Look, I get it. Not every match at WrestleMania features strictly wrestlers. Vince McMahon’s crowning achievement is built on celebrity participation, going way back to 1985 when Mr. T showed up and pitied fools around the wrestling ring. And who can forget Michael Cole “wrestling” Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania 27? No, seriously, who among us can forget that? Because I really want to erase all trace of that thing from my memory.
But I digress. I understand why WWE often gives us off-kilter matches this time of year. More importantly, I understand the reason for this match. Pat McAfee is a big name outside of wrestling circles—not the squared ones. Pat is one of, if not the best, commentators WWE has at the moment. Putting him on the card attracts a demographic who might otherwise busy themselves with anything else.
Austin Theory, both in storyline and in dirt sheet trappings, is the next Chosen One. If Vince really believes this cat is the next John Cena, putting him in a spot that will probably garner the most mainstream attention makes all the sense in the world. Getting in the ring with Pat O’Mac is a hell of a rub for a guy who just got to the main roster a handful of months ago.
All that said, I just can’t get interested in this thing. Before I lay on the snark, props to WWE for at least laying seeds for this. We sat through weeks of awkward segments between Austin and McMahon. Austin’s desire to curry favor with the boss, and the boss’ desire to pull the marionette strings, put the former member of The Way in a bunch of spots to make a name for himself. Whether it was beating up on Finn Balor, Rey Mysterio, Finn Balor, Jeff Hardy, or Finn Balor, Austin took Vince’s call to action just as seriously as a young Cena did many moons ago on that fateful episode of SmackDown. So when Vince showed up on Pat’s show and invited him to not just commentate at WrestleMania but wrestle, of course Vince picked Theory as the former NFL kicker’s opponent. I mean, duh.
Now the snark: Just because you did the work to get from point A to point B doesn’t mean it’s a favorable direction. A result of the bulk of WWE’s revenue coming in through content deals and licenses means fan reaction kinda sorta doesn’t matter anymore. Fans aren’t picking the stars as much as we like to believe. If Vince McMahon wants someone or something to pop, then dammit, he will do everything within his considerable power to make it happen. Meaning nine times out of ten, it’s happening. Austin Theory is a good wrestler, but nothing on his brief main roster resume says the audience is clamoring for him. Or even remotely connected to him. Wanting to see him get beat up by Pat Mac has less to do with Austin and everything to do with Pat Mac. If WWE plays this wrong, Austin’s “go away” heat will trump any and every emotion going in his direction. The audience doesn’t hate Austin; they’re mildly annoyed by him. The hope is for Vince and Pat to get him to the next level. I don’t see it happening, at least not with this story.
It doesn’t help that Pat makes Austin his son anytime they’re on screen together. Even though Austin easily handles the likes of Balor, he can’t get it together when it comes to a simple commentator. Pat beats him on the microphone, beats him in the energy department, and sometimes just plain beats him. Pat is fighting for his honor while Austin, like everyone in WWE, is fighting to impress the old man. Fighting on behalf of the boss rarely ingratiates anyone to a WWE audience, but it lacks teeth this time around. Maybe because it’s far from the first time WWE used this particular tool. Or because Vince’s character is mad inconsistent over the last several years, both in appearances and characterization. It’s a fine way to pop the crowd on a Monday or Friday night, but on a weekend packed with potentially good or great matches from actual wrestlers, it feels like small potatoes. And this is coming from a guy who tries to avoid carbs as much as possible.
This is the beginning of the Austin Theory project. Where it goes from here, only one man knows. Godspeed to all involved and more importantly, God bless Austin. If there was ever a make or break moment, this is it.
Who will win?
This poll is closed