picked up once the near-falls started. After the match, Edge and Jericho go at it to remind us all Swagger’s an afterthought in this feud.)
Orton gives a via satellite promo from Ireland about how he’s going to win the title. And er that’s it. Cheers Razza. In the ring, Swagger gets a mic and issues an open challenge and sounds manly. Then The Undertaker’s music hits (!!) as the commentators explain ”well shit we had to do something, half the roster is stranded in Europe thanks to the Iceland volcano.”
Jack Swagger vs. The Undertaker
I would love it if Swagger schooled Undi and gutwrenched him in ten seconds, but Jack isn’t a giant foreigner so instead they feel each other out until Undertaker gives him Old School. Swagger disregards it and gives him a scoop slam. Undi takes a breather outside until Jack sends him into the steel steps. Swagger dully stomps away until Undi gets bored and lands the apron legdrop and stays on offence until the break. Back in, Swagger has working over Undi’s knees (he’s giving him a dead leg) and they go for a more MMA-based exchange where Undi tries to stop him by grabbing his face. That looked a lot cooler than I’m making it sound. Undi powers up but Swagger kicks him in the leg and he sells it (!!) but shrugs it off to give him Snake Eyes and leg drop. Swagger halts a chokeslam and lands The Rock’s Laying The Smackdown DDT. He gets cocky though and gets a Chokeslam and a Tombstone.
Winner: The Undertaker (Well there was no fucking chance in hell of Swagger winning this but Undi made him look better than Orton did.)
Swagger says he’s going to cut the head off the viper this Sunday then Morrison shows up wanting another match. I can’t be bothered reviewing another Morrison vs. Swagger match so I fast-forward and…MORRISON WINS? Clean? The World Champ that’s defending against the Number two guy on Sunday? What was Morrison doing on the PPV? *google* Oh, teaming up with R-Truth to lose to Show & Miz in the first bit of a gauntlet match, of course.
Jack Swagger vs. Randy Orton (Extreme Rules, World Heavyweight Title)
Not looking forward to this. Every upper-mid-card guy Orton feuded with 2009-2012 had the same structure: Orton would beat them on TV a few times, his opponent would attack him once so they could create a video hype package for the PPV that made them look equal. See: Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes etc. Swagger gives Orton a Dragon Screw Leg Whip and takes him into the Amateur Position (or whatever it’s called) before Orton gets bored and snaps his neck over his back. Swagger tries for a chair but Orton kicks it away and Jack’s eyes bug out. Swagger tries to go inside the ring and sneak-attack Orton as he enters but Orton knows that trick and dodges it. Jack’s like ”alright dick-head” and suplexes him on the outside. Belly-To-Belly suplex keeps Orton down as Swagger’s biggest issue becomes clear: he has no idea what to do when his opponent is down. He doesn’t taunt or look menacing, he stares blankly like he’s wondering what meal deal combo he’s going to get after the show. Swagger sends Orton into the steel post and tries to nail him with the title but Orton cuts that off. Swagger goes back to staring before trying to Vader Bomb but Orton hits him with the title mid-air. That was cool, it gets two. Swagger blocks the elevated DDT but Jack ”The Tall Drink Of Water” (thanks Striker) halts it. Orton hits him with a bin instead and goes nuts on the announce table. Orton kicks him in the head a few times on the steel steps, gives him the elevated DDT and sets up a chair for the RKO. See, Orton stares at the chair for ages but does so maniacally so you know he’s got evil shit on his mind whereas Swagger looks like he’s thinking about thinking. RKO gets countered onto the chair and Swagger lands the Gutwrench Powerbomb for the win.
Winner and still World Heavyweight Champion: Jack Swagger (Hey Swagger won! Well feel free to ignore what I typed earlier, despite Swagger’s post-weed facial expressions he was able to beat Orton and look strong….fuck, as I type that sentence Orton gives Swagger a RKO on the outside and the commentators fall over themselves explaining ORTON HE ONLY LOST BECAUSE RANDY BROUGHT A CHAIR INTO THE RING, HE’S STILL COOL PLEASE BUY HIS SHIRTS. Well if you stop watching immediately after the pin-fall this was a success.)
First post-Wrestlemania PPV down and so far Swagger is being presented as a Make-A-Wish kid that wished to become the shittest World Heavyweight Champion ever.
It’s JoMo vs. Swagger again but thankfully Swagger wins after a Gutwrench. As a result of the win, Christian gets drafted to Smackdown, which would result in Christian’s best ever singles feud against Orton next year. Morrison is sent to Raw so hopefully he can stop muddying Jack’s water.
Swagger keeps on appearing throughout this episode to give us Swagger Facts about his college wrestling career that J.R. probably wrote with one hand with the other on his cock. Swagger emerges in the last segment to give more interesting facts but the crowd boo the hell out of him every time he tries to speak. Eventually Swagger carries on and tells us he was the biggest five year old in his class etc. You can barely hear him over the boos but he carries on and on. I’m dying laughing here, finally a good Swagger segment. I knew it was coming eventually. Jack carries on with his amazing life story and clearly someone’s had a word with him about his facial expressions because he’s scowling like a boss now. Teddy Long finally interrupts and introduces the new Number One Contender, good guy Big Show. Show lists his own accomplishments by ticking them off his fingers before making a fist and KO’ing Swagger. This was all good.
Swagger continues his list of accomplishments, they go to break and when they come back he’s still going. Ha! He’s going to take Show to school on the PPV and he won’t be taking the short bus this time.
Jack Swagger vs. Kane
Swagger tries the amateur stuff but Kane is able to go struggle-for-struggle but Kollegiate Kane takes a back-seat to Show making his entrance to guest commentate. Kane pounds away (as he sends Swagger running into the turnbuckle, Swagger shouts ”aaaahhh!!!”) until Swagger goes for his knee. Jack comes off the top with the Flying Nothing and gets chopped in the face. He blocks the chokeslam and shoves Kane into the turnbuckle and carries on attacking him before the ref throws the match out. Huh?
Winner via DQ: Kane (Crap finish but Swagger was getting beat so I guess it made sense character-wise. Kane assists Big Show in putting Swagger through the announce table afterwards.)
Oh it’s this segment! Swagger goes even more over the top in boring everyone with his list of accomplishments with a plethora of trophies and crowns. ”Greatness was my neighbour and success was my friend. We hung out a lot.” He even has a Sandwich named after him. ”It tastes of freedom.” The mention of food brings out Show who wants a look at the trophies. ”Watch your bearded sausage-fingers!” Swagger pleads with Show to leave as the crowd want him to carry on. Show smashes everything as Swagger watches aghast before raising Swagger’s title. Some of Swagger’s lines and his Boris Johnson-levels of obviousness had me rolling and cheesy, happy Show worked well here. It’s not super-sophisticated but Boring Guy Interrupted By Large Punching Man is far preferable than no-character-Swagger.
Edge and Orton have Pick Your Poison and Edge chooses Swagger. I’ve seen enough Orton vs. Swagger so I’ll skip to the end: Edge runs in and attacks Orton. Orton responds by giving Swagger a RKO for the non-title win despite interference. YOUR Smackdown World Champion.
Jack Swagger vs. Kofi Kingston happens but I’m going to skip to the end as surely there’s no way he’s losing to Kofi, right? Show wanders out and distracts Swagger with the mic so Kofi gives him a top-rope crossbody and…fuck me dead, Kofi wins. It’s fair enough Show gets to mess with Swagger but Swagger’s had absolutely no offence on Show so far. He’s making Rey’s title run in 2006 look like RVD’s ECW TV Title run.
Jack Swagger vs. The Big Show (World Heavyweight Title)
Over The Limit 2010 isn’t fondly remembered because of Ted Dibiase Jr. getting concussed, medics having to attend to Punk’s bleeding, and Orton injuring his shoulder while taunting. Swagger tries to take Show down amateur-style but he fails so Show takes him down and taunts Jack with press-ups. Show chops Swagger with ”frying-pan” fists. Show walks over Swagger ”which is like getting run over by a car.” These commentators are drinking the good stuff tonight. Swagger decides to try to take down Show with cross blocks on his ”tree-trunk like legs.” Vader Bomb connects but Show presses Swagger out the ring on the kick-out. After a fiery comeback series of blows (wait, already?), Show tries for the KO Punch but Swagger gets the title and knocks down Show for the DQ after five minutes.
Winner via DQ: The Big Show (Christ on a bike, Swagger can’t even get a win over Big Show? Swagger carries on beating up Show after the bell but he recovers and Show chokeslams him into a chair. Match was decent until it ended.)
Swagger teams with clean-shaven and orange Drew McIntrye to lose to The Big Show and Kofi Kingston. If a fan ran in the ring on Smackdown, Swagger would have lost to him.
Jack Swagger vs. The Big Show vs. Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk
The entire build up the next PPV was based around Kane trying to find who attacked his brother so something something title match. Punk and Swagger attack Rey so nice guy Show saves him. Rey fights Show anyway but gets used as a projectile to knock Swagger down. Show picks up Rey and is able to knock down the other two while he’s holding him like a satchel. Everyone starts popping off moves and stopping each other going for the pin until rivals Punk and Rey team up. Swagger belly-to-bellies Rey and locks in a crappy-looking double-armbar. You’d think rest moments like that wouldn’t be in a four-way but here we are. Punk takes down Rey with his springboard clothesline and they go through some cool moves until Swagger Germans the pair of them. Big Show stops sleeping to block a 619 attempt from Rey to dunk him on the announce table. Big Show destroys both guys until they leave the ring. Show follows so Rey kicks the steps into Show and Punk dives to take him out until Fatal 4-Way 2011. Rey gets kicked off a springboard by Swagger and Punk delivers the GTS but Kane shows up with a coffin and decides Punk was the one who attacked Undertaker. Kane tries to shove Punk into the coffin but Luke Gallows saves him. Rey then effortlessly drops the dime on Swagger to win the title.
Winner and NEW World Champion: Rey Mysterio (Mostly fun action, but what a miserable way of putting a lifeless run out of it’s misery. There were three storylines in this match (Rey vs. Punk, Kane vs. whoever attacked his brother and Show vs. Swagger) and Jack’s was the least important.
Swagger would get a rematch at MITB next month but like his run with the title, I’m tapping out. Let’s skip to the one promo people asked about, the one with his Dad played by Bunkhouse Buck.
Jack explains to Kane he didn’t attack the Undertaker, his alibi was doing push-ups, catching fish and eating chicken wings with his Dad. Kane doesn’t believe him despite photo evidence of Jack finishing a 4K race (”My 64 year old Dad came second!”) and they come to blows. Swagger puts Kane in the ankle lock until Rey saves him and Kane chokeslams and tombstones Buck. Swagger looks sad and…that’s it, people remember this segment fondly? They must be old bastards who liked WCW Saturday Night because all Buck did was say ”that’s right son” and get beat up. 2010 WWE sucked.
What I think happened: WWE decided to put on a separate MITB PPV so they needed someone to win MITB at Wrestlemania and cash it in before the PPV so there wasn’t three MITB winners running around. So they needed someone to win the briefcase, a title AND lose it before the ‘real’ plans for the rest of the year kicked in at the MITB PPV. So Swagger wasn’t designed to be the next big thing, he was playing the awkward, poorly-planned role WWE had found themselves needing and it’s no stretch to say any of the other MITB contenders could have filled the role. Swagger didn’t rock the boat with the status quo, he only got a pin over Orton with the deal that Randy got all of his heat back afterwards with the RKO and Jack also lost to nearly everybody on TV. So WWE wanted a crappy, forgettable World Champ and they got one. The other wrestlers in the MITB match should be happy they didn’t win.
So was Swagger blameless in all this? Naaah, he deserves criticism for his utter lack of emotion during matches and his occasional slip into worse-than-porn levels of acting. Watch this and try not to cringe. But considering the position he was put in, no-one would have done better. It wouldn’t have mattered if Kevin Super Dragon Owens Kobashi had won the title, he was losing before MITB PPV no matter what. Jack stuck around for years afterwards so WWE realised they were the main reason for this shitty title run so good for him. Of course Swagger then fudged things up himself with a DUI but that’s a story for another day.
Until then, we’ll always have The Swaggie.