In theory (haha see what I did there), It’s probably not a great idea to strap someone to a rocket ship. It’s more of a punishment than promotion…The exhaust, fumes and heat will likely burn you before you reach your destination. And here we are.
My first PWMania article was about taking a wait-and-see approach to the new-look WWE. I have waited and I have seen a lot, most of which I like. Returning favorites like Bray Wyatt, Karrion Kross (minus the S&M Demolition gear) and now Mia Yim have gotten great responses. However, my one critique is that in this short time, the new regime at WWE has failed to produce any new stars of note. The only person that was close pre-transition was Austin Theory, who they’ve completely regressed and did a hard 180 on, it appears.
Prior to this past month, it had almost been a forgone conclusion that Austin Theory was the next man up…. the Next Big Thing if you will. Theory boasted not only impressive showings against current and former champions, he appeared to be hand-picked by then-chairman, Vince McMahon, to be a star. However, as they are prone to do in the world of wrestling, things change pretty quickly, and Austin Theory’s trajectory has gone A-Town Down as of late, leaving no new faces in position to make an impact. It seems the man with three H’s has been focusing more on restoring fan confidence with things they’ve asked for and less on future stories and stars.
I was there when the Theory experiment really got into gear at last year’s Survivor Series, which is almost a year ago at this point. Wow. I attended that show in person, for the sole reason of wanting to see Big E in at least one appearance as WWE champion… good thing I did! During that show, Vince McMahon showed off a $2 million egg, which was then stolen during the broadcast.
After a whodunnit that lasted the entire show WHICH DID NOT INCLUDE THE ROCK AFTER SEVERAL HOURS OF TEASING THE ROCK (I’m not mad), Austin Theory was revealed to be the crook. Instead of a punishment though, Theory was rewarded for having the gall to steal from the boss. Again, THE ROCK, WHO WAS TEASED ALL SHOW, DID NOT APPEAR, NOT EVEN ON VIDEO. Theory then became Vince’s handpicked guy and was paraded to the top, getting a title shot vs Big E on the following RAW, then went on to win Money in The Bank as an unannounced participant.
The rocket was equipped, fueled up and ready to take Theory to the moon, it appeared. Everyone saw it coming, Theory was going to be a future world champ, it seemed.
Then some things happened. Vince McMahon stepped down and The Game-eh has taken over as chief content officer. In the immediate episode following, Theory got a standoff with the Tribal Chief, and Roman Reigns said something in that promo that has stood out like Theory’s back muscles in the weeks since:
“your daddy’s not here anymore.”
He was right. A year later, Theory may have had the worst attempted cash-in of a MITB briefcase in WWE history, by interrupting a US title match (not a world title) on a night where US Champ Seth Rollins issued an OPEN CHALLENGE. Oh, and he still failed.
I think we all knew he couldn’t dethrone Roman, who is extremely insulated with the Bloodline watching his back, not to mention is on a record-setting run, but this was just baffling. Seems like they were backed into a little corner creatively, with nowhere to go…on top of Theory maybe not being loved by the new regime as much as the old.
So here are 5 things that could’ve been done to make this make a little more sense canonically. Get your fedoras and pencils out kids, we’re doing a little fantasy booking!
1 – THEORY JUST CASHES IN ON ROMAN AND LOSES. Like Sandow and Corbin before, my man could just try and just fail. Roman beats everyone, so it wouldn’t even be a big deal at all. Losing to a guy who is probably gonna go down as the greatest champ in the history of the company isn’t a bad place to be, and again, doesn’t make your talent look like a total idiot.
2- THEORY PUTS THE BRIEFCASE UP IN A MATCH, LOSES. As a young brash kid who’s ready to prove himself, he could easily be goaded into putting up his MITB briefcase against another wrestler, then losing it and going ballistic, claiming foul play and calling himself the uncrowned champ or something.
3 – THEORY’s BRIEFCASE TURNS OUT TO BE EMPTY. In a twist, they open the briefcase and it’s a letter from Vince McMahon, saying something like “Don’t Cross the Boss” and a dozen rotten eggs inside (remember, he stole Vince’s egg! It’s a CALLBACK)! GOTCHA!
ah, forget y’all, I like that idea a lot, ha.
4 – THEORY’S CASH IN TIME EXPIRES. The MITB contract cash-in is only good for one year, so Theory could have just been thwarted every time, and the last show before the next PPV could be his final chance to cash in, and then someone from his past could stop him. He had EIGHT MORE MONTHS to figure this out. Why he did this now, and for a secondary title, I’ll never know.
5- LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE. Theory could have lost the briefcase in a match… heck, even lost the case in his luggage while traveling. Anything besides making him look like a boob. Scratch that—boobs are great and always will be. This decision however, not at all great. Theory’s credibility takes a huge hit that maybe a reset can heal with time, but if he’s on TV right after this, he’ll be ridiculed. Maybe the plan was to elevate the US title to main-event status, but this whole thing could’ve happened in a much less ridiculous way.
This leaves us in the same position we’ve been in since Trips has taken over – tons of fan service that I’ve greatly enjoyed, but almost nothing new in terms of content, matchups or fresh faces being elevated. I’m old enough to remember the Jinder Mahal experiment of 2017 that most people hate (I loved it) but it was something new, and definitely kept me interested.
If fan service means we get classic matchups like New Day vs Usos, I don’t mind, but I would love to see something new, surprising or different on my television soon.
Have a different idea on what Theory could’ve done? Let me know! I’m on Twitter at @megaran!