Does WWE Need Ronda Rousey?

Ronda Rousey Raw Women's Champion
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With 2022’s Royal Rumble event imminent, reports have circulated in the pro wrestling industry that former Monday Night Raw women’s titleholder Ronda Rousey is possibly in talks to return to WWE. First reported by Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful,  speculation was later elaborated by other sources. Bryan Alvarez asserted on Wrestling Observer Live that Rousey will be a surprise entrant in the women’s Royal Rumble match itself. If so, she would be following on the heels of IMPACT Wrestling Knockouts Champion Mickie James, WWE Hall of Famers Lita, Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, and other female WWE Superstars returning for January 29’s pay-per-view event. Rousey has not appeared on WWE programming since WrestleMania 35, losing the Raw Women’s Championship to Becky Lynch in a triple threat opposite Lynch and then-Friday Night SmackDown women’s titleholder Charlotte Flair.

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Does WWE Need Ronda Rousey Back?

The Role The “Rowdy” Star Played

Lynch famously claimed both titles in the history-making first women’s match to close WrestleMania. It was a coronation for Lynch, solidifying her unexpected place at the top of WWE’s women’s roster, buoyed by a groundswell of organic fan support for the gutsy, ambitious, underdog persona “The Man.”

However, it was Rousey who, it could be said, was meant to be the fulcrum of WWE’s image overhaul regarding its women’s division. Sparked by the outraged hashtag #GiveDivasAChance, 2018 began a revolution in WWE’s presentation of its female athletes and their matches. Rousey, the groundbreaking Ultimate Fighting Championship athlete and judo competitor, was the personification of the new direction. A revered athlete, with name recognition and mainstream marketability, she cut a starkly formidable figure amongst the veterans of the Divas division, and the problematic dynamics they represented, and the WWE Performance Center alumni like the “Four Horsewomen.” With her icy stare, donning Roddy Piper’s leather jacket, Rousey’s gimmick was that there was no gimmick: she was a fighter, the very thing that WWE’s women were striving to be taken seriously as.

In 2018, WWE very much needed Rousey’s athletic credibility. She headlined the first, and so far only, all-female WWE PPV, Evolution, facing off against Nikki Bella. Her matches vying against competitors like Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax helped WWE showcase the new gravity with which they professed to treat its female athletes. However, time has moved quickly apace since Rousey’s quiet departure following her defeat to Lynch.

Women's Wrestling

Following the Departure of Ronda Rousey From WWE

The women’s roster that Rousey was the face of during the inception of the “women’s revolution” did not escape the culling of the company’s widespread releases of 2020-21. The division has suffered from these releases, the long-term absence of two of its most athletically robust performers, Asuka and Bayley, and critically panned storyline directions like Bliss’s long-running supernatural arc. The revolution, as it were, has a second generation of compelling athletes in Rhea Ripley, Shotzi, Xia Li, Doudrop, and Bianca Belair, but all of these names, including the phenom that Belair was built to be throughout 2020 and 2021, have suffered from the erratic booking of WWE’s women’s division.

The tension between Rousey and her competitors, such as Bella, during her 2018-19 run was organic: with her accomplishments, she was drastically different from all that had come before in WWE, but emblematic of what it was aspiring for. She wouldn’t be an easy fit in 2022’s women’s division, a far less aspirational place.

The Potential Role Reversal of Rousey and Lynch

If there is a story for Rousey, then it is opposite Becky Lynch. Lynch is once again Raw Women’s Champion, and once again, it is not without controversy. Her squash victory over Belair at 2021’s SummerSlam drew the ire of fans and industry insiders, just as her WrestleMania 35 win over Rousey was controversial.

Lynch’s grassroots popularity came to overshadow Rousey’s place as the antiheroine du jour of the women’s division. As Lynch rose as a beloved tweener, Rousey turned heel, making antagonistic statements about her disdain for pro wrestling and its fans. Although speculation gathered in the aftermath of their WrestleMania triple threat that Lynch’s awkward pin on Rousey was meant to spark a future storyline, Rousey’s absence from WWE was followed by Lynch’s parental leave a year later. The two have not crossed paths.

In Closing

When and if they do cross paths, their history awaits them. The foundation of Lynch’s “Big Time Becks” persona is her groundbreaking win, over Rousey and Flair, and the halcyon days for her that followed. Rousey is the only woman who could cry foul on Lynch’s glory. Bliss is deep in a gimmick with little room for anyone but herself; Nikki and Brie Bella will most likely not appear any further than the Rumble. Of Rousey’s old adversaries, only Lynch would be worth her ire, and the momentum of hashing out WrestleMania 35 could propel them into the dream singles match the two have yet to fight.

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