It’s fair to say that this time last year, a lot of mystery surrounded Ronda Rousey’s upcoming debut. The former MMA superstar was certainly not starting slow, making her awaited in-ring arrival at WrestleMania of all places. Her partner would be Kurt Angle, the hall of famer that hadn’t entered ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’ in 12 years while their foe Triple H was four months removed from the ring himself. His tag partner and wife Stephanie McMahon hadn’t wrestled in almost four years either. As I said, the question marks were rather endless.
Regardless of any uncertainty though, the four combined to create magic at WrestleMania, stealing the show with a quite staggering showing. Though the circumstances had obviously been unique, Rousey’s performance was undeniably impressive and it certainly boded well for her future too. Almost unanimously popular following her brilliant debut, Rousey’s inevitable route was then accelerated, with her 2nd singles match coming against RAW Women’s Champion Nia Jax. While her first appearance had been enthralling, this follow-up was perhaps even more stunning as Rousey sold throughout, doing a quite marvellous job of it as well.
While most expected Rousey’s famed offensive arsenal to take center stage in the pro wrestling arena, here she played babyface in peril, fighting uphill and hooking the audience along the way. The finish to that outing would prove ideal as well, with Alexa Bliss swooping in to provide Rousey with yet another perfect foe. While some concerns initially surrounded fans’ perception of Ronda, her handling thus far had been exemplary, clashing with two decorated villains while also taking on the size and power of Jax.
She’d been easy to root for as a result and at SummerSlam, her road to the gold would be complete, vanquishing Bliss in mere minutes. Unlike her prior two PPV showings, Rousey didn’t partake in sequenced back and forth action here but instead played the destroyer, portraying the bad ass that most expected upon her arrival. The pair’s rematch would return to a more balanced lay-out regardless, with Rousey once again selling sublimely while showing a continued versatility in her very first title defense.
Rousey’s presentation as humbled newcomer soon began to adjust though, verbally attacking Nikki Bella but remaining the angle’s babyface nonetheless. That wasn’t an on-screen stretch either, with The Bella Twins indeed betraying Rousey before her outburst commenced but even still, the content of those promos was certainly a new direction. Either way, Rousey’s performance continued to impress, putting on a strong Evolution main event with Bella and playing a pivotal part in the whole event’s promotion. That feat was undoubtedly a group effort but Ronda’s part can’t be understated, bringing a name value that elevated all involved.
That positive wouldn’t matter for long though, with Rousey’s next step proving pivotal for the direction that’s followed since. Standing opposite Becky Lynch in a planned champion vs. champion clash, Rousey became that bout’s organic villain, allowing fans to naturally revolt for the very first time. With that being said, their interactions were brief and Ronda’s alignment remained mostly unmoved as a result. The match with Lynch would be infamously prevented too, with Charlotte Flair replacing her as in the meantime, Rousey’s output reached new heights.
With an increasingly split crowd reaction greeting her each time, Rousey would kick-start a hot-streak opposite Flair, producing a gripping affair there before bettering her prior effort with Jax and then finally, having a thrilling title tilt with Sasha Banks. If before, Rousey’s PPV showings had simply exceeded expectations, these latest outings were just objectively exemplary, highly enjoyable matches by any standard. The audience’s general respect for Banks provided an ideal bridge for a potential heel turn also but initially, that direction would be delayed.
Since then, things have changed dramatically though, with Ronda embracing the crowd’s resentment after being matched with Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. The road to WrestleMania was now well underway and so was Rousey’s villainous portrayal along with it, viciously firing back at the audience’s increasingly aggressive jeers. With a verbal fire reminiscent of some of her famed press conference rants, Rousey was now an antagonist with a purpose, suddenly desperate to destroy the proud foundations of this women’s revolution.
After initially arriving with a gracious smile, Ronda has looked more at home than ever as of late, responding to fans with vitriol and smugly dominating every physical exchange as well. Sharing the ring with Flair and Lynch, Rousey stands between one of the industry’s most captivating rivalries but even still, her own impact can’t be understated. Ronda adds an extra layer of recognition and popularity, a still fresh spark to any match’s marquee value. None of that is a surprise of course but from a performance point of view, the pros of her presence are staggering.
Even though she’s only a year removed from her in-ring debut, Rousey’s addition here feels like an undeniable plus once the bell rings. She adds an unparalleled physicality to proceedings, a grit and mystique that’s almost impossible to sustain in any other circumstances. When Ronda Rousey debuted in WWE, many elements felt certain but her in-ring consistency has been a revelation. On the biggest stages, Rousey has produced genuine in-ring thrills and against a range of opponents, she’s managed to produce an admirable body of work.
It’s unclear how many chapters remain in this particular tale but if Rousey’s pro wrestling journey ends at MetLife Stadium, it’s hard to dispute her impact or effort. Ronda entered this genre at the perfect time in truth, neatly elevating a transcendent division that deserves all the extra spotlight it’s received. That feat is pivotal but when this stint is eventually revisited in a vacuum, it’s Rousey’s precocious in-ring talent that’ll allow these matches to live on for quite some time.
Perception and bad reputation aside, Ronda Rousey has been good for pro wrestling and this Sunday, her involvement meets its greatest height yet: sharing the ring with two greats as at long last, women main event WrestleMania for the very first time.