When (Austin) Theory lost his Unites States Championship at WWE’s Money in the Bankit made more than a few fans very happy indeed.
While no one can call Theory an underachiever for his age or suggest that he didn’t defend his title over his 75-day run, the angle on which he lost it, a minor feud with Bobby Lashley spurned on by a pose-off, was rather corny in the worst possible way.
Huh, in a way, corny might be the perfect word to describe the 24-year-old old performer, as his character work since making his way from NXT to RAW has largely relied on elements that don’t make under-30-year -olds particularly popular. He sucks up to the boss, spends way too much time on social media, and has talked about smack on the wrestlers who came before him like John Cena despite him being incredibly popular with basically everyone else on the RAW and SmackDown roster.
So naturally, when Theory was magically inserted into the Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match by Adam Pearce – probably at the behist of Mr. McMahon – and then won the darn thing over the likes of Riddle, Seth Rollins, and even Madcap Moss, it turned the previous smiles on people’s faces upsidedown.
Oh no, many said, more Theory on my television? I hate that dude!
Well, if you fall into that camp then I have some bad news for you: Theory the character is incredibly successful because he annoys the heavens out of wrestling fans, not the other way around.
— WWE (@WWE) July 3, 2022
Theory’s success is fueled by hatred, WWE fans.
When Theory was drafted to RAW in 2021, many a fan wondered how he would fare back on the main roster.
After a fun initial run in NXT where he wrestled the likes of Roderick Strong, Keith Lee, Lio Rush, and arguably his greatest rival on the black and gold brand, Bronson Reed, Theory made the move up to RAW first in a team with Angel Garza that feuded with The Street Profits, and then with Seth Rollins , where he joined up with Murphy as a disciple of the “Monday Night Messiah.” While this run had a few fun moments, including a mixed tag match with Bianca Belair and the Profits taking on Theory, Garza, and Selena Vega, it was largely underwhelming and he was shipped back down to NXT in the hopes of developing a more defined character.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, at least not right away; Theory jobbed out to like likes of Reed, Adam Cole, Damian Priest, and Dexter Lumis and his spot in the NXT Universe looked anything but secure. As many of his roster mates found themselves released due to budgetary reasons, would Theory be able to find a schtick that stuck, at least enough to remain with the WWE as a whole?
Enter Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, Indi Hartwell, and The Way, a weird, quasi-family that added theory into the fray and helped him relaunch his career both in the ring and in Christman Specials, which was very much a thing in the late Triple H era of NXT television.
While The Way were still more on the heel side of the spectrum than the face side, as Gargano’s weirdly thrown-together family had a very weird energy indeed, it made Theory an endearing character worthy of spots on weekly television and another call-up to RAW.
And yet, without a father figure to help/learn/be annoyed by, Theory did what most college-aged kids do when they are given a bit of freedom: Theory rebelled. He attacked Jeff Hardy, fought with Dominik Mysterio and his father, and even had his first taste of a fight with Bobby Lashley before a very unusual segment changed his life forever and made him into the performer he is today: Cleopatra’s Egg from the Dwayne “ The Rock” Johnson movie Red Notice, Theory secured Mr. McMahon his prize, earned the respect of his boss, and earned a selfie with both the egg and the then-CEO of WWE in the process.
So Theory went from annoyed son, to young man acting out during his first taste of freedom, to brownnosing his new boss in the hopes of getting ahead of things all before he turned 25? Oh yeah, whichever writer put this storyline together needs a raise, as Theory couldn’t be any more unlikeable to the vast majority of WWE’s fans unless he came to the ring wearing Oakleys while attempting to sell his fellow wrestlers on a new Cryptocurrency called “ TheoryTender.”
… actually, let’s leave that idea there; better not give Mr. McMahon any more ideas, otherwise, the day may soon come where Theory is selling shares of his Money in the Bank briefcase on the blockchain with a free selfie included with each purchase.