After months and months of politicking dating all the way back to 2022, Austin Theory has officially landed his dream match at WrestleMania 39, where he will wrestle his childhood hero, John Cena, for the United States Championship.

In a way, it really feels like Theory got everything he wanted, as despite his former father figure, Vince McMahon, stepping down from creative, the 25-year-old sensation has remained as hot as ever, but if you ask A-Town’s finest, he wouldn’t put it that way. No, as he noted in an interview with Chris Van Vliet, Theory feels like he’s actually doing Cena a favor by offering him up a match, as the soon-to-be Hall of Famer is effectively living off of the current champ’s clout like a darn clout vampire.

“Yeah, I get it,” Theory said via Fightful. “I get it because he wants everybody to believe that I don’t have it, that I’m screwed. But that is a man that says that because when he looks in my eyes, he knows that I have everything. I do. He has a legacy, he has so much. Everybody knows John Cena, he’s the top of the top. I think when he looks at me and sees that I’m 25 and he sees that the level that I’m on and the things that I’m doing and the level that I’m growing at, it can’t be touched. It really can’t be. So you have to look me in my eyes and tell me that if I beat you, that I lose everything. But we all know that’s wrong John… why? Why if it means nothing, does he even want to have this match? He wants to have this match because I’m the most important thing in the WWE. It’s clear as day. There’s a lot of people that wanna sit there and [disagree with that], but then they’re gonna have to go ‘Okay, Theory’s the guy.’ They’re gonna have to. It’s just where we are man.

“So, him saying that me winning means I’m gonna lose everything, okay. I can’t wait to lose everything when I show up on Monday Night Raw, my show, holding my title because that’s inevitable. All of those people that he says don’t believe in me, I could care less. Guess how many people believed in me when I was 8 and told them I wanted to be a WWE superstar. Guess how many people laughed at me when I was twelve sitting at the table in school when I told them I wanted to be a WWE superstar. I don’t need people to believe in me and I’ve always shown that. If I don’t believe that, I don’t think I’d be where I’m at [being] 25 today. So, it is what it is. WrestleMania 39, it’s my night. It’s my show and I’m gonna own that and show that. That is All Day and that is inevitable.”

Is Theory correct? Is Cena actually leeching off of his star power to try to remain relevant, or are these comments nothing more than delusions of grandeur from a 25-year-old star who has largely been met with meteoric success in his young career? Either way, it’s wild to look at where things started for Theory and Cena and see where they are now, as there was once a time when the former was one of the more prominent members of “Cenation.”

Austin Theory once really appreciated John Cena.

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Based on how Theory has been talking about Cena heading into their match at WrestleMania 39, you’d think the 25-year-old Superstar was one of those kids booing “The Champ” for his cartoonish heroism and unwillingness to add depth to his character via a heel run, but frankly, that couldn’t be further from the case. No, Theory actually came up as a certified Cena fan since his youngest days and was over the moon to meet him during his time in NXT, as he noted elsewhere in his interview with Van Vliet.

“Man, the first conversation came about, and it’s funny because I brought up that photo that he posted on his Instagram,” Theory said via Wrestling News. “It was at the Performance Center one day and we were all leaving. We got told, ‘Hey, just everybody stay. We’re gonna have a little meeting before everybody leaves’, and out comes John Cena. He took the time out of his day to come down there and talk to everybody that’s aspiring to be on the main roster. A lot of us weren’t even on NXT TV then. So this was the very beginning for me.

“He told us, ‘You know, I’ll answer any questions you guys have, but if there’s anybody that wants to talk to me, you know, personally, I’ll stay here all day. I’ll go in this room in the office, and you guys, one by one, can come in there.’

“I remember waiting like three hours to talk to him. I just went in there and I remember the first thing I showed him was the picture of me as a kid where I couldn’t afford the actual, like, the shirt and the wristband, so I made my own kind of off brand stuff. But I was eight years old, and I showed him the picture. I was like, ‘Man, this is probably crazy, but check it out.’ He’s like, ‘Man, that’s not crazy, that’s awesome.’ We got to sit there and I kind of just really just asked, you know, everything I could, you know, because this is the source. This is the man that, you know, held it down for well over a decade. It was a lot for me to take in though at the time because he was spitting knowledge. But you know, I’m still, you know, ‘Whoa, this is John Cena’, so I’m just trying to take everything in, man. But that moment specifically, I’ll never forget. I just remember leaving that room that day like, ‘Whoa, like, I’m here. I met the person that inspired me and motivated me, and now it’s on me to build this journey and to actually make it happen and I know I can do it.’”

Back in NXT, there was some genuine Cena influence in Theory’s game, but since he returned to the main roster and went full-on heel, it’s hard to see much of “The Champ” in the current United States Champion. Still, it’s hard to argue that Theory isn’t successful and a polarizing presence, which, in a way, is the most Cena thing imaginable.