Ranking Ronda Rousey's Best and Worst Moments as a WWE Star
Ronda Rousey is on leave from WWE. She wrestled for only a year, but it felt like several. There were so many memorable moments packed into those 12 months— some good, and some bad.
But even the bad moments come with asterisks. This was Rousey's rookie year; she had no developmental phase, no promo classes, no time away from the camera to evolve as a performer. She was learning on the job, so to speak.
And in that light, it's difficult to think of another performer who's had a WWE debut year as successful as hers. She had some natural advantages; she was a medaled Olympian and a UFC world champion, which places her among the elite of athletically gifted people.
But she also didn't coast on those gifts; she did not treat her WWE gig as some glorified celebrity cameo. She was backstage, constantly learning, constantly training and showing up to Raw every week, even if it were only to cut a promo or be at ringside.
And for giving respect to the business, she deserves respect. Here are Ronda Rousey's best and worst moments as a WWE Superstar. We will run through the bad moments before getting to the good moments, ranked in ascending order.
Worst: Awkward Pointing
Ronda Rousey made her official WWE debut at the end of the Royal Rumble. And there were some good things about it. She was wearing the actual jacket of her hero, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. WWE gave Rousey her UFC theme music: "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett.
But there were negative aspects to the debut as well. First, it stepped all over Asuka's moment; the Empress had just won the first women's Rumble in WWE history, but now all that anyone was talking about was Rousey. And second, Rousey spent most of her time awkwardly pointing and scowling at the WrestleMania sign rather than naturally interacting with the other performers.
WWE seemed more concerned with getting an iconic photo it could use in its advertising and highlight reels than with making the segment work.
Worst: Squashing Alexa Bliss
There was no need for this kind of dominance.
For months, Rousey had sidestepped fan backlash by selling for her opponents. Even Stephanie McMahon got in some offense, and Rousey acted like she was legitimately hurt.
But at SummerSlam, Rousey squashed Alexa Bliss in four minutes. She no sold Bliss' offense and even let the then-Raw women's champion attack her with her back turned. Bliss is a multiple-time Raw and SmackDown women's champion. She should have put up a better fight than this.
No one would expect Bliss to go toe-to-toe. But what about some cheating or heel shenanigans? This was way too easy and lacked any sort of drama and excitement. It was the beginning of the WWE Universe's turn on Rousey.
Worst: Lifting Her Shoulders at WrestleMania 35
Rousey's most recent match was a Triple Threat against Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch for the Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships. It would be the first women's main event in WWE WrestleMania history.
It's too bad that the match had a screwy finish.
Becky went for a crucifix pin. The referee counted to three. And during that sequence, Rousey lifted her shoulders off the mat. And the referee, who should have stopped counting, continued according to plan.
Clean finishes keep a champion's reputation strong and ensure that there are no asterisks to a babyface win. Becky won the match and gave Rousey her first pinfall loss. But it was not without controversy.
Worst: Wrestling Is Fake?
Rousey, or whoever coached Rousey, lost the narrative thread in this Ronda on the Road video during the lead-up to WrestleMania.
In it, Rousey directly breaks kayfabe by saying to the camera that "wrestling is fake" and claims that she could beat any of WWE's female Superstars in a shoot fight.
She's probably right. But she needed a little more subtlety than that.
Fans know professional wrestling is scripted and that outcomes are pre-determined. And because of that, wrestling lives and dies on the audience's ability to suspend its disbelief. And by using the F-word, she killed the hype for the match rather than increasing it. She broke the illusion when she should have been reinforcing it.
Best: Uranage to Triple H
Talk about a difficult first day on the job.
Rousey shows up on Raw to sign her WWE contract, and all seems well. But then Kurt Angle spilled the beans: the McMahons only wanted to sign Rousey so they can keep her under their thumb. Rousey, predictably, did not take this news well and put Triple H through a table.
This excellent segment led to Rousey's greatest moment. More on that later.
Best: Love to Hate Her
Rousey turned heel several weeks before WrestleMania. And for the first time, she started looking comfortable in the ring when cutting promos. She sneered and scowled at the audience. She insulted the fans, her opponents and WWE at large.
And on the March 18 episode of Raw, she ended her segment by beating down an out-of-her-league Dana Brooke. No more smiling. No more "grateful to be here." This was the uncompromising, Lesnar-esque warrior fans had been waiting for.
Best: That Intense Backstage Fight
On the Raw before WrestleMania, Charlotte Lynch, Becky Lynch and Rousey all proved why they would be contesting the main event of WrestleMania.
The tension boiled over, and all three women got into a ring-clearing brawl, during which they beat up each other, security guards and police officers, among other things. Ronda even got behind the wheel of a police car and crashed it into another police car.
Just watch the clip. It has to be seen to be believed.
Best: Defeating Nikki Bella at Evolution
Evolution was the first all-female pay-per-view in WWE history, and Ronda Rousey was the main event. She took on Nikki Bella, who was challenging for the Raw Women's Championship.
Bella has become a solid-in-ring performer over the past several years. It's a matter of good timing and picking good spots, which is what this match was filled with. Nikki could not beat Ronda in a fair fight. But with Brie Bella skulking on the outside, ready to distract both Ronda and the referee, Nikki nearly won.
But then Ronda came back, arm-barring and submitting Nikki. And to close the show, she and the rest of the women's roster celebrated at the top of the ramp. It was a seminal moment, and Rousey was at the heart of it.
Best: Defeating Sasha Banks at the 2019 Royal Rumble
Sasha Banks works best as a heel. We have known this since her days as NXT, when she crafted her Boss character. She's rarely been villainous since moving to the main roster in 2015, but her match against Rousey was as close as we have got to seeing Banks in her NXT heel prime.
Rousey was still the smiling, wide-eyed babyface who wanted everybody in the locker room to like her. And Banks played the villain who wasn't ready to relinquish her spot; she homed in on Ronda's hand, doing her best to break it. And although Rousey put away Sasha with a Piper's Pit, Sasha got in her shots too
It doesn't have the epic feel and gravity of the best moment on this list. But objectively speaking, it's the best-worked match of Rousey's career. And again, she looked believably flustered by her opponent, in a way that allowed the audience to suspend its disbelief.
Best: Stealing the Show at WrestleMania 34
It's difficult imagine to imagine a greater moment than this in a young wrestler's career. Rousey made her in-ring debut at WrestleMania 34 by teaming up with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Critics had cautiously low expectations. Rousey was too green and inexperienced, and she was fighting older, part-time wrestlers. Her mic skills were subpar. And we hadn't seen enough of her ringwork to make a call.
But when Kurt tagged her in, Rousey more than delivered; she helped to put on what was, quite possibly, the greatest match of the evening. She rolled. She slammed. She did a head scissors takedown on Triple H. It was a magnificent performance. And it's only downside was that it set the bar too high.