The big story coming out of this year’s Royal Rumble was the main-event, which featured the first ever 30-woman Royal Rumble match. It was a thrilling, fun, exciting, and well-executed spectacle of a match that more than lived up to the hype, and more importantly, more than lived up to the magnitude of the moment. For years the women of WWE and many of the fans have pushed for equality for the female wrestlers, for them to be given the oppertunity to stand on the same level as their male counterparts and be treated just as “the boys” are treated. At the Royal Rumble, finally, they were.
By that I mean after putting on a barn-burner of a match, they were promptly upstaged by an ex-UFC fighter who fell backwards into a main-event spot by doing nothing more than showing up and being famous.
Welcome to being treated like the men!
Snark aside, there’s no question that signing Ronda Rousey is a big get for Vince McMahon. It’s particularly significant since we are nearing the end of Brock Lesnar’s current contract with WWE. Now that’s not to say the two sides won’t work out another deal, but if they don’t WWE has, you might say, simply swapped out one special attraction for another.
You might say that, but if you think that signing Ronda Rousey is the same as re-signing Brock Lesnar...you would be mistaken.
There are some significant differences between Ronda and Brock and it remains to be seen if the weaknesses she brings to the table will be overshadowed by her strengths, if those weaknesses will diminish over time, or if they will start her new career on the wrong foot and poison the well at the beginning of this new WWE adventure she’s about to start.
Let’s start there, with what Ronda doesn’t bring to the table in contrast with Brock.
For all the talk about Brock being a lazy worker these days, reliant on the same two moves of doom throughout his quarter-annual ten-minute matches, he is at least a “wrestler.” And I use that term in both of the ways one might when discussing WWE superstars. Brock is an accomplished amateur wrestler, an NCAA champion wrestler in fact, and one of the very very few who could—in a different era—step into the ring with Kurt Angle and go move for move with the Olympian. You don’t have to be a “wrestler” to make it in WWE, of course, but, generally speaking, it can only help.
Brock is also a “wrestler” with a sports-entertainment career that lasted from 2000-2004 before he left for UFC. When he appeared on the Raw After WrestleMania show in 2012 to face down John Cena it was as a man coming back to what made him huge. He was slipping into old shoes. Yes his style has changed (devolved if you ask me), but it’s still something he has had years doing.
Ronda Rousey has never wrestled. She has a black belt in Judo—which is Japanese Wrestling if we’re being technical—and became the first woman to win a (bronze) medal in the Olympic Games. She transitioned naturally to mixed-martial arts, where she won and won fast. Many of her victories came in less time than it’s taken you to read this paragraph. But judo and UFC are not the same as “wrestling,” as western audiences know it; it’s not amateur wrestling and it’s not the “cartoon world of wrestling” that Vince McMahon oversees.
So to say Ronda coming to WWE is the same as Brock coming to WWE is a gross misrepresentation.
That’s not say, however, that WWE signing her is a “big risk” or even “doomed to fail” as some are shouting. It’s just to say that it’s far more likely that she won’t have the instant-success that she had in UFC, or that Brock Lesnar had in WWE (and UFC, coincidentally). On the contrary, there are a lot of reasons why this was a smart deal on WWE’s part, and a deal that could pay off in a big way, in ways that Brock’s deal has not.
For one thing Ronda is genuinely excited to be doing this. Now, granted, WWE has an amazing ability to suck the life out of anyone who loves what they do, and those who enter the business as fans of the business, ironically end up more likely to be chewed up and spat out than those who approach it from a business-first mindset. Being a longtime WWF/E fan and suddenly getting to work for Vince McMahon is not like being a longtime fan of space and getting to work for Elon Musk. It’s more like growing up loving chocolate and then taking a tour of Willy Wonka’s factory.
Nevertheless, Ronda has something Brock doesn’t have and that’s a will to make it work. She understands the history and legacy of this silly pseudo sport and seems legitimately eager to leave a positive mark on it. Brock...is not that.
For another thing—and it really ties in with the previous—Ronda is (going to be) a full-timer. You may not see her on 20 shows a month or whatever crazy house/tv show schedule the performers work these days, but you’ll see her on TV almost every week and on “several” house shows. She’s officially a full-timer (once her current movie obligation is finished), so she’s going to have a lot of opportunity to hone her craft and figure out what works for her. It’s kind of scary watching someone so green to the job essentially figuring things out like an NXT rookie (who is a million times more famous than any NXT rookie ever will be), but I want to believe the WWE fanbase will be patient with her because they see how much she wants it.
Then again I’m a sucker.
Finally, put those two big differences from Brock Lesnar together—her will and her work ethic—and you’ll find the biggest difference from Brock Lesnar. Brock’s a guy with no passion for the business and thus no desire to improve his craft. He is a huge name with a huge frame so of course Vince salivates over him (and will probably bend over backwards to sign a new deal with him), and though Lesnar seems to genuinely enjoy the moment when the spotlight is on and he can just start throwing hands, ultimately he has no want-to and no incentive to improve on his several weaknesses as a WWE superstar (repetitive matches, lack of promo skills, chicken legs).
Rousey has both will and work-ethic, so while she may not realistically be able to step onto SmackDown or Raw in a few weeks and start owning her character and dominating in the ring like she did in the octagon, I know she will give her time in WWE 110% and for that, I’m ready to cheer her on.
Thoughts or comments, Cagesiders? Are you excited about Rousey officially joining the WWE Family? How long is your leash (or how quick is your hook) when it comes to her? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.