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WWE Hot Take: Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley Are Primed to Usher In New Era

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2021

WWE

It seems WWE is on the cusp of something special for the women's division as WrestleMania 37 approaches.

That something special will be ushered in on the backs of Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley, two of the company's fastest-rising Superstars.

The proverbial writing seems to be on the wall given the build to 'Mania and the projected match card. As it stands, Belair will take on Sasha Banks for the Smackdown women's title and Ripley will challenge Asuka for the Raw women's title.

It all sets up for two of the company's brightest stars to obtain gold. Predictable, but predictability doesn't have to be bad—look at Drew McIntyre's ascent and taking down of Brock Lesnar for reference.

And a McIntyre-style run for both women might be the goal here. Ripley came up short in the women's Royal Rumble but has been positioned as one of the next big things for a long time. She's got the unique look, is amazing in ring and has the brilliant combination of mic skills and character work needed to carry an entire division on her back.

Fans can say what they will about Asuka as of late, sure. But fans know she has been one of the most dangerous people in the company for a long time, arguably since that sprint as an undefeated force in NXT.

That Ripley gets to be the one to take down Asuka says quite a lot. WWE might have led fans to believe Ripley taking down Charlotte Flair would have been even more important, but it being a hardcore-fan favorite like Asuka instead might do even more for Ripley in the long run.

It's a similar story for the Belair-Banks situation. Belair emerged triumphant from the women's Royal Rumble and always seemed destined for this clash—and a historic 'Mania moment.

That she gets to feud with Banks and potentially dethrone her is just the exclamation point on what should be a massive launching point. The Boss herself has been one of the biggest surprises of WWE's pandemic era as someone who has managed to thrive and make audience-less television must-see material anyway.

It speaks to the trust WWE has in Ripley and Belair moving forward that they reside in these prominent 'Mania positions and seem destined to win. Wins over Asuka and Banks aren't anything to scoff at, and both could only just be the beginning of feuds before the two upstarts get to start challenging the rest of their respective rosters as champions.

And again, we have to look back toward the McIntyre comparison for a second. He took down a modern legend like Lesnar after twiddling his thumbs in midcard purgatory for a while and had such a great run as a champion that he's forever cemented as a top guy. WWE capitalized on the audience-less era by using it to build up the next generation of the main event scene instead of leaning into part-timers, and the company—and fans—is much better for it.

The same could be about to unfold for Ripley and Belair. Should they both win in front of a limited audience, WWE can employ much of the same strategy by getting more fans familiar with their characters and style over the coming months, if not better part of a year well before full-blown crowds are permitted again.

If that's the strategy, the entire women's division is a big winner. The women's roster has become something special in recent years but has also felt a little top-heavy, just like the men's side. Some mixture of Banks, Flair, Becky Lynch, Bayley and Alexa Bliss seemed to just dominate the scene (rightfully so in many respects), especially around 'Mania time.

Organically inserting Ripley and Belair into that group can only lead to great, refreshing angles that keep the women's division quietly standing as the best thing running in WWE. And they are both former NXT standouts, so the company can even point to them over the long run as proof of concept.

At this point, with the fan backing so tremendous and given what's at stake for all involved, the Ripley-Belair era seems poised to kick off in earnest soon—and it has the potential to be one of the best yet.

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