If Saturday night’s Royal Rumble is the official starting point for the road to WrestleMania, then WWE United States Champion Austin Theory is looking to make a history-making finish.

Muscle & Fitness sat down with the 25-year-old to find out why he began his route to pro wrestling as a competitive bodybuilder, his thoughts on a dream match with John Cena, and why victory in the Royal Rumble could set a precedent in WWE.

As a childhood fan of WWE, Theory understood that his heroes of the squared circle had great physiques, and so he set about building his own.

“One of the biggest things with a WWE Superstar is that you see somebody who you don’t see every day,” says Theory. “So, that’s a guy that works out a lot and for me, at 12-years-old, I was looking for what could get me ready for WWE ‘right now,’ and it’s a crazy mindset to have as a kid but I was like: ‘man I could start working out to get ready for this.’ So, it’s been a continual progression from 12, all the way to now, at 25. I just worked out almost every single day, and it was all about preparing myself for WWE. Along the way there was a bodybuilding show, but the bodybuilding show was just in hopes of trying to get a tryout with WWE.”

Theory didn’t just enter his first bodybuilding show at age 17, he came first to boot, taking home the prize in the NPC Mr. Teenage Georgia competition. Theory can laugh, now, that when he won that show, his phone didn’t ring off the hook from WWE like he expected, so instead, he got himself on the company’s radar by wrestling on the independent scene until they finally took notice.

Austin Theory trains almost every single day

Theory may no longer compete for gracing the bodybuilding stage, but he still looks stage ready and wows fans with his defined abs and bulging biceps every week on WWE television. His love of the gym really is stronger than ever. “I honestly take a rest day when I really feel like I need it, because to me, working out pretty much every day keeps my body feeling alive, and awake, and feeling good,” he says.

Many WWE fans have also spotted that Theory has a lot in common with the legendary John Cena. Not only did they both compete in bodybuilding before pro wrestling, but their in-ring skills and boyish good looks make these guys appear to be cut from the same cloth. It’s no surprise to learn then, that Theory grew up being influenced by “Super Cena.”

Austin Theory Cena

“That’s who captured my attention, and that’s kind of what set everything off for me,” says Theory. When questioned about the possibility of one day facing his hero, a match that millions of pro wrestling fans hope could one day happen, Theory understands how epic that would be. “That would be a hell of a match,” he says. “How would it go? I mean, we’re in the now, you know? And John Cena’s in the past, man. It is what it is. I’ve got a lot of respect for that man, but we’re in the ‘now’ so I think we all know how that would go.”

Never one to be lacking in self-confidence, Theory appreciates that to carve out his own identify, he’ll need to separate himself from icons like Cena, and as the United States champion, he is doing just that. He’s also entered himself into Saturday night’s Royal Rumble where, should he win, he’ll earn a World title match at WrestleMania 39. Still, winning this marathon, over-the-top battle royal, requires more than muscle. “Look at me last year, I was in there for over 20 minutes. I came in at number three. You have to make sure that your lungs are ready to take in a lot of air, and especially; you’ve got to outlast 29 other WWE Superstars,” says the voice of experience.

But should Theory pull it off and outlast the other 29 competitors in order to win this thirty sixth annual Royal Rumble, before thousands of fans in the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX, (broadcast live on Peacock in the United States, and WWE Network internationally), then he could, in “theory” make history. By winning the Rumble, and hanging on to the U.S. Championship, Theory could find himself involved in World, and U.S. Championship matches at WrestleMania in April. This would be an unprecedented situation. “I think that would be amazing,” says Theory. “Especially when you can be somebody that does something for the first time. Who knows? I could win the Royal Rumble, walk into WrestleMania and walk out with the championships. That would be pretty sweet.”