‘This is my life now. First priority on my timeline for the next several years. This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt.’
These words were spoken by Ronda Rousey in early 2018, and many, including myself, were surprised to hear how seriously she was committing to WWE. She had no intention of being a part-time performer who would show up every other PPV or Wrestlemania. Rousey wanted to work house shows, she wanted to be part of the WWE family. The travel, the flights, hotels, Raw, Smackdown Live (actually just Raw) and everything else. She was fully committed to embracing the WWE and being a real professional wrestler, not a former MMA fighter who dropped by for a big paycheck now and then. It was refreshing to hear that she wanted to be so involved in WWE and their future. There’s no doubt she has the self-awareness to know how much weight her name and pedigree carries, so many were encouraged by her attitude and commitment. So, as we approach the six-month mark of her WWE career, has it been all that was promised, or were we duped?
For me, the biggest worry when Rousey came to WWE was that she was going to be the female Brock Lesnar. A former UFC champion, superstar of the sport who would walk right into WWE and be elevated into the main title picture without question. That part of it would be ok, but I fully expected her to also have the same appearance rate as Lesnar. Given that the WWE Universe are less than gracious with the current WWE Universal Heavyweight Champion and his limited schedule and appearances, I imagined Rousey to be issued the same type of contract; limited dates, guaranteed main events, a quick title win and plenty of time off between shows. Sure, WWE can do whatever they see fit, but Brock’s title reign has been nothing short of terrible and due to the lack of fan interest in Roman Reigns, he’ll continue to hold the belt a while longer, or as long as Vince sees fit. When Rousey was signed to WWE, I fully expected the same to happen with her. I was wrong. And I’m glad I was.
Rousey’s in-ring debut was a tag match at Wrestlemania alongside Kurt Angle. Her opponents of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon weren’t the highest caliber of women’s wrestling today, high caliber such as Asuka, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch or Nikki Bella (sorry, couldn’t resist). She was paired with a ‘safe’ partner, and opponents who I mistakenly believed were going to try and share the spotlight with their newest signing – again, how wrong I was.
Rumor has it that the four trained for a month in preparation for the match. Hours upon hours were spent carefully choreographing the match from start to finish. Every spot carefully rehearsed and worked on. The story told brilliantly throughout and every highlight saved for Rousey herself. Looking back, I struggle to recall a more impactful and successful debut for a new star in WWE who didn’t have a professional wrestling background. Credit where credit’s due, Steph and Triple H were brilliant and played their part with aplomb. Steph being the cocky heel who believed she could hang with the former UFC champion was fun to watch, especially when Rousey dragged her all over the canvas. The interactions with Triple H were fun too and the belief WWE showed in Rousey’s ability was there to see. It was a great debut. So far, so good.
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Apparently cheaters DO prosper in the @wwe – not surprising tbh, given their leadership @stephaniemcmahon @tripleh 🤨 I don’t know what I was doing expecting a certain degree of honor and fair sport. That was MY mistake. I won’t make it again. @alexa_bliss_wwe_ …. you screwed over the wrong woman. See you tonight on #Raw
Since that great debut however, Rousey didn’t have another match until this past Sunday at Money in the Bank. Again, the match was very good, and I have to give props to Nia Jax who was superb and put on possibly her best WWE match to date. The match had been practiced behind the scenes and again it worked. Rousey looked every bit the star and credible challenger to the Raw Women’s Title. The finish was well worked and above all, believable.
The five feet of fury in Alexa Bliss will be a fitting champion for Rousey to hunt down. But even though Rousey’s matches have been well received and fun to watch, have WWE failed to deliver on the promise Ronda Rousey brought when she signed? Is she in the mold of Brock Lesnar, except the fan’s reaction to her is overwhelmingly positive? How long before they grow tired of her absences and contrived story-lines behind them? The current 30-day suspension angle has been done to death and works depending on who it is. Successive suspensions remove the suspension of disbelief among the WWE faithful and fan’s opinions can change like the wind, especially if that wind is telling you to stop wanting more from your favorite. They’ll be drip-fed to you and you’ll like it.
In my opinion, the jury is still out for many fans on how well Ronda Rousey has done since joining WWE. Her two matches have been of a high quality and her work is really good for someone so green in the art of professional wrestling. She’s a world-class athlete – of that there’s no doubt. There are some people who believe she’s been used too sparingly and should have had more matches. I’ve enjoyed her start and am quite happy that she hasn’t won a title as yet. I dislike debutantes who storm in and capture gold right away (sorry, Santino) as the chase, the struggle and clamber to the top of the mountain isn’t there. I like stories. I like the feuds and the journey each champion takes against all the odds to be the best. I like Ronda Rousey’s journey so far. That’s what it is to me, and I hope to WWE management too; a journey.
Rousey’s story should mirror her UFC career in that she had to fight for the big prizes and take the knocks along the way. This is her WWE story now and if she sees this as a “priority” – and I have little doubt she does – then it does good to remember that WWE may be cautious in doing too much too soon for Ronda Rousey. Do we want to see more of her? Sure. Do we want to see more matches? Of course, but I believe they’re doing the right thing in looking after her early career by blooding her in slowly. Once she has more matches under her belt and more experience with top opponents, perhaps we’ll be praising WWE’s handling of her and that they were smart in her booking. Perhaps she’ll prove to everyone that she belongs and truly deserves to be crowned with gold once more in her glittering career.