Ronda Rousey, the former UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion, made the transition from mixed martial arts to sports entertainment earlier this year, debuting in a solid showing at Wrestlemania in April. Prior her in-ring start, there were questions about her promos and ability to sell, but she surpassed expectations and delivered dynamic performances in both of her matches on pay-per-view so far.
All things considered, at this point, the Rousey jump to WWE is very successful. The newly-inducted UFC Hall of Famer was put in a tough spot because the same thing that allowed her to spring-board into a featured spot in a new venture is also the reason there will be a microscope on her. Granted, management protects her to minimize the exposure of her inexperience, but that’s smart business because they have an investment, both financially and promotional, with the Rousey project.
With only two televised matches to gauge her progress, it’s tough to say if she will find her own in-ring style. Keep in mind, Ronda is a draw because of her dominating skills in the cage, and if she’s made to look weak or her opponents are made to look to strong, it could diminish her aura, which is really the key to her long-term success. Maintaining her credibility can be a difficult balancing act because if she mows down her opponents in two minutes, there isn’t much of a show for the audience, but at the same time, if everyone can counter the arm bar, how “dangerous” is Ronda in the ring?
Aside from the in-ring presentation, the writing team can’t put her into some of the silly scenarios that others in the division were stuck with recently. Again, a lame segment dilutes Ronda’s legitimate background, which is the reason why there’s a tremendous amount of intrigue to watch her perform in the squared circle. Anyone that assumes that Rousey might be safe from the wrath of sub par writing is too optimistic about scripted promos. Look at the level that both Sasha and Bayley started when they left NXT to where they are now. Balyley went from one of the most organically over baby faces in the entire company to an athlete that had her star power exponentially diminished through a series of cringe worthy segments during her run on Raw.
Bayley was thought to be destined to be a major star and a “can’t miss” competitor before she arrived on the main roster. Terrible writing made her look silly and she has yet to reach her initial level on Raw, despite her tremendous talent. Much of the same can be said for Sasha Banks, who has the “it factor” and projects being a star. The lame storyline with Bayley hindered Sasha’s progress, again despite the fact she’s without question an extremely talented performer. As far as legitimate ability, Asuka had a similar mystic to Rousey before her debut on the main roster, and sup par booking made Asuka just another competitor on the roster. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for the “sports entertainment” aspect of the combination of Carmella and James Ellsworth, but should Asuka’s credibility be sacrificed to cover for Carmella’s lack of in-ring ability?
For Ronda, she’s booked for a Raw Women’s title match at SummerSlam, but should she really be in the title picture already?
Usually, the answer to rushing anyone to a title shot is no because a championship victory is theoretically the destination, not the starting point. However, the Rousey situation is a unique scenario, and since she’s already in a more prominent spot then the usual women’s title match, it makes sense for her to win the belt to maximize the spotlight on the women’s division. Plus, much of her notoriety was based on the fact that she was the first UFC Women’s champion.
How Ronda is presented as champion on a weekly basis is the question. She must be on TV often enough to be considered a continuous persona, but at the same time, to keep her mystic and avoid exposing her inexperience, she probably shouldn’t wrestle every week. That said, Ronda is scheduled for a match against Alicia Fox next week, and as well as Fox does with her persona to maximize her minutes on TV, this should be a squash match. Ronda shouldn’t be put in a situation where she would sell for Fox, simply because she should be perceived as a threat to the championship at SummerSlam.
But, is it fair that Ronda gets to leapfrog the rest of the division based on her accomplishments outside of the WWE?
If something is “fair” or not doesn’t matter, it’s a business and the wise business decision is to use Ronda Rousey as the centerpiece of the marketing strategy for women’s empowerment. Don’t get me wrong, the athletes in the division absolutely deserve and have the skills for a mainstream platform. But, you must remember that WWE’s emphasis on women empowerment is as much about a PR spin as it is to give talented female competitors an equal stage. In fact, when WWE has these “historic” announcements every few months about the women’s division, they almost try to highlight the company’s “accomplishments” so often that it starts to sound disingenuous.
Make no mistake, the females on the roster deserve the spotlight because they are talented athletes that can perform to entertain a global audience, they don’t need the PR spin. That being said, the best way for WWE to maximize the press that the all women’s pay-per-view in October gets is to feature Ronda Rousey in the main event so as a business decision, it’s the right call for her to win the title at Summer Slam. If she’s booked correctly as champion remains to be seen, but as of now, the Ronda Rousey stint in sports entertainment is successful.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
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