May 16, 2009
Plenty of Swagger in former champ
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
Decrease the smug factor a bit, lessen the smile just a smidge and Jacob Hager admits in real life, he's not that far off being his WWE character, Jack Swagger.
As Swagger, the 6-foot-5, 260-lb., Hager has made a huge impact in a short amount of time. The All-American American likes the character and he loves the WWE life.
"WWE Creative came up with the name, it's definitely awesome," says 27-year-old Swagger. "My late grandfather's name was Jack. It's funny, when my old college buddies from the (Oklahoma Sooners) football team heard the name, they were like: 'Yep, that's him, that's the perfect name.' What I do, the smiling, that's me. And the cockiness, the sarcasm ... I'm sarcastic (in real life), I like to mess with people.
"And calling myself the All-American American, that just pisses everybody off."
A second-string defensive tackle (he played behind NFLers Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek) on the Sooners, he was asked to join the wrestling team in his sophomore year (he had a stellar high school wrestling background) and decided to switch over full-time.
"I'd been wrestling since I was six and as a kid, I'd watch the Saturday morning wrestling on TV. I was a big Ultimate Warrior fan."
A meeting with Jerry Brisco would steer him on his ultimate path. The two kept in touch and in May of 2006, Swagger got his break. After working in WWE developmental, Swagger got a dark match against William Regal a year ago and lost in convincing fashion.
"That night, I saw (Regal) backstage. I was a little nervous and said to him, 'I think we have a match tonight.' He says, 'Yes,' and then brushes me off and walks right by me.'"
Swagger isn't getting the brushoff these days.
After holding the ECW title for 104 days (he won it from Matt Hardy) before dropping the belt to Christian, he's got his eyes on gold again, with a match against the champ at tomorrow night's Judgment Day pay-per-view. "I think the chemistry is there between me and Christian. He's a great competitor, but not as good looking or good as me."
He still has wonderful memories of being handed the championship belt after his win over Hardy.
"Everything you saw, that was real emotion coming from me," he says. "It was like the first time I won a state championship. It was the biggest moment in my career ... But I'll surpass that (tomorrow) when I win it back."
Sitting in a dressing room with a Who's Who of wrestling has been an incredible experience for Swagger.
"It's such a surreal feeling. When I talk to The Undertaker, I just sit next to him and listen. Jim Ross introduced me to Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania. I was thinking, 'Would you just chug a beer and say "Hell, yeah," for me?
As one of WWE's stable of "The Next Big Thing," Swagger has accelerated his rise to the top.
"It's sure been a fun and wild ride for a kid from small-town Oklahoma."