The addition of Rhea Ripley to the RAW roster has been teased for months, but the Nightmare finally made her first appearance on the March 22nd broadcast. She wasted little time in making an impact, challenging RAW Women’s Champion Asuka to a match at WrestleMania 37. It was a bold move, considering that Asuka had just defeated Peyton Royce seconds before Ripley’s challenge.
— WWE (@WWE) March 23, 2021
Ripley is no stranger to bold moves, main event matches, or mixing it up with RAW and SmackDown superstars. The WWE’s first Australian women’s champion, and the first female athlete to have held both the NXT and NXT UK championships, Rhea Ripley has been poised for a larger stage for quite some time. In 2019, Ripley defeated Charlotte Flair in a triple threat match on SmackDown and captained Team NXT to victory at Survivor Series 2019. In 2020 Ripley, who was then NXT Women’s Champion, challenged Charlotte to battle her for the women’s NXT title at WrestleMania 36. Adapting to the restrictions and concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, WWE scrapped live crowds at their events, including WrestleMania. Ripley lost the NXT title to Charlotte and was open throughout 2020 about how the lack of a live crowd impacted her performance and the loss of confidence that dogged her after.
— WWE’s The Bump (@WWETheBump) March 24, 2021
However, Ripley is now getting a second shot at the glory and dominance she seemed poised for at the outset of 2020. She will be facing Asuka: an inventive, unpredictable, and lethal opponent with a champion’s advantage. However, Ripley’s ascension to RAW will have an impact beyond WrestleMania, introducing her to a pool of opponents that includes some old rivals and athletes who have not yet faced her brutality.
Some of her future adversaries may include:
Shayna Baszler– It’s sure to be a tense reunion for Baszler and Ripley. Brash upstart Ripley’s unannounced appearance at Full Sail Live in 2019 kicked off her push for the NXT Women’s title, after her inaugural reign as women’s champion in NXT UK. This didn’t sit well with Baszler, nor did Ripley snatching the mic from Baszler’s hand. Baszler, current champion at the time, had brutalized her way through the division and put away every challenger. Ripley finally got her wish for a shot at Baszler and her belt in December 2019. Rhea Ripley survived Baszler’s forbidding menu of submission maneuvers, including fighting her way out of the Kirifuda Clutch, delivering an Avalanche Riptide to put Baszler away by pinfall and secure the NXT Women’s Championship. Currently, Baszler and her partner Nia Jax are the reigning WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. If old adversaries Baszler and Ripley meet again, it will be yet another clash of titans, with Jax undoubtedly participating in the mix.
Charlotte Flair– When Flair returns from her current absence, she will be sharing a roster with the woman she defeated at WrestleMania 36. The loss haunted Ripley even as she began a new challenge to reclaim the NXT Women’s Championship from Io Shirai, who won it by defeating Ripley and Flair in a triple threat match. Shirai retained in a November 2020 bout with Ripley, meaning Ripley never held the NXT title again after her devastating loss to The Queen. What should have been a career highlight on The Grandest Stage of Them All was both an anticlimax and a crushing blow to Rhea Ripley. Facing Charlotte Flair again in the future will surely be a catharsis and the full circle in a difficult chapter of her road to the main roster.
— WWE (@WWE) March 9, 2021
Peyton Royce– Before her March 22nd bout with Asuka, Royce made a big noise about her lack of opportunities, and demanded a shot at the Empress of Tomorrow, arguably the most intimidating female athlete in the women’s division. It was a gutsy move for Royce. Unlike former tag partner Billie Kaye, who seems comfortable as a comedy performer, Royce is showing a new aggressive edge and seems to be spoiling for a match in which she can prove her worth. Royce shared the ring with Asuka, who’d just defeated her when Ripley upstaged them both with her challenge-does Royce’s presence at that moment indicate that she’ll mix it up with Ripley herself? A feud with the Nightmare would put her over in a big way, which seems to be what Royce is seeking.
Reckoning– As part of RETRIBUTION, the stable’s future is currently unknown, Reckoning was formerly known as Mia Yim while on NXT. She is no stranger to Ripley. The two have faced off in the past, but have also been allies on many occasions. Ripley selected Yim in 2019 to join her team for the inaugural women’s War Games match at NXT Takeover: War Games, but Yim was unable to compete because of a sneak attack by Dakota Kai. Could Reckoning break free from Mustafa Ali’s agenda, and participate in a story of some kind with Ripley?
Ripley’s addition to the roster is sure to stimulate some creative and compelling developments, fueled by her hard-hitting in-ring style and versatile capabilities as a performer.
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