Those who have been watching Raw recently will have seen hints of a Jack Swagger and Bo Dallas rivalry, with that being pretty much confirmed on this week’s Raw. The heated rivalry with Rusev has only elevated Swagger, who now emerges us an unexpected gritty babyface, who is arguably the most over he has been in his career. Meanwhile Bo Dallas has lost some momentum from when he first started, but he still gets audible Bo-lieve chants and somehow manages to be equally goofy and menacing.
Ah, Bo Dallas. He is a strange and weird commodity to invest in, much like his real-life brother Bray Wyatt. He doesn’t have any sort of physically imposing look and has a creepy ear to ear smile that makes children run in fear. His WWE gimmick of a delusional motivational speaker seemed too comical to work, but he made it work with his commitment to his character, getting regular “We Bolieve” chants and generally favourable reactions from the live audience. And with his mini-feuds with El Torito and R-Truth, he has gone heel. This makes him the perfect opponent for a renewed Jack Swagger.
Nobody expected Jack Swagger to come up so suddenly. At the time, I can only imagine that WWE was running out of cannon fodder to feed Rusev, and they decided that if Swagger would turn face, his gimmick and Rusev’s would be a perfect match – the invading superpower versus the patriotic soldier. And it was.
With some superstars, WWE has now taken to really pushing a gimmick over the top to make it work, rather than gingerly try and half-heartedly give up. They really wanted Rusev to work, so they first dropped Alexander from his name, then changed his residence from Bulgaria to Russia, then started showing pictures of Vladimir Putin, then gave him a medal, then put a large Russian flag out after his every win. They are doing a similar thing with the Miz – he gets a new entrance, he protects his face, then wears sunglasses to his matches, then wears super-noticeable fashionable clothes, then has his face put up on the screen, then gets a stunt double, then gets a make-up lady to ringside. See where I am going with this? The point I’m trying to make is that Rusev’s gimmick was finally picking up steam, and he was getting genuine patriotic heat directed at him. This transferred directly on to Swagger, who started getting genuine patriotic cheers.
Then came a series of stellar matches. Remember, that the point was to get Rusev over, and so he won every bout, but in every hard-hitting and fast-paced match, Jack Swagger exhibited exceptional endurance and tolerance to pain, and made excellent come back moments and exciting television. The finishes to these matches were great too. Swagger didn’t lose, he got knocked out or he passed out, showing his tenacity and unwillingness to consciously give up.
Swagger is in a very sweet spot now. We already knew he was a very talented wrestler (albeit one who seems to injure a lot of people in the middle of their pushes), but he lacked mic skills and a selling factor. He has the first covered in Zeb Colter, who in his new babyface avatar gets great reactions as a rugged no-bones war veteran. He also has his selling point now in the incredibly over catchphrase “We The People”, only supported by his fantastic theme song “Patriot”, which the audience has sung along to on some occasions. His series of matches with Rusev have given him the persona of a wounded warrior who never gives up, and WWE is smart to accentuate that persona with the rib injury angle. It is likely that Swagger will sell the injury over a number of weeks, just like Dean Ambrose was doing with his shoulder. Something about a babyface fighting both an evil opponent and an injury gets them great reactions.
Dallas is the perfect opponent for this wounded warrior because of the shame angle. Dallas insists on reminding Swagger of what he and JBL were already selling – that his losses to Rusev means that he let the country down. Dallas shames Swagger beautifully, because he does it under the guise of inspiring him and getting him to “Bolieve” and pushing him to succeed. The stigma against psychology and intelligence is especially strong with American fans, and they appreciate the quiet, intense babyface Swagger who’s “got heart”. WWE wants Dallas to get over as Rusev is doing – he wasn’t the longest reigning NXT champion for now reason – so we will probably see Dallas pick up a few wins over Swagger with both speed and conniving nature, while Swagger sells an injury and gritty determination, perhaps culminating in a win, a final vanquish of the evil foe.
To conclude, I say that this feud has the potential to elevate both superstars, bringing both superstars to the upper midcard, and maybe making a semi-main-eventer out of Swagger. WWE is doing very well with them so far, and I only hope it continues.
Now if only Sheamus would turn heel after this feud so that Swagger fights him to win the United States championship, a belt that suits his character to a T.