Ronda Rousey stunned the wrestling world in 2018 with a shocking debut at the Royal Rumble and, according to Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select, WWE is pushing for the former Raw women's champion to steal the headlines at this year's event with a shocking return.
"Fightful has not confirmed that Ronda Rousey will be returning to WWE or even an entrant in the upcoming Royal Rumble, however we're told it's the most chatter that has existed about Rousey making a comeback since she left in 2019," Sapp wrote.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com provided additional information, noting that a WWE official flew to meet Rousey in California last week and that her personal makeup artist, Abraham Esparza, is now slated for Saturday's pay-per-view and the subsequent episode of Raw.
"In speaking to a number of sources who are intricately aware of Rumble plans, we were told 'it's all on Rousey' and whether she wants to pull the trigger on the return, but the company is ready for it and wants it for Wrestlemania. Rousey vs. Becky Lynch or Charlotte Flair would obviously add some juice to Wrestlemania 38 if they go in that direction," Johnson wrote.
Should the UFC Hall of Famer make her return on Saturday, which direction best suits her, her character and WWE as a whole and why is now the perfect time for her reemergence?
Big Time Match with Big Time Becks
One of the most significant matches WWE could produce heading into this year's WrestleMania is a Raw Women's Championship contest between Rousey and Lynch.
At WrestleMania 35, the current champion capped off her run toward the main event by becoming the first woman to defeat Rousey in a WWE ring in the night's historic headline bout. There was no follow-up, however, as Rousey disappeared, never to return as she focused on having a baby with husband Travis Browne.
Having given birth in September, there would be plenty of reason to suggest Rousey isn't ready to come back. But if she does make her presence felt this weekend, the only creative direction that makes sense is for her to target the woman who hung her first wrestling L on her.
The story is rich and the matchup is a genuine blockbuster that could easily headline The Showcase of the Immortals and the heat for the contest would be palpable.
As far as the winner goes? It would depend on how long Rousey sticks around.
If the 34-year-old strikes a deal for a couple of appearances, there's reason to believe Lynch would go 2-0 against her. If it is a longer-term contract, Rousey may well collect championship No. 2 and silence Big Time Becks in the process.
Either way, it is a match with enough back story and interest to eclipse even Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns as a worthy main event and enhance a WrestleMania 38 card that will need all of the star power possible to sell out the huge AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
But Why Now?
Other than sprucing up the biggest card of the year, why would WWE be so eager to bring Rousey back into the fold? The answer lies in the current state of the women's division.
The most obvious winner of the women's Rumble match is Bianca Belair. She also has a ready-made storyline in place with Lynch, but it stands to reason that the company would not book The EST of WWE to repeat as Rumble winner and run back a match fans saw plenty of last fall.
So, if not Belair, who?
Flair could always etch her name in the history books by winning the Rumble for a second time and becoming the first champion to do so, but that would likely be met with a considerable amount of backlash from fans tired of having The Queen thrust upon them.
Then there is Liv Morgan, whose beloved underdog is the perfect character to win a match like this and prove she is deserving of a title opportunity. Unfortunately for her, she just lost to Lynch in consecutive matches, including one at Day 1, and is unlikely to be chosen for a third contest at 'Mania.
Barring a legend like Lita winning the women's Rumble or Bayley or Asuka returning for a monumental moment, it leaves the return of a major name like Rousey as the most logical option.
That's an indictment on the creative decisions that have gone into the women's division in recent months and the lack of foresight on WWE's part, but it's also a testament to its ability to keep that one ace up its sleeve, ready to use at the opportune time.
Rousey is someone whose presence on any show makes it more interesting and who has been gone just long enough to have an impact when she does decide to return.
If that time is Saturday in St. Louis, the Road to WrestleMania and everything fans thought they knew about it would be turned upside down in the best way imaginable.