Hager has been wrestling since the age of five, and wrestled in high school with Danny Hodge's grandson. He is good friends with Hodge, and grew up living two blocks away from him in Perry, Oklahoma.
Hager was a two-sport athlete in high school, in addition to being class president as a sophomore and junior. Hager was the No. 5-ranked 215-pounder by Wrestling USA. He won the 215-pound division of the state wrestling championship as a junior after being a runner-up as a sophomore. Hager then joined the Junior National USA wrestling team as a heavyweight during the summer of 2000. A two-time All-American Scholar, he also had 45 tackles and six sacks in three games before breaking his ankle as a junior. He recorded 75 tackles and three fumble recoveries as a senior, helping Perry post a 10-3 mark.
The University of Oklahoma recruited Hager as a two-sport athlete. He played football and was the second-stringdefensive tackle behind National Football League players Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek. Due to his high-school wrestling background, he was asked to join the wrestling team as a heavyweight in his sophomore year, and switched over full-time. During his junior year, he was introduced to Jim Ross, who was then World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)'s Head of Talent Relations, through former OU defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, Hager’s close friend and college roommate. Ross encouraged Hager to contact him after graduating. At the 2005 NCAA Division I championships, he lost to University of Pennsylvania's Matt Feast in the second round, and did not place. As a senior in 2006, Hager had a seventh-place finish in the NCAA championships and also defeated the eventual heavyweight national champion, Dustin Fox from Northwestern. He was named an All-American, while also setting the record of 30 pins for most pins in a single season.
In 2006, Hager graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor's degree in finance. Following his graduation, he had a job with a firm in Dallas, but was offered a contract with WWE the day he was scheduled to start.
During this time, Hager had a gimmick of having an undefeated streak in FCW. His first loss came in the form of a Raw dark match, at the TV taping on August 18, 2008, when he lost to William Regal. He also lost to D'Lo Brown in a dark match, before defeating Jamie Noble in a dark match prior to a SmackDown taping on August 29. He then lost the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus O'Shaunessy on September 18, after debuting for the ECWbrand.
On September 9, 2008, Hager made his debut on the ECW brand under the ring name Jack Swagger, winning a match against a jobber He immediately established himself as a heel by starting a feud with Tommy Dreamer. He attacked Dreamer on the September 23 episode of ECW, when Dreamer attempted to stop Swagger from attacking jobber Chase Stevens. He later defeated Dreamer in a wrestling match and an "Amateur Wrestling Challenge" competition. After weeks of feuding, their rivalry ended in November in an Extreme Rules match, which Swagger won to extend his undefeated streak in ECW.
He then sought to challenge Matt Hardy for the ECW Championship and was named the number one contender on the December 30 episode of ECW. In 2009, on the January 13 episode of ECW, Swagger defeated Hardy to win his first title in WWE, the ECW Championship. His undefeated streak in singles competition ended on the February 3 episode of ECW when he lost to Finlay in a non-title match. After successfully defending his title against Hardy at the Royal Rumble and Finlay at No Way Out, Swagger began a feud with the returning Christian, to whom he lost the ECW Championship at Backlash, which ended his 104 day reign as champion. He attempted to regain the championship title in a singles match against Christian at Judgment Day and in a triple threathardcore match at Extreme Rules, but was unsuccessful in both attempts. His attempt to win the ECW Championship at The Bash in an ECW Championship Scramble also failed.
On June 29, 2009, Swagger was traded to the Raw brand, making his debut as part of a three-on-one gauntlet match against WWE ChampionRandy Orton, in which he got himself purposely counted out in order to make an impression on Orton. On the July 13 episode of Raw, he won his first match on the brand by defeating Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP). He then feuded with MVP for several weeks, culminating at SummerSlam, in a match that MVP won. After his short feud with MVP ended, Swagger began pursuing the WWE United States Championship. He had his first singles match for the championship on September 21 against Kofi Kingston, but lost the match by countout after stealing the championship and leaving the arena with it, although Kingston later took it back while Swagger was in a physical confrontation with The Miz. Swagger made another unsuccessful attempt at the championship at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in a Triple Threat match against Kingston and The Miz. On January 31 at the Royal Rumble, Swagger entered at number 26 in the Royal Rumble match, but was later eliminated by Kofi Kingston.
World Heavyweight Champion (2010–2011)
On the March 1, 2010 episode of Raw, Swagger defeated Santino Marella to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania XXVI, where he won, earning a contract for any WWE world championship over the following year. On the first episode of Raw following WrestleMania, Swagger tried to cash in his Money in the Bank contract against the WWE champion John Cena, but changed his mind when he realized that Cena was not incapacitated enough to be defeated easily. As the match had never started, Swagger retained the contract for use at a future date.
Swagger cashed in the contract during the SmackDown taping on March 30, 2010, after the World Heavyweight ChampionChris Jericho had been speared by Edge. Swagger went on to defeat Jericho to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time. Following his championship win, Swagger began to develop a more serious persona: previously he had been known for doing pushups and beating his chest during his ring entrance. He successfully defended his championship against Edge and Jericho in a triple threat match on the April 16 episode of SmackDown, and against Randy Orton in an Extreme Rules match at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view. At Over the Limit, Swagger retained the title against The Big Show by intentionally disqualifying himself. At the Fatal 4-Way pay-per-view on June 20, Swagger lost the championship to Rey Mysterio in a fatal four-way match, also involving CM Punk and The Big Show. Following the Fatal 4-Way pay-per-view, Swagger began attacking Mysterio in the lead up to his rematch at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in July, however he failed to regain the championship.
On the August 15 episode of Raw, after defeating Alex Riley, Swagger suggested to Vickie Guerrero that she should manage multiple clients, in the vein of managers like Bobby Heenan and Freddie Blassie. The following week, Swagger had a "tryout" match, but was distracted by Guerrero arguing with Dolph Ziggler at ringside, and lost the match. Swagger and Ziggler continued to fight over Guerrero for the next few weeks, which led to a match being for Ziggler's United States Championship at Night of Champions, also involving Riley and John Morrison. At the pay-per-view, Swagger was unsuccessful in winning the title as Ziggler retained. On the September 19 episode of Raw, Guerrero agreed to manage Swagger. As a result, Swagger and Ziggler formed an alliance, with Swagger helping Ziggler retain his championship. At both the Hell in a Cell and Vengeance pay-per-views, Swagger and Ziggler unsuccessfully challenged Air Boom (Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston) for the WWE Tag Team Championship.
On the January 16, 2012, episode of Raw, Swagger won the WWE United States Championship for the first time by defeating Zack Ryder. Later that same night, Swagger was scheduled to face John Cena, but was attacked before the match, due to Cena being angry at Swagger by defeating Cena's friend, Zack Ryder to win the US Title. At Elimination Chamber, Swagger successfully defended his title against Justin Gabriel. On the February 27 edition of Raw, Swagger and Ziggler unsuccessfully challenged Primo and Epico for the WWE Tag Team Championship in a Triple Threat tag team match, also involving Kofi Kingston and R-Truth. On the March 5 episode of Raw, Swagger lost the United States Championship to Santino Marella. On the following edition of SmackDown, Swagger failed to regain the United States Championship in a steel cage match, after Marella escaped through the cage door. On the March 19 edition of Raw, Swagger was announced as a member of Team Johnny at Wrestlemania XXVIII. On the April 2 edition of Raw, Swagger and Ziggler unsuccessfully challenged Marella for the United States Championship in a triple threat match. In May, Swagger and Ziggler unsuccessfully challenged Kofi Kingston and R-Truth for WWE Tag Team Championship, first at Over the Limit and second on the May 28 episode of Raw. On the June 11 episode of Raw, Swagger and Ziggler competed in a fatal four way elimination match for a number one contenders spot to the World Heavyweight Championship, however he was eliminated after Ziggler pinned him. The following week, Guerrero, finally tired of the bickering between Swagger and Ziggler, arranged for a match between them; Ziggler won the match, thus ending their partnership.
On the June 25 episode of Raw, Swagger unsuccessfully challenged Santino Marella for the United States Championship. Following this loss, Swagger went on a three-month losing streak against the likes of Tyson Kidd, Sheamus, Brodus Clay, and Ryback. After again losing to Sheamus on the September 3 episode of Raw, Swagger told Raw Manager AJ Lee he would take "time off."
The Real Americans (2013–present)
After his return in 2013, Swagger used the Real American gimmick, using Zeb Colter as Manager.
On the February 1, 2013 episode of SmackDown, Swagger returned, and demanded that SmackDown General Manager Booker T put him in the Elimination Chamber match at Elimination Chamber. Later on that night, Swagger made his in-ring return by defeating Kofi Kingston. On the February 11 edition of Raw, Swagger debuted a new manager, Zeb Colter, a self-proclaimed great American hero who strongly advocated anti-illegal immigration beliefs; Swagger's character was influenced by Colter to display similar traits. That same episode, Swagger defeated Zack Ryder to qualify for the Elimination Chamber match to determine the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship, which he won after last eliminating Randy Orton.
On February 19, Fox News and various right-wing commentators including Glenn Beck claimed that Swagger and Colter's characters were a mockery of the Tea Party movement meant to "demonize" the Tea Party. WWE responded to the criticism by stating that they were incorporating "current events into [their] storylines" to "create compelling and relevant content for [their] audience" and that "this storyline in no way represents WWE’s political point of view". WWE followed by having Swagger and Colter break character during a video to invite Beck to appear on Raw while justifying that the storyline was designed to elicit a crowd response for the protagonist, Alberto Del Rio, and the antagonists, Swagger and Colter, while remaining within a PG rating, unlike several high-rated scripted dramas that use murder and rape in their storylines. Beck rejected the invitation. On the March 18 episode of Raw, Swagger broke the ankle of Del Rio's ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez after Rodriguez tried to save Del Rio from Swagger's vicious assault.
Swager with Colter and Cesaro as The Real Americans.
On April 7 at WrestleMania 29, Swagger unsuccessfully challenged Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship. The following night on Raw, Swagger and Zeb Colter were defeated by Del Rio in a Two-on-one handicap match after forcing Swagger to submit to the Cross Armbreaker. Immediately following, Dolph Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Del Rio to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. Swagger would then feud with both Del Rio and Ziggler over the World Heavyweight Championship, with Swagger defeating Ziggler in a non-title match the following week and Del Rio attacking him afterwards. Swagger was originally booked to face Ziggler and Del Rio in three-way ladder match for the World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules, however, Ziggler would suffer a legitimate concussion at a SmackDown taping due to a kick from Swagger, thus removing their match from the card. As a result of Ziggler's injury, Swagger instead would be booked to face Del Rio in a number one contender I Quit match at the pay-per-view on May 19, which Del Rio won. In June, Swagger took a leave absence to undergo surgery on his hand, which sidelined him for the remainder of the month.
Hager married Catalina White in December 2010. The couple had their first child, son Knox Stribling, on October 17, 2011. On February 19, 2013, Hager was arrested in Gulfport, Mississippi after a SmackDown taping. He was charged with driving under the influence, marijuana possession. Swagger was released after the arrest and scheduled to appear in court on March 12, 2013. He was scheduled to stand trial on June 25, 2013 in Mississippi. The marijuana charge was dismissed in court, he was fined $500, and sentenced to six months' probation with his two-day jail sentence being suspended.