Ronda Rousey officially made her debut as a full-time WWE employee at the Royal Rumble, coming out to confront both the Smackdown and Raw women’s champions and all the while, looking like the female version of Roddy Piper. But, this wasn’t just a fan of Piper showing her love for the great. Her dedication to the legend goes beyond adopting the “Rowdy” nickname and font.
Ronda Rousey and Roddy Piper were both trained by the mythical Judo Gene Lebell. When Ronda’s friends gave her the “Rowdy” nickname years ago, Ronda felt guilty about “stealing” a Hall of Famer’s name. So, Gene set up a meeting between the two where Piper gave her his blessing on using his nickname, and they remained in touch until his death.
It’s important to know that Lebell is at the head of the world’s most fascinating combat lineages. He’s trained everyone from Piper to Chuck Norris to Ronda (and he made Steven Seagal pee himself after he choked him unconscious), and has of course lent his name to Daniel Bryan’s finisher in the past.
It’s via Lebell’s hard-nosed and sometimes hilarious style of training that so many greats were able to learn judo and become champions in multiple sports. And when Lebell gives someone his mark of approval, you’re indoctrinated into an elite club of athletes. That’s how Piper and Rousey connected. Two judo black belts, coming together, knowing that they’ve both been put through the ringer by Lebell. There’s was a friendship forged in mat burns and uki goshis.
Here’s Piper, a week before his death, explaining how he gave her the name.
Now we’ve learned that the ill-fitting jacket Ronda was sporting on her walk out to the WWE ring was actually Roddy’s, given to her by his son:
This isn’t the first time Ronda has paid tribute to Piper. She learned of his death before her knockout win of Bethe Correira at UFC 190 back in 2015.
After she made quick work of her foe, she dedicated the fight to him she told Fox Sports:
“I even told him, I promised him I’m going to do the name proud, I’m going to beat this chick. I told him that and I hope him and my dad had a good time watching it together.”
Now we know that Ronda isn’t taking the “Hot Rod” name, she’s going by Hot Ronda, and it’s in the old Piper font and classic t-shirt. But we know that this isn’t just a co-opting of his style and look, it’s a dedication and a continuation of the training that got her to this point as a former UFC champion and now a WWE Superstar.