When UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey stepped onto the biggest stage in sports entertainment, WWE, it was a match made in heaven. A legitimate fighter with mainstream notoriety stepping in between the ropes for the marketing machine of World Wrestling Entertainment was a perfect mix. Everyone could see the dollar signs.
And at first, that’s how it went. Rousey’s explosive coming-out party at WrestleMania 34 was the stuff of legend. She looked flawless. It was a crowning moment that even former manager and now podcasting pundit Jim Cornette called “the best debut ever”.
In many ways, he was right. Rousey immediately took the WWE Women’s division by storm. She was quick to capture the RAW Women’s Championship, becoming one of the faces of the Red Brand. The legitimate fighting skills were there. The pedigree and resume were established. And the overall presentation, from the Joan Jett intro to the leather jacket bequeathed her by Roddy Piper’s son, she looked the part. Ronda Rousey had made a successful transition. After a legendary UFC career, she was now a full-fledged sports entertainer.
While Her In-Ring Skills Sharpened, Ronda Rousey’s Character Was Beginning to Feel a Bit Dull
Rousey has continued to add to her natural mixed-martial arts arsenal with more pro wrestling ‘vibes’ as icing on the cake. She’s really come leaps and bounds from her stunning debut. She can now work longer matches. She also does a much better job of conveying her emotions and pacing a match properly. Technically speaking, there are very few holes in her game. The former judoka has taken to the role of sports entertainer (at least in the squared circle) like a duck to water.
The problem, however, has been in the evolution of her character. Eventually, the unbeaten and unstoppable Rousey gave way to the amazing and organic rise of Becky Lynch. By the time she reached the massive three-way, title unification match with Lynch and Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 35, it was crystal clear who the fan favorite was. And it sure wasn’t Ronda Rousey.
Then, she went on hiatus… for years. While absent from the ring, she stayed active on social media. Unfortunately.
Rousey took several shots at the WWE Universe – from fans to fellow competitors. No one could be sure if this was her merely ‘acting like a heel’, or if she really hated the business and its fans. To most observers, her poisonous vitriol was too potent to be purely an act.
She returned, to mixed reactions, as a babyface. It didn’t work, and she knew it. Rousey looked uncomfortable during her promos, almost forcing a smile on her face. The promotion wanted her to be plucky when inside she was really a powder keg. It was awkward for The Rowdy One and for the audience. She no longer seemed like an unstoppable machine. Suddenly? She had become Little Red Riding Hood, skipping off to Grandma’s house.
Rousey’s Heel Turn and Pairing With Shayna Baszler Are More Fitting for Her Character Now
Now working as the ass kicker she always was before, Rousey is now on the right track. It’s only natural that she’s formed a team with her longtime friend and fellow former UFC star, Shayna Baszler.
The pair have been terrorizing the Women’s Division on Friday nights. You can even see in both performers’ eyes that they have been waiting for years to finally get the chance to run roughshod on the main roster. So far, so good. The dastardly duo has been injuring all of the contenders for Rousey’s Smackdown Women’s Championship. Each week, they look stronger and more dominant.
As of now, things are looking up for Ronda Rousey, but the question still remains: Can she ever reach the meteoric levels of success she had when she got her first sports entertainment exposure? Can she ever be the rocket ship soaring across the WWE horizon again?
The smart money would say, “no”. Unfortunately ‘lightning in a bottle’ is just that. Rousey’s debut coincided with a time when the promotio0n was turning the corner in terms of presenting a more believable in-ring product. And, the fact that no one knew what to expect turned her spectacular debut into something bigger than it actually was.
While Ronda Can Likely Never Climb That Same Mountain Again, She Still Needs More Strong Storylines and Fascinating Feuds Right Now
She likely won’t stick with WWE for the long haul; it’s hard to picture her as a pro wrestling ‘lifer’. She seems as if her wrestling career is part of her long-term retirement plan. When she leaves, she will likely be gone for good. Save a few appearances for some special events.
So the time to fire the engine up is now. The once-dominant Ronda Rousey needs to make a return for one more run. Otherwise, she will continue to tread water in the spot she’s currently in. And that spot is very simple to explain: She is a former top-notch headliner who is now a middle-card celebrity. Only strong booking and a willing performer will be able to turn that around.
And the time to do so for Ronda Rousey is RIGHT NOW.
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