If you don’t know Ronda Rousey, you should. She’s 1-2 years away from being the next Mike Tyson.
She is the UFC’s current and only Women’s Champion and, boy, does she pack a punch. Literally and figuratively.
By UFC President Dana’s White’s own words, she is responsible for selling him on bringing Women’s MMA to the UFC.
En route to maintaining her undefeated streak, she has dominated in almost all of her fights, with only one opponent escaping the first round. Previously a judo expert (the first American to win an Olympic medal), Rousey now seems fully grown as an MMA striker.
Meaning: she’s an all-around killer, as Alexis Davis found out in the 20 seconds her title fight with Rousey took up.
Add to this… she can talk. She shoots from the hip and knows what buttons to push.
And add to that… she’s a huge pro wrestling fan. She’s attended WWE shows, her nickname is “Rowdy” (no idea where that came from) and her group of training partners and friends is called the Four Horsewomen. With any luck, she’s OK not being Mongo.
So, naturally, rumors linking Rousey to WWE have begun to circulate.
But with so many variables to signing such a hot commodity, it’s hard to figure if she’s a fit for WWE, without going into detail, so let’s do it!
Rousey is one of UFC’s biggest draws, especially at present time, with headliners like Georges St-Pierre on hiatus, Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz tabled to fight on the next Superbowl Weekend and Brock Lesnar returning to WWE.
Dana White has pointed out several times that Ronda garners a mountain of mainstream media attention that no other fighter does, which is a very valuable attribute, in a business where huge success involve getting the casual fan on board.
If she stays on-track, demolishing opponents, talking the talk and slowly building a Hollywood presence, she’ll go from a big star to a huge one within the next 2 years.
The big question here is: does Rousey consistently attract the same kind of media attention as a pro wrestler that she does as the female MMA poster girl?
My feeling is no. Her appeal comes from being the beautiful, media-friendly, well-spoken woman who is unprecedentedly skilled in the art of beating people up. She’s Gina Carano with 10 times the firepower.
If signed, she’ll do headlines on her way in, but she’ll soon be immersed in the “pro wrestling mainstream media embargo”. If she’s given a recurring role, WWE won’t get consistent mainstream press off of Rousey.
“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey is one of the UFC’s highest-paid fighters. Her show money is considerably high, she’s undefeated (which means win bonuses) and she frequently gets fight night performance bonuses.
On top of which… as a mainstream media magnet, she attracts sponsors like Brock attracts German suplexes. Oh, and Hollywood beckons.
This means WWE would have to shell out some serious dollars. Not just to get her to take them bumps, but to go over the UFC’s own offers, which feature a high percentage of PPV revenue, especially for a major player like Rousey.
And if WWE makes a serious play for Rousey, you can bet Dana White will have his checkbook handy. Which figures to be bigger than Vince’s, who has been cutting costs left and right.
In the big picture, Rousey is worth more to the UFC, where she’s a proven and over superstar, than to the WWE. So WWE won’t have it easy in getting to Rousey. They can certainly dig deep, but UFC and Hollywood should dig deeper.
Besides the money, the other big thing about a possible WWE contract offer is the schedule.
In the UFC, while Rousey must endure gruelling training camps in preparation for her fights, she performs an average of 3 times a year.
While gruelling, the camps are tailor-made for her. It’s all about getting her in fighting shape to defend her title yet again. It’s her show, which undoubtedly comes with a degree of comfort WWE probably won’t provide, by its very nature.
In pro wrestling, she’d most likely be looking at a part-time deal, with limited TV and PPV appearances, focused on the premier wrestling calendar dates.
While a full-time deal would be ideal to get her into the pro wrestling grind, which is the best way of learning the intricacies of the trade, the amount of career options Rousey has should render that idea moot.
In other words, the schedule could be an attraction for Rousey, but (probably) a hesitation for WWE. Unlike Brock Lesnar, Rousey is untested in pro wrestling waters, as both a worker and a draw, which means she’s likely unprepared to swim in the headlining spot her status would likely demand from the onset.
Speaking of swimming in pro wrestling waters, a word on heel “diving gear” before quickly retuning you to #4:
We’ve seen it before. Sometimes, you get too big for the business of pro wrestling. Or, maybe not necessarily big. You just become independent from it, through other sources of revenue.
The Rock felt the Hollywood pull. Mick Foley started penning best-sellers like he’d always known how.
In Rousey’s case, that pull is already quite present. Earlier this year, she filmed participations in Fast & Furious 7 and Expendables 3, two more than respectable box-office attractions, sure to put her on the map.
Taking this into account, in an eventual signing of Rousey, WWE is risking having only a cup of coffee with her, barely getting any return on the investment they’re making.
Finally, as I mentioned before, Rousey’s popularity is still not at its peak. We’re 1-2 years away, which means that would be the best time for WWE to grab her. But also the hardest, as an uber-popular Rousey makes for a “bigger than pro wrestling” Rousey.
Let’s say WWE signs Rousey. Now what? How do her skills translate into pro wrestling?
Maybe she goes the Kurt Angle route, learning the business at a ridiculously high pace. Maybe she takes more than 10 years to get it right, Hall of Pain style.
Then, there’s the other thing.
A good MMA talker is not a good pro wrestling talker. For all its merits, the UFC isn’t a promotion being flooded with silver-tongue devils. In fact, the really good talkers are often commented on as sounding like pro wrestlers, given the legitimate scarcity with which they exist.
There’s a quick test we can do. Have you ever heard of Chael Sonnen? If not, here’s the 411, he’s a former UFC fighter, easily one of the most polarizing figures ever in the sport and universally considered MMA’s best trash-talker, having instigated himself into various title shots.
Here’s a sample. While you’re watching, take two things into account: 1. he really was the best promo in MMA and 2. ask yourself how his schitck would sound on Raw, as opposed to an MMA media event:
Here’s my take: while some of the smart-ass things he says are very funny, I feel nowhere close to sure he’ll carry that to a WWE ring. In fact, a lot of the things he’s doing were common in pro wrestling’s 80s and 90s and would probably sound outdated.
While Sonnen mixes his shoots with humor, Rousey mostly shoots, even though she can be funny. This makes it hard to grasp how she’d fare holding a WWE microphone.
The final issue with the transition to pro wrestling for Rousey is her popularity within the wrestling community itself. If she walks out through the curtain, are people silent, do they pop, or is their response somewhere in the middle?
I remember when Rampage Jackson, a former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, came to WWE as a guest co-host, with fellow A-Team cast members Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley.
Fans did not go crazy. They had an OK time, but didn’t go crazy. And this was during Jackson’s high-voltage feud with another former champion, Rashad Evans.
While odds are Rousey > Rampage, it’s still a big question mark. It may not be in 2 years, though.
Let’s say none of the points that came before are a problem.
What does such an inconsistent creative team do with Rousey?
Does she go out and dominate the women’s division? Well, she’ll go through AJ Lee and Paige and call it a day, as none of the other divas are being put over enough to warrant a program.
And, unfortunately, we have to face the fact that neither AJ or Paige are box-office draws, even though I could definitely see AJ instigating herself into a compelling storyline with some worthwhile promos.
Which leaves us with the men.
Months ago, there was talk and more talk about how Rousey would fare against Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Almost unanimously, pundits went Rousey’s way.
She’s a world-class judoka with alarmingly improving stand-up fighting skills, not to mention her unbeaten, dominant mixed martial arts record in the biggest company in the world.
Why shouldn’t she feud with the guy wrestlers? My personal belief is that this is where the money is for WWE, as it would not only be compelling, but it would also allow Rousey to be matched up with serious draws.
The kickers here would be WWE’s willingness to book her with the guys in a creatively sound way and the male wrestlers’ willingness to give and take from her – especially give – as they would from another male wrestler.
Between the lack of depth in the female division and what I believe will be WWE’s unwillingness to match her against guys on a consistent basis, my feeling is that, if brought in, Rousey would go the special appearance route, and little more.
While I haven’t missed any of Rousey’s fights since her first Strikeforce (pre-UFC) headliner and think the world of her skills, I feel a detailed look at the pros & cons makes her a pass for WWE.
Her appeal, while palpable, isn’t sure to translate into a sustained ratings/subscriptions/buyrate boost, which makes it hard to pay her what it would take to get her on board.
And while you can simply get Mike Tyson in and put Steve Austin in his face, Rousey’s creative plans aren’t as clear-cut.
Furthermore, even if WWE nailed it coming out of the gate, they’d still have the ghost of Hollywood (and a UFC return) to systematically contend with.
The odds are against WWE making it successful and the long-term upside isn’t obvious.
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