Ronda Rousey has been compared to Steve Austin over the course of her brief WWE career so far – but I actually think Goldberg is a far more apt comparison.
The former UFC great has steamrolled her way to the Raw Women’s Championship, dispatching all-comers despite her relative lack of professional wrestling experience. She is a cyborg that has been taught to smile, frown, and destroy limbs. She’s now also good on the mic, which she appears to have learned in a few months somehow.
Rousey’s initial appearance at the 2018 Royal Rumble generated intense debate online, with many angry that an outsider was being handed opportunities on a silver platter. That talk has quietened down somewhat, because it’s since emerged that Ronda has an incredible natural flair for pro wrestling – not just the athleticism and conditioning, but the physical charisma and showmanship too.
She is indestructible, but that’s a finite quality in the wrestling business. So in this column, I’m going to take a look at the chief candidates for the task of proving that Ronda Rousey is mortal. Who can possibly defeat the Rowdy one?
We’ve got five names lined up, ranked from least likely upwards, so let’s waste no further time and take a look. Spoiler alert: Nikki Bella is first, and it’s almost certainly not going to be her.
Nikki Bella: I’ve included Nikki because she’s set to face Ronda for the Raw Women’s Championship at Evolution, and is, therefore – in theory – the favourite to dethrone the champ.
In reality, Nikki’s chances are really, really slim. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an underrated worker and a great heel, but she’s going up against a bulldozer disguised as a blonde woman from California.
There’s a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where a large man with a massive sword squares up to Indiana Jones. He twirls the blade around confidently, and it looks like Indy’s going to be facing another of his classic near-death experiences. Then he pulls out a gun and shoots the bad guy dead.
That’s how I think Ronda Rousey vs. Nikki Bella at Evolution is going to pan out.
Sasha Banks: Sasha’s one of the more interesting characters on Raw right now because there seems to be little rhyme or reason to her booking. She could crop up in a title feud, or slum it in meaningless tag matches for six months straight. She’s elusive, like water.
Ever since she proved herself as one of the best champions in NXT history, everyone’s been waiting for Banks to really break through the glass ceiling. She flirts with it on occasion, but always gets dragged back down. The build to WrestleMania 32 made the event seem like a massive Sasha Banks title coronation, with a few other matches going on too. She entered alongside Snoop Dogg and a blizzard of confetti as if she’d already won, but then she didn’t.
This year, she seemed to be on the verge of a molten momentum-boost of a feud with Bayley. The pair put on arguably the best women’s wrestling match of all time in NXT, and everybody was desperate for a main roster rehash. Then Kurt Angle threatened to fire both if they didn’t sort out their differences and become friends again. Instead of, you know, fighting each other like every single other wrestler would do.
Sasha’s career trajectory is one of the hardest to predict, and she could be boosted into a title programme with Rousey at the drop of a hat. If she is, I think we could be in for a very interesting match-up.
A match-up Ronda would 100% win every day of the week. But an interesting one nonetheless.
Becky Lynch: Yes, Becky’s on the wrong brand for a shot at Ronda, but I’ve included her because this match simply has to happen somewhere down the line.
I can’t think of a wrestler in the world who’s a better stylistic match for Rousey right now. For better or (almost certainly) worse, Becky’s currently a heel. She has bucketloads of experience and technical expertise.
Also, she has a finisher that targets the arm just like Ronda Rousey. That was very much my main argument for this bout, but I felt like I should pad it out with a few more sensible points.
Seriously though, imagine the pair trading Armbar attempt after Armbar attempt. It would be like Chris Jericho’s 1,004 holds promo come to life, and that can only be a good thing.
When WWE do decide to put somebody over Rousey, they have to be very careful, because most options would result in a negative reaction. Imagine if Nikki Bella somehow wins at Evolution; Twitter would crash forever, which would probably make us all a lot happier in the long run, now I think about it.
If the match was booked as a babyface vs. babyface showdown, Becky is one of the few Superstars that I think could beat Rousey to a positive reaction, such is her innate connection with the fans. She’s the first person on this list I can see defeating Ronda, at least one day. Or maybe WWE will just keep her heel forever because, annoyingly, she’s really good at it.
Shayna Baszler: Shayna, like Rousey, garnered a lot of criticism during her early run of dominance in the Mae Young Classic and NXT. A real-life friend of Ronda’s and a fellow ex-MMA competitor, she was subject to a lot of the same flak.
As luck would have it, Baszler also turned out to be a great pro wrestler – and we’ve literally seen her improve before our eyes at each TakeOver event.
When she eventually reaches the main roster, many are expecting Shayna to encounter her old pal at some stage. They’ll probably team at first – maybe we’ll even get that mythical Horsewoman vs. Horsewomen bout – but Rousey vs. Baszler surely has a place on a Big Five card of the future.
Shayna would obviously play the heel, being the Dark Sonic to Ronda’s Sonic the Hedgehog. (I wasn’t sure if Dark Sonic was an actual character as I typed that, so I’ve Googled it. It’s uncovered a rabbit hole that I’m completely unwilling to go down at this juncture. Apparentl,y the Sonic universe runs deep.)
Baszler earns the penultimate spot on this ranking, but there’s a caveat. If I had to put money on it, I’d guess that Shayna will defeat Ronda at some point – but she won’t be the first to do so. That privilege will go to someone else…
Charlotte Flair: Yes, here she is – the Superstar I think will wrench the Raw Women’s Championship away from Ronda Rousey, showing us all that she’s human after all. A far superior human than any of us will ever be, yes – but basically comprised of the same matter.
To be clear, I don’t feel that this is the best booking decision of the bunch; just the most likely. WWE are fully behind Charlotte, to the extent that the term ‘female Roman Reigns’ is being thrown around with increasing regularity.
The signs are all there. She became the first ever holder of the new Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32. At Hell in a Cell 2016, she won the first women’s match to close a main roster pay per view. She’s the daughter of one of the most revered wrestlers ever. They turned Becky Lynch heel to keep her babyface. Her nickname is literally The Queen.
This isn’t a unique opinion, because just about every wrestling journalist online has predicted it already, but I believe that Flair vs. Rousey will headline next year’s WrestleMania. I think Charlotte will win the Rumble and use that as an excuse to switch over to Raw.
If that does happen, for the first time in her pro wrestling career, Ronda’s in trouble. Although WWE often pander to the hardcore fans a little more at ‘Mania time – giving us a Zack Ryder win here and a dream NJPW rematch there – they do not mess around when it comes to their appointed megastars. Roman Reigns has headlined four years in a row. One of those times he beat The Undertaker!
If it materialises, Flair vs. Rousey will be fascinating because it’ll show us WWE’s hand. Who do they want to lead women’s wrestling into its new age? Ronda may be an unstoppable freak of nature for now, but if she steps into MetLife Stadium against Charlotte Flair, I don’t think she’ll even be the pre-match favourite.