One of the biggest criticisms that fans seem to have concerning the current WWE product is that it isn't edgy or realistic enough.
Many point to the shenanigans of Hornswoggle or John Cena's PG jocularity, but now that the WWE is providing a feud based on reality in the form of Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio, it's time to step up to the plate and embrace it.
Swagger has undergone quite the character transformation since returning about a month ago as he has gone from a cocky and comedic "All-American American" to a vicious and driven "Real American." The addition of manager Zeb Colter has a lot of people talking as well and could be the key to Swagger's success moving forward.
Better known as Southern wrestling legend Dutch Mantel, Colter has adopted the gimmick of a Vietnam War veteran who has grown disillusioned with the current state of the United States. His promos thus far have been xenophobic in nature and focused largely on illegal immigrants "stealing benefits from the American people and looking for handouts."
Although I would say that Colter's views are shared by a minority of the U.S. population, his sentiment is certainly one that is quite present in our society. The WWE likes to be relevant when it comes to areas outside the professional wrestling business.
It's quite rare for the WWE to cross into the political realm, though. Since Linda McMahon's bid to become a senator appears to be officially over, the company can get a bit riskier with its storylines.
There is absolutely no doubt that Swagger and Colter have been tailor made to feud with Del Rio at this point.
The World Heavyweight Champion is gaining a ton of fan support and has quickly become one of the WWE's top faces. Seeing as Del Rio is Mexican born and began his wrestling career south of the border as Dos Caras Jr., Swagger's anti-immigration character should jibe perfectly with a guy like Del Rio. While Del Rio is a foreigner, he has endeared himself to the American fans.
The forthcoming feud is ironic in many ways because Swagger and Colter claim to be real Americans who are doing what is best for their country. Despite that, the fans are embracing Del Rio and will continue to do so throughout the rivalry.
It truly is a great old-school angle that I'm confident will play out well on television. It may not be fully representative of the Attitude Era, but it will absolutely provide the authenticity that many fans crave.
With that said, there already seems to be some concern from a portion of the fanbase that WWE will take things too far with this storyline. I can understand that feeling to some degree since nobody wants to see this degenerate into a racist or offensive angle, but it would be best to just sit back and let it play out.
It's hypocritical to call for an edgy angle and then back off when we're finally given one, so we ought to embrace what the WWE is doing. Has the WWE gone too far with some things on occasion? Sure. Anyone who saw Mae Young give birth to a hand or the entire Katie Vick angle can attest to that.
At the same time, the WWE is different now than it was then and is committed to PG programming. The goal is to appeal to children and their families, and the WWE won't do anything to jeopardize that.
In addition to that, the WWE's Latino fanbase is huge and dedicated. There is no doubt that they have to be emotionally invested in this storyline already as it hits home for many of them.
The WWE wants them to be passionate and wants them to boo Swagger, but it doesn't want them to be offended or disgusted to the point where they boycott the product. The WWE has to toe the line between fair and foul, but I'm not worried one bit about things getting out of hand.
Truth be told, I can't remember the last time there was actually a compelling feud involving the World Heavyweight Championship. As much as I like Sheamus, his feuds with Del Rio and Big Show were nothing to write home about. His program with Daniel Bryan heading into WrestleMania XXVIII was fun, but there wasn't much to it. That was simply a case of the Royal Rumble winner challenging the champion.
The World Heavyweight Championship is always going to be second in line to the WWE Championship until top guys like John Cena or CM Punk chase it, but a meaningful feud over the world title can help boost its prestige in a major way. Add the fact that it involves an issue that strikes a chord with many, and there is good reason to be excited about the SmackDown brand's top title heading into WrestleMania.