Ronda Rousey has a date with championship destiny when she faces Nia Jax for the WWE Raw Women’s title at Money in the Bank on June 17. It’s destiny because many fans believe she will walk away with the gold. It’s also destiny because Rousey was eventually going to travel this road. But very few felt it would happen right now.
The WWE faithful have debated this issue over the past several days and the consensus seems to be that this is too soon for Rousey. She only worked once and that was a Mixed Tag Match at WrestleMania 34. There’s no good reason why she should receive a title opportunity this soon. So why move forward with this?
The easy answer is its Vince McMahon’s company and he can do what he wants. Rousey is a star and the McMahon family wanted her from the day she became a star in UFC. Her transition to the pro wrestling business was a natural progression and one that she has completely embraced. Ronda Rousey is a natural for the business.
Fans agreed with that sentiment on the night of WrestleMania. Rousey didn’t just show up, she showed off. Months of hard work and training paid dividends and Rousey found herself receiving praise from even the harshest critics. The world watched her perform that night and better yet, they watched her deliver. Ronda Rousey was not a wasted investment after all. But now all of that has changed because of a title shot.
Watch Jax challenge Rousey to a title match:
The ongoing narrative among WWE fans is that Superstars must work hard to get what they want. Guys shouldn’t be handed anything unless they’ve earned their spots. Of course the most recent example of this is Roman Reigns.
Reigns has worked hard over the past few years to achieve greatness in WWE. He’s always there, he always gives his best effort and he always leaves it all in the ring. No one can say he’s not precisely what WWE wants because every time he’s on deck, he does everything he can to put his match and the company over.
Yet the majority of fans continue to feel WWE forces him down their throats. WWE keeps booking him in high profile matches against top stars and Reigns keeps shining as a result. The crowd turned on him long ago and despite how well he does in the ring, nothing seems to sway popular opinion. Reigns is the most hated man in professional wrestling. Could the same eventually be said of Ronda Rousey?
The ironic part of this conversation is that most fans agree championship belts are just props and nothing more. They’re not actually won or lost; they’re distributed by the company. Many Hall of Fame stars never wore the world title and many top names today have yet to wear one either.
Finn Balor had the Universal Championship less than 24 hours before he was forced to surrender it due to injury. He hasn’t won it again since then. Samoa Joe has yet to win a title on the main roster and the same is true of Shinsuke Nakamura. While fans would obviously love to see any of the three become a champion, the fact is none of them really need a belt to get over. Some argue that a title would perhaps do them more harm than good.
But even though fans understand that championships are just trophies used for the show itself, that doesn’t prevent them from arguing over what Superstars should have them. Being a champion is only important for the fans because of the added prestige it bestows upon that champion. But is that prestige real or is it an illusion? Are fans buying into the concept of championships because they’ve been conditioned to do just that?
Watch Rousey catch Mickie James on Raw:
WWE wants the audience to care about the titles. Caring leads to following and following leads to emotionally investing. Without that connection between the Superstars and the fans, WWE is nothing more than a big budget Hollywood production.
This is why Ronda Rousey has a title shot at Money in the Bank. No she doesn’t have nearly 20 years of experience behind her. She’s not Balor, she’s not Joe and she’s not Nakamura. Rousey is not a world-traveled veteran that’s finally getting her shot in WWE. But fans cared about her when she came to the company because of who she is. They loved her at WrestleMania. Now they’re obsessed with her upcoming match with Nia Jax. This is a big deal because it’s Ronda Rousey, not just because she’s competing for a title.
The truth is there’s a story evolving here. Wrestling in a championship match is not the same as winning a championship match. Any number of things could go wrong for Rousey, including attacks from all sides. Fans believe Rousey stepped ahead of an entire locker room full of women that deserved a shot a Jax more than she did.
It’s logical to assume than any one of those women will want to step in and cost Rousey her shot at the Raw Women’s Championship. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, The Riott Squad, even Bayley and Sasha Banks, all have a legitimate complaint over Rousey’s sudden elevation in the ranks. Even Stephanie McMahon could interfere and prevent Rousey from winning the match. Anything can happen.
WWE could have played it safe and brought Rousey along one match at a time. She could have earned her stripes slowly but surely and maybe compete for a championship at WrestleMania 35. But instead they’ve thrown her into the fire. The pressure is on her to deliver, just as she did at WrestleMania 34. If she is serious about living her life as a WWE Superstar, then she will embrace that pressure and step up.
Fans care about this. For better or worse, Ronda Rousey is the center of attention and the WWE faithful does care about this. She knows she must be better than her best and she must exceed expectations like never before. Fans want her to deliver because they feel she must. There’s no turning back now. WWE knows that. Ronda Rousey surely knows it as well.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, iHeart Radio, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com