The WWE Really Failed Austin Theory, But Can He Be Redeemed?

Austin Theory in the WWE
(Image credit: WWE)

The beginning of 2022 looked like it was primed to be The Year of Austin Theory. He had a WrestleMania moment, won the United States Championship, and won the Money in the Bank contract. It seemed like he was on a fast track to superstar status, but one wouldn’t know it based on these past few months. It all culminated in one of the most nonsensical moments in the history of the Money In The Bank briefcase, and I've been left simmering in thoughts over how the WWE has really failed Austin Theory. 

Theory went from looking like a young John Cena months ago to joining the scores of WWE wrestlers with early hot streaks who fell away from reaching their assumed full potential. There’s no denying that Theory is in a tight spot, but can his character be redeemed, and will it? Let’s dig into what happened, and whether he can dig himself out of the hole he’s in. 

Theory with the MITB briefcase in WWE

(Image credit: WWE)

Why Austin Theory’s Cash-In Was Completely Mishandled By The WWE

Austin Theory became the sixth wrestler to have a failed Money In The Bank cash-in on a recent Monday Night Raw when he failed to defeat Seth Rollins thanks to some interference by Bobby Lashley. It’s no surprise, necessarily, that Theory was unable to overcome two elite wrestlers like Rollins and Lashley, but the circumstances behind the cash-in itself was what made this one of the most mishandled WWE storylines in this new era. 

To start, it’s definitely bizarre to see a WWE superstar in possession of the Money In The Bank briefcase to cash in on any title that isn’t either the WWE or Universal titles. It’s even more bizarre to cash in on the United States championship, a title where there are frequent opportunities to answer the call for an open challenge. Austin Theory cashed in during an open challenge, in fact, which leaves the question of why he didn’t just challenge Rollins from the start? 

Theory tried to defend his decision on the latest Monday Night Raw, and essentially stated that he cashed in on Rollins because he knew it'd be "impossible" to defeat Roman Reigns. It's not a bad reason for balking, but doesn't really change the fact that the young wrestler's cash-in still didn't make a ton of sense for advancing his status.

There are two possibilities here that I’m considering for why the WWE opted for this direction with the up-and-coming superstar. The first possibility is that the org didn’t put a lot of thought into how Austin Theory might lose his Money In The Bank cash-in, which would be disappointing. It would show that the WWE once had faith in Austin Theory as a main-eventer, but that might’ve changed. They just needed to get him out of the title picture, and this was the fastest way to do it. 

The other possibility is that the WWE purposely orchestrated this disastrous cash-in, which doesn’t look good at face value. Surely, people behind the scenes would’ve had the exact same conversations fans are having now about how ridiculous it would look. And yet, the plan went through anyway, and we’re left to wonder what it means. Is the WWE giving up on Theory, or is this just the beginning of a much bigger (and hopefully greater) plan?

Austin Theory on Monday Night Raw

(Image credit: WWE)

Why There Are Reasons To Be Optimistic The WWE Wants To Redeem Austin Theory

Let’s be completely honest about the current Undisputed title situation. Roman Reigns is on an unprecedented winning streak for modern wrestling, and while it seems like he could just keep winning forever, there are several big names waiting in the wings to try and take that belt. Cody Rhodes is on his way back after a heroic Hell in a Cell match against Seth Rollins, and Bray Wyatt has captivated people every week since his massive return. Do I even need to mention The Rock is rumored to be facing Reigns at Wrestlemania 39?  

Now, Austin Theory is good, but he’s no Cody Rhodes, and he’s certainly not Bray Wyatt. To throw him into the mix as a potential usurper to Roman Reigns’ undisputed title might’ve sounded like a good idea when he first nabbed the case, but the dynamics have changed. He was already lost in the mix with all the things happening in the WWE, so there’s definitely a school of thought positing this failed cash-in did him a big favor. 

This school of thought makes more sense when you look at how young Austin Theory is. He’s only 25 years old and just slightly older than Brock Lesnar was when he set the record for the WWE’s youngest world title holder. Brock Lesnar is still dominating in the WWE 20 years later and working with the best, of course, but that wasn’t necessarily because he became a champion at the age he did. 

There’s another wrestler who was coming up around that time who didn’t even win a championship until he was two years in on the main roster: John Cena. Luckily, that eventual Hall-of-Famer found widespread success, and is out in the world heading up superhero shows and all sorts of other projects. He’s also solidified himself as one of the all-time WWE greats, both in the ring and on the mic, but it didn’t happen overnight. So maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for Austin Theory, and it just wasn’t his time yet. 

It may seem like he fell from grace after Vince McMahon’s exit, but really, Austin Theory is just as on track to stay on the WWE timetable as he was at the start of the year. I mean, honestly, if you look at the rate he failed his cash-in, it’s safe to say he’s ahead of the game in some regard. He’s already gotten the humiliating failure storyline out of the way, so it’s only uphill from here. 

Of course, we don’t really know what’s in store for Austin Theory just yet. Sure, John Cena didn’t have immediate success on the main roster, but there are a ton of wrestlers with that story who didn’t go on to become a movie star and break records for philanthropic work around the world. His latest rage-induced beatdown on Dolph Ziggler could indicate the WWE is changing up his gimmick, which could be a positive sign towards doing more with him in the future, but we'll have to wait and see if that's truly the case.  

Maybe things will brighten up for Austin Theory at upcoming WWE events, as there are plenty of opportunities for him to get back on top. Of course, fans won’t be able to see those moments if they don’t have a Peacock Premium subscription, so make sure to sign up especially with holiday deals bound to make the price even more affordable. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.