Rhea Ripley was arguably the top star in NXT prior to the coronavirus pandemic. She closed out 2019 by ending Shayna Baszler’s reign of dominance in the NXT women’s division. Soon after that, Charlotte Flair won the 2020 Royal Rumble match. It quickly became apparent that Ripley was going to have the biggest match of her career, against The Queen, on the biggest wrestling show of the year, WrestleMania 36.
But then the pandemic hit, audiences went away, WrestleMania 36 took place inside an empty warehouse (and a boneyard), and Ripley lost her NXT championship to Charlotte Flair. On the bright side, many fans consider their match to be the best of the two night event.
Charlotte Flair would then drop the title to Io Shirai at TakeOver: In Your House, in a triple threat match where Ripley took the fall. Since then, Rhea has largely been feuding with comedy act Robert Stone on weekly NXT television.
Ripley spoke with Newsweek about her rollercoaster year, and she admitted that her star has diminished since that loss at WrestleMania 36 to Flair:
“I feel like [the spotlight on me] diminished a little bit, but we all have to share the spotlight. I had my time to shine and it will come again, but right now Io is the NXT Women’s Champion and I’m working my way back up to be in that spotlight again. Whether that comes or not, we’ll see. I’ve got to try other things and face other people as well. I had my time and everyone is going to have their time and I’m just happy to be here and wrestling and kicking butt.”
Ripley is okay with how things have played out and she sounds pretty happy with the Robert Stone storyline:
“How many people in the women’s division can say they wrestled Robert Stone? Just me. To me that’s cool. It doesn’t always matter if you’re in the title picture, you just gotta make the best of what you’re given and it was fun for me. It wasn’t as serious as everything leading up to WrestleMania and after, it was more fun. And I did really enjoy it.”
“At the end of the day, we are humans, right? Humans have different emotions and do different things and I needed to grow. Everyone has seen the serious side of myself and sometimes I need to take a chill pill and have a good laugh. That’s who I am as a person. I’d rather be real in the ring then someone who is trying to play a character.”
Ripley also offers an optimistic take on her feud with Flair:
“Going out there and performing in front of no one I didn’t think I would be able to do, especially stepping in there with none other than Charlotte Flair. She’s no easy competitor to step into the ring with and I think that match made me so much better in so many different ways. It’s hard to describe those ways, but it made me feel better about myself and it made my craft better.”
It’s not the most convincing argument that she can’t describe the ways the Flair match made her better. Nonetheless, Ripley is quite happy with her work in NXT and it doesn’t sound like she’s interested in a call up to the main roster any time soon:
“I don’t think I can ever outgrow NXT. There is always something coming up and I honestly want to be in NXT for a long long time. Whether that’s the case or not, I don’t know, I don’t have that call. I feel like I have so much more to do here. Whether that’s singles matches or whatever, I love NXT and I love being a part of it. And I hope I’m here for longer. I guess we’ll see.”
I’m pretty sure that Ripley is correct and her time to shine will come again. When do you think that time will be, Cagesiders?