Jack Swagger had always wrestled, through high school and through his days as a star athlete at the University of Oklahoma.

But when he decided to pursue a career with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) during his senior year, he soon realized there was a lot more to wrestling on TV, and before crowds of 10,000 or more, than just a headlock and or flying elbow.

“Yeah, the performing part was hard to learn for me, developing a character, learning to master your delivery, what you want to say,” said Swagger (not his real name), 28, during a recent phone interview. “The athletic part was easy for me, not the showmanship. But that has been fun to learn. I’m from a small town in Oklahoma, so I just can’t put a price on the live audience. That for me is my favorite part.”

The 6-foot-6, 263-pound Swagger will get to experience his favorite part of his job Saturday, when he wrestles for the World Heavyweight Championship in a four-way bout at a WWE Smackdown event at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.

Swagger’s character, billed as “The All-American American” is a confident, cocky competitor who often “puts his foot in his mouth,” Swagger says. In Portland he’ll be in the ring against Rey Mysterio, CM Punk and The Big Show.

And while Swagger had to learn how to wrestle in front of a crowd, crowds don’t have to learn much about pro wrestling. The choreographed, dramatic and over-the-top battles between costumed characters have been entertaining audiences in a big way for generations.

WWE has been around since the early 1980s, when showman promoter Vince McMahon took up the family business and launched what was known as the World Wrestling Federation, before becoming World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002. McMahon’s father had run the World Wide Wrestling Federation, dating back to 1963.

Today, with McMahon still at the helm, WWE promotes itself as a “sports entertainment” entity. The WWE acknowledges the bouts are “scripted” (not real), and says each performance includes ad-libbed comedy, acting, special effects and celebrity guests.

The WWE airs its mixture of melodrama and wrestling on national TV four times a week — Friday nights on MyNetworkTV, Monday nights on USA, Tuesday nights on SyFy, and Thursday nights on WGN.

WWE also makes movies. Currently in production is a coming-of-age story titled “Legendary,” starring WWE performer John Cena, with Danny Glover and Patricia Clarkson. Triple H is set to star in a suspense flick called “Killing Karma” with Parker Posey and Bruce Dern. “I think (wrestling) stays popular because it’s always changing, keeping up with pop culture,” said Swagger. “It’s been a staple for so long, and it’s really ingrained now as part of pop culture.”

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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