The year plus long tenure that Ronda Rousey has had with World Wrestling Entertainment had been a tale of two opposite spectrums.
On one hand Rousey has had arguably the best rookie year in WWE since Kurt Angle even winning the Raw Women’s title at last year’s SummerSlam. On the hand the way that WWE has handled her run in the company has made large portion of its audience not cheer for ‘The Baddest Woman on the Planet.’
Few instances have shown this dilemma mir that the most recent episode of WWE’s flagship show Monday Night Raw.
The show’s main event segment saw authority figure Stephanie McMahon make a match to be held at the upcoming Fastlane Pay-Per-View between Rousey’s WrestleMania opponent, Charlotte Flair, and Rousey’s main rival since the Evolution PPV, Becky Lynch. The match initially was supposed to be for the title that Rousey seemingly vacated the week prior, but that changed once she made her way to the ring and said that she did no such thing.
McMahon, after then giving the title back to Rousey, changed the stipulation of the Fastlane match between Flair and Lynch. The stipulation now was that if Lynch, who is nursing a kayfabe knee injury and signed a hold harmless agreement prior to Rousey’s arrival, wins she would be added to the WrestleMania match.
Rousey then cut a promo on WWE needing her to make money and chastising the fans for booing her. Afterwards Rousey went after Lynch and put her in a series of arm bars, completing the heel turn.
This was the Rousey that was billed as the Baddest Woman on the Planet. This was the Rousey that took no prisoners. This was the Rousey games wanted to see.
Unfortunately thanks to WWE itself this moment may have come too late.
The dilemma WWE and Rousey are in now can be traced back to how the full time partnership between both parties began at the 2018 Royal Rumble. The company had her debut right after Asuka, the current SmackDown Live Women’s champion, won the inaugural Rumble match for the division in the PPV’s main event. All Rousey did was point at the WrestleMania sign but her presence overshadowed a moment WWE was building up as the next step in their Women’s Evolution.
This was overlooked thanks in large part to Rousey’s first official match was an intergender tag team match against McMahon and her husband Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque. The couple are among the most polarizing on screen authority figures in WWE so it was easy for Rousey to be cheered. It also helped that she made an honest effort to be seen as the opposite of Brock Lesnar by appearing regularly on both Raw tapings and house shows. Rousey let it be known that she genuinely wanted to be in the WWE.
Then WWE as a company seeing this decided to keep her as a babyface while also giving her the Lesnar treatment.
While she was improving in the ring, WWE rushed in putting the Raw title on Rousey at Summerslam even if it technically was her second shot at the belt. The decision not only be seen as the company plainly seeking mainstream media attention but also placed an artificial ceiling on the women’s division much like Lesnar’s grip on the WWE Universal title has done in the men’s division.
The timing couldn’t have been worse because that very PPV saw the genesis of Becky Lynch’s road to being arguably the most popular overall wrestler in WWE currently.
The company, after realizing that Lynch’s popularity isn’t a short fad, positioned the two women to face off at Survivor Series. Unfortunately Lynch suffered a concussion and broken thanks to a punch by Nia Jax on the Raw before the PPV taking her out of the match and had Flair be chosen as the replacement.
Since then Rousey and Lynch have been circling each other in storyline. The bulk of the feud has involved promos and social media where Lynch has consistently gotten the better of Rousey. Couple that with the perception that putting the title on Rousey has made among wrestling fans along with how the feud has been overlooked and the situation had deteriorated to where it is now.
The big mistake that WWE has made in this situation was to keep Rousey as a face throughout. It didn’t let her character grow and in turn her initial aura has faded.
In hindsight the move that WWE should’ve made with Rousey from the start is to present her like Lesnar which includes having Paul Heyman as her manager/mouthpiece.
Heyman is one of the best orators in the history of pro wrestling. His ability to tell a story is currently unmatched and that could easily have been used to build up Rousey as a dominant fighter. He has been working with her already on her promos and have a good working relationship so pairing the two wouldn’t be an issue.
More importantly having Heyman as a mouthpiece would’ve made it unnecessary for Rousey to cut promos herself as that is her main weakness in WWE. Essentially it would’ve made Heyman become Rousey’s shield from fan reaction. It would have prevented events like Rousey being rattled by the crowd on the Raw after this year’s Royal Rumble so badly that she forgot her lines & had WWE rush Bayley out to save the segment.
Having Rousey turn heel now with a month to go before WrestleMania amidst reports that she will walk away from WWE to start a family afterwards is bad timing as it looks like the company is reacting to the situation.
Whether it works out in time for WWE’s Grandest Stage of All is in their hands.