It has been six months since Ronda Rousey made her pro wrestling debut at Wrestlemania 34.
While many fans and pundits expressed reservations over her ability to make the transition from MMA to WWE, she has won over the most skeptical naysayers since her very first outing with the company.
Once considered the most dominant female fighter in history and still billed as “the baddest woman on the planet,” the 31-year-old Rousey has seamlessly made the switch to the wrestling game.
Not only that, but Rousey has been vocal about her passion for pro wrestling, calling it a dream job and claiming she’s never been so “over-stimulated” in her life.
“This is my life now. First priority on my timeline for the next several years. This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt,” Rousey told ESPN of her decision to join WWE. “When I first met with Triple H, I told him, ‘There are other things I can do with my time that’ll make way more money, but I won’t enjoy nearly as much.’”
So far, so good. She has proved to be very loyal to the McMahon family, reportedly signing a multi-year contract that could keep her in WWE until at least Wrestlemania 36 in 2020.
Rousey, who won her first WWE title last month at Summer Slam by defeating former champ Alexa Bliss, is obviously headed for much bigger things. And that could include a Wrestlemania main event next year with Charlotte Flair.
An informal survey showed that a majority of readers strongly believe that Rousey has unlimited potential in the pro wrestling ranks and will continue to be a boon for WWE business.
Joe Dobrowski of Greenbelt, Md., agrees that she has exceeded expectations.
“She has done more than anything I could dream of. The real payoff is down the road after she’s established and who she will ‘make.’ That’s the critical part. She’s an awesome attraction and a performer and made an incredible transition. I’m just curious what kind of rub, bedsides those she is working with now, she will give down the road.”
Jack Hunter of Washington, D.C., says she’s a solid investment for WWE and has brought legitimate athleticism to the company.
“Well worth the investment and WWE has booked her solidly. While the women’s revolution was healthy on its own, Rousey has brought both a mainstream spotlight and an injection of athletic realism due to her MMA background, something you also see in NXT standout Shayna Baszler. Rousey is not only one of my favorite wrestlers in the women’s division, but WWE as a whole.”
Thomas Simpson of Seneca also believes Rousey is well worth the money.
“She’s an investment that will pay off for a decade or more if she wants it to. She’s a mainstream name, has charisma galore and will turn into a great worker because she has passion. They are booking her very wisely. I’ve heard nothing but great things about her attitude and work ethic from everyone. Barring injury, she's going to end up drawing money.”
Echoes Brian Westcott of Meridian, Idaho: “She’s taking her role seriously and it’s leading to box office magic. Well worth the time and investment and it is paying out in dividends.”
“She has already exceeded high expectations. Her real life story is remarkable. What an amazing spirit and athlete,” says Greg Tingle of Sydney, Australia.
Tyler Cupp of Lugoff says he respects the fact that she’s also working house shows.
“Still on the fence with her winning the title, but she has been a very good investment in my opinion. She does house shows and works on TV, which I would imagine garners respect from the locker room but also makes her better at same time. She’s got the look and feeds off the crowd.”
And while it’s no secret that Rousey was recruited for her name value, TJ Jackson of Goose Creek believes she was worth the investment and compared her to Charlotte Flair.
“I believe her signing was more for mainstream appeal and it’s working … As far as elevating the division, I don’t know how much better it can get. Its biggest asset, in my opinion, has been Ric Flair’s daughter.”
A special celebrity-type talent such as Rousey must be treated with kid gloves, and Jim Phillips of Denver likes the way WWE has been bringing her along and not rushing things.
“Suprisingly, she’s doing well,” writes Phillips. “I expected it to be a sloppy and rushed transition, but they’re taking pretty good care of her … The Four Horsewomen face-off was hyped for Survivor Series a little bit in the news, but I don’t see them having time to build that right at this point, which leaves Rousey out to carry the torch more or less alone if they decide to give it to her. It’d be better (business) to have her and Bliss work a feud through the end of the year and trade the title to build for a third rubber match at Royal Rumble.”
Robert Stanley of Stoneville, N.C., sees Rousey as a talented athlete who is willing to keep learning, and says she is already far ahead of the curve.
“She has a lot still to learn, but I was told this saying about 20 years ago when I first started, that the day you stop learning is the day you need to quit, and I think that goes towards her promos as well. No, they aren’t polished, but go back throughout time and watch some of the best in the game … Flair, Double A, Rock, even Triple H and Austin. When they started out, they weren’t exactly ‘spitting fire’ either. It will come with time as long as she keeps at it.
“I appreciate how hard she is working to adapt, and how much passion she has for the business. You can honestly tell that she isn’t just there for the payday, which makes me an even bigger fan of her and her work. Counting house shows and TV, she isn’t bad for someone with less than a hundred matches under her belt. Athletes like her develop fast too; she will get better in a hurry I think.”
Robbie Thompson of Poplar Bluff, Mo., says Rousey is just scratching the surface.
“She’s actually trying. She’s getting better. She’s being helped by the greatest roster of females ever signed by WWE. Great time to be in that spot. She seems sincere in developing her character and being believable. She’s got passion. She’s no Kurt Angle, but she could be.”
Steve Worrell of Anaheim, Calif., suggests taking a page out of the old WCW playbook.
“They need to do her like WCW did Goldberg during his Nitro heyday. Eliminate microphone time. Talking is not her strong suit. Let her say more with her face. She communicates much better with her facial expressions. She has this intriguing way of switching from happy face to neutral face to angry face in world record time. It almost has a bipolar quality to it.”
Heidi Smith Wooten of Hanahan agrees.
“She's doing better than I thought, but a little awkward. Also it seems like she could really unleash but is held back for the show. Must be a whole other mindset than what she’s used to in MMA. Needs to stay off the mic.”
Matt Roberts of Salisbury, N.C., says WWE must walk a fine line between strongly pushing Rousey while not overexposing her.
“As much of a deal that was made about Lesnar not being on the show, that’s really the only way to keep someone fresh or to seem like a ‘big deal.’ When you have three hours of live TV to fill every week, it doesn’t take long before they’re just another one of the wrestlers. She also doesn’t have a long list of credible opponents on Raw. It also doesn’t help that most of the better women wrestlers (on both shows) are babyfaces. I guess time will tell.”
“She’s done a great job for such little experience. Just hope they don’t go the Goldberg quickie matches route,” says Evan Ginzburg of Queens, N.Y.
Not everyone, though, is a hundred percent sold on Rousey.
“She is a cash novelty for the WWE and an attempt to push ratings,” writes Buddy Griner of Savannah. “If she can ever actually work a match, I’ll be shocked. At this point, if it wasn’t for her ‘name,’ she would not draw a crowd at a backyard show. I’m not a hater … just telling it like it is.”
“Not sold on her ability, her matches have been underwhelming,” adds Abigail Forschner of Bowling Green, Ohio. “Again, there’s name recognition, but I’d rather watch Charlotte or Asuka any day. Legit wrestlers, not a ‘second career.’”
“She seriously needs to work on her selling,” notes Vincent Hill of Atlanta.
“Good but awkward,” writes Thomas Bruff of Nashville.
“The women’s division will do fine, with or without her,” opines Jim Goolsby of Summerville. “What she brings to the table is street cred and mainstream press coverage.”
Brian Spencer of Killeen, Texas, also isn’t overly impressed thus far.
“She has a long way to go. I saw a clothesline and hip toss. That’s it.”
“The smile is killing her aura,” adds Richard O’Sullivan of New York.