Until three weeks ago, Jack Swagger hadn't been seen on WWE programming in five months. Prior to that he endured a three-month losing streak and was a shell of his former self. Despite that eight-month spell of futility, Swagger became the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship Sunday night and showed how quickly things can change in professional wrestling.
Although Swagger was far from the favorite to win at Elimination Chamber, he was definitely a dark-horse possibility. Chris Jericho and Mark Henry seemingly had better chances, but Swagger has been built incredibly well since returning to television and it was obvious to me that his character was made to feud with World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio.
Rather than being The All American-American, Swagger is now the self-professed Real American.
He has brought in Zeb Colter as his manager and together the two of them have launched an assault on the current state of the United States. They have taken issue with the manner in which the country is being run and are aiming to restore the USA's past glory.
Colter made mention of his status as a Vietnam veteran prior to the chamber match and said that he didn't spend a year of his life with his face in the mud aside Swagger's father in order to see illegal immigrants come into the country and steal benefits.
Colter didn't pull any punches and it almost seemed as though he was speaking directly to Del Rio with his promo serving as a precursor to Swagger's victory.
Swagger was once one of WWE's most promising prospects, but it's easy to forget that. He won the ECW Championship early in his tenure and soon won the Money in the Bank and the World Heavyweight Championship as well.
Swagger was booked weaker than perhaps any major champion in WWE history, however, and once he dropped the belt to Rey Mysterio, he was essentially ruined.
Swagger did go on to win the United States Championship while under the guidance of Vickie Guerrero, but it was a fruitless title reign and dropping it to Santino Marella made him look even worse.
The losses truly began to mount after that, and Swagger became a jobber to the stars as he lost to the likes of Ryback, Sheamus and others. He even lost to lower-card talent, though, so any momentum he may have had was gone.
This led Swagger to take an extended break and his status was uncertain to say the least. Swagger was totally out of the picture for a couple months before returning to wrestle at house shows.
Even though Swagger was still on the roster, there was plenty of chatter about him potentially being released due to unhappiness about his place within the company. That never came to fruition as Swagger has gone from a potential future endeavor candidate to a WrestleMania main-eventer.
Swagger obviously won't be in the true main event of WrestleMania. In fact, he and Del Rio could very easily lead off the show as that has been the case with the world title match for the past couple years at 'Mania.
Even so, the World Heavyweight Championship is a featured title in WWE and contesting it could be huge for Swagger's future as it seemed like he was destined to remain in the lower mid-card for the rest of his career.
If nothing else, Swagger's recent ascent speaks to the volatility in both WWE and professional wrestling in general. There are often times when fans complain about things being too predictable, but those complaints are squashed when something like Swagger winning the Elimination Chamber happens.
Some may have known that Swagger winning was a possibility, but I doubt very many believed that it would actually come to fruition.
WWE is much maligned for its perceived inability or unwillingness to build stars, but Swagger's situation proved that it's quite possible.
Swagger already had a history with WWE and was a main-eventer in the past, but so much happened to undo that. Swagger essentially started off with a clean slate three weeks ago and all it took were a few squash victories as well as a chamber win over top stars like Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, Daniel Bryan and Kane for him to look credible.
There are obviously still fans out there who aren't buying Swagger as a world title contender yet due to how badly he was brutalized by the creative team prior to his layoff. Even so, the WWE now has a solid seven weeks to make him look strong.
Professional wrestling is generally a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, so booking Swagger like a beast will make a lot of people forget about his past pretty quickly.
Swagger's sudden revival should give fans hope for their favorites who may not be in an advantageous position currently. All it took for Swagger was a little time away, a gimmick tweak, a new mouthpiece and some convincing wins, and now he is once again a top star.
Perhaps that formula won't work with everyone, but WWE found a way to take Swagger's wrestling talent and supplement it with other vital pieces.
I fully expect Del Rio to defeat Swagger at WrestleMania, but it would be foolish for me to count out The Real American at this point. It wasn't long ago that I was lamenting the state of one of my favorite wrestlers as he was being jobbed out to everyone and their mother prior to taking a leave of absence.
There was no guarantee that I would even see him in a WWE ring again let alone in a position to have a high-profile WrestleMania match. When WWE wants to push someone, though, it is perfectly capable of doing so.
It has been a very long time since Swagger has had the backing of WWE, but now that it appears as though the higher ups are clearly in his corner, Swagger could very well go from rags to riches over the course of a few months.