It all started so well, which is generally how things go for Ronda Rousey.
When Rousey first appeared at the Royal Rumble in 2018, it was more than just some big name that WWE could get their greedy paws on to gain mainstream attention, what Vince McMahon craved more than women in his office who didn’t want anything to do with him. Rousey was genuinely excited to be there, we were told she was diligent in doing the work to be not just credible in the ring but a feature, and it juiced a women’s roster that wasn’t quite yet transformed by Becky Lynch a few months later.
And her first match delivered on everything. The anticipation at Wrestlemania 34 was palpable, and in a mixed tag match teaming with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, the roar to her entrance was raucous. It was even more so when Trips allowed a brief exchange with Rousey, skirting the usual mixed-tag rules. She looked like a real star, not just in name but in the ring, too, and a real force after getting to ragdoll HHH around for a few minutes. At the time, WWE had wasted some of its star power on the women’s side, always deferring to Charlotte Flair and leaving Sasha Banks and Lynch to wallow in the middle or bottom of the card (tellingly, they were both in the Battle Royale that night).
Maybe everyone should have stopped there.
Rousey wasn’t done any favors with her booking in those first few months. While still very green and needing matches to hone her craft, the company immediately put her into the title scene that she just wasn’t ready for. She did her best, but fans were already put off by the newcomer going to the biggest matches while beloved veterans like Banks and Lynch had nothing to do. She first won the title at the following Summerslam against Alexa Bliss, an opponent that neither WWE nor Rousey herself put much work into seeming viable against Rousey. It only fed fans’ opinion that a red carpet had been rolled out for the name.
Again, it was telling that on the night Rousey beat Bliss was also the start of Lynch’s charge not just to the top of the company but the top of the business. That was organic, that was earned, and that was a character fans could get behind instead of the constantly smiling Rousey who had everything thrown to her.
It’s not Rousey’s fault that the furor Lynch created happened at the same time as her first few months in the company, but it indirectly fed into it. Lynch was putting on great match after great match and growing her character, an underdog screwed over by the company even after doing all the work while Vince made goo-goo eyes at the famous interloper. Eventually pairing Rousey and Lynch on the road to the following Wrestlemania did the charisma-less Rousey even less favors, as Lynch continually ethered her on the mic and on Twitter. And Rousey could only react petulantly, attempting a half-assed heel turn that felt more like a child screaming at her mother in the aisle of the toy store than carrying real menace. It was the fans’ fault, it was Becky’s fault, but never hers. It’s never Ronda’s fault, though.
She also didn’t grow in the ring. The initial excitement gave way to the realization that her move set never really changed, she wasn’t all that interested in telling stories in the ring, and that she wasn’t safe. She injured Banks a year into her career at the Royal Rumble, even while Banks was doing her best to make her as credible as possible. Charlotte was shoved into the Mania match, perhaps as the company began to realize Rousey wouldn’t be worthy of the stage opposite Lynch on her own.
As with other things in Rousey’s career, once it got hard, she chucked it and left. The Mania main event was all about Lynch, and then Rousey was gone.
She returned after the pandemic, again at the Royal Rumble, the first held in front of a live crowd in 2022. She was the surprise entrant, WWE getting all the mileage they could out of their fans happily clapping like trained seals at the sight of any name they recognize. She then meandered through the match with all the passion of checking in at the airport despite winning it.
And her matches only got worse. The same moves, the lack of selling or bumping, making anyone who worked with her look bad, and the feeling that Rousey was spending all of them looking at her watch. The need to keep her on the marquee partially cost the company Banks, as a big part of her reason for walking out was not understanding why she was needed, again, to put Rousey over. Her promo work was more Veruca Salt than some marauding monster. Even after all that buzz she was met with indifference from the fans. When Shayna Bazler turned on her it wasn’t even a pop, just a hopeful cheer that this might be the start of the end of Rousey’s wrestling career.
Her “MMA Style” match with Shayna to send her off to whatever desolate but well-financed trench distasteful transphobes like her go couldn’t really have been a more perfect end to this shart of a wrestling career. It’s a really tough ask of two former MMA fighters to go out and “fake” a real MMA fight, and that’s if both wrestlers are determined to do so. It was impossible to miss that this was slated right after L.A. Knight’s first big win in WWE to cool the crowd down, and boy did it. Again, Rousey just wandered through this, matching the crowd’s emotion of just waiting for it to be over.
WWE probably got what it wanted out of this, more eyeballs on a few events from people who had heard of Rousey but didn’t watch wrestling. Rousey got some really big paychecks. It partially cost them Banks. Lynch was able to distinguish herself to the fans as a real star, which she almost certainly would have anyway. And fans got a lot of shitty matches and watched a host of more talented and dedicated wrestlers have to wait around for their turn or do their best to try and make Rousey look good. Even Liv Morgan cashing in her Money In the Bank briefcase had to win via roll-up to protect Rousey. And it still didn’t work.
Rousey is a shit person, she was a shit wrestler, and everyone will be better off with her out of sight for a good long while.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social
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