WWE Money in the Bank 2018 will be a major event for WWE, with the classic ladder matches crowning new stars and Shinsuke Nakamura getting one last shot at WWE champion AJ Styles. However, no match could have a greater impact on the future of the company than Nia Jax vs. Ronda Rousey.
Rousey signed with WWE in 2018 to bring a new level of mainstream attention to the women's division, and the decision has worked out well so far with The Rowdy One stealing the show at WrestleMania 34. Now she will compete for the Raw Women's Championship in her first singles match in the company.
This big match will be against current champion Jax, who has Rousey easily beat for experience but still is a relative newcomer to professional wrestling. The Irresistible Force will be asked to play veteran in one of her first title defenses, a true challenge of her status in WWE.
This dynamic has led to one of the most unnecessarily tumultuous situations in WWE, with two women putting their futures at risk. If this match does not go well, both could face serious consequences that would change their careers.
WWE is far from a meritocracy, but usually a talent will always get a few chances to prove his or her worth. The right look, talent and impact in certain moments can make or break a career. Those who get more opportunities succeeded enough in their first few outings to warrant more attention.
Jax has been working up that ladder for four years now, first signing with WWE in 2014 to start her professional wrestling career. While her Samoan heritage gave her some proximity to the wrestling business, she had no in-ring experience when she signed.
It is remarkable how quickly she has risen up the ranks, standing out thanks to her unique blend of size and speed. Her work particularly over the last year or so has helped her to stand out, earning her a place on the main roster.
Still, her match history is fairly sparse on outstanding matches. She has found a few opponents she meshes extremely well with, including Bayley and Sasha Banks, but she can struggle to keep up the pace with others. She generally needs a ring veteran by her side to make an impact.
The problem is she's being thrown into the spotlight now with little preparation. As champion, she was just getting rolling, but her second major title defense will be against a complete rookie who casts a wide shadow.
There's no denying Rousey is a star. She basically built the women's division in UFC, becoming a household name in the process. Despite her limited acting chops, she has been cast in multiple big Hollywood films.
When she signed with WWE, it brought massive attention to the business and the women's division. Even a vocal and often divisive WrestleMania crowd instantly accepted Rousey, cheering her on with the enthusiasm reserved for main-event fan favorites.
However, she is still a newcomer to the scene. As athletic as she is, no one gets good in the ring with just a year of training. She looked good at 'Mania, playing to her strengths, but tag team matches are built around short sprints to hide the shortcomings of the competitors.
Rousey has never had a one-on-one match in a WWE ring. There were hints after the Superstar Shake-up that The Baddest Woman on the Planet might contend with Mickie James in her first feud, but that story was scrapped.
Even Rousey's reported singles matches on the European tour were nixed and turned into six-woman tag matches, with a report from Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer (h/t Wrestling Inc) that officials did not feel confident Rowdy was ready for a singles match.
That was only a few weeks back. If Rousey was not ready during that tour to face a seasoned veteran, how can she be any more ready now to face the still-developing Jax? Both are being thrown into an unreasonable situation with massive risk.
While WWE has put too much money into the former UFC star to bail on her if she falls flat, fans could quickly turn on her if she does not live up to her spot here. Jax is far less protected and could easily lose her standing if she does not find a rhythm with Rousey.
This match is huge because of its real-world stakes. Jax can lose her title and stay a fixture of the division. Rousey can lose, likely due to interference, and end up better for it. What neither woman can afford is to put on a performance that falls flat.
Few matches in the women's division have had as much hype surrounding them as Jax vs. Rousey. It may be seen as a bigger mainstream attraction than any other contest on the card. That's a ton of pressure to put on a pair of young developing stars.
Did this match even need to happen now? Rousey could have been paired with James and let the veteran help her stand out. Jax could have successfully defended her title against Ruby Riott and built her own confidence. More time could have been spent building to this clash.
Now though, it feels rushed, and that's the last thing Jax and Rousey need in a match that could define their futures and the future of Raw's women's division. I hope they can rise to the occasion, but the odds are stacked against them.
Whether Rousey and Jax are ready for this spot or not, it's coming. Everything is on the line at Money in the Bank, and that's not even including the actual championship.