When it comes to the WWE’s women’s division, the word ‘history’ is bandied around a lot. However, even the greatest skeptic has to concede that this Sunday’s event marks a quite remarkable occasion.
Just a few years ago, the thought of a 30-Women Royal Rumble match seemed almost preposterous but here we are, and it's now just days away. I’m not going to pretend that this women’s revolution is perfect or without flaws, but I also don’t want to ignore their progress. Slowly but surely they are getting there, even if some would fairly argue it’s all long overdue.
This feels like a pivotal moment, though. Firstly, I can’t stress enough how important the actual match quality is. Not even from a moves or athletic standpoint either; it simply needs to entertain the audience for as long as it lasts and provided that happens, it’s a success in my mind. Then comes the result. Rightly or wrongly, a vast majority of match results genuinely don’t matter at this point but I sense that there’s more to this women’s Rumble match and not just due to its WrestleMania implications.
Right or wrong, I believe there’s still a portion of the audience that has yet to accept the WWE’s women as primetime acts. I don’t think the talent is to blame for that by any means, and there’s a number of metrics that would show tremendous progress. But to me, it takes time to alter perception and I do feel that’s evident with this current women’s division. That is what makes the result of this match so vital in my mind, as for the more casual viewer it may just come down to the final headline, “____ wins the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match.”
That’s where the topic of Ronda Rousey comes in. Though not to the extent it’s had before, Rousey’s name certainly comes with some value and by definition that makes her useful to WWE. Celebrities have been featured at WrestleMania since day one (literally), and the idea of Rousey stepping into a WWE ring for a marquee match is clearly worth considering as there is an audience for it and one that’s likely unique to RAW’s usual viewer. Should she win the Rumble, though? For me the answer is simple: absolutely not and not only due to the bizarre technical aspects of her in that match type.
Rousey’s face on a WrestleMania poster comes with its own gravity, the idea of it being propped up further by such a genuine achievement feels unnecessary to me. To me this is about more than gaining a little media traction. It’s about making a statement about how far the WWE’s women have come and more importantly, the heights they are hopefully soon headed to. A moment ago I mentioned the viewer that’ll simply read the headline on Monday morning and whilst I concede that some would find a Rousey win exciting, I can’t help but feel it also immediately gives the whole thing an identity quite radically different to its male counterpart.
The person reading this article may understand why some of WWE’s women are great, but Rousey waltzing into a Rumble win certainly doesn't project that notion to the mass audience. It doesn't to me, at least. That’s another thing to consider here too -- the big picture is always important and making casual viewers react strongly absolutely matters, but I also think that the decision makers need to remember that there’s already a growing audience that cares about this division and making them disillusioned is a dangerous route to take things.
Though I credited WWE’s female focus, not everyone is so impressed and I completely understand why. There is a genuine sense of frustration that seems to surround the women’s creative direction and like most things in wrestling, there are certainly arguments to be made for very real flaws in the current booking. For that reason, I think it’d be nice if the result of this Rumble gave those already invested something to smile about. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the winner to be decided sentimentality. I'd only want ti provided it makes sense, because going with a popular choice feels like the right thing to do here.
So who? Well personally I’m of the belief that Becky Lynch is in with a very good chance and for a lot of reasons, that’d be a positive move. Becky is a talent that admittedly frustrates me at times, but that doesn't change her undeniable popularity. Best of all, it would be a nice payoff for all of Lynch’s on-screen turmoil since losing the SmackDown Women’s Title. This possibility also works due to the fact that the blue brand seems to need more help as far as elevating one of its females. Their potential major matches are quite limited and having a Rumble winner (especially Becky) would really help.
Another option in a similar vein is Sasha Banks. I feel like Banks is at a point now where she’ll always be a strong candidate for moments like this, and her in-ring consistency/legitimate popularity is why. Personally, I love the idea that Banks would be the first name in this brand new Rumble lineage as I think it’s pretty clear already that she’s a name that’ll be looked back on fondly years down the line. Is she positioned correctly for this win right now? Well that’s obviously a different question altogether.
These two obviously aren't the only potentially positive winners, but they do stand out in my mind as strong candidates. Again, there are others and frankly, I could be proven completely wrong as for all we know Sunday could end up being just the starting point for a great Ronda Rousey WWE run. None of us know what the Rumble has in store, let alone what will come after, but for me this represents the chance to do something a little more worthwhile. To me, this is a chance to highlight a division, entertain a crowd and moreover satisfy a growing audience that is already very much invested in WWE’s evolving women’s division.
Either way, let’s all just hope that this historic match ends up in Monday’s headlines for the right reasons, and not the wrong ones.