It’s no secret that Ronda Rousey has drawing power. The first ever UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion was not only the most popular female fighter in the world at one time, but possibly the most famous UFC fighter regardless of gender, bridging the eras of Anderson Silva and Conor McGregor, respectively. Whether or not her MMA days are officially behind her, she is currently the hottest commodity for WWE.
Despite being new to the pro wrestling ring, a lifetime of experience in Judo (including a medal winning Olympic performance) has trained her to “fall right,” as Jim Ross would say. It’s fair to say that much like Kurt Angle, she comes primed for bumping in the ring and with an innate competitive spirit. With some training, Rousey will be ready for main event level competition in WWE…but WrestleMania is too soon.
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When Ronda made her debut in the final minutes of the Royal Rumble, it seemed she would be challenging for one of the Women’s Championships. Charlotte seemed like a natural opponent for Rousey. Considering Charlotte’s undeniable abilities, she would be able to help Rousey in her first match; not to mention their “Four Horsewomen” challenge initiated during the Mae Young Classic. That may have been the original plan, but much in the same way that nobody is ready for Asuka, Rousey is legitimately not ready for a bell-to-bell championship match at WrestleMania.
Instead, it’s looking like we’ll get the high profile tag match of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon vs. Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey. And really, that’s the best path to take as of now. By sticking her in the ring with legends, they will get the most out of the marquee value of the Rousey name. Getting eyes on the product is, above all else, the name of the game. Also,this emphasizes her transition from combat sports to sports entertainment. Aligning her with Kurt Angle garners some respect; the desired result being the insinuation that she is as passionate about pro wrestling as Angle when he first started. Hopefully, like Angle, she will be a quick study.
Unlike Angle, a guy like Brock Lesnar doesn’t exactly have the passion for the business that should be required of a Heavyweight (or Universal, in this case) Champion. The Beast comes and goes as he pleases, punching in and punching out, only upholding his end of the contract and treating it like a part-time job. This is really the only reason they might be holding off on a making Ronda Rousey a Paul Heyman girl. In her own words, Rousey wants to be treated like anyone else on the roster. Considering she probably has a better contract than any other woman on the roster, this will be a difficult look to pull off. Of course, I appreciate the effort to make her likable coming in, but it wouldn’t hurt to give her a mouthpiece until her mic skills improve.
Although we probably won’t see the Ronda Rousey on the level of an in-ring worker like Kurt Angle for some time, this WrestleMania will have a her household name attached to it. It will be akin to the inclusion of people like Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather at WrestleMania, but with the added bonus of knowing that she’s going to hang around for a while. Given the passion to improve of her fellow MMA Horsewoman (I still love saying “Horsewoman”), Shayna Baszler, Ronda is only going to get better and better. And when Baszler leaves NXT and joins Rousey on the main roster, we already have a built in alliance. Baszler will make for a perfect enforcer to Rousey. It’s funny to think that someone like Ronda Rousey would need some muscle at her side, but Shayna does have a certain ruggedness that will complement her.
In the end, Rousey will be a success. It will take some time, but ultimately billing her as the Brock Lesnar of the Women’s Division couldn’t hurt. Right now, that distinction goes to Asuka, which could lead to a WrestleMania dream match down the road. Keeping Asuka and Rousey away from each other until the time is right will be imperative going forward, but will eventually be unavoidable. Considering they’re on the same brand, we might even see this matchup as soon as Summerslam. Lately, WWE has been taking the easy money grab over the big picture. But this all depends on Rousey being a quick study. So the real question is, how long will it take for Ronda Rousey to be ready for Asuka?
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke