Last night, at Money in the Bank, Ronda Rousey wrestled her second televised match for the WWE. How did she do? Let’s find out.
The Match – Ronda Rousey vs Nia Jax (c) – Raw Women’s Championship
Around an hour into the show, we get shots of both Ronda and Nia preparing for their match backstage. For me, this telegraphed the championship bout as being the main event of the show. It was certainly the headlining championship match, but the men’s ladder match went on to close the PPV. For a couple of hours I thought that they were going to go down the UFC main event path, of having Ronda main event and win in seconds.
Nia enters first, as the champion. I’m never a fan of this, but I guess they’re projecting the idea that Ronda is bigger than the title. She technically is, but I’m not so sure it’s something they should actively promote. Nobody, not even the second coming of Jesus Christ himself, should be bigger than a championship.
Ronda makes her way to the ring, met with cheers from the Chicago fans. She’s brining more intensity than she does on Raw, but still can’t stop herself from smiling. I’m still on the fence as to whether this harms her bad-ass persona, or endears her to an unforgiving WWE Universe.
The bell rings and immediately Nia tackles Ronda, repeatedly ramming her into the turnbuckle. A huge throw, followed by a corner splash, sees Nia take early dominance. Commentary puts over the idea that any moves go in the WWE, which isn’t strictly true, and they discuss UFC as though it’s some other kayfabe wrestling promotion.
Ronda sidesteps another splash and throws some early strikes into Nia’s midsection, before Nia silences her with a head-butt. Ronda sell it like death, because Nia is samoan and WWE still use tropes routed in racism.
Nia lifts Rousey into a fireman’s carry, but Rousey counters with a kimura lock attempt, followed by an armbar, and a triangle hold. Nia powers through and lifts Rousey for an awkward looking sit-out power-bomb. Ronda’s body was slightly angled, and Nia did absolutely nothing to protect her on the fall.
Ronda sells and stumbles out of the ring, taking the bump much harder than she needed to. Nia follows and swings Rousey into the barricade, before rolling her back in the ring for a two-count. Rousey fights back with more strikes, but Nia hits her with a great looking gorilla-press slam. More submission attempts from Ronda that don’t seem to phase the powerhouse, who repeatedly rag-dolls Rousey headfirst into the mat.
Nia locks in a bearhug, and the idiotic broadcaster that is Coach calls this moment a “rest” for Ronda. A submission has been locked in by a larger opponent, and Coach (in kayfabe!) refers to it as the rest-hold that it is (in reality).
I could even hear Vince screaming in my ear. Dammit!
The hold is broken and a partially botched samoan-drop is hit by Nia. It’s hard to tell who is at fault here, Ronda wasn’t caught properly but she also didn’t make a full rotation. They replay it anyway, and it looks even worse. Ronda avoids a leg-drop, and locks in an arm-bar over the ropes. Then, she climbs to the top rope for the first time in her career and hits a textbook crossbody for a near-fall.
Ronda “Hulks Up”, hits some rapid strikes and a beautiful high-knee. A huge judo-throw to Nia gets another two-count and showcases the superhuman strength of the much smaller fighter.
For the closing sequence, Ronda attempts an armbar but receives a rollup, which she kicks out of and hits a sort-of Rock-Bottom onto Nia. After some struggle, Rousey finally locks in the armbar and threatens an arm snap, only for Alexa Bliss to storm the ring and destroy both women with her freshly-won briefcase.
After several thudding shots to both competitors, a cash-in is made and your new Raw women’s champion is Alexa Bliss.
All Ronda matches in the first year of her career must be viewed through a lens. She’s an experienced legit fighter, but is relatively new to this whole scripted reality business. However, she looked more comfortable between the ropes than her opponent. Nia has been wrestling for three years now, yet she still moves and delivers bigger slams in an awkward manner.
I didn’t enjoy Nia’s short reign as champion, but pre-match I was concerned about them putting the belt onto Ronda, so early on in her career. So, personally, I had no issue with the finish of this match. Alexa is a natural heel champion, who may not be a gifted technical wrestler, but understands that the WWE is about character work also. She’s essentially The Miz of her division.
The problems with Alexa’s title reigns aren’t Alexa, it’s the booking of the faces who give chase. Long heel reigns are good for developing new faces, and they failed with Alexa/Nia at the start of the year, by having Nia cut terrible promos and the near-immediate heel turn. So, if they’ve learned from their mistakes (ha), they can have Ronda chase the title for the rest of the year. Alexa can continue to generate heat, giving talent like Ember Moon some experience in championship matches. While Ronda makes her way through the heels on the roster.
Because that’s what Ronda needs. She needs more experience. Her WrestleMania outing blew everyone away, and this was a decent-enough singles match for someone so fresh. A match that, if anything, had more botches from the “veteran”.
Her strikes are on form, and she’s clearly learned how to work a punch. In fact, her offence in general is leaps and bounds above any other year-one rookies. I think you’d have to go back to Kurt Angle to find natural talent like that. She still has a lot to learn when it comes to taking a bump, to make sure she doesn’t injure herself. Going forward I’d like to see her in matches with experienced, safer workers, like Natalya, Mickie James or Sasha Banks. Who also happen to be three women who’d sell extremely well for her.
Ultimately, it appears as though Ronda was rushed to a title match to sell tickets, but at least no premature triggers were pulled. And if the championship is going to be on a superstar who can’t wrestle quite as well, I’d rather it be held by the person with character skills.
Today is Monday, June 18th and in about six hours I’m getting my wisdom teeth pulled out.
What did you think of the match? How do you feel about the result? Let me know, in the comments below!
Images courtesy of WWE, for the purposes of review.