Based on her veteran status, and their relationship as training partners, Natalya was mentioned as a possible opponent for Ronda Rousey as soon as the former UFC champ signed with WWE. They’ve both stayed babyfaces and on-screen allies throughout the Rowdy One’s 2018 run, though. But it didn’t mean we wouldn’t get a match between Natty and the reigning Raw Women’s champ.
That match came on the episode which aired on Dec. 24, courtesy of Natalya winning a #1 contender gauntlet on the previous edition of Raw. They stayed friendly through the build and into the start of the match. But the Hart Dungeon grad was clearly looking to seize a big opportunity and brought more intensity to their encounter, even as both women kept it on the up-and-up through a largely technical match.
For Rousey, she was acting as if she was holding back on her friend. She certainly showed some concern for Natty when she took a rough-looking bump to the floor. But the challenger didn’t return the favor when she snapped off a suplex and threw Ronda into the ring post, taking control of the match:
The story was that the champ had to set her emotions aside to keep her title. Not wanting to inflict punishment on her friend and mentor kept her from applying the arm bar on a couple occassions, and eventually led to a nice suspense-building Sharpshooter:
Rousey countered that into her submission finisher, and Nat was forced to tap.
The camera hung on the pair after the bell, almost anticipating a follow-up attack by the veteran. But it never came. Friendship, and Rowdy Ronda Rousey, wins again.
Don’t miss any of the action from the Christmas Eve Raw with our live blog here.