Every now and then, a Superstar comes along and you can tell right away that they're destined for greatness.
It didn't take long to see the promise in the likes of John Cena or Roman Reigns, who both went on to become top guys. However, Theory is an interesting case study on how hard it is to predict what Vince McMahon wants.
Nevertheless, the 24-year-old is enjoying the biggest run of his career, thanks in part to a golden egg. What looked like a throwaway segment at Survivor Series 2021 blossomed into a much more substantial role for the up-and-comer as he turned out to be the culprit who stole the chairman's prized possession.
On the Raw following the pay-per-view, The Chairman gave him a chance to challenge Big E for the WWE Championship because he appreciated his show of intestinal fortitude.
Theory lost but he began appearing in backstage segments with his boss in the weeks that followed.
The New Chosen One
At first glance, McMahon's new protege fits his usual aesthetic for the next big Superstar. Theory is a good-looking guy with a background in amateur bodybuilding. Moreover, he already seems to have a knack for WWE's brand of comedy.
It is a bit of a surprise that the WWE chairman chose the Georgia native over other standouts from NXT but that's not a knock on him. The former Evolve champion came as a highly touted signee after his stint with the Philadelphia-based promotion.
The young star is an athletic all-rounder with a flashy move set and solid promo work. It may also help that he admittedly patterned himself after The Prototype.
According to WrestleVotes, "Now that his push is in full effect, source states he anticipates bigger & bigger things for Theory. A person with direct knowledge states Vince 'sees a young John Cena in Theory' and will 'give the kid everything he needs to be successful.'"
Cena also recently offered The Unproven One some words of encouragement via Twitter.
"Everyone understands that you have far more talent, strength, and gifts than I ever had," he said. "Don't apologize for that. Ever. An apology should come 20 years from now if you fail to provide the effort needed to turn your potential into your legacy. I hope that day never comes."
Some fans may be taken aback by Cena's belief that Theory is already well ahead of him at such a young age, but he might not be that far off. At his age, The Leader of Cenation had just signed with OVW with much less in-ring experience.
Still, Theory hasn't yet exhibited the same "it" factor that eventually propelled his idol into superstardom.
This is the biggest difference between the two for the average onlooker. Theory has a similar build as a young Cena and the hype machine is clearly behind him. It's also easy to see how he can grow into a marketable commodity for WWE, but he doesn't have that extra component that transformed the 16-time world champion into a household name.
Simply going by Theory won't help matters, either. His full name is an adequate one for a wrestler, but the shortened version isn't exactly eye-catching.
An endorsement from McMahon can go a long way, but his presentation could ultimately hinder him. There's nothing new or distinct about the way WWE showcases him. For example, his theme song is kind of bland and forgettable. That may seem like a minor gripe, but recognizable music makes a world of difference and it showed during this year's men's Royal Rumble match.
Moreover, Theory often comes off as comic relief as opposed to a legitimate threat. His stunning win over Finn Balor to secure the United States Championship was a step in the right direction, but it's going to take some time to overcome the limitations of his character.
To that end, his motivations are fairly simple and refreshingly in vogue. He is a clout-chaser, someone who attempts to gain attention or influence thought associations with someone more famous than them. It's a clever idea for a heel that makes his means of getting ahead relevant to younger fans.
Nevertheless, his use of selfies comes off as a bit too on the nose at times. That won't work for some older fans who don't understand the nuance of his character. Instead, they will just see it as a cheesy gimmick with a short lifespan.
Theory has the tools to be a convincing lackey and even a strong midcard champion, but it's tough to buy into him as a consistent main eventer this soon.
He has shown hints of charisma and poise beyond his years, and his matches are getting better and better. Nevertheless, he hasn't done enough to separate himself from the pack yet.
That isn't to say he can't grow into the role with polish and a dynamic presentation. In fact, we could end up eating our words if McMahon's pupil stays on his current trajectory. After all, other unconventional Superstars rose to prominence with the right opportunities.
Conversely, WWE is often persistent when it comes to its chairman's pet projects, but being his handpicked Superstar can be a gift and curse. Look how long the company worked to get Roman Reigns to his current position.
Some fans will reject anyone whose ascension to the top of the card seems contrived. Theory hasn't struggled because of this so far, but it could create an arduous road for him.