Scenes of men and women’s wrestlers fighting one another aren’t as rare as they used to be in WWE. They’re still mostly limited to mixed tag matches where all the legal violence is supposed to happen between people of the same sex, or spots outside of matches where a female performer hits a move on a male one.
The squash match we got between Rhea Ripley and Akira Tozawa last night (Dec. 19) on Raw wasn’t too different than those things. Ripley delivered most of the offense, and the moves she did take from Tozawa were the result of him countering her attacks.
But the fact it was booked as an official match between a man and a woman made it stand out. And it’s the latest step in WWE presenting The Judgement Day heavy hitter as an equal to anyone on the roster — man or woman.
They’ve given us little teases of a character like Rhea’s before. Beth Phoenix (who still has unfinished business with The Nightmare, which will probably represent another big step in Ripley’s rise to the top of the card) was presented as being as much of a threat to the guys as she was to the gals. Kharma (aka Awesome Kong) and Nia Jax has their Royal Rumble moments... and don’t be surprised if Rhea pulls double duty and works both Rumble matches next month.
Not since Chyna have we seen a woman consistently presented like this, though. Seeing as the men in charge of WWE creative these days were teammates of the Ninth Wonder of the World (and may be looking to elevate our memories of Joanie Laurer now after failing to do so during the tragic final years of her life), maybe that’s not a surprise.
Given the landscape of women’s wrestling in 2023, Ripley should be able to do more with the role too. Especially if the occasional intergender match is a part of the storytelling tool kit. Rhea’s success competing against men can be used to not only make her a bigger star, that rub can transfer to any woman who can hang with or beat her. And there are a lot more females being presented that way now than there were on the roster in Chyna’s heyday.
Ripley isn’t a Chyna clone or tribute act, by any stretch of the imagination. The 26 year old Australian has a charm and charisma that’s all her own, and it’s evident even when she’s beating up a beloved legend like Rey Mysterio or trolling Beth Phoenix. Even if WWE didn’t loosen up their restrictions on intergender wrestling, she’d likely still become a big star.
With a few more squashes like this on the table, or maybe even an Intercontinental or United States title reign somewhere down the line? Rhea Ripley might just become the Tenth Wonder of the World.