The announcement may be one of the most telegraphed gestures in the history of professional wrestling. In an industry where contract negotiations with potential new talent are kept under wraps until the signatures have dried on the contracts, Ronda Rousey and her potential future in the WWE has created a bit of a media frenzy over the past few weeks, especially with word that her career in mixed martial arts may be drawing to a close.
Stephanie McMahon’s declaration of interest should come as little surprise to fans who saw Rousey and the heiress apparent to the McMahon wrestling empire engage in an impromptu show down at last year’s WrestleMania. Stephanie has made no secret of her desire to recruit Rousey to the world of professional wrestling where it is expected that her crossover appeal might help to attract MMA fans back to the “squared circle,” as it happened with Brock Lesnar’s re-introduction to the ring after championship success in the UFC.
Despite Dana White’s statement that Rousey’s foray into professional wrestling was “a one and done” appearance after her surprising WrestleMania segment alongside The Rock, it appears that the WWE Universe should brace for impact as “Rowdy” may soon find a new home under Vince McMahon’s banner – and what is sure to be a catapult to immediate success and even more visibility than she experienced inside the octagon. What possible showdowns could WWE be cooking up for Rousey?
For some fans, they may be dismayed that this second generation star has failed to find her stride, however, the physically formidable grappler could well be the right choice for a first opponent for Ronda Rousey in the professional wrestling picture. Standing 5’9”, Tamina edges Rousey in height, and she has a weight advantage of fifteen pounds. However, what makes this match most compelling is the raw, rugged nature of Tamina as conveyed in how she has been programmed to date in the WWE. She has not proven to be particularly strong on the microphone but let’s her actions speak for her. One other interesting note is that Tamina’s father Jimmy Snuka once had a legendary feud with Roddy Piper … the man from which Rousey has borrowed her “Rowdy” ring handle. Might Rousey ignite hostilities with a coconut to make the greatest impact upon arrival? That would certainly turn heads.
With the stops and starts of Emma’s WWE career to date, somewhere in the shuffle, she has been overlooked. While the women’s evolution has started to take a front seat in the company for the first time in its history, Australia’s Tenille Dashwood may be well due for an opportunity to truly showcase what she can do. Trained for the sport by WWE alumnus and multi-time champion Lance Storm, her orientation to the ring saw her leave home and travel half way around the world to pay her dues. While she has been a dutiful soldier, adapting to every challenge set before her, having the opportunity to face off against the first cross-over female wrestler from MMA to the WWE could be just as good for Emma as it is for Rousey. Win or lose, Emma would become a household name overnight and hopefully get her career back on track.
When second generation wrestler Paige entered the WWE, it wasn’t just exciting news for her parents Ricky Knight and Saraya Knight who are, themselves, both established pros, but also for the women’s division in Europe which is well regarded for its hard-hitting style. Let’s be honest, we have seen Paige in the news almost every day for the past several months, and very little of that has been the type pf press that any athlete wants. Getting back in the ring and getting her career back on track, Paige has the opportunity to eclipse all of the current headlines with a showdown match against the incoming Rhonda Rousey. With the medical hiatus of both athletes taking place in recent memory, seeing these two face off against one another could signal the start of a new chapter in both wrestler’s careers. Let’s get past Alberto Del Rio and wellness policy violations and make headlines under the circumstances that they should be made.
12. Ember Moon
Fans watching the WWE Network have been barraged with the hype over Ember Moon’s debut in recent months and her hot winning streak right out of the gate, dominating the competition like few before her. Demonstrating the agility of standout U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, Moon’s early matches have been riveting to watch. But what makes an Ember Moon – Ronda Rousey showdown so compelling goes back to the very arguments that separate professional wrestling from mixed martial arts. Moon’s high risk style, including her aerial finishing maneuver might be dismissed by combat sport purists who would argue that “you wouldn’t do that in a real fight”. Still, we can’t escape the notion that with Ember Moon’s robust frame that she might not also excel with a ground-based grappling game that might have the WWE’s main roster quickly taking notice. Without a doubt, Rousey might serve to be Moon’s most formidable challenge on the horizon.
While Rousey has relished the opportunity to be both the poster girl for the UFC while at the same time being one of the league’s most outspoken and aggressive antagonists – especially in the lead up to her title losing fight against Holly Holm, making the shift to the WWE where fans are accustomed to picking sides, Rousey won’t get to wear both hats. Ultimately, to make the most of their investment, and with Lesnar already cast as the unstoppable villain, booking Rousey as a fan favorite might be the best choice. In which case, it might not be an avoidable fate that she gets the ball rolling by planting her feet firmly in the role as a patriotic American woman who is grateful for the opportunities that living in the USA has afforded her in life. In that context, could there be a better rival than the Russian Lana?
10. Mickie James
During her exodus from the WWE, we have rarely ever heard the name Mickie James. Sure, she went on to TNA where she reproduced her WWE success as a championship-winning competitor and took time off to pursue other projects including family and music endeavors. However, James’ re-introduction to the WWE, as a former Women’s and Divas champion, to the NXT division, has to be a bit of a step down for the proven commodity. Mickie achieved great popularity during her previous WWE run. Given her experience – a showdown with Ronda Rousey would cement her abilities as a ring general and remind the decision makers at the WWE why she was so successful the first time around. In James, Rousey would find one of the most experienced ring foes possible, and like herself, one with something to prove to the WWE Universe.
9. Dana Brooke
Over the past several months, Dana Brooke has largely been cast as the evil underling to the emerging star Charlotte. However, it is important not to dismiss the hard work and proven ability of Brooke, who has earned her spot as part of the WWE Women’s Division on her own merit. In showdowns against the best in the division at this time, Dana Brooke has shown signs of being a future champion herself. Dana Brooke vs. Ronda Rousey might well be booked as a tune up match to give the WWE audience their first taste of what Rousey can do in a pro wrestling environment en route to a bigger match at WrestleMania. But you can bet it’s still going to be one of the most aggressive challenges that Rousey has faced in her professional career to date as Dana Brooke’s killer instinct and ring savvy improves with each passing outing.
While the signing and debut of Shinsuke Nakamura might have been one of the most highly promoted acquisitions of a Japanese wrestler ever in the WWE, Asuka has quietly been building an unparalleled resume in the promotion’s NXT division. Confidently declaring “Nobody is ready for Asuka”, the current NXT women’s champion can point to a long undefeated streak and some of the most aggressive women’s matches ever seen in North America to back up her claim. Put the high impact Asuka against an incoming UFC champion and you have a recipe for what is sure to be a showdown more anticipated than CM Punk’s UFC debut. Could such a match yield similar results, with the incoming cross-over athlete falling short of the mark? Or would Rousey fire a warning shot through the entire women’s division by being the first opponent to humble the dominant NXT champion?
7. Sasha Banks
One needs only rewatch Sasha Banks’ all out performance as the headliner at the recent Hell in a Cell PPV to identify that this is a rising star that continues to defy the odds. While outsized by many of her peers, Banks has proven to be resilient and focused. Combine with that her freshly earned experience doing battle inside the confines of the steel cage and this east coast-west coast battle between Banks and Rousey is sure to find itself with fans equally split down the middle to identify a favorite. Sasha Banks, and her connection to rapper Snoop Dogg, combined with Ronda Rousey and her mainstream visibility from the octagon is sure to create a wave of interest from the world of entertainment and pop culture that fits right into the WWE’s re-branding from a professional wrestling company to a multi-media and entertainment super power. Vince McMahon is somewhere in an arena counting dollar signs thinking about this one.
6. Sarah Stock
Perhaps one of the greatest crimes of the current generation of wrestling is that the WWE is sitting on one of the most versatile women in the history of the sport and has her assigned as an agent and trainer, absent from view. Sarah Stock, a former TNA Knockouts tag team champion under the name Sarita, has been helping to mentor active stars on the roster for the past year. However, she is still in peak condition herself, having spent the majority of her career in Mexico where she has emerged as one of the biggest foreign stars to ever headline in the country. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Stock was actually training for a career in kick boxing when the opportunity arose to get into professional wrestling. In Sarah Stock, the WWE could put forward a competitor that has all the tools to go toe to toe with Rousey, and ensure that she is well initiated to the sport of professional wrestling.
If the WWE is looking to the model that they have used with Lesnar in developing their first crossover UFC star in the women’s division also as a villain, there may not be any better introduction to wrestling audiences than in a match against “The Hugger” Bayley. While cast as a naïve, bubbly anti-diva, Bayley’s background prior to the WWE paying her dues on the independents to earn her opportunity may be forgotten by most of the fanbase. Still, her standout performances such as that at the NXT’s first Takeover event have helped to catapult the women’s division. It seems appropriate that Rousey sets the tone as an incoming villain by targeting the seemingly innocent Bayley. Rousey’s status as a villain would be immediately cemented and her wrestling career launched. Should Bayley emerge with a win, we could expect to see an evolution of her character as well as she “matures” to main event designation.
Let’s forget for a moment that the timing of Natalya’s career was most unfortunate. She arrived too late to be involved in the titanic battles between Trish Stratus and Lita, and she arrived too early to be a leading face on the scene in the “youth movement” of the latest women’s division. Still, Natalya is in the mix and even foes like Charlotte will tell you that she is a queen in the women’s division. A third generation star that has adapted to every role that the WWE has put in front of her, Natalya’s roots in the Hart family dungeon in Calgary, make her a great choice to teach Rousey the ropes. Signing this match would continue a family tradition. Don’t forget the role that Owen Hart played in helped to acquaint both Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn from the UFC into the culture of the WWE. Natalya vs. Rousey is a match that wrestling fans could get excited about.
3. Stephanie McMahon
Let’s not forget that a seed has been planted in the minds of wrestling fans with Rousey’s brief appearance already at WrestleMania. Alongside The Rock, Rousey unceremoniously showed up Stephanie McMahon on her own home turf. That may well fuel Stephanie’s desire to lock Rousey into a contract for a future showdown. The McMahon family is no stranger to interjecting themselves into the action when there are dollars on the line. Let’s not forget the matches between Vince McMahon and Steve Austin, or Shane McMahon falling off anything her could climb. Stephanie is focused on “what’s best for business” and if that means increased buy rates to put herself across the ring from Ronda Rousey, we don’t expect Stephanie to back down. Could Rousey vs. Stephanie be the Austin vs. Vince dynamic of the current generation of the WWE’s televised product? Rousey certainly presents the opportunity for someone to physically stand up to Steph like no other woman on the roster before her.
2. Becky Lynch
She’s the “Lass Kicker” and that’s almost all you need to know to identify that the WWE Smackdown Women’s champion Becky Lynch should be near the front of the line for a match against Ronda Rousey. Lynch got her start in Ireland, training in a very physical environment and often finding herself embroiled in legitimate combat starting in her teens. Still, her resilience and her focus saw her take her career internationally, competing in Germany and Canada even barely into her 20’s. Becky’s direct in-your-face manner of wrestling as well as speaking is sure to generate box office interest from the press conference through to the final bell of their match. Additionally, coming from a few years on top with championships on the line, we have to believe that Rousey is looking to secure a championship as soon as possible upon arrival to declare her dominance in women’s sports.
It comes down to basic prison psychology: if you want to serve notice on the entire institution, you need to challenge the biggest dog in the yard. At the present time in the WWE, there can be no doubt that Charlotte Flair reigns as the queen of the women’s division. A natural villain with the poise and ice cold stare of Maleficent, Charlotte may have opened the door to a career in the sport with her last name, but she has earned and retained her spot on her own merits. Fresh off a victory in the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match, marking also one of the first times ever that the ladies have headlined a WWE event, Charlotte is the natural choice to pit against the incoming Ronda Rousey. To be the best, you have to beat the best. That’s a statement that Ric Flair reminded us of for more than a decade. Charlotte, now perched atop the mountain, must be prepared for everyone climbing with intent to knock her off.