I wasn’t sure if writing on Ronda Rousey’s appearance on WWE’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view was worth the effort considering the majority of the comments I have read over the past 48 hours have been supportive of the former MMA star making the transition to professional wrestling. Admittedly, I struggled with the idea of Rousey crashing the party on Sunday night, stepping into the ring as the show ended and stealing Asuka’s moment after winning the company’s first Women’s Royal Rumble match.
Leave it to WWE to take a great moment and saturate it with a swerve or two.
Rousey’s newfound home in sports entertainment isn’t unexpected. There was nowhere else for her to go since the glass ceiling in Dana White’s circus came crashing down with two lopsided losses. Rousey is every bit stud athlete and show-stopping icon in women’s sports. The McMahon’s made the right move to capitalize on her potential in the ring and to move merchandise with a “Rowdy” Roddy Piper themed character that will stir the masses who remember the great one’s ability to steal the show.
Much like Rousey did the other night. The only question I ask now is can she deliver and can she get along with the other women who have wanted this dream longer and have fought to get to the big show? And how will her contract, her popularity from her days in the octagon and her fame and fortune sit with the likes of Bayley, Sasha Banks and Natalya.
This is a business first. The McMahons make money on the controversial and the “sure thing.” In this reality, Rousey is anything but a sure thing. This isn’t Brock Lesnar moving from amateur wrestling to WWE to MMA back to WWE. While both have spent time in UFC, Lesnar’s ability to lead by pure size and dominance has allowed him to remain at the top of his game for two decades.
Rousey must be an instant success. She must dominate when she might not be ready. And her arrival guarantees that Nia Jax has no chance of being a WWE Women’s Champion any time soon. However, a Jax-Rousey confrontation would certainly sell tickets down the line.
The company is doing the right thing trying to promote Rousey as the one to unseat Charlotte. While Asuka and the “Queen” is a mouthwatering proposal no wrestling fan can deny, have the Asian wonder face Alexa Bliss is the smart move. The money match is with SmackDown Live’s women’s champion and the unknown commodity.
I’m not the only one who is as outspoken on this topic as I am. Mike Mooneyham proposed the question about Rousey’s success on his Facebook page. The comments were a mixed bag, showing the range of feelings toward Rousey and her run with WWE.
“Question: What kind of impact do you think Ronda Rousey will have in WWE? Temporary pop or long-term positive? Will she strengthen the women’s division, or will her lucrative contract spur jealousy among her colleagues?”
WWE’s women’s division is stronger than ever right now with the addition of the Riiot Squad and Absolution. Asuka’s win at the Royal Rumble and Sasha Bank’s domination in the match continue to show the company’s commitment to developing a continued evolution. Rousey cannot come in and steal that momentum.
The other side of that stance is clear – Rousey was front page news on Monday morning. ESPN, CBS Sports, Bleacher Report and other media outlets were discussing the arrival of the “Next Big Thing” in Vince McMahon’s circus. If Rousey gets in the ring and performs to her capability, there is nothing to see here. She will become an even bigger star for crossing the bridge. If she has a hard time adapting to the rigors of professional wrestling and its “reality” then this will be considered another bust like many other stars who tried and failed to make the transition to super stardom.
Rousey has the right gimmick, the looks and the athleticism to make this work. Now, it’s time to see if all the talk about this actually happening was worth the build in the first place.