What a difference just a few weeks make in the choppy seas of professional wrestling. For Jack Swagger in particular the past month has been one hell of a roller coaster ship ride.
From out of nowhere, Swagger leapfrogged over the whole Smackdown roster to win the Elimination Chamber match on Feb. 17th and earn the opportunity to face Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 29, after he was repackaged as a xenophobic heel with a new mouthpiece in Zeb Colter.
Just two days later though, it looked like his push would evaporate as rapidly as it materialised when he was arrested for a DUI and marijuana possession in what seemed like the worst timing ever.
But Swagger had a saving grace from a most surprising source. The angle just had to continue when it provoked the wrath of one Glenn Beck, who took offence with a gimmick that painted himself and his beloved Tea Party as racist heels. How could Vince McMahon not respond with a public burial on Monday Night Raw for the Republican nutjob after he branded his new favourite characters "stupid wrestling people"?
However, now things aren't looking quite so swell for Swagger once again. The media criticism the angle provoked three weeks ago that McMahon loved has now dried up, becoming old news. Though the act is starting to generate heat at house shows, there has been a complete lack of reaction at most TV tapings, a fact that is concerning WWE management and may lead to the Del Rio vs. Swagger program being cut short, according to Dave Meltzer on his subscriber only Mar. 12th Wrestling Observer Radio show.
The original idea was to rematch the two at Extreme Rules in a submission bout, but that may now be jeopardised. They could easily move those stipulations forward six weeks and blow the feud off at WrestleMania, leading to Swagger being dropped down the card, a failed experiment.
Alberto Del Rio's position is much more secure, as WWE sees value in having a Latino babyface headliner, for obvious demographic reasons, and there's no-one else suitable for the role, between Rey Mysterio's body breaking down and Sin Cara failing to take off as a star as originally desired. They are going to tremendous lengths to at least make it seem like he's getting over strong, like having Ricardo Rodriguez during commercial breaks encourage the fans to take part in a competition over who can say Del Rio's name the longest before he comes out, which shows how committed WWE are in him as an ongoing project.
But whether that is enough to keep him as World Heavyweight Champion remains to be seen. There's lots of blame to be passed round. Though there have been some bright spots, the creative team made a complete hash of his babyface turn, wasting it on an utterly forgettable angle where he saved Ricardo from being attacked by the 3MB jabronies, and have been scripting him in a tone deaf manner in his current role. The pandering speeches about how America is the greatest country in the world isn't an effective strategy at making a Mexican a hero with Hispanic fans and doesn't work outside of cheap pops for anyone else either. Del Rio deserves some criticism too. He's a good hand and works hard, but doesn't really excel at any facet of the business and hasn't significantly upped his game in line with the golden opportunity.
There's an obvious fallback plan in place should WWE feel that Alberto isn't cutting the mustard as champion and it's time to go in a different direction. Have Dolph Ziggler successfully cash in the Money In The Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 29. But with the way he's been booked this year, losing to every top babyface on the roster, it seems like they've lost faith in him too. Though Ziggler may have just been cursed by being the champion in waiting. There's still the ridiculous mentality that the briefcase holder can be jobbed out, as he'll fluke his way into the title in the end.
What do you think, Cagesiders? Out of the available flawed options, Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler, who would you like to come out of WrestleMania with the big gold belt?