Ronda Rousey is in the unfortunate situation where she doesn’t have much room for error.
The former UFC women’s champion inked a deal to join WWE back in January and made her debut at the Royal Rumble before disappearing off television for several weeks to finish filming a movie in Colombia.
When she returned, Rousey was immediately paired with Kurt Angle over the course of three weeks where she “signed” her contract at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view and then in the two subsequent weeks on Raw, she appeared to set up her WrestleMania 34 match.
Now Rousey will make her in ring debut at the biggest event of the year when she teams with Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in a mixed tag team match. With Rousey’s return to television, WWE also promoted that she would be appearing at every Monday Night Raw between Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania 34.
There’s only one problem — Rousey has been completely absent from live television the past two weeks outside of a vignette that was shown this past Monday night that talked about her journey from the UFC to joining WWE.
As it turns out, Rousey actually was in Dallas for Raw but she didn’t make any appearance during the live broadcast, but instead came out for a non-televised “dark” segment where she addressed the crowd and then had an incredibly awkward spot with Dana Brooke.
Now no one is going to accuse Dana Brooke of being the best worker in the company but the sequence of moves with Rousey — from the poorly blocked punch to Brooke literally jumping into Rousey’s arms to help her with a suplex — was just terrible execution. She’s only been training for her in-ring debut for a handful of months, so it’s going to take a long time before she’s pulling off moves with fluidity like watching Charlotte Flair take on Sasha Banks.
It seems rather obvious that WWE is giving Rousey a chance to learn on the job with a segment like she had with Dana Brooke this past week, but then that also begs the question — will she truly be ready for WrestleMania in three weeks time?
It’s easy to point at past celebrity appearances for WrestleMania matches — from Mike Tyson to Floyd Mayweather and even President Donald Trump — to know that WWE isn’t exactly banking on them suddenly transforming into A.J. Styles overnight. By that same account, no one expected Kurt Angle or Brock Lesnar to suddenly pick up the business in a matter of days when they first joined the WWE universe.
The difference with both Angle and Lesnar as high level athletes who transitioned into WWE is that they had time to develop in promotions away from the bright lights. Angle worked matches in several developmental promotions before finally being eased into a role on television. Lesnar famously teamed up with Shelton Benjamin as a tag team in Ohio Valley Wrestling and spent two years working in a developmental league before finally being called up to the main WWE roster.
Even fellow UFC veteran Shayna Baszler, who counts Rousey as one of her best friends, spent several years working her way up through the independent circuit before she was given a shot in WWE as part of the “Mae Young Classic” and now she’s still developing as part of the NXT roster.
Meanwhile, Rousey will have none of those luxuries as she prepares for her first match on the biggest stage possible at WrestleMania 34. Chances are Rousey won’t be expected to carry much of the match — what’s more likely is Stephanie McMahon will shy away from Rousey the entire match leaving the bulk of the work to Triple H and Angle. By the end, Rousey will likely find her way into get the tap out and the victory as she officially kicks off her WWE career.
That being said, Rousey’s spots thus far in WWE have been tough to watch.
Her mic work has a lot of room for improvement, but that will come over time. She has an undeniable presence about her, despite the limited emotive range we’ve seen thus far (either a huge grin or her ominous ‘murder face’). Add to that, she’s been awkward with the pair of slams that she’s landed on Stephanie and Dana Brooke in her two more physical altercations in the ring.
The toughest part about those sequences is that no first time wrestler would be expected to pull off those moves flawlessly — but 99.9-percent of first time wrestlers aren’t doing that in front of thousands of people with millions more watching at home on television.
Ronda Rousey making her WWE debut in front of a jam-packed stadium will do big business and draw mainstream headlines. At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about.
However, her room for error as a worker under this bright spotlight is virtually non-existent and the reality is that’s not fair, because it takes years to develop into a good worker. Unfortunately because Rousey undoubtedly signed a lucrative contract to work for WWE, she won’t have the luxury of spending two years working the independent circuit before finally joining the main roster.
It’s a catch 22 situation, but is Rousey being set up for success or failure?
Only time will tell but with three weeks remaining until WrestleMania 34, Rousey will be jumping from the frying pan in the fire in quick fashion and at that point it’s sink or swim.
When it comes to the reaction from savvy professional wrestling fans, there is no third direction.
Are you excited to see Ronda Rousey make her professional wrestling debut at WrestleMania 34 and what do you expect? Sound off in the comments and let us know