A staple of World Wrestling Entertainment’s pay-per-view series Royal Rumble is its surprise returns. Heading into January 29’s installment, 2021’s winner, Bianca Belair, was the popular favorite to win this year’s women’s Royal Rumble match. Hopes were high that Belair would capture the WrestleMania 38 opportunity and parlay it into a rematch against Becky Lynch, with the Raw Women’s Championship at stake. However, the odds turned against this outcome when Ronda Rousey entered at number 28, making her return to WWE after two years away, her own sights set on WrestleMania 38.
Who Faces Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania?
What We Know So Far
Rousey eliminated former rival Charlotte Flair to win the 30-woman match and secure a shot at either Flair’s SmackDown Women’s Championship, or Lynch’s Raw title. While WWE revisited Flair’s and Lynch’s longstanding rivalry at 2021’s Survivor Series, the return of Rousey places all three on a collision course that hearkens back to their 2019 WrestleMania 35 winner-takes-all triple threat which made sports entertainment history. The bout, the first women’s match to be featured as WrestleMania’s main event, ended with Lynch claiming both the Raw and SmackDown women’s titles, capping off her rapid rise in popularity.
On January 31’s broadcast of Monday Night Raw, from the Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, a steely Rousey cut a scathing in-ring promo on Lynch, dismissively referring to “Big Time Becks” as “Rebecca.” Lynch interrupted and ended up on the end of an armbar from Rousey. Before departing, Ronda Rousey informed Becky Lynch that she would choose between her and Charlotte Flair for her WrestleMania opponent on Friday Night SmackDown. After two years, Flair, Lynch, and Rousey are back in each other’s orbit, and new grudges and old wounds are propelling their road to WrestleMania, with Rousey’s choice to be known on Friday. Here are the odds for both of her possible picks.
Flair falling to Rousey, the penultimate woman standing in the women’s Rumble, and Rousey’s inevitable SmackDown appearance, seem to indicate that her sights are set on Flair and the SmackDown women’s title. This would upset the trajectory that Flair and Sasha Banks have been on since Flair’s late autumn 2021 drafting to SmackDown, poised for a rivalry. Flair and Banks’s ire built through Flair’s bullying of Banks’s protégé Toni Storm, but with Storm’s departure from WWE, that storyline is now a moot point. With Rousey’s elimination of Flair in the women’s Royal Rumble match, they now have a fresh score to settle. Though both lost to Lynch at WrestleMania 35, they were opponents at 2018’s Survivor Series and rivals throughout 2019. Though that past is overshadowed by the ascendance of Lynch, Flair, and Rousey have their own history that looks set to be reignited, perhaps with Banks also in the mix.
Rousey scathingly called Lynch’s title reign “stagnating”, and there is some truth to that. Despite several successful title defenses against Belair, Liv Morgan, and Doudrop, Lynch’s “Big Time Becks” heel character, a grandiose and arrogant celebrity, has failed to find the sort of organic momentum she enjoyed as “The Man”. However, Rousey seemed adamant on dismissing Lynch, saying that Lynch’s reign was Lynch’s problem, and teasing the possibility of picking Flair just to spite Lynch.
Before the WrestleMania 35 triple threat and Lynch’s victory, Rousey enjoyed an impressive 231-day reign with the Raw women’s title. Her title defenses helped WWE solidify the athletically credible tone it was then trying to establish for its women’s division. However, putting Rousey in the running for the belt would place Bianca Belair another step further from the rematch with Lynch that many anticipated would begin to take shape in the wake of 2022’s Rumble.
WWE’s women’s division, and emerging talent like Belair, suffered throughout 2021 from poor and uneven booking. Whatever Rousey’s choice, with her, Flair, and Lynch once again the division’s centerpieces, WWE has a chance to remind viewers of the inception and glory days of its “women’s revolution”, a time of ambitiously staged storylines and matches for its women’s division.
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