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Ronda Rousey is not for you. Ronda Rousey is not for me. Ronda Rousey is in WWE, not to placate viewers who already tune into RAW every week, subscribe to the WWE Network and pay to go to live events, but for people who do not invest any of their time or money in WWE. When it comes to Rousey in WWE, for the most part it doesn't matter what wrestling fans think of her. What matters is if she can draw an audience of people who otherwise would not be watching WWE.
Unlike big names WWE has brought into the company in the past, whether that was AJ Styles, or bringing back Brock Lesnar, the goal is not to bring someone in who is going to extract more money out of the fans who are already loyal viewers. Rousey, like any celebrity that has stepped foot inside a wrestling ring, is aimed at getting mainstream coverage in hopes that the spectacle of seeing them in wrestling will get them to become invested in the product. When promoted correctly, such as with Mr. T at WrestleMania I or Mike Tyson at WrestleMania 14, celebrities can have a major impact on the product.
For starters, fans have to realize the real reason Rousey is in WWE. Although Dave Meltzer reported that the main goal for Rousey is for her to work with Stephanie McMahon and create a Steve Austin/Vince McMahon-like dynamic, the number one reason Rousey was brought into WWE is because of television rights. WWE gets a bulk of their revenue, not from people buying tickets or from network subscriptions, but from television networks paying WWE large amounts of money to broadcast their programming on their networks.
Currently, WWE is in the middle of negotiations with supposedly several interested bidders for their next TV deal. Since television rights are the main source of revenue for WWE, what unfolds during these negotiations is more important for the future of the company than pretty much any other development. The contract negotiations are significantly more important to WWE than say, Roman Reigns getting over as the top face in the company. Although the latter is more fun to discuss as fans, the reality is if WWE can secure a good television contract (and all indicators are that WWE will get more money for this contract than what they are currently making with their TV contract with USA) than it doesn't really matter if Reigns is over or not, because WWE will be making a ton of money either way.
Enter Rousey, who in 2017 was the most searched female athlete in the world despite not having a fight. Rousey has proven, albeit in a different setting, that she can draw
people to a program. It actually doesn't really matter if Rousey ends up being a draw in wrestling or not, as long as TV networks believe that she can draw an audience, they will pony up more dough to acquire WWE programming. Even if Rousey has a relatively minimal impact on the negotiations; say she nets WWE an extra $10 million from USA, than she is already worth the investment. Whatever tickets, merchandise, or subscriptions she sells is gravy on top of that.
That being said; we don't watch wrestling to root for successful business practices. We watch it to be entertained, to enjoy personalities, get invested in rivalries and appreciate
great matches. Even if bringing Rousey in makes all the sense in the world from a business perspective; wrestling fans shouldn't really care about that, because nobody is tuning into WWE every week or subscribing to the network to watch a stock price go up.
Rousey as a performer in wrestling has already drawn a considerable amount of opinions and she hasn't even wrestled a match or cut a promo for WWE. She is in an interesting position because nobody will be more heavily protected in her matches, which is good because she hasn't had any yet. Whoever she works with at WrestleMania (most likely Stephanie) will have rehearsed their spots carefully leading up the match to make sure everything goes smoothly. In addition, because the intrigue is so high, the match doesn't have to be really any good. A few spots here and there are all she is going to need.
However, she is going to have the microscope on her like perhaps nobody has ever had before. Hardcore fans who don't like someone with no experience getting pushed to the top of the card will have their knives out ready to filet Rousey for every minor mistake. Rousey is going to be protected in her matches, but at the same time any mistake she makes is going to be magnified. The same can be said for her promos, which will be hard because WWE will likely heavily script those and make her sound like everyone else they write for, making it difficult for any natural charisma to shine through.
Since nobody has really seen her in a match, it would be foolish to declare that she is going to be really good or really bad. What we know about her is that she has been training for a while, is a very good athlete and does have a passion for wrestling. When she did MMA she did have charisma that got her over, particularly in a feud with Meisha Tate.
Those are all strong factors for her, but they do not necessarily indicate success.
Being a great athlete, liking wrestling and working for WWE do not necessarily translate to being a good performer. Mojo Rawley, who is a bit of a punchline in WWE, fits all of those categories. Rawley is one of the best pure athletes in the whole company, loves pro wrestling and has been working for years in WWE and is still seen as a below-average talent. Seperatley, there have been MMA fighters who have exuded a ton of charisma in the octagon, far more than Rousey, such as Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson, and they have shown that that charisma does not always translate to wrestling, and probably less so in the heavily-scripted atmosphere of WWE.
Another factor is that any wrestling trainer will tell you that a key to improving inside the ring in wrestling is to have matches. No matter how much training you do, the only real way to learn how to be a pro is to have matches in front of a live audience. Rousey signed a "full-time" contract with WWE, but it is unclear what that really means. It is doubtful that someone as busy and with the financial means of Rousey is actually going to wrestle a full-time schedule, working house shows and upwards of 150 matches a year. What is more likely is she is like Brock Lesnar, and wrestles a limited number of dates and only on PPV. That is the schedule that would make the most sense for both parties. The hard part if that is indeed the case is that Rousey will not be wrestling frequently enough, meaning the learning curve is going to be steeper.
I'm not sure how over Rousey will be to the general audience. WWE is going to present her like a star, but it is hard to tell how supportive they are going to be of her. The crowd in Philadelphia cheered when she came out at the conclusion of the Royal Rumble, but that same audience also jeered her name the following night on RAW. When it comes time for her to come out in front of the live audience, I could see fans reacting negatively. There is already a fair amount of resentment about her role in WWE on social media, which isn't a great barometer for how the fanbase as a whole is going to react, but it does offer some indication.
There will be people who are going to hate Rousey. Some of them may dislike an MMA fighter with no wrestling experience immediately get pushed to the top of the card. Some may dislike that her presence overshadows women on the roster who have worked hard and actually wrestle full-time. Others will dislike that a women is getting equal billing as the biggest male wrestlers.
Now if Rousey gets killed by boos they can always effectively transition her into a heel role; but that may defeat a lot of what made Rousey a superstar in the first place. Rousey became a star in MMA because she buzz-sawed her way through her competition and carried herself with an enviable attitude. Rousey the MMA fighter was a babyface that inspired a lot of female fans; I'm not sure heel Rousey is going to have that great of an effect.
There are also questions about Rousey's actual ability to draw new fans to the product; something WWE and the networks negotiating with WWE are banking on her doing. Even if she effectively bumps up WWE's television contract, she is still going to be expected to produce as far as viewership, ticket sales and network subscriptions are concerned.
One thing to note is that Rousey's MMA fanbase differed from the typical MMA fanbase; she drew a lot more women and casual fans than someone like Daniel Cormier or Jon Jones. While hardcore MMA fans often treat wrestling (and Rousey after her two KO losses knocked her out of the sport) as a joke; Rousey's specific fanbase may not. If anything this is better for them because Rousey's dominance can be pre-determined, making sure there is no KO loss. Even though Rousey's losses may have tainted her ability to draw fans in MMA (and that is doubtful since a Rousey fight in 2018 would be one of the biggest fights of the year) that doesn't mean she still can't draw for WWE. Remember, Mike Tyson was still a draw in 1998 when WWE was billing him as "The baddest man on the planet" and Tyson had been KO'd by Buster Douglas almost ten years before that.
Moving forward, WWE has already made some changes to their programming now that Rousey is aboard. The main benefit is that the women, particularly the women on RAW (presumably Rousey's brand) will be given a lot more time, and this has been noticeable over the last two RAWs. Although Rousey is slated to feud with Stephanie McMahon, the reality is that once that is over she will need to feud with other women on the roster. Since WWE is making a huge investment in Rousey, they need to make sure they a deep list of challengers, not just random names, but people that come off as major stars.
Sasha Banks, Asuka, Bayley, Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, all the women on the roster have to view Rousey as a positive since they are going to be working with her, which means working more main events and getting more time on television. Although fans may lament that Rousey's star power is overshadowing the women who have accomplished a lot within WWE, the fact is that her presence is going to give them a greater platform to succeed; just like Tyson helped Austin and Mr. T helped Roddy Piper.
As for me, personally, I'm not that excited to see Rousey in WWE. As someone that is watching to see storylines unfold and enjoy high-quality matches, I'm not sure she is going to deliver that, simply because she hasn't had any experience as a wrestler. That being said, you have to acknowledge that getting her was a coup for WWE, and it will help to elevate the women in WWE and bring them closer to equality with the male roster. You have to understand why she is in WWE and what her purpose is; even if you want to boo the hell out of her when she comes out on RAW.
Must Watch Matches:
Adam Brooks vs Ryan Smile: **** - RPW High Stakes
Mark Andrews vs Will Ospreay: **** - RPW High Stakes
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Minoru Suzuki: **** - NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo Night 1
Jay White vs Kenny Omega: **** - NJPW New Beginning in Sapporo Night 2
Aliester Black vs Adam Cole: **** - NXT TakeOver Philadelphia