After spending three years ripping women’s arms off as the Strikeforce/UFC bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey fell from grace in the most public fashion. A devastating knockout at the hands of Holly Holm in 2015 was followed by a year-long layoff. What was supposed to be a triumphant return at UFC 207 (Dec. 2016) turned into another brutal knockout loss just 48 seconds in, as Amanda Nunes made quick work of the former Olympic judoka.
Though her pro-fighting career met a fizzling finish, there’s no denying the impact Rousey had on the sport. As much as UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor takes credit for the UFC’s $4 billion price tag, Rousey’s meteoric rise also paved the way for that exorbitant expenditure by WME-IMG. The 30-year-old not only arm-barred her way to a UFC title, she also found herself showing up on Hollywood red carpets and TMZ videos. She was the perfect pairing of personality and pugilism, something she took from her love of pro-wrestling.
So it’s no coincidence that Rousey started her long-rumored WWE career at this year’s Royal Rumble. Professional wrestling will not only pay her well, but will also put her judo and MMA skills to good use. Plus, when the great Gene LeBell is your uncle and you take your nickname from the legendary Roddy Piper, it’s almost fated that you’ll find your way to the wrestling scene.
Based on what we saw at her surprise Royal Rumble appearance, Rousey will be honoring Piper’s legacy in her newfound WWE career and gimmick. Piper’s son even gave Rousey his dad’s jacket to wear for her big debut.
It will be interesting to see how the WWE trains her on the fly. Most wrestlers have to spend years working on their craft before they get a shot on the big show. Rousey only has six months of actual training under her belt, but her combat-sports background should flatten the learning curve for everything in the ring. The real test for Rousey will be as a show-person. How well will she perform on a mic cutting a promo? Let’s just say that Rousey isn’t exactly the most talented actress to have ever graced a screen. We may see some cringe-worthy moments early on.
But she is committed to making it work, long-term. The “Rowdy” one told ESPN she’ll be with the company full-time.
“This is my life now. First priority on my timeline for the next several years. This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt.”
Not much is known about what the future holds for Rousey in the squared circle. She showed up to Rumble, stared down Charlotte Flair (SmackDown Champion), Alexa Bliss (RAW Champion), and Asuka (Royal Rumble winner), but didn’t actually challenge anyone per se.
She also went out of her way to awkwardly shake hands with Stephanie McMahon, someone she has had some bad blood with. Their history dates back to Wrestlemania 31 when “Rowdy” and “The Rock” sent McMahon and Paul “HHH” Levesque tumbling out of the ring.
Could a mix tag-team match between those four be in the works?
Below, we set the odds on Rousey’s WWE future, more specifically, the programs that could be arranged for her at Wrestlemania 34 (April 8th, New Orleans).
Mixed Tag-Team Match: 2/3
According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, the latest rumors are that the WWE is trying to get The Rock to appear at this year’s Wrestlemania and have him team up with Rousey to take on HHH and Stephanie McMahon in a mixed tag match.
The biggest hurdle will be The Rock. He has an insanely busy schedule and hasn’t been able to wrestle in a significant match for some time due to insurance reasons. But even if they can’t get The Rock, they might be able to find someone else. Maybe Kurt Angle?
Charlotte Flair (SmackDown Champion): 3/1
This is the most likely scenario that could play out but the WWE may want to protect Rousey from a one-on-one match at Mania while she is still trying to learn the game. It’s probably why they like the idea of a mixed tag match if they can make it fly.
Having Rousey vs. Flair is definitely not out of the realm of possibility. Charlotte is extremely talented and can definitely make Rousey look good.
Asuka (RAW): 9/1
This would be one match that would turn some heads. Asuka is undefeated and just won the first all ladies, Royal Rumble. Having her job to Rousey at Mania would be a huge mistake though. At some point, Asuka and Rousey will meet, but there will need to be a proper build and I feel they’ll wait until Rousey is more established in her new career.
Alexa Bliss (RAW Champion): 25/1
A match between Rousey and Bliss could work as far as having that already built in face vs. heel scenario to play with. Although Asuka hasn’t decided what women’s champion she is going to challenge, the rumors are that the Royal Rumble winner will be in a program with Bliss in the coming weeks.
The 4 Horsewomen (MMA) vs. The 4 Horsewomen (WWE): 100/1
There is the possibility you could have the 4 Horsewomen of MMA in Jessamyn Duke, Marina Shafir, NXT’s Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey versus the 4 Horsewomen of WWE in Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch. This match was teased at last year’s Mae Young Classic including a parking lot confrontation between the two factions.
Baszler is now wrestling for WWE’s development territory NXT and a few of the other 4 Horsewomen of MMA have also been training. Faction vs. faction could happen at some point, but Wrestlemania doesn’t feel like the right time.