They did everything in their power to convince us it wouldn’t happen, and that just added to the shock value when Rousey’s name flashed across the video screen at the close of this year’s Royal Rumble. Without a single word, Rousey changed the entire conversation. She made her way to the ring, made her presence clear, and made her intention to head to WrestleMania 34 quite evident.
Because she interrupted Asuka before she made a clear decision to face Charlotte Flair or Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania, speculation went wild on social media that she would challenge Charlotte Flair while Alexa would end up defending against Asuka. The real question seems to have been missed though. Does Rousey even deserve a title shot at WrestleMania 34?
Who is Ronda Rousey?
Before we can get to whether or not Ronda deserves such an opportunity, let’s step back and answer a question no one is really asking. Rousey isn’t just some former MMA star, but a truly international athlete. As she rose through the ranks in UFC, Rousey’s fighting style and dominance magnified her popularity.
Unfortunately for Rousey, she’s had a fall from grace after losing to Holly Holm via knockout. Only 59 seconds into the second round, Holm knocked out the most popular and beloved female mixed martial artist in recent history. It was a moment that circulated worldwide on social media within moments of the fight, and has become the most memorable moment of Rousey’s career to many. When she was knocked out a year later by Amanda Nunes after only 48 seconds of fighting, her MMA career looked dead and buried.
Don’t let those final two fights fool you. Rousey is a legit badass, and being a popular UFC fighter is far from her only accolade. Prior to venturing into mixed martial arts, Rousey was an Olympian in judo. Not only does she have over 25 medals from International Judo Federation events, but she captured the bronze medal in Judo at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Once she ventured into UFC, Rousey shot her way to the top. The World MMA Awards named her their Female Fighter of the Year in 2012, 2013, and 2014. ESPN’s ESPY Awards honored her as Best Female Athlete in 2014 and 2015, as well as Best Fighter in 2015. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter even named her Best Box Office Draw in 2014 and 2015, Most Outstanding Fighter of the Year in 2014, and Mixed Martial Arts Most Valuable in 2014 and 2015.
In the UFC, Rousey was the first ever female UFC Champion, captured the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship and successfully defending it six different times. Rousey was even the first Olympic medalist (male or female) to hold a UFC title. If you honestly don’t believe Rousey has worldwide recognition and hasn’t proven herself a remarkable athlete in the world of MMA, you haven’t been paying attention.
What has she done lately? Can she even wrestle?
These are the two key questions many wrestling fans are asking, even if they’re familiar with Rousey. The truth is that Rousey hasn’t stopped working, she’s just well aware of the limits to a mixed martial arts career. If you put all your eggs in the UFC basket, the money starts to dry up as you age. Rousey’s two other careers, acting and now professional wrestling, aren’t quite so stark when it comes to aging.
Of course, age is an obstacle in wrestling, but far from an insurmountable one. Not only do superstars often compete past their 40s (almost unheard of in the highly competitive world of UFC), but some stars have even started their careers while already in their mid-30s. At only 30 years of age, Rousey is entering the world of wrestling at the perfect time. Of course, wrestling is about more than sheer physical ability.
While great physicality and athleticism are required, acting ability, the gift of improvisation, and lots of practice are required to become a truly great superstar. Rousey ventured into acting as early as 2014 when she got a role in The Expendables 3. She’s also been in Furious 7 and Entourage, and was named the lead in the pending remake of Road House. Rousey is currently filming Mile 22 in Columbia, and she was reported whisked to and from the Royal Rumble in a private jet to keep her appearance secret. She's still got a few more weeks of filming before she'll truly be "full-time" with WWE.
There’s one thing she’s probably been doing lately that we know almost nothing about; she’s been training. As early as October of last year, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer was already reporting that Rousey had begun training at the WWE Performance Center ahead of a potential move to the world of professional wrestling. However, private training sessions could have been going on for months or more before then.
While some fans may be worried she’ll take on a role similar to Brock Lesnar in which she works big events but doesn’t actually go on the road, Rousey has indicated that won’t be the case. When interviewed by ESPN after her appearance at the Royal Rumble, Rousey said “this is my life now.” She’s reportedly signed a full-time multi-year contract with WWE. In the interview, she even said the following: “There are other things I can do with my time where I’ll make way more money, but I won’t enjoy as much.”
Brock Lesnar does what he does for the money, not for the love of wrestling. Like him or hate him, that’s the cold hard truth. However, Rousey is coming to WWE for her love of wrestling. With her knowledge and respect of the industry, Rousey likely won’t want to circumvent truly working her hardest as a full-time competitor. Unfortunately, it can’t be ignored that she’s just a rookie in the world of wrestling. A well-known rookie, but a rookie nonetheless.
Despite three or more months of training to help her adjust to the world of wrestling and prepare for her arrival, there’s no way to know just yet if Rousey is ready to have a big in-ring challenge. If she gets the opportunity to have a big championship match and fumbles through it, her entire WWE career could be over before it even starts. Not only would she lose respect and faith from fans, but Rousey could severely injure herself or another competitor.
Does she deserve a title shot at WrestleMania 34?
The short answer is no. Despite her well-documented pre-WWE career, accolades, star power, and athleticism, none of this makes her worthy of a championship opportunity so soon. Instead, Rousey should be in more of an attraction match at WrestleMania 34.
There’s been speculation she may face Stephanie McMahon after their confrontation back at WrestleMania 31 and tense handshake at this year’s Royal Rumble. In the same vein, Rousey could also find herself a partner to take on Stephanie and her husband Triple H in a mixed tag team match. Speculation on a potential partner has included Batista, Kurt Angle, and Shane McMahon, among others.
While everything is still in the rumors phase, it’s clear that Rousey has garnered enough attention to be a part of WrestleMania, she’s just not ready for a championship opportunity. Without a single live match under her belt, the potential for disaster is just too high to place Rousey in such an important match. With a multi-year contract, there’s no reason to rush her debut. If things go well, Rousey could have a nearly decade long in-ring career, something WWE shouldn’t put in jeopardy just to capitalize on some media buzz.
Instead, WWE should have her compete at Elimination Chamber or at Fastlane as an initial test. Whether she’s on SmackDown Live or on Raw, there are plenty of capable competitors for her to start against. A month-long build to her first match would up subscriptions to the WWE Network prior to WrestleMania, and could convince some fans who want to see her at ‘Mania to sign up early. If she competes at Elimination Chamber, new subscribers would have their first month end prior to WrestleMania 34, a smart business move for WWE.
Ronda Rousey doesn’t deserve, or even need, to compete for a championship at WrestleMania 34. If her contract is any indication, she’s here for the long haul. WWE has an international star ready to become one of their top draws in the next several years. WWE must not rush this, because ruining Rousey’s start in WWE will cost them much more money than they could hope to get by throwing her into a situation she’s not prepared for.