Ronda Rousey hasn’t been as polarizing in WWE as she was during her UFC run. However, the factors were very different in this case. Rousey, accused of being a rather impulsive character and one who surrounds herself with “Yes Men”, has been very levelheaded during her time with WWE.
Rousey joining WWE has always been inevitable, because even during her peak MMA days, she’s never shied away from being a major pro wrestling fangirl. In fact, her name “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey was given to her with the full blessing of WWE legend Roddy Piper. Rousey had to fight some odds as well during MMA.
Women’s MMA had taken a very long time to be taken seriously, and Rousey was making waves as the top female attraction in Strikeforce. There was a point in time when UFC President Dana White said that there would never be women competing in the UFC, ever. However, he and the Fertitta brothers realized that Rousey and a few other female stars were actually quite marketable.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions in the company’s history, and as you probably know, Rousey not only went onto to become a mainstream superstar, but she was a top 2 or 3 level box-office draw in MMA, selling over a million PPVs on multiple occasions.
After her unfortunate downfall in MMA, she would take over a year before jumping into pro wrestling. Fans weren’t sure what to make of a potential Rousey debut, and Rousey herself was in the firm belief that she would get booed by the WWE Universe when she arrived.
But she didn’t. When her name hit the titantron after Asuka’s Royal Rumble win, the Philadelphia crowd erupted lie they hadn’t in a long time. They were elated to see Rousey, and though she never said a word, it was clear that she had arrived. She had a rough start at Elimination Chamber, immediately exposing her weakness on the mic in a rather awkward segment.
However, the rest of the build to her first match was crafted perfectly, and when the time had come at WrestleMania for her in-ring return, not a single person can say that they expected Rousey to steal the show the way she did. Her mixed tag team match turned out to be the match of the night in the eyes of many fans, and with a jaw-dropping performance where she went head-to-head with Triple H and submitted Stephanie McMahon, the WWE Universe fully embraced her presence.
She proved that night exactly why she redefined the term “fight like a girl”. After that, it was clear that the sky was the limit, and though she only wrestled once a month or so in the start, she wasn’t just any random part-timer. She was there to fully commit and she later started competing on RAW as well, before capturing the RAW Women’s Championship in just her fourth televised match.
It became clear that Rousey belonged to a very elite category of superstars who were able to adapt to the wrestling business in no time. This was something believed by Kurt Angle, a man who’s considered to be the biggest natural in wrestling history, having risen to the top in hardly a year’s time.
Rousey proved to be more than just a fighting champion, and week by week, her confidence grew, and despite having holes in her game which clearly needed fixing, fans were quite accepting of her. Her first real adversity when it came to the WWE Universe was at Survivor Series 2018, when she was assaulted by last-minute replacement opponent Charlotte Flair, in what turned out to be a brutal beatdown.
While Rousey should have gotten a sympathetic reaction, it was the first time she was really booed. Slowly but surely as the road to WrestleMania began, Becky Lynch (and then Charlotte Flair) got involved with her and the reactions to her became less favorable. She then turned heel organically.
For the first time ever, there was a conversation about women headling WrestleMania. While the plan was at first to have Ronda Rousey face Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch’s unexpected rise in WWE ensured that WWE couldn’t deny her the spot. If there was no Rousey, there would be no women’s main event WrestleMania, and whether you love Ronda Rousey or hate her, it’s a fact.
Many believed that it would take a whole other generation of women to come for them to headline WrestleMania. But it’s 2019 and we’re set to see a historic main event. Ronda Rousey, when asked by Kevin Hart about her objective in WWE, stated that it wasn’t about championships and prizes. It was about elevating the women’s division.
The goal is not to be champion. Roddy Piper’s son told me that belts don’t matter and it’s about stories and storytelling. I really want the WWE and women’s division to be better off because I was there. I wanna be a catalyst and push everything forward and I want people to thank me for being there.
Ronda Rousey may not be with WWE after WrestleMania, but there’s no denying the impact that she’s had in the one year she’s been around. Not only was she able to achieve her childhood dream, become Women’s Champion and show a whole new side of herself, but she fulfilled her objective of elevating the women to a new level.
After WrestleMania 35, it won’t be about the Women’s Evolution anymore. It’ll be about male and female superstars competing for that top spot. The glass ceiling has never been more reachable.