Even before she lost her big return match against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207, rumors were flying that Ronda Rousey was already preparing for her exit from the world of MMA, and into a new career. For many people, WWE seemed like an obvious destination for Rousey, thanks to her previous involvement with the company at WrestleMania 31, and WWE making no secret of the fact that they would love to get her back for at least another appearance, if not a full-time contract. But would it actually be a good idea for WWE to sign Rousey? We debated several possible arguments based on that question, and arranged the results in a list of pros and cons, to help organize our thoughts. Read on, and find out what conclusion we come to in the end, and see if you agree or disagree with our decision!
Pro: She’s Still A Mainstream Star
Even with the loss, Rousey is still a marketable name. People who don’t follow MMA religiously (or even casually) would probably recognize her, whether it’s from seeing her in Furious 7, some other public appearance, or just general cultural osmosis. She’s got one of those high “Q scores” people are always talking about when they debate how much of a celebrity she is. The point is, even if her aura as an unbeatable fighter is broken in MMA, doesn’t mean people don’t still think she’s awesome. Putting Ronda Rousey in your advertising will still draw people’s attention, as long as she doesn’t just fade from the public eye immediately. With WrestleMania coming up, WWE has shown that they will do whatever it takes to get celebrities on their biggest show of the year, so they can trumpet themselves as a hot commodity in the entertainment world. Hell, Rousey showed up at WrestleMania 31 unadvertised, said almost nothing, hit Triple H with an armdrag, and it was front page news almost immediately. Imagine what kind of media attention WWE could leverage if there was a possibility that Rousey would actually be wrestling?
Con: She Actually Can’t Wrestle
Here’s the thing, though. You can’t learn pro wrestling overnight, no matter how good of an athlete you might be. Kurt Angle adapted from amateur wrestling to the pro scene faster than anyone in the history of the business, and it took a man who won an Olympic gold medal for wrestling over a year of hard, accelerated training before he was good enough to debut on TV. Admittedly, MMA fighters have a head start because the basics of both have some similarities, but the disadvantage is, now you’re in a sport where you have to go against your instincts and not try to hurt someone. Plus, no matter what your background, taking a bump might be one of the hardest things to pick up, because the human body doesn’t really want to fall flat on its back repeatedly, and it also has to be the first thing you learn. If Rousey signed with WWE tomorrow, she’d probably be able to pick up enough of the basics to fake her way through a Mania match in roughly three months, assuming she was in the ring with a veteran who could carry her, but it would be months, and probably at least a year, before she’d likely be able to wrestle regularly.
Pro: If She Learns Quickly, She Could Have Some Great Matches And Storylines
That said, if Rousey turns out to be an Angle or Lesnar-level prodigy, or even just a competent wrestler at all, the matches she could have with the women of Raw and Smackdown could eventually be spectacular, and help carry the rising division to even greater heights. Extended feuds with any or all of Sasha, Bayley, and Charlotte could carry WWE through a couple of years of potential main-event Women’s Division matches and continue to legitimize women’s wrestling for this “New Era”. In addition, because it’s wrestling and not MMA, there’s no danger (short of injury) of what has happened to Rousey in UFC, where she was the biggest star in the world, lost two matches, and suddenly her career is finished. WWE has the freedom to script these things. You can have her come in as a face on a redemption storyline, trying to rebuild herself after a fall from grace, or just go full Lesnar, and have her be an arrogant MMA fighter come to show those “fake” wrestlers how a real fight goes. The possibilities are actually endless.
Con: It Pushes Aside The Women Who Built The Division
It’s hard not to see WWE bringing in Rousey with a lot of pomp and circumstance, since she was just one of the biggest stars of UFC. A WrestleMania match, if she signs in time, would be the obvious first step, but clearly if she stayed on the main roster she would become one of the centerpieces of the Women’s Division. And a certain portion of our brain would be a little unhappy to see Rousey immediately rise to the top of that division after all the work that women like Sasha, Charlotte, Bayley, Becky Lynch, and others put into building it up in the first place. This is similar to the whole argument about part-time wrestlers getting prime WrestleMania matches, but slightly different because we’d like to believe Rousey would come in full-time, but she would be a very green rookie in this environment, suddenly becoming one of the stars of the division. Of course, the other side of that argument is that Rousey’s involvement would help raise the profile of the division, and anything that helps wrestlers as a group make more money should probably be welcomed, but that whole old-school “paying dues” mentality still hasn’t left the industry, and it could cause backlash against Rousey.
Pro: She’s A Huge Wrestling Fan
The good news is, Rousey is a lifelong wrestling fan would probably be happy about becoming a WWE Superstar, unlike other athletes who have traditionally looked at pro wrestling as a last resort when their real career doesn’t pan out. Rousey, who borrowed her “Rowdy” nickname from the late Roddy Piper (with his blessing), has already associated herself with WWE multiple times in the past, and clearly would consider it a viable career path if her MMA one is truly over. Most importantly, it likely that she would actually be interested in becoming a good wrestler, rather than just doing it for the paycheck, and not only because it would be a way to keep her name in the news. We might wonder if her dedication would extend to actually going to the Performance Center and getting the full training experience, working up through NXT for a while before hitting the main roster, but that route might not even really be her decision.
Con: You’re Not Bringing Her In For A Year From Now
The problem is, WWE’s not going to give Rousey what will probably be a large amount of money (which we’ll get to) just to bundle her off to the Performance Center for a year to learn the business. Like we said earlier, Rousey’s still got star power now, but that doesn’t mean she’ll have it a year from now, especially if her training takes place off TV. That means there’s an excellent chance that Rousey would be forced to learn on the job, and while sure, it might earn WWE a few more subscribers for her WrestleMania appearance, that’s not a method that has been conducive to creating great, or even good wrestlers, or long careers. More often, it’s a recipe for someone getting hurt, because that’s what usually happens when a half-trained athlete gets in the ring and tries to wrestle. WWE could try and have it both ways, having Rousey wrestle a limited match at Mania and then sending her down for training, but would they be willing to take the long view and potentially get themselves a better wrestler overall, when the short-term gain of having Rousey on the main roster is far easier, even if she never really learns the craft?
Pro: WWE Does Own A Movie Studio To Help Her Acting Career
One of Rousey’s goals in recent years has been to branch out into acting, as evidenced by her role in Furious 7 and other small parts. Of course, the problem with getting into acting is you need a way to get your foot in the door, and fortunately for anyone under a WWE contract, they do have their own production studio for that very purpose. Well, okay, it’s a way for WWE to get their Superstars into movies while still maintaining control over them, but it’s still an obvious venue for Rousey to get into movies, even if they aren’t exactly big-budget blockbusters. Just keeping her name associated with movie roles will help keep that option open, and WWE would almost certainly be willing to have her star (or at least have supporting roles) in a few films, because anything that could help make WWE Studios even slightly more profitable would be welcomed with open arms.
Con: She Isn’t Very Good At Acting
We didn’t think she was horrible in a limited role, but Rousey’s part in Furious 7 didn’t exactly have studios knocking down her door with contract offers. The fact of the matter is, Rousey isn’t much of an actress, because she’s been focused on, you know, being an actual high-level MMA fighter for most of her adult life. That’s a problem not just in her attempt to break into Hollywood, but also in the entertainment-based WWE, where you are going to be expected to play a character and actually talk regularly in order to sell feuds and matches. We’re not saying she can’t learn, and if she’s planning to be in more movies she’s almost certainly already trying to do so, but it’s still a major obstacle towards her becoming a complete success in the WWE environment, where she won’t be able to hide out of the spotlight for months in between fights.
Pro: But That Can Be Worked Around
We’re pretty sure Brock Lesnar didn’t say ten words into a live microphone in 2016 for WWE, but that sure didn’t hurt his character at all, because he does his talking in the ring (his lazy tendencies in the ring in 2016, now, those hurt him quite a bit, but that’s a whole other thing). In fact, it’s Brock’s manager, Paul Heyman, who famously built an entire wrestling promotion around the mantra “hide the negative, accentuate the positive”. If Rousey can’t talk, get someone to talk for her and have her innate charisma inside the ring, which is what helped make her a star in the first place in UFC, do the rest. Manager, mouthpieces, silent monsters, these are all things that are commonplace in pro wrestling, and wrestlers who couldn’t string together full sentences have gone on to become big stars. It’s also not like she can’t still do all right in movies, either, because we’ve seen absolutely terrible actors make a lot of money in movies where they didn’t have to say fifty words, and let’s face it, brainless action movies with explosions replacing dialogue is right in the wheelhouse of WWE Studios.
Con: She Will Cost WWE A Lot Of Money Initially
Even though her UFC career is probably over and people are rushing to shovel dirt on its grave, Rousey still has enough leverage that signing her to a contract isn’t going to be cheap. She just made at least 3 million dollars for her fight with Nunes, so you can assume the numbers her to even come in for a one-time appearance would start around there, and a full-time contract would bring the numbers up significantly. WWE has handed out big contracts before, but would they hand it out to someone who, however popular, wouldn’t really be a wrestler for at least a year? The answer, of course, is “probably, yes”, but the expense of bringing in Rousey, which would affect the bottom line of a publicly traded company, has to be considered. In addition, how many current WWE roster members are you okay with losing in cost-cutting maneuvers to offset Rousey’s contract in the short-term? And remember, it’s probably not going to be the ones you don’t like, it’s going to be your mid-card Superstars with cult followings who you think could be an integral part of Raw if they only got some more TV time and a few wins who end up getting the ax.
Pro: It’s Not Like It’s Our Money, Though
Well, actually, it is our money, since fans are a revenue source for WWE, but the point is that, much like a billion-dollar owner in MLB, there is no salary cap in WWE, and if Vince McMahon wants to throw millions at Ronda Rousey, if it means we get to see her on WWE TV, that’s really all that matters to us as viewers. Certainly, it wouldn’t be the dumbest or most expensive contract he’s ever signed, and you can look at Brock Lesnar’s contract as an example of how much money Vince will give up if he thinks he can make a whole bunch more as a result. The potential benefits almost certainly outweigh the costs, and frankly, WWE would be insane not to at least enter serious negotiations with Rousey. If she turns them down, that’s one thing, but for a legitimate star like Rousey, who could actually affect WWE in a positive way, both creatively and financially, it’s a risk they pretty much have to take. Will Rousey sign with WWE? We’re no experts, but even if it doesn’t happen immediately, we can’t help but feel like WWE is Rousey’s best option, and it’s not so much a matter of if, but when she signs on the dotted line.