WWE has an Austin Theory problem that can’t be ignored

Apr 3, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; Austin Theory enters the arena during WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; Austin Theory enters the arena during WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Austin Theory has the Money in the Bank briefcase firmly in his grasp. That collective groan that erupted on Saturday evening was the response to a performer that hasn’t been welcomed with open arms for a variety of reasons, some much more important than others. WWE is going to have to take some steps that the company hasn’t shown an ability to do if they are going to fix their Austin Theory problem.

There’s a large segment of fans that hate Theory, and it’s a different type of hate that great heels experience. The allegations that came out against him during Speaking Out will never go away, as they shouldn’t. WWE is so averse to the idea of accountability that the company shortened his name to Theory in hopes that fans wouldn’t find the allegations while searching “Austin Theory.”

The knowledge of those allegations transitions directly into fans’ responses online. Even the points where he’s doing “good” work within the professional wrestling space are met with dismissive responses. Look at his time as a part of The Way, or the excitement that came when he was added to Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy during the COVID-19 pandemic era of WWE. Back on January 24, Theory and AJ Styles put on an excellent in-ring performance on Monday Night Raw. A match that no one mentions at this point in the year.

On top of this, Theory’s presentation on television isn’t working. In short, he’s booked like Vince McMahon probably sees himself when he looks in the mirror every day. The posing and the selfies connect with fans as much as Baron Corbin’s bad jokes and “Happy Talk” did months ago. It doesn’t. Theory is heading toward the worst case of “go away” heat that has been seen in this generation of professional wrestling and putting the Money in the Bank briefcase on him doesn’t help the situation.

Looking at how WWE has booked heel MITB winners in recent years, Theory, and the fans he has shouldn’t expect him to be pushed in a strong fashion.

Can WWE fix this situation? Perhaps, but for many, it begins with accountability. Regardless of how Theory is presented to fans, his character, and the level of his matches, there is a large contingent of fans that will not accept him because of these accusations. Ignoring them will not make them go away, and in many ways brings it more to the front for an involved and verbal fanbase.

After that, there’s some rebuilding that needs to be done with Theory’s character. His in-ring work tracks, but the goofy, sophomoric idea of his character must go. That doesn’t mean that he should become some overbearing version of Stone Cold Steve Austin, but something that comes off more “believable” would be a start. There are examples of other wrestlers that have found a way to recover from bad characters, it’s time to make that same effort in Theory before fans completely disconnect from him as a performer.

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WWE has a situation that needs to be addressed with Austin Theory. Leadership has made it clear that they want to push him to the moon and give him all the support and time needed to be a star, as fans shake their head in disagreement each week. What they are doing right now isn’t working and at the end of the day, the damage will reach a point where it can’t be repaired.