When Vince McMahon announced his retirement from the WWE in June of 2022, it marked a paradigm shift in professional wrestling.
Suddenly, the mastermind behind Hulkamania, The Attitude Era, Cenation, and The Bloodline was ceding creative control to his son-in-law, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who did win Booker of the Year from the Wrestling Observer Awards in 2015 but had never booked a million-plus viewers-per-week show before, and fate of every single performer under contract was suddenly thrown up in the air.
Would some stars suddenly see their push eroded? Would others suddenly find themselves pushed #ToTheMoon a la Cameron Grimes in NXT? And what about all of the “Triple H Guys” on the open market who were released before they ever flexed their proverbial – and sometimes literal – muscles on RAW or SmackDown? Well, as it turns out, the answer was complicated but also predictable; acts like Lacy Evans rapidly fell out of favor, characters like Nikki ASH and Doudrop reverted to their NXT personas, and about a dozen stars returned to shoot their shots on the main roster, with some, like Dakota Kai, finding near-immediate success, and others, like Top Dolla/Hit Row, becoming nothing more than comedic fodder.
One of the stars many assumed had no chance to survive the regime change was Austin Theory, the 25-year-old WWE star who had become somewhat of a Vince McMahon yes-man ever since returning the CEO's golden egg during an… unusual tie-in with the Netflix movie Red Notice. McMahon appeared in segments with Theory, booked him to win the United States Championship, and inserted him into the Money in the Bank Ladder match at Money in the Bank in order to add winning the briefcase to his impressive list of accolades.
Fortunately, at least for “The Youngest United States Champion in WWE History,” his burial proved short-lived, as, to paraphrase Triple H after Survivor Series, the 25-year-old rose again to regain his title after losing it in what many called the worst MitB cash-in of all time, and has been riding high ever since. Speaking with Corey Graves and Kevin Patrick on their After The Bell podcast, Theory discussed how many believed that his push was going A-Town Down when Mr. McMahon (temporarily) hung up his suit jacket and (temporarily) left wrestling behind.
“Well, man, it’s like one of those things, you know, I feel like everything kind of got a little crazy around the end of Money in the Bank deal,” Theory said via Wrestle Talk. “And that’s when things kind of started spinning and, you know, online, everybody’s like, ‘Oh, his career’s over. He’s, he’s done for,' and I’m like, Man, I’m just getting started.
“But yeah, just the midst of all that happening, you know, and everybody thinking, like, I’m finished, and coming back from that, and everybody’s like, ‘Oh wow, like, This is crazy.' But that’s just how it goes”.
Feeling down, Theory took inspiration from none other than his WrestleMania 39 opponent John Cena to keep his chin up and has found nothing but success since, even if he still hasn't won over the entire audience just yet.
“And it’s kind of funny, that scenario kind of relates to what just happened with John Cena, you know, everybody online is like, you’re buried, you’re done, you’re finished. I’m like, ‘You guys are idiots, you really are,'” Theory added.
Can Theory overcome the less-than-welcoming reactions he receives from crowds across the country to reach a John Cena level of popularity? Only time will tell, but considering he's the same age now as when “The Prototype” told Kurt Angle he had “ruthless aggression,” he certainly has a head start.
Austin Theory names two surprising WWE mentors.
Elsewhere in his appearance on After The Bell, Theory named two surprising WWE stars who have been huge advocates for him backstage.
“I would say usually two people that I really like to mention is Jey Uso and MVP,” Theory said via TJR Wrestling. “There’s definitely some others but Jey Uso, specifically man, somebody that since the beginning, when I got pulled up and I started doing the dark matches. I would say it was around a year ago, or maybe two years ago, but I started doing the dark matches and then eventually got on the main roster and then everything kind of took off.
“But even to this day, you know, this past Monday, like passing him in the hall, you know, he’s like good stuff out there. Like always keeping an eye and even if I don’t see him, I’ll always message him like, like, what do you think, you know, and he’s always just, he’s a veteran of the game. He’s been there for a long, long time. So it’s always good to have somebody like that to help.”
Surprising? For Uso, yes, but MVP actually makes a ton of sense, as he was on the indies when Theory was coming up and may have even crossed paths with the future United States Champion before he was getting checks from WWE. Either way, it's nice to know that Theory has a posse backstage, which is as much of an important part of finding success in the WWE Universe as being over with the crowd.