Let me preface: I don't care if you feel one way or another about Ronda Rousey, but the majority of you FEEL about Ronda Rousey. That's what's important.
As she said in her interview with WWE.com, coming to WWE was a sign from the universe for Ronda Rousey. The sign has been more like a flashing billboard for the last several years.
"The Four Horsewomen" was clue number one. Rousey and her MMA buddies chucked up four fingers in a photo and affectionately gained the nickname. The MMA careers of the other three after that didn't go as planned, and they were even the butt of plenty jokes.
It's not much of a secret I championed and encouraged Jessamyn Duke to train in pro wrestling -- I've mentioned it on the show before that I thought she'd be a great fit as well, something Triple H has confirmed. NXT star Adam Cole even told me once he'd offered to train her, before she eventually embraced pro wrestling herself. Shayna Baszler learned from the great Billy Robinson, who my trainers learned from. I feel a sense of pride and connection to that. Both spent an incredible amount of time with UFC star and NJPW color commentator Josh Barnett. The crossover connections don't get a lot stronger. Marina Shafir never made it to the UFC, but fought in Invicta and is marrying into wrestling via Roderick Strong. It didn't seem like there was an escape, at least if Rousey wanted to keep the same company she had been.
Even before her friendship with the aforementioned "Four Horsewomen" was glued by pro wrestling, she drew inspiration from "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. She asked for his blessing to use his nickname, and was gifted his jacket ahead of the 2018 Royal Rumble that saw her debut. When talking to WWE.com Sunday, she said she loved wrestling when she couldn't even speak, which was much later in life as she dealt with Apraxia of speech, neurogenic communication disorder affecting the motor programming system for speech production.
Most of us that had followed her career knew something of the sort would come eventually. Four years ago, a video emerged of her doing pro wrestling training with Baszler. A year later she became one of the more effective WrestleMania celebrity cameos ever, attacking Triple H and Stephanie McMahon alongside The Rock. There were clips of her helping Stephanie McMahon do an ice bucket challenge in the months prior. But after Wrestlemania, there was nothing for over two years.
It was a tumultuous time for Rousey, and also one that saw her life change. She lost two fights in violent fashion, and it seemed like she lost her identity. No more media. The movies were pushed back. As odd as it sounds, she lost her smile. Only this wasn't something manufactured like we saw when someone "lost their smile" in WWE-- she was just gone.
She got married in that time and slowly returned to the limelight. We broke the news at Fightful that she was training in pro wrestling in August, but she'd also appeared at the Mae Young Classic to support Baszler...and face off with a few of pro wrestling's Horsewomen. It was on. There's no turning back.
You'll have people that don't know any better trash her for losing two fights in a row -- shit happens when you fight nothing but the best fighters that come your way. You'll have people that say she ran from Cyborg -- she signed to fight the now-UFC Featherweight Champ in 2013. You'll have people that say she's handed everything she gets -- she's been training win pro wrestling since last year, and spent the last several years around the lady who contended for the NXT Women's Title Saturday night in Baszler
Just remember, there was a time when people thought Brock Lesnar wouldn't be taken seriously again, too.
Ronda Rousey is a bonafide megastar with a legit background unlike any other woman we've seen cross over. Her judo background is particularly appealing to me. An Olympic medalist, Rousey can do throws in her sleep that I've never dreamed of seeing in the WWE, that WWE doesn't train or utilize on a consistent basis. Oh yeah, she already has a well established finishing move, too.
There will be times when people point out some questionable things Rousey has said or done, and there are plenty. They'll highlight the valleys of an MMA career that saw her break records while cleaning out her division. There will be a lot of discussion and argument about what has been earned vs. what is deserved. Some will love everything she does blindly, some will never think that anything is good enough.
Caring. That's the point. People will care. And on January 28, I saw a smile from Ronda Rousey that nobody who covers both MMA and wrestling can say they've seen on her in years. She found her smile, and can't escape the grasp of pro wrestling. It seems like she's finally come to terms with the fact she doesn't want to, either.