Talking "Smack" with WWE's Swagger
Jack Swagger, the WWE’s World Heavyweight Champion, will be at the top of the “SmackDown Live” card at Mohegan Sun Arena next Tuesday when he teams with CM Punk for a steel cage match against The Big Show and Rey Mysterio.
Swagger, who defeated Chris Jericho for the heavyweight belt in a match televised on “SmackDown,” was a defensive tackle and wrestler at Oklahoma University, having planned to enter the financial sector until the WWE made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
WEEKENDER: What’s more demanding, Division I football or professional wrestling?
SWAGGER: I’d say professional wrestling, because you don’t get pampered like you do in Division I football. … College football is kind of spoiled; it’s one of the top sports in the country, so after games or whatnot you’ve got the planes going back home, the big buses, which is not to take away from the training — it’s a lot to prepare yourself to compete at that level, but I’d say the training is almost fairly similar to what I do now as far as lifting and cardio-wise, except we have the four- and five-hour car rides after we get done with the show.
WEEKENDER: Where is the pay better?
SWAGGER: It depends if you’re friends with Reggie Bush or not.
WEEKENDER: Do you approach steel cage matches differently?
SWAGGER: Yeah, of course you do, because it’s its own separate animal, so you have to have your own unique strategy going into ’em. Ya know, you try to use it the best you can as a weapon for you, and I try to avoid the disasters that they could be.
WEEKENDER: What adjustments did you have to make going from high school and college wrestling to the pros?
SWAGGER: The biggest thing is that you need to learn how to be in front of a crowd. Amateur wrestling is not that big of a spectator sport, so the biggest thing (in the pros) is to get that showmanship, the charisma, the confidence, and look like a champion. If you do that, a lot of it will take care of itself if you already have the wrestling technique.
WEEKENDER: What’s more fun, being the good guy or the heel?
SWAGGER: (Laughs) Oh man, there something to be said about being able to get a whole crowd cheering for you and fighting with you. But there’s also something to be said (for when) the same crowd is fighting against you, and (having) all of them really hate you … that’s what I enjoy. It reminds me of high school. My high school wrestling team was pretty dominant, and we would go to state tournaments, and in 14 weights we’d have 13 in the finals, and we’d walk out on the mat before the finals would start, and everybody would just boo us because we were that good. And I kind of like to apply that to now. It’s a lot of fun, I can tell you that.
WEEKENDER: Is it true you were offered your WWE contract the day you were supposed to start a job in the business world in Dallas, Texas?
SWAGGER: I actually have a bachelors in finance from the University of Oklahoma. I was going through the whole job-searching process my last semester of college. I went on a trip to check out this place in Dallas, this firm, and the following week I went to Atlanta to go try out for (WWE affiliate) Deep South (Wrestling). When I got back, I was supposed to go back down to Dallas to start, but that day I got a call from (then-WWE agent) Jerry Brisco saying I got the contract if I wanted it, which I did, and I jumped all over it. I kind of burned a bridge with that firm.
WEEKENDER: How would you describe the current state of pro wrestling?
SWAGGER: You know, what I love about pro wrestling is its an ever-evolving industry. What was transcended a decade ago with the Monday Night Wars and what the big guys were doing, Stone Cold (Steve Austin) and The Rock, necessarily doesn’t fit for what we’re doing right now.
It’s a little difficult to gauge with the last few years with the economy being down and all the natural disasters, like the oil disaster in the Gulf; it all plays an effect on it, but overall, we really have not seen a decline in our live events, which is great. Our tickets are cheap, which helps out, and (it’s) more of a kid-friendly show, which definitely drives up our attendance. So with all those factors weighing in, it’s cool to see how it’s evolving and surviving.