To paraphrase a quote from the great Albert Einstein, do not judge a fish solely off its ability to climb a tree. For certain talent to perform to the best of their capabilities, it really can be as simple as finding a way to put them in their element. That’s exactly what WWE did with Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey in the lead up to SummerSlam.
These two longtime friends and training partners, turned kayfabe enemies, will return to their roots Saturday night in an MMA Rules Match. A program built around Shayna’s bitter jealousy toward Ronda, for always finding a way to steal the spotlight, even though Baszler truly believes herself to be the better competitor.
Both the Queen of Spades and the Baddest Woman on the Planet received rave reviews for their performances this past Monday on Raw.
They participated in two highly emotional sit-down interview segments to better give the audience an idea for how things between these two women have reached this point. A teary-eyed Shayna Baszler promising that Rousey’s young daughter will never forgive her for what she’s about to do to her mother.
Cue Ron Simmons — DAMN!
Both Paul Heyman and producer Jeremy Borash reportedly had a hand in putting together those packages, but Shanya Baszler told Cageside Seats during the SummerSlam press junket that the real secret to the success of those interview sessions was that they were just that — interviews.
“We just sat down and answered questions. I’ve said the whole time. The thing about both of us is that we don’t do ‘promo’, right? Like, there’s a sort of cadence and fluctuation that happens for a wrestling promo. But we’ve come up in combat sports, both of us, our whole lives and done interviews,” Baszler said. “Like, I’m not promo-ing you right now. I’m just answering your questions. And so that’s the way we deliver... how we speak on the show. And I think that the people that have issue with it, aren’t used to hearing just a more natural cadence and a way to speak. And it’s just, when you put us in an environment like that or in a setting like that, it clicks a little better.”
The ultimate contrast to what the WWE Universe hears from a Shayna Baszler or a Ronda Rousey on a live microphone, would be someone like L.A. Knight. A man who struts to the ring with all the bravado in the world. A walking-talking personification of professional wrestling in the 1980s.
He’s loud, he brash, he’s quick-witted and brings a level of energy that captures the crowd so much they can’t help but scream L-A-KNIGHT, YEAH!
By their own admission, that style and environment is not where Baszler and Rousey are going to excel on a consistent basis. Just based off the direct comparison to other Superstars.
“WWE promos sound a certain way on Raw and SmackDown,” Baszler said. “So when something sounds different, it seems a little off. It’s not, but people might not recognize it, but they’ll be like, ‘ah man, they’re not doing promo!’ But when you set us in a setting like that, immediately people understand. So I think it resonates a little bit better in that sort of setting... let us do what we do and set us up for success in how we do it.”
If Ronda Rousey truly is set to leave WWE in the very near future (reportedly this could be her final match), then she’s going out on a high note. We’ve heard the term “hard out” regarding her contract status for the last several months now and that coupled with her injury in the run up to this year’s WrestleMania resulted in both her and Shayna being dropped into a creative cyclone.
In a matter of just a couple months, the pair won the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships, unified them with the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships, lost the titles at Money in the Bank thanks to Shayna’s betrayal, and are now set to blow off this highly emotional feud tonight in Detroit.
That’s easily 6-months worth of storylines and build, that had to be crammed into just a few weeks due to outside circumstances. Shayna Baszler admits the entire process has been chaos, but an opportunity for her to prove that she can handle anything the company throws her way.
“That’s kind of the standard in this business. It’s been nonstop. It’s been a wild ride. But I mean, we’re where we’re at now and that’s the way you gotta deal with it. You know, if you can’t do that in this business, you ain’t gonna go anywhere. So it’s good. It’s a good problem to have.”
And while Baszler and Rousey’s dream run as the Women’s Tag Team Champions only lasted a few weeks, they certainly accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time. Including multiple successful defenses in which they put over teams like Kayden Carter and Katana Chance, as well as Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn.
Baszler’s team may have won those matches, but they were not dominant by any stretch of the imagination. They bumped and sold their butts off and helped establish both teams as legitimate threats in the division.
Now the hope is that WWE will continue to build off of that momentum and that the division will finally have some stability with Chelsea Green and Sonya Deville as the new Tag Team Champions.
Leaving the division better than when they entered it, was always the end goal for Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey.
“I think it’s hard to argue that we didn’t bring legitimacy and help those titles out. And that’s something that Ronda and I are gonna do just by being who we are and that was a goal we had from the start of even chasing those titles. We wanted to bring some importance to those. And I think during even the short time that we had them, it’s hard to argue that we didn’t do that.”
Unfortunately for fans of tag team wrestling, it’s all about the singles competitors at this year’s SummerSlam. The most intriguing of them all, may be the MMA Rules Match between Baszler and Rousey.
Just what exactly is that going to look like? Will it be a cohesive marriage between the mixed martial arts and pro wrestling styles?
The only thing that’s clear at the moment, is that Shayna Baszler is ready to bring her MMA background onto the big SummerSlam stage. And she’s genuinely happy to be doing it with Ronda Rousey.
“MMA and pro wrestling have a very shared history, and I think more than like showcasing us per se, I get to showcase my lineage, my martial arts lineage coming up. So, it’s special for me just in that aspect. And then I’m glad, you know, there’s someone [Rousey] that can handle it. So, it’s not just gonna be like a two minute thing. Hopefully. I won’t complain if I win in two minutes, but you know what I mean, to showcase the true roots of pro wrestling.”
You can watch our full conversation with Shayna Baszler in the video at the top of the page, and of course, you can check out her match tonight at SummerSlam against Ronda Rousey. Coverage starts at 8pm ET on Peacock, and follow our coverage of all the action in our live blog.
We also had a chance to chat with Cody Rhodes briefly, ahead of his return to SummerSlam — read about and watch that here.