Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 32. I know, you know, and our comment section knows that there’s nothing people like talking about more than Rousey, and what she’ll do next. The overwhelming response to the idea of her showing up at the next WrestleMania from both fans and Rousey herself seems to be Yes. Of course! Bring it on. So, what should we do when things from MMA and WWE — two very different places on the physical entertainment spectrum — collide? Well, we could try to fight about, but we’re writers so that seems like a bad idea.
Instead, let’s try to embrace each other in a very welcoming, strictly platonic sort of way. I recruited Ryan Harkness from the MMA side of things to explain a bit about Rousey’s fighting history, and, you know, me from the pro wrestling side to hem and haw and fuss about him getting his real fights in my fake ones.
Most everyone heard about Triple H getting tossed around at WrestleMania 31, and if you haven’t, please feel free to watch it over and over to your heart’s content. This, however, wasn’t the first time Rousey’s gotten physically involved in pro wrestling. California wrestling promotion PWG is known for their cult following, occasional celebrity guest, and insane matches that seem to defy any physical logic. Rousey and her friends are big fans, and Rousey herself got in on the action by chopping the super jacked and intensely beloved Biff Busick:
Rousey has been a WWE guest of honor, taken her nickname from Rowdy Roddy Piper, and riffed on the legendary Four Horseman stable by referring to her and her friends as the Four Horsewomen. I mean, come one, she even gets The Rock to take her photos:
That kind of fandom is hard to deny.
RYAN: On the MMA side of things, Ronda Rousey has been kicking asses and taking names from the moment she arrived in the sport from Olympic judo. It took her all of 23 seconds to win her first amateur fight, and then two years and another six fights before someone managed to last more than a minute in the cage with her. Her dominating record is a result of the specific rules of judo she trained under, where submissions had to be locked in and pulled off in a matter of seconds, or the referee would reset you standing.
Some tried to dismiss her as a one trick pony due to her first 11 fights all ending via armbar, but if she was when she started, she certainly isn’t any more. She strikes with precision and power and has absorbed blows from heavy hitters without flinching. Her wrestling isn’t a factor because allowing her to grab a hold of you means getting thrown, submitted, or both. As it stands, there aren’t many credible challengers for her in the women’s division. For that reason, more and more people are seriously proposing she become the first woman to compete in a men’s division.
Considering all that, I’m part of that insufferable group that feels a straight Ronda vs. Stephanie McMahon fight would be too ridiculous to believe… even for pro wrestling. You might as well put her in with Brock Lesnar and expect me to buy her getting a couple of good shots in before annihilation. So, I’d much rather have “contractual obligations” force the two to stay ringside while surrogates — obvious choices being The Rock and Triple H — fight, with, like, I dunno, Shaq or some sh*t celebrity officiating.
DANIELLE: To an extent, I agree. I want to be a big fussy baby about it and say that putting an MMA fighter in the mix is a bad idea. WWE can’t even create enough suspension of disbelief for their already existing women for people to believe that they’re talented wrestlers. Some of the complaints I’ve seen are that she’s interacting with an authority figure, and not with one of the wrestlers. Others point out that Rousey can’t fight the women’s wrestlers because she’s everything they aren’t on the main roster: strong, fierce, intimidating, and respected. While that’s true, and if I were trained in how to take back bumps and not, say, muay thai, I would probably not want to get into it with her, either. But again, this is pro wrestling. Wrestlers are whatever they’re written to be. Seth Rollins is a sniveling, cowardly heel, but that guy is sheer Crossfit-bred muscle, and I’m gonna bet that a for-real punch from that dude would still hurt, no matter what his character dictates. There’s not enough context for her to get in the ring with a women’s wrestler, so that’s out.
Unfortunately, it’s the same thing with Steph. Not only is she not trained as extensively as most of the wrestlers, but she’s also, you know, a mom? Nobody is gonna believe anything but Rousey getting in the ring and ripping her arm clean from her body, then beating her unconscious with it. That’s cold, but that’s the reality of the situation. Anything less than that isn’t going to be believed. So, bye-bye, Steph.
That only really leaves, as Ryan mentioned, being in the corners and managing The Rock and Triple H. The rumor leading into WrestleMania 31 was that if The Rock showed up, it would be to set up a match between him and Triple H for WrestleMania 32, potentially both of their last showings in a ring. What better way to do it than have someone who went on to be one of the biggest actual superstars in the world be managed by the most famous, legend-in-her-own-time UFC powerhouse, Rousey? This still leaves room for some kind of confrontation or altercation between her and Stephanie, so she still gets the fun she had back in March, but she doesn’t have to be prevented from doing anything overtly physical that could potentially injure her before a fight.
From a business standpoint, it makes sense to have her involved as much as possible. WWE has never been able to crack the mainstream quite like it did in the Attitude Era, and whether you follow wrestling or MMA, all eyes are on Rousey. WWE is deepening its relationship with ESPN, and MMA and pro wrestling can both benefit from playing nice with each other.
So, will I stick with my fake fights? Oh my goodness, absolutely. Two days ago, I watched a scientist wrestle a space monkey, and I just texted the girlfriend of a wrestling anthropomorphic ant. I am all in on these weirdos. Will I be mopey about MMA sticking its fingers-that-will-injure-you-for-real into my fantastic world of pro graps? Well… I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want WWE to emulate those key elements that people love about Rousey in their own female wrestlers first, but in the right context, and without the cost of making anyone look weaker than they should, sure. I want pro wrestling to be popular and successful, and to grow instead of staying stagnant and trapped in this cycle of recidivist sexism and prejudiced.
If Rousey standing triumphant next to The Rock’s raised hand in Dallas next year is what it takes to help that along, then of course! Bring it on.