Bellator star Jack Swagger (aka Jake Hager) was a recent guest on NBC Sports Radio Pro Wrestling 24/7 where the former world champion of WWE discussed his transition to MMA, and how he even brought remnants of his wrestling character with him. Swagger also opens up about the WWE's treatment of talent, and admits that he's happy he got out when he did. Check out that, as well as Swagger's thoughts on AEW and Lucha Underground, below.
Nick: Jake Hager aka Jack Swagger joining us on the show. Jake what do you prefer man do you still accept being called Jack Swagger?
Hager: Man with a cool name like that of course. I definitely tried to fight as Jack Swagger it just didn't work out. Now that we've got the first fight under our belts it's Jake Hager going forward.
Nick: Of course Bellator 221 in a few days this weekend which we'll get to shortly against TJ Jones, you're the favorite in this bout, but before we get into that Jake we have to talk some wrestling man. You being heavily involved in pro wrestling still as well as MMA in fact you more than likely will go down as the last Lucha Underground Champion. What do you think is going on with that promotion? What are you being told?
Hager: Well the sad part is I'm not being told anything. It really sucks. We filmed Season 4 in 2018 and at the end of that Season all the execs at El Rey, Mark Burnett Productions were very happy with the Season and they wanted to go right into Season 5 almost immediately. That wasn't the case & now it's been crickets. It sucks because that was such a great show fans could watch it and easily suspend disbelief get into the crazy powers of the superstars of the characters and just enjoy pro wrestling. That arena was something else, I think more shows should look into having an arena like that because it was like a playset that you grew up with as a kid. You can jump off things, throw that it was really cool to wrestle in.
Nick: Yeah not only that it had a huge following and a devout following that we all talked about as wrestling fans this Lucha Underground, this promotion that was completely different than anything else that we had seen whether that be Impact or WWE man.
Hager: Yeah & I was immediately attracted to it and very glad to be a part of it to go to the top and win their Championship that's definitely a notch on my belt and was really something I was proud of. I was hoping to do more and compete with people like Impact or WWE.
Nick: The current wrestling scene Jake I'm sure you're aware about what's going on and on one hand it's heating up with AEW's Double or Nothing happening in a few weeks out in Vegas, but then there's WWE which for majority fans man isn't cutting it as of late. What do you make of it?
Hager: Well to me it's like how many weeks in a row can you provide 5 hours, 6 hours of wrestling contests truly entertaining? You can only sustain that for so long so I think they need to change their model I think they need to move into a Season, Start at SummerSlam, End at WrestleMania and then have that time off where you can refresh everything or restart everything. I know Vince doesn't like that because he wants to be working and making money, but it's incredibly tough to put out compelling and entertaining content that you haven't seen and honestly you've seen everything that they're doing right now so it is what it is so maybe it will change or maybe they don't care they go their Network and will just keep doing what they do.
Nick: You brought up a good point do you feel the Networks more than anything are running the shows now whether than
Hager: Absolutely. When I was there Vince told us if the Network is successful then WWE is successful. The Network is the future of their programming & you see so many of these streaming services popping up and becoming successful because of it, television may be going the way of Blockbuster it's all internet streams now.
Nick: What about Fox network or USA network do think they have as much pull as Vince himself on what we watch on Monday night and Tuesday night?
Hager: I know they're writing the checks, but at the same time Vince is Vince and he really is the head honcho & we've always said yeah we have millions of fans watching us, but as a performer you're performing for the audience of one and that's him.
Nick: Recently Lio Rush has had some locker-room heat that has him in a lot of hot water there, there's a lot of politics that goes on and paying dues & what not. When coming up with the WWE what were some of the things if any that you had to do with showing respect to the locker-room leaders?
Hager: Well when I debuted in 2008 you still had guys like Undertaker, Mick Foley, Edge true veterans from a past generation that learned the sport a different way, I almost feel like the guys that I debuted with the Dolph Zigglers, Wade Barretts, Eddie Colons we were like the last generation of WWE Superstars coming from developmental, but still had that old-school generation show respect type thing installed and that's how it worked and there were a lot of problems if you had problems with those guys, but as my career continued and those guys were kind of phased off for most of the year, but sporadically they would come back it was a younger generation running the locker room & you saw, I saw anyway, less politics with the boys & saw more of the Superstars understanding the situation to make the best segments we can and not a lot of animosity and not a lot of politics people like John Cena really wanting to help and make the best product possible & I really appreciated that, I worked better in that environment where we're all there, we're equals and we're trying to make the best product possible
Nick: I think it's been about 2 years since you asked for your release from WWE. Is it a shock for you to see & hear how many current stars want to join that category?
Hager: No it's not a shock, they know exactly how they treat their talent, they know the contracts that they have assigned and they know exactly why we're unhappy with the way they treat us. So it's not a shock to me. I'm very thankful now looking back that I was able to leave when I did, I'm very thankful for my 12 years there because it allowed me to do so much, it allows me to do so much now because of my background, that notch on my resume, but at the same time there's a lot of unhappy people there and it's not just because of the politics. You're traveling 200 days a year, sometimes you're only home 36 hours a week, away from your family and then you go out there and you have these storylines that are just bad and you're like I'm putting my body through this for THIS? Like it would be a lot easier if the Superstars up there didn't care and they just did what they were told, but unfortunately you can't do a job like that. You have to care, you have to wear your heart on your sleeve in that ring and you have to care about what you are doing and so it doesn't surprise me at all that people are leaving because it is a problem they need to address.
Nick: I don't know if you saw it, but on Monday Night Raw the worst segment I've ever saw with The Revival, it's no wonder why they want to be out of the WWE. Bellator 221 Jake Hager/TJ Jones to heavyweights dude. Tombstone he's a big dude, I assume you're going to wear him down. With his 1 win 1 loss record no bout has gone past the first round. When there's not much tape on a guy how do you prepare for that?
Hager: Well luckily for me I'm in a big growing stage in my MMA career so I can focus on my skills & be 5% on the opponent right now. We'll look at the tape see what he does & develop a gameplan according to that, but for the most part me working on my head movement, me getting into unbelievable conditioning where I can wear him down, so it's almost as usual to me I want to get him up against the cage, get him down on the ground & as we used to say in Oklahoma lay all over him with the big heavies and just go from there and at the same time there will be a little filling out process, but I think we're ready for whatever he throws. He's a big guy, he's as tall as me, he's got a good jab, he's got more boxing matches than he does MMA so I'm going to be ready with hard right hands, lead jabs, but hopefully it's going to play right into my strengths which is double legs
Nick: Your win in your debut bout at Bellator was a statement in a lot of people's minds and honestly you looked pretty damn good man. Your decision to walk into MMA and the success you're finding certainly justifies your career decision & I congratulate you on that. Juggling both pro wrestling & MMA you still have a relation with MLW
Hager: No I do not
Nick: It was only for a couple of matches?
Hager: Yeah I'm not a big fan of MLW I don't even want to say their names they treated me very badly & I would recommend to all wrestlers don't even work at MLW be very cautious working with those people.
Nick: All right. Again congratulations on your early success & I'm pulling for you on Saturday. I like how you merged some of your pro wrestling gimmick into MMA with We the People, I love that.
Hager: Awesome. You know what you see so much pro wrestling everywhere now. Pro wrestling is so popular and so acceptable where it used to be hid in the closet and say I'm a pro wrestling fan where now it's cool to be a pro wrestling fan. You see all these celebrities loving it and that just draw it even more. I think if you look at the NFL, NBA especially if you look at MMA everybodies using pro wrestling antics to sell tickets and get eyes on their products so it just made sense for me We the People was my biggest gimmick to carry that over and to have MMA fans get to know me and relate to me through that gimmick and so they may not know Jake Hager yet, but they're like oh he's the We the People guy. It's the same thing if you want to be successful in anything you do you've got to get over with the fans whether they like you or hate you, but they've got to remember you in some way & I thought that was a very key part and definitely going to continue to do it
Nick: Speaking of Dutch Mantel. Are you still in contact with Dutch?
Hager: Yeah just talked to him yesterday
Nick: Sweet, he's doing well yes?
Hager: Yes he's doing very well, we've worked several shows together since we left. I would love to continue to work with him. I think one of these Bellator shows we're going to have to have him come out, cut a promo and have some fun
Nick: Jake you have my best man, wish you luck at Beallator 221 and continued success
Hager: Thanks for having me.
Full audio below.