During an interview on The DC Check-In, Daniel Cormier asked Ronda Rousey if she was surprised that she received such a big babyface pop from the live audience when she returned to WWE earlier this year at Royal Rumble 2022. She left WWE as a heel in 2019 and shit on the fans multiple times afterwards, apparently in character, so there might have been some uncertainty as to how fans would receive her for this year’s comeback.
Ronda was indeed surprised by the fan reaction for her return to pro wrestling; she expected to be heavily booed for winning the Royal Rumble match just like babyface Batista was rejected by the fans in 2014:
“I was expecting that! I came out with my guard up, and I think I didn’t get to enjoy that moment, because...that’s what I got on the way out.”
“I blocked them out and I didn’t let them in. And I just went in and did my job and got out, and I think I kind of missed out on really enjoying that moment because I was expecting the worst in people. And that’s how the WWE Universe gets you.”
I’d like to point out that being gotten to by the fans is something that Ronda has a knack for, whether it’s WWE or UFC, and it sounds like more of the same right there.
Rousey said she was supposed to return to WWE as a heel, but the reaction she got at Royal Rumble was so loud and positive that Vince McMahon changed plans:
“I know, and I was supposed to come back as a heel! Vince was like, well they popped for her real big, so she’s babyface now. So I recorded a heel interview afterwards, and everyone was like, what the hell? The next Monday I’m like, okay I’m coming in as a heel, and they’re like, no...you need to smile. You need to stop being a bitch.”
Ronda did cut a heel promo on social media after winning the Rumble, saying she won’t be tricked by the fans’ reaction this time. The next night on Raw she was not a smiling babyface, but that changed by the end of the week on SmackDown when she challenged Charlotte Flair to a championship match at WrestleMania 38.