Jake Hager aka Jack Swagger is continuing his MMA dream while also being a member of All Elite Wrestling. Hager left WWE in 2017 after being unhappy with his role and he admitted that he is much happier nowadays after being in WWE for 11 years.
"I really am. You know, I am very thankful for the run that I had there [in WWE] but towards the end there when Bully [Ray] was there I was very unhappy," Hager said on Busted Open Radio. "I didn't know how to make the changes. How to use my hard work to make the changes that I needed to do to get to where I wanted. After so long in that, you beat a dog so many times that dog is going to think that he isn't worth anything so I feel so refreshed being out of there and in the situation we are now.
"Honestly, this was the plan now for three years since we left WWE to go into pro fighting and make a name for ourselves and crossover. We kind of felt that the explosion of pro wrestling was going to happen and it was a perfect storm to sign with AEW. It really is something special. When you are on the road for 250 days a year you're not with your family; you're not with a lot of people a lot of the times so I felt really lonely at times, and now that I have been out, I take my kids to school every single day. Really, my family is my strength and I realize that and I am leaning on it."
Hager was an amateur wrestler who then transitioned into pro wrestling and sports entertainment with WWE. With that comes a much larger stage than wrestling at college meets and Hager talked about the performance anxiety he suffered from while with WWE.
"I think the best piece of advice that I got from someone in pro wrestling was that you are going to get all of these pieces of advice, but you are going to have to take that and make it your own otherwise it is not going to translate out there in the ring. That is a constant struggle I feel like because in pro wrestling every day is something new and it's live television. So, you always want to be upgraded to the moment and because of that it is very tough and difficult at times unless you have experience or a confidence in yourself or just that live experience, it is going to be very tough on you to go out there and perform at a high level," revealed Hager.
Once of the appeals in AEW for Hager is more freedom with his character and he talked about the frustrations he had in WWE where they had complete control of the Jack Swagger character.
"If it makes sense up there [in WWE], they are not going to do it. It has to not make sense for them to want to go forward with it," stated Hager. "That part gets frustrating because you see so many times that I had really cool moments in my career and then the next day it gets stopped for no reason and who knows why. Maybe I did something or maybe it's the powers that be that chose it but it is really frustrating because you put your body on the line; you put your back on the line and your neck on the line and give your body to these people and you go out there and give your heart to these people and all of a sudden it is taken away. You don't even have an explanation for it and then you are back at the bottom of the pile again. I don't think you can sustain, that is not a good business model.
"They say that talent is the biggest asset of the company but they don't treat it as that, so it is so frustrating that you get storylines canceled day of, hours before the show is about to go on. That is one thing we know about AEW. We know the script a week out, even before we go out to TV so we are already thinking about what to do and how to entertain our great fans."
Hager was then asked about the differences in locker rooms between WWE and AEW and he pointed to the accessibility of AEW President Tony Khan.
"Night and day, it really is; it's hard to compare the two. "You get there and immediately if I want to go and talk to Tony Khan, I can, he makes himself available and is not hiding behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz," said Hager. "It's really nice to go in there and if there's something that I need to go in there and talk to the boss, it is easy. It's not stressful, it's not a, oh, what kind of mood is he in? It's nice and I think you see that attitude trickled down from the top all away across. You see that as professional wrestlers they always say that the boys ruin it for the boys but what I see is a bunch of young and hungry and really want to be a part of something and really trying to build a future outside of the WWE."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.