After years of speculation, we’re finally seeing Ronda Rousey as a regular part of WWE programming. And after a mixed martial arts career where she left an incredible legacy only a fool would debate, the possibility exists for her to do something similar in the squared circle.
Rousey was a mainstream star in MMA -- especially during her time in the UFC -- and she was dominant in a fashion that forced the rest of women’s MMA to catch up, resulting in an elevated skill level throughout the sport.
She also was the reason the UFC brought women to the octagon after years of Dana White’s standard answer of “never.”
While women have long been a standard part of WWE programming, and in recent years much of their in-ring work is regarded as often on-par with the men’s roster, intergender matches are still mostly off the menu.
When men and women have mixed it up through WWE history, it’s been exceedingly rare for women to be presented as on the same competitive level and almost always presented as comedy (Chyna, Lita and Jacqueline being the obvious exceptions).
Meanwhile, the independent scene has normalized the concept of men facing off with women by presenting the matches as ... well, matches.
There are size and strength differences at play, but there are with male vs. male or female vs. female matches as well. And as long as matches aren’t played off as “watch this man beat up this woman,” there’s little disturbing about the contests.
WWE’s flirtations with the idea have been evident over the past year with James Ellsworth routinely involved with women’s matches until being taken down one-on-one by Becky Lynch.
And NXT has layered the right interactions to make such matches possible throughout its history.
Rousey has been presented as an absolute killer, dominating Triple H physically and not backing down from the idea of a fight with one of the most accomplished men in wrestling history.
Their staredown during the WrestleMania press conference last week was a brilliant bite-sized example of her presentation.
Rousey, clutch in hand, looks ready for a fight no matter the size difference.
Following WrestleMania, it would be a shame to see her slotted into the women’s division for whatever schedule she works for the company.
Far more interesting would be for her to scrap with anyone and everyone she has issue with. Her MMA bona fides make her a believable threat to anyone in the cartoon world of pro wrestling. Let’s not forget how much of her MMA career featured a segment of fans and media outlets debating the winner in a hypothetical showdown with Floyd Mayweather.
Rousey could be the bridge between the men and women.
Imagine Rousey battling on an even level with Triple H and then going back-and-forth with Charlotte a month later. There’s some simple math there suggesting “well, if Rousey could hang with him, and Charlotte could hang with her, I wonder what would happen if…”
As intergender wrestling has become a bigger staple of the wrestling scene, WWE is looking out of touch and missing out on opportunities to freshen up their product.
Of course, the PG rating and concerns over the almost certain stories decrying violence against women and missing the point of empowerment that has spawned from intergender wrestling on the indies. And there’s the matter of Rousey’s in-ring capabilities, which remain a mystery.
But if there were ever a right person to test the waters, it’s Ronda Rousey.