After months, if not years, of speculation, Ronda Rousey finally made her WWE debut Sunday night at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, as she showed up after the Women's Royal Rumble ended.
Asuka won the Women's Royal Rumble, and it seemed as if the show would conclude with her deciding whom to face as she stood in the ring with Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss. Instead, “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett was played. As any MMA fan can tell you, that's the song Ronda Rousey came out to in UFC, and after a pause, there on the ramp stood “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. She had completely stylized herself after Roddy Piper, even wearing one of his leather jackets. She slowly made her way to the ring. She faced all three women, before extending her hand to Asuka, which Asuka slapped away. Rousey then pointed at the WrestleMania sign before leaving the ring and walking over to shake Stephanie McMahon's hand.
ESPN later reported that Rousey had indeed signed a full-time contract with the WWE. She also told ESPN that WWE would become her top priority. “This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt,” she told ESPN. She has been a longtime fan of wrestling, and her “Rowdy” nickname did come straight from Piper, who gave her his blessing to use it.
Of course, while this marks Rousey's official debut in WWE, it's not her first time on WWE television. At WrestleMania 31 in 2015, Ronda joined The Rock in the ring to put McMahon into an arm bar and hip-toss Triple H across the ring. It will be interesting to see whether WWE harks back to that moment as we move toward WrestleMania.
If she is truly a full-time wrestler, the possibilities are endless. Despite suffering losses at the end of her UFC career, she is still one of the biggest female stars on the planet. The money match would clearly be her and Charlotte Flair, as the mainstream appeal of that match would be nearly unmatched by anything WWE could do. They still have a confrontation with McMahon, and of course after Sunday night, Rousey vs. Asuka is a tantalizing match.
Rousey seems to be here for the foreseeable future. Now the question is whether she can harness the same star power she had at her heights of UFC. One thing's for sure: The WWE women's division is about to get Rowdy.
The Rest of the Royal Rumble
» While Rousey was the story in the women's division, Asuka did win a strong first-ever Women's Royal Rumble match. There was a question whether the lack of main roster entrants would hurt, but for the most part the surprise entrants were used well. Former women/divas, including the Bella Twins, Trish Stratus, Lita, Jacqueline, Molly Holly, Torrie Wilson and Kelly Kelly, contributed. Michelle McCool, of all people, might have received the biggest rub, as she eliminated more than any other woman in the match. At the end, Asuka eliminated Nikki Bella to earn the title shot at WrestleMania.
» Shinsuke Nakamura won the Men's Royal Rumble in what many fans were instantly calling one of the best Rumbles in years. It wasn't just that the fan favorite won. The structure of the match was excellent. Often you get lulls in the Rumble as several nonfactors enter consecutively. That really didn't happen in this match. The end of the match was also star-studded, as the final six were Nakamura, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Finn Balor, Randy Orton and the returning Rey Mysterio. Orton and Mysterio were eliminated, leaving Nakamura, Balor, Cena and Reigns as the final four. The WWE knew the reception the four would get, and played into that, with Nakamura and Balor almost teaming against the established WWE mainstays. At the end, Nakamura eliminated Reigns and announced that he'd be challenging AJ Styles for the WWE title at WrestleMania.
» Speaking of Styles, he successfully defended the WWE title in his handicap match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The match had a strange finish, during which Styles pinned Owens despite Owens not being the legal man. Normally this would just be a typical wrestling ploy; however, just three weeks ago the WWE used instant replay to reverse a decision just like this. Now, later in a confrontation backstage Shane McMahon did acknowledge that he saw what happened and just didn't care. However, it's strange that they would introduce the replay aspect to just not use it here, though the obvious result is that Owens and Zayn will get another shot before WrestleMania.
As we head into Royal Rumble weekend, several wrestlers have been spotlighted for the big match. However, one man has had the spotlight on him for the match more than most, and it's the first man to declare he was entering: Elias.
» Brock Lesnar won the triple-threat match for the Universal title. This was the train wreck of destruction everyone assumed it would be. Braun Strowman looked dominant for a good chunk of the match, though he was dispatched by Lesnar before Lesnar hit Kane with an F5 onto a chair for the win.
» The Usos successfully defended their titles against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin in the rare case in which a team won the first two falls of a two-out-of-three falls match. The first fall was almost a full standard match, complete with false finishes. The second fall was an odd one, as despite Jimmy being incapacitated on the outside, Jey was able to roll up Benjamin as Gable was on the top turnbuckle.
» The Bar won the Raw tag titles back from Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan. Most of the match featured what was basically a handicap match, as Jordan was ran headfirst into the ring post. At the end of the match, he finally tagged back in but started holding his head and tagged Rollins back in, despite Rollins needing more time to recover. Cesaro and Sheamus took advantage for the win.
» Roode successfully defended his U.S. title in the preshow against Mojo Rawley, who came out for a U.S. Title Open Challenge.