It has been rumoured for months, but we now have confirmation that Ronda Rousey has signed a full-time contract with WWE. In the ESPN article that broke the news, she stated that her professional wrestling career is now her priority for the next several years. To a Rousey fan such as myself, this news is huge.
Ever since the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match was announced, it had been strongly suggested that Rousey would be a surprise entrant. The expectation was that she would win the match, then go on to headline Wrestlemania 34 in April 2018, before disappearing with a handsome pay cheque. The truth turned out to be very different to the rumours.
As the 2018 Royal Rumble drew to a close, every woman had entered the historic match (which, very sensibly, was the main event), and there was no sign of Rousey. There was a tinge of disappointment, but also a sense of happiness that WWE were going to crown one of their own roster as the first winner, rather than someone else who hasn’t played a direct part in the rise of women’s wrestling within the company. Asuka would eventually win the match, and seal her match for Wrestlemania. She just had one decision to make: does she challenge Charlotte Flair of Smackdown, or Alexa Bliss of RAW? Before she could make her decision, music hit, and the camera cut to the stage to reveal Ronda Rousey entering the arena. The crowd went crazy, as one of the greatest female athletes of all time made her way to the ring, where she proceeded to point to the Wrestlemania sign, and seemingly make immediate enemies out of the three women in the ring. There was confusion over what all of this meant, but two things were clear:
- Ronda Rousey is now in the WWE
- She is going to Wrestlemania
Immediately after this, ESPN‘s article broke (clearly with WWE‘s input), confirming that Rousey had signed a deal, and that she was not simply coming in for a smash and grab payday. She was all in, and full-time. WWE was to be her new home.
The fact that Rousey’s deal is full-time is significant. It was never considered plausible that she could, or even would, work a full schedule for the company. She has a lot of projects in her life, including movies, and no one would have expected her to make herself available to work a full calendar for WWE. But that is what she has signed on to do, even though she admits in her first interview that she will make less money by doing so.
Rousey is a big wrestling fan, and always has been. She was always inspired by the late, great, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (hence her own nickname), and that was on display in her appearance at the Royal Rumble, as she came out in a Hot Rod jacket, and sported a shirt and screen graphics inspired by Piper’s own. Wrestling excites her, and she doesn’t want to just show up for the big dates to earn a big pay day, which many do these days (even Brock Lesnar, who also worked in UFC for a time). She’s a trailblazer, and by signing full-time, she’s leading the way again, and changing the game as she always does.
Quite what Rousey’s future looks like is uncertain. Will she be on RAW or Smackdown? Or both? What match is she destined for at Wrestlemania 34? Those are just the immediate questions, and there are so many more.
From a WWE perspective, this deal is perfect for them. Rousey will sell lots of merch, and bring lots of new eyes to their television shows and live events. Her full-time status also means that the fanbase will not reject her like they have done to so many before her. It’s win-win for Rousey, for WWE, and for wrestling fans everywhere.
In 2016, we asked Would Ronda Rousey tarnish her legacy by joining WWE? We don’t have a definitive answer to that yet, but first impressions are that this could go very well. I’m excited, and all fans should be too. WWE played this one perfectly, and at the Royal Rumble they capped off what was already an historic night with a moment that will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.