WWE superstar Jack Swagger took a couple of minutes to speak with philly.com while WWE put on its annual Tribute to the Troops special at Jacksonville Veteran's Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.
Swagger and the rest of the WWE roster performed for the military personnel stationed at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Naval Station Mayport and the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. The special will air at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 23, on the USA Network.
Here is the full transcript of the interview with Swagger:
Vaughn Johnson: It looks like you're in the middle of doing Tribute to the Troops.
Jack Swagger: Yeah, we've got an exciting show here. We went to the naval base this morning and then our two-hour special that we're going to film tonight. It's going to be a good one.
VJ: Obviously, you've done this before, but what is it like to perform for the troops?
Swagger: It's always a lot of fun and a very rewarding experience. Every time I do it at least, I take a sense of value and more priority in my own life to do what these men and women go through and to get a glimpse of that world. It really makes what we do less intense. It's special to be a part of it, and it makes me want to be a better person.
VJ: Do you have members of your family who have served in the military? I thought I heard something about that on WWE television before.
Swagger: My grandpa served in World War II, and I have a couple of cousins in the Air Force and Navy.
VJ: So I guess it hits home when you visit the troops and see their reaction to watching a WWE show on their own base.
Swagger: Absolutely. It's one of the best reactions we get from any of our shows. I think in this day and age, they need all of the support they can get because we need all of the help to protect this country. It's a really special thing.
VJ: Let's talk about you for a couple of minutes. You've been back on television the last couple of weeks after being off for a while. How does it feel to be back in the fold as far as the television aspect?
Swagger: It's always exciting. When a character is exposed to weekly live television shows, it's sometimes necessary to be off for a little bit and reboot and just come back fresh in the minds of our audience. Coming back is exciting. Hopefully, we can build a nice run into a championship title maybe going into WrestleMania, have a good showing at the [Royal] Rumble. It's a fun time of year to come back because every show from here on out is going to have a heightened importance to it because, believe it or not, WrestleMania is just around the corner.
VJ: What is it like for you when you take that break from television and you're at all of the shows, but you're not doing much — at least on television? Does it get nerve-racking, or are you just biding your time?
Swagger: Well, it's kind of the yin and yang. You want to be proactive in taking care of your body, so any time off is definitely helpful to your career and for the company. We're very spur-of-the-moment. We like to keep our fans on the edge of their seat so it does get tough at times, but we have trust in each other. We have a great set of guys up here that we get to work with. I think that's what it comes down to; it's how well we work together.
VJ: Speaking of the guys, how do you feel about having Alberto Del Rio back on the roster and inserted right back into a feud with you?
Swagger: Alberto Del Rio is an incredible talent. He's an incredible superstar. I think he has gotten better since the last time he was here. I see a big difference in the way he handles himself, the way he's wrestling and just a general look about him. It's going to be a big test. Him and I have a lot of history together. We know each other very well. I'm definitely going to have to raise my level of competition in order to come out successful against him.
Now, we've got a big chairs match for the United States championship coming up at TLC. Adding an x-factor like a chair into the mix is really going to change the outlook.
VJ: A lot of the talk around WWE is the number of guys who have gone down with significant injuries, specifically Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. What is that like when a guy gets seriously injured?
Swagger: You know, no matter how technically sound a superstar is, injuries are going to happen. The physicality is very real inside that ring, and it's a part of the sport. It just reinforces the fact that we need a great medical squad so we can actively take care of our bodies and prevent pain becoming actual injuries or much worse.
For Seth Rollins, to his credit, that man is a tough one — still being able to power-bomb Glenn [Jacobs, aka Kane] after that.
VJ: What does that do to the locker room when a couple of guys get hurt, especially when it's big-name guys? Does it change the mood at all?
Swagger: I've been in this locker room and on this roster for almost 10 years now, and I can say that the group of guys that we have is beyond good. We understand what the overarching goals are, and everyone does a good job of working together toward them and not for selfish means. So when an injury goes down, it's an opportunity for someone who [WWE] maybe didn't have time for to step up.
Our roster is so deep. It has so much talent and it's so diversified that you really can excel when something like this happens.
VJ: How much do injuries cross your mind or do you not think about it, as thinking about could get you hurt?
Swagger: I always go by the old rule — and this is coming from playing sports all my life — of to go full speed. When you don't go full speed or when you're thinking about getting hurt, that's when it does happen and most likely it's on the smaller things like a baseball slide where you get a severe high ankle sprain or something. The bigger injuries are less and it's just one of those things where you just have to prepare yourself for each and every match the same way and go out there and perform at that level and hope for the best.
VJ: How do you keep your body intact? How do you try to keep your body from being in too much pain?
Swagger: It's a combination of things. Stretching and creating flexibility is one of the things to avoiding injuries. Staying hydrated. Getting enough sleep. Olympic athletes get almost nine hours of sleep per night and with our travel schedule that's difficult, but you can find other areas to rest the body.
VJ: Before you returned to television, I saw you on Xavier Woods' UpUpDownDown YouTube channel a couple of times playing the Madden video game. Describe what it's like hanging out in the locker room playing video games. It's not something that was done in the locker room way back in the day, but now it seems like a normal thing.
Swagger: Like I said, we've got a great bunch of guys that enjoy each other's company and work together. The sports entertainment industry has definitely evolved, and with it is how they broadcast the content of their shows. You've got a lot of superstars on the roster using the value of social media and other platforms to promote the WWE brand, but also create an individual brand for themselves like Xavier's show.
I think that's great. I think it's very entertaining whether you're a gamer or not and it's just an example of young professionals working together and trying to establish something.
VJ: It seems as if it brings the locker room together for some lighter moments. I saw an episode recently with Xavier Woods and The Miz and it looked as if the entire roster was in the room watching it. Is it that type of atmosphere for the most part?
Swagger: It depends. On some days, when it's a little less hectic, everyone is definitely more relaxed and has time to do that. Certain days, we're busier and we have other things going on along with running a show. It just depends. There's definitely moments like that, whether we're on tour or on a live event and a football game is on or they're playing video games and we're together and watching.