WWE made a savvy business decision when Ronda Rousey defeated Alexa Bliss to become the Raw Women’s Champion at SummerSlam, but the toughest part of Rousey’s journey still lies ahead.
Of course, it was a no-brainer for Rousey to win the top female title in WWE in route to Evolution. As she proved in UFC, Rousey is a massive draw who generates a ton of interest and is far more recognizable than any and every other female star in the company. Thus, there’s little doubt that Rousey’s match with Bliss played a substantial role in the success of SummerSlam 2018 or that her mixed tag team match with Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 34 contributed to WWE reaching its highest subscriber count ever for the WWE Network.
Rousey is the definition of a must-see attraction, and as Raw Women’s Champion, she will put more eyes on the red brand than anyone else could. Her title win, however, has also created a massive problem for Raw’s women’s division, one that is similar to the issue that resulted from Brock Lesnar’s 500-day title reign, which put Raw’s main event picture in a vice grip for a year and a half.
What made WWE keep Lesnar around was that the company viewed him as a “transcendent star” who attracted fans from all walks of life, but what made “The Beast” transcendent was his invincibility and dominance. The same is true of Rousey, and that could present a major problem for WWE. Maybe not now or next month. But down the road? Absolutely.
Lesnar, of course, has spent the past several years running roughshod through the competition on the main roster. He rather easily destroyed just about everyone he crossed paths, an impressive list of former world champions and future Hall of Famers that included John Cena, Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, The Undertaker and even Braun Strowman. The way Lesnar dismantled anyone who got in his way undoubtedly accomplished the goal of establishing Lesnar as an unstoppable monster, but it came along with the unfortunate side effect of eventually transforming Lesnar into WWE’s most unlikable star. It wasn’t traditional heel heat, either. It was “Why is this guy still here?” furor and rage from aggravated fans.
Now, Lesnar is no longer champion and is gone from WWE, and Rousey said on the post-SummerSlam edition of Raw that she’s “not Brock Lesnar.” No, she isn’t. But she may eventually be.
Although Rousey appears to have a passion for pro wrestling that Lesnar never did, she is going to be pushed just as strongly as Lesnar has been over the years, especially after she recently told ESPN that was already thinking about extended her run with the company:
We had a set timeline set, and now we aren’t so sure about it because I love it so much. I guess that’s the best thing that could’ve happened, that I would love it so much it would be so hard to stop. I can see why people have a hard time leaving this industry because it’s such a joy to be a part of every day.
Rousey is working under a “full-time deal” as part of a reported multi-year contract that seemingly will keep her in WWE until at least WrestleMania 36 in 2020. That explains why Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair has been positioned as the early betting favorite to main event WrestleMania 35 next year and why reports indicate that is exactly what will happen. That also explains why Rousey is already the Raw Women’s Champion and why WWE is taking a page out of the Brock Lesnar playbook by booking Rousey to be on a different level from everyone in Raw’s women’s division.
Much like Lesnar ran through the likes of Cena, Orton and Strowman, Rousey has been presented as someone who has no equal on Raw. She was in route to defeating Nia Jax at Extreme Rules, absolutely demolished Alicia Fox in her lone Raw match, made a mockery out of Bliss at SummerSlam and has decimated Stephanie McMahon on more than occasion. She also just tapped out Mickie James on this week’s Raw. Is that smart booking? Of course it is because WWE should be portraying Rousey as a Lesnar-like monster who can’t be beaten.
But as demonstrated by Lesnar himself, there is a fine line between pushing someone strongly and pushing them too strongly.
Thus, WWE will find itself toeing that paper-thin balance between utilizing Rousey’s unique skill set and unparalleled drawing power to make her the new face of the women’s division and pushing her so much that she ultimately gets the Lesnar treatment and begins being rejected by fans. It took years for that to happen to Lesnar, but in route to his SummerSlam loss to Reigns, fans had grown sick and tired of seeing him be highlighted at the expense of virtually everyone else.
With the way Rousey has already dominated Fox, Bliss and McMahon (and is sure to do the same to others moving forward) at a time when no other female star on Raw is pushed nearly as strongly as she has been, WWE needs to be careful.
Because even though Rousey says she isn’t Lesnar, the creative team may ultimately change that.