The Rhea Ripley Revolution

Rhea Ripley Women's World Champion

On the eve of WWE Elimination Chamber, we take a deep dive into the rise of Rhea Ripley.

“I am who I am, this is what we are. I don’t care if this offends you, or your worthless God. To all the kids whose letters I receive. The broken-hearted, the damaged just like me, I will be your voice to let the world know we stand as one. We’re standing right here so come and f*cking get us.”

Motionless In White – Immaculate Misconception

If CM Punk is the “voice of the voiceless,” Rhea Ripley is the voice of the outcast, and those who refuse to be anything but themselves. In a male-dominated industry, Ripley has risen to become one of the biggest stars in professional wrestling while breaking away from the stereotypes that have dogged the business for decades.

Despite being just 27 years old Ripley has smashed records and broken down barriers, but most importantly for her fans, she’s done it while being unapologetically herself.

Exit Demi Bennett, Enter Rhea Ripley

Speaking in an interview with Metal Hammer back in 2021, Ripley described her childhood as “fantastic” for the most part, but revealed she was picked on for her muscular frame. Despite this, she threw herself into playing every sport imaginable, and her love of physical combat drew her to professional wrestling.

The wild world of WWE first came on Ripley’s radar when a family friend showed her a match between Triple H and Ric Flair, and the sheer violence on display sparked something in the young Australian.

As Rhea Ripley watched Monday Night Raw week in and week out she found herself pulled in by the theme song, …To Be Loved by Papa Roach. This led the would-be star down a musical rabbit hole of all things loud and heavy.

Ripley’s love of music is not only integral to her wrestling career but who she is as a person. It’s impossible to truly understand Rhea Ripley the wrestler, without understanding the music and culture that drives her. The World Champion simply isn’t the same wrestler without the swagger and “f*ck the world” attitude instilled inside her by wailing guitars and bands screaming their anger at the world.

From the trademark stomp during her entrance — a homage to the “Lucker Stomp” made famous by former Suicide Silence frontman Mitch Lucker, to her ring gear, Rhea Ripley embodies alternative music.

Despite being just 15 years old, Ripley began training in 2011 and signed with Riot City Wrestling under her real name Demi Bennett in 2013. The young star competed across Australia and Japan, winning the RCW Women’s Title twice, while also clashing with the likes of Saraya and Toni Storm, who were also beginning their rise to stardom. This period also included a failed WWE try-out in 2014.

However, come March 2017 change was on the horizon. On March 1st, RCW announced that Bennett had signed with WWE and would be heading to the United States to seek fame and fortune. By July, Bennett had joined up with WWE and was preparing to take part in the first-ever Mae Young Classic, she was also given her now-World Famous ring name — Rhea Ripley.

“I’m Sick Of This, I’m Just Going To Be Myself” – Rhea Ripley

The Rhea Ripley who stepped into a WWE ring for the first time on July 13th, 2017 couldn’t have been more different than the star currently standing at the top of WWE’s women’s division. In her introductory video, Ripley came across as a loveable, happy-go-lucky babyface, but this character proved to be short-lived.

Ripley was knocked out in the second round by Dakota Kai and made only a fleeting appearance in a Battle Royal on the October 25th episode of NXT before disappearing from television. Although she continued to wrestle on the live event circuit, things were falling apart behind the scenes.

By her own admission, Ripley was scared when making her debut, and growing increasingly homesick, while her relationship was on rocky ground. However, this would prove to be a turning point.

Appearing on the After The Bell podcast in 2023, Ripley opened up about feeling she didn’t belong, revealing she deliberately hadn’t gotten any tattoos hoping it would help her success in WWE, going as far as commenting that she “hated herself.”

But from this crushing low came the realisation that trying to please everyone and being something she wasn’t wouldn’t work. As a result, she resolved to be herself, safe in the knowledge that if she did fail, she was going to do it on her own terms. With her WWE future hanging in the balance, Rhea Ripley rocked up at the second Mae Young Classic in August with new gear, and a new haircut, and declared she was a heel, much to the surprise of WWE’s coaching staff.

The Rise Of The Nightmare

While she might have lost in the semi-finals of the Mae Young Classic, this time there would be no denying the proud Aussie. Ripley was quickly entered into a tournament to crown the first-ever NXT UK Women’s Title, and it was a championship won with a victory in the finals over old rival Toni Storm.

Although Ripley lost the gold in the following January, she followed that up with her Royal Rumble debut, before going on to spend much of 2019 wrestling on NXT house shows in the United States and still making appearances on NXT UK television.

However, bigger things were on the way, and after Ripley helped NXT invade SmackDown that November, there was no going back. The rising star formed part of Team NXT at Survivor Series, emerging victorious over SmackDown and Raw, and just a month later defeated Shayna Baszler to become NXT Women’s Champion.

That victory solidified Ripley as the coming force in WWE and a match against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 36 only hammered that home, even if defeat and a short hiatus slowed her momentum.

The next two years were somewhat stop/start as Ripley veered between huge highs such as winning the Raw Women’s Title at WrestleMania 37 after being played to the ring by New Year’s Day, and meandering through life on the red brand. While a feud with Charlotte Flair kept her in a high-profile position initially, after losing the gold, Ripley turned babyface and joined forces with cosplay superhero Nikki A.S.H.

The odd-ball paring won the Women’s Tag Team Titles, but quickly drew apathy from fans with many feeling Ripley was too far away from her true self. Interestingly, it’s been something of a theme in Ripley’s career that any low periods have come when she’s ‘playing a character’ and not being authentic.

After moving straight into a team with Liv Morgan after being attacked by A.S.H., the pair challenged for the Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania 38. The duo missed out on the gold and split less than a month later as Ripley turned heel once more to the delight of fans. But it was joining Judgment Day at WrestleMania Backlash that took her career to a new level.

As part of the Goth-influenced group, Ripley was able to fully embrace her beloved Heavy Metal aesthetic and take on the world.

It’s Judgment Day

Once Edge was gone from the group it operated without a defined leader — something that’s only helped Ripley further. While she acts as the faction’s enforcer, only giving more attention to comparisons with Chyna, the group dynamic makes her so much more than that. Ripley often serves as the driving force behind the quartet, with Finn Balor, Damian Priest, and her on-screen partner Dominik Mysterio deferring to her.

Throughout WWE history the company has confined its female performers to the women’s division, almost keeping them separate from the rest of the roster. This in turn has created a glass ceiling where it’s incredibly difficult for someone to become the biggest star in the company instead of just the biggest star in the women’s division, some way short of the likes of Roman Reigns.

Stars such as Sable and Sunny were hugely popular for relatively brief periods during the 1990s, but that star power had little to do with wrestling ability. Even Chyna who broke down barriers left and right was often to the side of the main story in D-X and was never close to topping the card on her own.

By contrast, it was the rise of Becky Lynch as ‘The Man’ in 2018 that forced WWE into a bold new world. Lynch’s remarkable popularity combined with Ronda Rousey’s mainstream star power took women’s wrestling to the WrestleMania 35 main event, something that had previously seemed impossible.

However, it’s here where once again Rhea Ripley’s unorthodox presentation has forced things to be done differently. As well as dominating the women’s division, Ripley has played a major role in several stories in the men’s division given her position in Judgment Day, including storylines around the Money In The Bank briefcase and Tag Team Titles.

Furthermore, when Judgment Day was poisoned opposite The Bloodline, it was Ripley negotiating with Paul Heyman while at the same time going nose to nose with Solo Sikoa.

It can’t be emphasised enough that this is on top of starring in the women’s division. A run that saw her defeat Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 39 in what was arguably the greatest women’s match in WWE history.

There is also the small matter of her partnership with Dominik Mysterio, and again Ripley is flipping the script. In contrast to much of wrestling history, it’s Ripley who’s in control, and in control through sheer force of character — not as manipulative eye-candy. The move has also seen Ripley able to explore the lighter side of her character, with several hilarious skits and in-ring segments alongside Mysterio. By contrast to earlier efforts to show a more humourous side, notably with Nikki A.S.H. the chemistry is much less forced, and the dynamic much more natural.

The Homecoming

On February 24th, WWE returns to Australia for Elimination Chamber with Rhea Ripley front and centre. At the event, she’ll be wrestling Nia Jax, but her opponent almost doesn’t matter.

Just under seven years after Ripley left Australia for the United States and WWE, she’s returning as not only one of the biggest female stars in wrestling but one of the biggest stars in the industry full-stop. Not only that, she’s done it on her terms.

As her theme song from Motionless In White thunders around the Optus Stadium and Ripley struts down the ramp, she’ll be cheered to the rafters. The shy teenager who didn’t fit in and was mocked for headbanging in class has now come to represent those who feel just like she did. The Nightmare is living her dream, and in doing so, she’s carrying the dreams of those who don’t fit in, and those who go against the grain.

This is Rhea Ripley’s world, and we’re just living in it.