Last week we had the pleasure of chatting with Jake Hager aka Jake Strong aka Jack Swagger ahead of his MMA debut at Bellator 214 but you know we had to talk some wrestling!
Former World Heavyweight Champion, ECW Champion, United States Champion, current Lucha Underground Champion, Money in the Bank briefcase winner, the only title that has eluded this man and his legacy are the WWE tag team titles. Capturing the tag team titles would make Hager part of a very elite group as a grand slam champion.
Hager would have loved to see the All Americans win tag team gold, Jake said that he also missed teaming with Cesaro as well, almost nothing got people going like belting out “WE THE PEOPLE!” when those two came out. Hager was very complimentary of his former partner when speaking to us.
“It breaks my heart that Cesaro and I never won those tag team championships,” he said. “I really fell in love with tag team wrestling when I was working with him. He’s so creative and amazing, his wrestling IQ is through the roof.”
While Hager is completely focused on his MMA career right now, he hasn’t ruled out a return to WWE when the time is right. He also knows that, with the current landscape, the opportunities for wrestlers to make money are better than ever.
“[WWE] are doing better than ever, so with that much money on the table, of course, I would think about [a return],” Swagger told MMATorch’s Sean Covington. “I want to go back there. I think if I did go back there it would be a whole new Jack Swagger. In the two years I’ve been gone I’ve gained a lot of perspective on where I was and what really was happening. A lot of it was on their shoulders and their fault but I don’t want to go through life blaming other people for stuff that I didn’t accomplish, so two years later I realize that I had a lot to do with not succeeding as well as I wanted to.”
Jack Swagger was known to wear a t-shirt with an outlined of a hand across his chest. The shirt wasn’t the biggest hit with fans, but it certainly got Hager a good deal of attention backstage.
“I kind of ribbed myself by wearing that shirt,” Hager said. “Every time I would walk by Big Show with that shirt on he would be like ‘oh it’s the chop shirt’ and I would take a chop from Big Show. And his hand would not fit in the handprint at all.”
Hager pointed out that MMA will make him a better professional wrestler and he thinks a good pro wrestler will, in turn, make him a good fighter. Bellator let Hager keep his independent wrestling dates and work those while training which is an incredible amount of trust and a great show of commitment by the promotion.
When asked about the newly formed All Elite Wrestling, Hager was looking forward to seeing how they would change the game. He also spoke on how Jim Ross being rumored to be with the promotion would influence whether or not he would accept a contract offer from AEW.
“Jim Ross definitely makes me want to tune in and watch AEW. But if he wasn’t there I would still want to wrestle for them because of what they’re doing in this business. They are changing the landscape of pro wrestling for the better. They are creating opportunities to compete and I have no doubt they will succeed.”
When speaking to someone who has held as many different titles as Swagger has, you have to ask about his favorite championship title. Jake, being the current Lucha Underground Champion, was partial to the Gift of the Gods 7 plated title belt.
Madden may have been the game of choice on Xavier Woods’ “UP UP DOWN DOWN” YouTube channel but chess was actually the game of choice for Hager and some of his former WWE colleagues.
“I don’t know what it is, but right before I left the company, me, Roman Reigns, the Usos, a bunch of the guys got into these big-time chess tournaments backstage when we were traveling so much.”
Jake is humbled by his first WWE run, grateful for the opportunities and growth he experienced in the company. Jake is a big guy and an even bigger personality; I think Jay Z said it best:
“…But I can’t teach you my swag
You can pay for school but you can’t buy class”
Be sure to check out the full audio of our interview with Jake Hager.