When rumors began to swirl in late January that 1x Raw women’s champion Ronda Rousey would be returning to World Wrestling Entertainment in the eponymous women’s event at the Royal Rumble, the speculation upended commonly held assumption in the pro wrestling industry that Bianca Belair would win the event again, as in 2021. Belair found her own path to the “Grandest Stage of Them All”, and the rematch opposite Becky Lynch that has been in the making since 2021’s SummerSlam. As for Rousey, despite her iconic first run on Monday Night Raw, the women’s Royal Rumble winner has set her sights on the Friday Night SmackDown women’s title and its current holder, Charlotte Flair. Rousey’s presence on SmackDown thus far has been a reinvigorating one.
Ronda Rousey Reinvigorating SmackDown Women’s Division
The Queen’s Perfect Foil
The proverbial jury is often split on the effectiveness of Charlotte Flair. From her promo skills to her moonsault, despite her many accolades in WWE Flair is often a divisive figure. Against the right foil, however, Flair’s shortcomings minimize as she grounds herself in character, and shines in the ring when her partner’s skill set matches or accentuates her own. Becky Lynch, who was rising in popularity under her gimmick “The Man”, was interjected into their 2019 Raw feud, and of course walked away with the fairy tale ending: taking both the Raw and SmackDown women’s titles in the history-making main event triple threat of WrestleMania 35. The Rousey vs. Flair feud of 2022 runs back this watershed moment with a simple, linear plot: Flair was Rousey’s other opponent that night, and she’s not done with her yet.
This simple premise puts their two very contrasting characters in opposition: the arrogant, mouth almighty, ostentatiously dressed second-generation pro wrestling scion Flair against the leather jacket-clad, stoic no-nonsense fighter Rousey. While Lynch utilizes a submission finisher, her in-ring style is mostly that of an improvisational scrapper who’ll try anything once and never says die. The WrestleMania 38 encounter between Lynch and Flair promises to be more technical in nature, with grappling a shared strength between both Rousey and Flair.
A Fun Fit on the Blue Brand
Rousey has so far been a fun fit on the “blue brand”, her character’s ire at Flair spilling over into the storyline between Naomi and Sonya Deville. February 19’s Elimination Chamber saw Rousey partnered with Naomi in a tag match against Flair and Deville, with the gimmicky stipulation that her hand be tied behind her back. Rousey’s own bemusement at the stipulation was evident. She was victorious at the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia event, setting the stage for her first SmackDown match on March 4’s Miami, Florida broadcast from the FTX Arena.
Rousey vs. Deville
With Charlotte Flair looking on, Rousey and Deville faced off. Deville struck hard, fast, and early in the encounter, roughing Rousey up with punches and kicks, laying her out with a knee strike, and getting a cover. Rousey kicked out. Deville’s next attempt at domination was a punishing stretch, trapping Rousey in an elaborate headlock while at turns covering her mouth, as well. Rousey escaped the submission and managed to trap Deville on the ropes in an equally intricate leg lock. She worked a subdued Deville in the corner with an MMA-inspired flurry of punches, and then applied an arm drag. She followed up her “Piper’s Pit” maneuver with an arm bar, ending the encounter victoriously via submission. When Flair entered the ring with taunts, the broadcast ended with Rousey applying an ankle lock to the SmackDown women’s champion.
Despite the way the WWE’s women’s division has grown since her 2019 run, Rousey is still a reinvigoratingly disruptive presence in WWE. Her skill in the ring and the stoic simplicity of her character are now offset with glimmers of humor, making for a subtle, palatable, and effective road to WrestleMania for Rousey, and the women of SmackDown.
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