Rhea Ripley is set to take on Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship tonight on night one of WrestleMania 39. A rematch of their bout three years ago on the Grandest Stage of them All, when Ripley lost her NXT Women’s Championship to the Queen.
A win tonight for the Nightmare would not only mean redemption, it would mean accomplishing something that no other woman ever has in WWE history.
At just 26 years-old, Ripley is already a former NXT UK Women’s Champion, NXT Women’s Champion, Raw Women’s Champion, and Women’s Tag Team Champion. All she needs is the blue and white strap that’s currently around the waist of the 14-time Women’s Champion to become the first Superstar to capture all five of those major women’s titles.
Cageside Seats had a chance to catch up with the Ripley at the WrestleMania Press Junket this week, and the 2023 Royal Rumble winner didn’t shy away from saying how much the accomplishment would mean to her.
“Absolutely everything. My whole career here in the WWE has been insane. Starting here in the May Young Classic and just like overcoming so many obstacles. Thinking that I was gonna go home, being on the bridge of getting fired, absolutely everything to then taking over the Women’s Division here in the WWE. I’m very, very proud of myself and I’m glad that I stuck it out and I’m glad that I could be doing it with people like Bianca Belair, Raquel Rodriguez, just like Liv Morgan, Dakota Kai, IYO [SKY].”
Rhea could have rattled off a dozen more names as the list of ascending female talent in WWE, and across professional wrestling, continues to grow. Becky Lynch, Charlotte, Bayley, Asuka and other veterans in WWE don’t appear to be going on where anytime soon.
Bianca Belair looks like she’s just getting started, as is Ripley herself. And if you haven’t looked at who’s down in NXT right now, you really should. The competition across the board is real and it’s a motivating factor for many women on the roster to continue to push themselves to get better every single day.
“They keep me on my toes, that’s for sure,” Ripley said. At the end of the day, we’re here to build the Women’s Division, and it’s been so pleasing and so satisfying seeing how far it’s come over the last few years. And it’s just getting better and better,” Ripley said. “Roxanne Perez, Cora Jade, Tiffany Stratton, like it’s just gonna get better from here. And I’m so excited to see where the Women’s Division goes, and I hope WWE knows that we’re taking over.”
With the collection of talent already on the main roster and the crop of up and comers in NXT, WWE honestly may not have much of a say in the matter. Especially if the vocal supporters of women’s wrestling among the WWE Universe continue to push the company for improvement.
Rhea’s right. The booking of the Women’s Division has come a long way over the last several years. Just look at the Four Horsewomen as an example.
Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch have become two of the biggest stars in company history, regardless of gender. There legitimately was a stretch across 2018-2019 where The Man was the hottest act in all of professional wrestling. Sasha Banks, now Mercedes Moné in NJPW, and Bayley are first ballot Hall of Famers in their own right.
These women shattered glass ceilings and raised the bar for all the Superstars that would one day walk in their footsteps. But there’s always room for improvement and also a potential risk of regression.
“We can go just as hard as the boys. And I think everyone’s realizing that and having the WWE Universe back us and all of you guys just like talk about us all the time. Like it really does help the Women’s Revolution. And I’m excited to see what happens in the future.”
Focusing on the here and now, Rhea Ripley has waited three years for this moment. The last time we saw her and Charlotte at WrestleMania, we did it locked inside our homes. Instead of a packed Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL, the Covid-19 pandemic moved WrestleMania 36 to the WWE performance Center in Orlando.
The Nightmare and the Queen battled over the NXT Women’s Championship with nothing but the sounds of an industrial ceiling fan and the commentary team surrounding them. It’s a much different story this time around with over 65,000 screaming fans expected to be in attendance in Los Angeles.
Insane. I mean, you guys saw what we did in front of zero people in attendance. We went hard and we stole the show, in my opinion and a lot of other people’s opinions as well. So just imagine what we’re gonna do at SoFi Stadium. I think we’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna leave everything that we have in the ring. And I’m so excited that I get to have this opportunity with Charlotte and we get to go out there and just have a banger.”
Rhea Ripley, as well as her boy toy Dominik Mysterio, have the chance to set the tone for the Judgment Day this weekend. Three of the four members have huge matches across both nights of WrestleMania with Mami and Ex-Con Dom in action tonight.
If the overarching story of WrestleMania 39 is the collapse of the Bloodline, which many of us expect and want to see happen, the under the radar story could very well be the ascension of Judgment Day as WWE’s top faction.
I believe it’s more than likely we see Rhea walk out as the new SmackDown Women’s Champion, Finn Balor exercise his demons and beat Edge inside Hell in a Cell, and Dom get the better of his now Hall of Fame father. Although, I’m not nearly as confident in Dominik getting the win now that Rey Mysterio has recruited Legado Del Fantasma to form a new look Latino World Order.
LWO: Latino World Order— WWE (@WWE) April 1, 2023
Legado Del Fantasma has @reymysterio's back and he has theirs. @ZelinaVegaWWE @EscobarWWE @deltoro_wwe @joaquinwilde_ #WrestleMania #SmackDown pic.twitter.com/dfpFxyRnIC
Rey will have back up, but I suspect Dom will have his. Rhea may be occupied with Charlotte, but you can bet that Damian Priest will get involved somewhere this weekend.
He’s the only member of Judgment Day not competing at WrestleMania this year, but have no fear Priest fans. With Backlash heading to the islands of Puerto Rico this year, he should be heavily featured when WWE holds it’s first Premium Live Event there in nearly two decades.
At least he will if his longtime friend Rhea Ripley has anything to say about it.
“He better be,” Ripley said. “I’m not afraid to fight someone. I’ve fought men before.”
Everyone should have someone in their lives that will go to bat for them like Rhea Ripley. When it comes to this weekend potentially being a career altering one for her and the rest of her team:
“All I really gotta say is everyone rise for the Judgment Day because we’re taking over the WWE and there’s not a thing that any of you guys can do about it.”
Make sure to check our full interview with Rhea Ripley in the video at the top of the page. You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.