Swerve Strickland is a wildcard.

You could put him against anyone and he could still thrive and make himself a bigger star in the process. 

I think no wrestler could make me watch 2023’s AEW programming again, but he’s one who did get me to watch it and did get me to tune in on whatever was going on with his character arc. His work in 2023 made AEW feel like AEW again, and I’ll say the matches he had made the company realize what they’ve been doing wrong. His victory over Samoa Joe at AEW Dynasty felt satisfying because you were watching a match between two of the guys who carried the company on their backs with their respective programs: Swerve did it in 2023 by literally corrupting his rival, and Joe did it in 2024 because he’s one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and raised to the occasion once again when the company needed him the most. His title reign, while short, brought back the prestige of the AEW World Championship after years of uncertainty and soulless title reigns that got far from the original set of champions between 2019 and 2021.

MJF’s title reign, while deserving because of the work he put in throughout the years, always felt like a bad experiment rather than an attempt to regain the trust of the people in whoever stood as the AEW World Champion, and Joe was the wrestler in which people could believe. For a company like AEW, Joe was the correct person to stir the boat just in time for Swerve to start basking in his glory. As one ancient preacher once said, “The numbers don’t lie,” and they spell G-O-A-T for Joe, although he’s not the protagonist on this occasion.

This article focuses mainly on Swerve because he’s the only guy in AEW right now who is self-aware of what he has done as a character. After all, Swerve’s World Championship tenure has been built on all the sins he once committed, and Strickland has been implying this too by doing things like apologizing to Nick Wayne and tapping into his psychopathic antics once Will Ospreay dares to touch his precious belt. And I think that’s why you could say he’s a wildcard because you could believe that he’s a good guy deep inside, but once you see him playing with Ospreay’s head on the road to Forbidden Door, you realize he has not changed a little bit, he’s just getting cheered.

Usually, toxic people tend to say they have changed once they see that will give them something back, and Swerve is one character that has done that because the road to winning the AEW Championship was just him playing with his opponents and breaking them mentally. The AEW World Champion knows how to do that, and if he needs to, he will go back to his old antics to maintain his dominance in the company because Swerve’s goal is to be a wrestler who you’d immediately identify with AEW and its core message. Out of all the guys who just repeat catchphrases and tend to believe they will “restore the feeling,” Swerve is the only one who could achieve that because he’s a complex individual who would make the audience understand he’s not supposed to be cheered. It’s really hard for me to consider Strickland a babyface, or even a good guy, because just like with Ospreay saying he’s the “GOAT” I’m not motivated to even believe in whatever Swerve is saying because I know he can manipulate people and I know his character has been built on the blood of all the opponents he had in AEW. And when I say that, I mean it. Swerve’s character is one that you should have on sight because, as a viewer, you can easily identify his flaws and how much of a dangerous persona he portrays.

And to be honest, I always thought Swerve’s road to the top was somewhat cynical even by wrestling fans’ standards. Like, cheering a guy who once broke into another guy’s house and started talking with his newborn child is like cheering the devil, and even if he’s not the right wrestler to make this analogy, we know how the saying goes. The difference lies in the fact that Swerve is making us realize he’s still the devil, and he could still do far more damage than he once did to others because he thrives on it too. Swerve’s stardom is synonymous with sacrifice, and as he said on the last Dynamite: to be the World Champion, you have to sacrifice a lot of things. For Swerve that does not only mean sacrificing the love of this business, but sacrificing all the opponents he had that have built who he is now. 

He was always a pimp, willing to corrupt those who wear butterflies, but each body he put into a grave made him grow into something bigger. And he’s aware of that. That’s why he decides to make his rivalry with Ospreay personal. He knows that he can win the battle without even touching his opponent. His character lives for it, the persona he portrays lives for it and it’s the perfect way to make Ospreay realize where he’s standing and who he’s facing. Swerve is a wrestler who will never be scared of anyone because he’s the one who puts fear in his opponents. I always thought his rivalry with Joe was more than just the title he held. 

Up to that point, the former AEW World Champion was presented as a violent man, but Swerve feeds from violence, therefore it made sense for Joe to be legitimately scared of his contender. To be honest, that could be what makes Swerve special, and another reason why I consider him a wildcard. You can’t bet against Swerve, nor can you beat him unless you play his game. Such a cynical yet intricate human being could only be defeated by the weight of the biggest sin he ever committed, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that could stop Swerve now. You can’t count him out on anything because once you think he will stop, there you see him instigating, praying for everything to be just like he wishes. He’s a chess player, and one of the most interesting characters AEW has developed in the main title scene because everything he does is meant to be like that. 

Once you give Swerve that feeling of euphoria, you’ll never be able to escape from the boogeyman himself.

If you don’t believe me, ask Hangman Page.

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