A year ago Ronda Rousey signed with the WWE and had her debut match at WrestleMania. Since then, she's main-evented pay-per-views, become Raw Women's Champion, and is easily one of the most recognizable names in the company. Not everyone is too happy with Rousey's run, however, many frustrated with the way she acts as though she is above the business. One year later, there's a lot to love, and a lot to not, so we've compiled the top 5 of each.
Which side do you land on?
10 Don't Love: Her Non-sensical Promos
Listen, wrestling is hard. One of the reasons it's so hard is because of the promos. It's not easy to recite a powerful monologue in front of thousands of people live with minimal time to prepare. No one is expecting her to be a top-notch talker yet. But, for something that is so clearly a weakness of her's it's weird that it's so exposed. They could easily cover up with a manager or a "strong silent type" gimmick. It's not just in delivery, which could be chalked up to a speech impediment that Rousey struggles with. The content of these promos often times make no sense, leading many to believe they're flubbed lines.
9 Love: Her Growth in the Ring
Because of her unique situation, Rousey did not have the opportunity to train at the performance center like her peers. Instead, she had to learn a lot of it as she went along. Despite that huge hindrance, Rousey has really come a long way in the span of that year. She impressed in her first match last year, partnering with Kurt Angle to take on Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. Since then, each match has been an improvement on the last. We expect her match with Flair and Lynch at WrestleMania will be her very best yet.
8 Don't Love: Her Recycled Gimmick
Plenty of wrestlers pay tribute to the childhood hero that inspired them to wrestle. Sasha Banks, for example, does the Frog Splash in tribute to Eddie Guererro. That said, Rousey's homages to Roddy Piper seem to be never-ending. First it was the nickname, then the merch in his iconic style, soon followed by wearing a kilt to the ring. That's not even mentioning the countless times she brings him up in promos. It positions Rousey as a shadow of Piper. That's just unfair to her and her potential as her own character.
7 Love: Attention to the women's division
It's hard to deny that the increased attention on the women's division had, at least in part, something to do with Rousey. She is one of their biggest signings in history and she came with a built-in fanbase. Her addition to the roster brought many eyes on the product that otherwise wouldn't have been watching. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Every woman in the WWE has benefitted from the fact that more people care about the division than ever before. No one can really say if Evolution or a women's WrestleMania main event would've happened without Rousey, but she certainly made it a more pressing issue.
6 Don't Love: Feud with Nikki Bella
As the main event of Evolution, Nikki Bella challenged Rousey for the Raw Women's Championship. Rousey was positioned as the company's top babyface, which meant Bella had to play the heel. Sure the Bella Twins typically fall into that mean girl role, but this time it felt so backward.
Bella had fought her way back from a career-threatening injury and shown heart every step of the way. Meanwhile, Rousey was spewing the same gross, tired insults as everyone else in the past five years of Bella's career. It was a good match at the end of the day but the build left us feeling unsatisfied.
5 Love: Feud with Becky Lynch
On the opposite side of the spectrum is her most recent work against Lynch. Hard as WWE tried, they just couldn't make Lynch the heel in this program. The fans just wouldn't have it. So, Rousey leaned into the fact that she would be the less popular one in the equation. What started as a friendly champion vs. champion special attraction has turned into a rivalry that's truly heated in its worst moments. It's given fans all the more reason to get behind Lynch and revved up the excitement for when they finally come face to face. This feud was lightning in a bottle.
4 Don't Love: Breaking Kayfabe
The way Rousey went about getting herself heat, however, isn't our favorite. For those new to the lingo, Kayfabe is a Japanese word that essentially means the characters and stories continue outside of WWE programming. With social media, wrestlers break Kayfabe all the time, but it matters why you break Kayfabe, and how. When a heel gives respect to a babyface they're supposed to be feuding with but actually consider a friend, that warms our hearts. When Rousey calls wrestling fake, Lynch's armbar fake, and tells her she's going to punch her in the face no matter what the script says does not feel good. No one likes being treated like they're stupid for suspending their disbelief in order to enjoy this show.
3 Love: Defending Champion
Rousey became the Raw Women's Champion at an accelerated speed. Fans hardly had time to get to know her as a competitor before having to adjust to her as a champion. Some were concerned that this was yet another indication that Rousey was the female Brock Lesnar. Both are former UFC fighters whose presence is a draw all on its own. As a result, Lesnar is known for being a part-time champion and only showing up a handful of times a year. Rousey has proven that is not her style. While she doesn't wrestle house-shows, she works a full-time schedule, appearing on Monday Night Raw nearly every week. She also often defends the Raw Women's Championship against any and all challengers, including the aforementioned Open Challenge. There is never a question of if the championship will be defended on any given pay-per-view, which gives it a sense of importance. In fact, it may just feel like the most important title in the company right now.
2 Don't Love: False Humility
When Rousey first came to WWE, she was a golden child. Everyone knew it. She was touted as their biggest signing and most expected her to be a champion right away. To counteract that expectation, Rousey was positioned as a white-meat babyface. All she wanted was the chance to prove herself and earn her spot. Problem is, it came off fake. Her promos delivered in this character felt a hundred times less genuine than the ones she's cut recently. In particular, when Nia Jax invited her to challenge for the Raw Women's Championship, she awkwardly stated that there were other people in front of her in line. It felt like she was reciting lines, and probably because she was. If there's anything worse than cockiness, it's false humility.
1 Love: Main Event
Whatever your opinion on Rousey, there's no denying that it was a much easier sell to have women main event WrestleMania with her in the match. This year marks the first time in a WrestleMania's 35 year history that women will hold that spot. Of course, equal credit must be given to Charlotte and Becky Lynch, as well as every single woman in the division. Ask any of them, this was a team effort spanning years and even generations. But, Rousey was the last little bit of star power that pushed it over the edge. With her, it was not an issue of the women should main event, but rather that the women need to main event. It may or may not be the end of her in-ring career with WWE, but it will definitely be the highlight.