Ronda Rousey won her first WrestleMania match, earned the respect of the fans and got set apart from the rest of the women’s division in the process.
While Rousey and partner Kurt Angle did have their simultaneous arm bar and ankle lock submissions on Stephanie McMahon and husband Triple H, respectively, late in the match, it didn’t end that way at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday night.
The finish was what it should have been. The former UFC star was on top of a screaming, eyes-popping in fear and apologizing McMahon. Rousey attempting to finally pull the Raw general manager’s clasped hands apart (camera zoomed right on them) until she finally ripped her right arm enough for her to immediately submit. Though the win was expected, the moment fit the story and was sold well by both women — all with Rousey’s former boss , UFC President Dana White, sitting in the front row.
What wasn’t expected was how much Rousey mixed it up with Triple H because male and female superstars usually don’t interact in the ring the way these two did. In a true mixed tag match — which this one quickly deviated from — the opposite gender usually immediately leaves the ring when the other is tagged in, which limits physical action at times.
Instead at one point it was just her and the 14-time world champion in the ring, Rousey bouncing on one side with her fists up like Meisha Tate was across from her in the octagon. The former UFC women’s bantamweight champion ended up pummeling a smug Triple H into the corner with punches, caught his kick attempt and eventually rolled him up onto her back in a Samoan drop position.
The sight of her holding up all 256 pounds of Triple H drew a huge reaction from the announced crowd of 78,133.
Rousey later countered his power bomb attempt with a sweet hurricanrana and the pounced on him for an arm bar.
It’s moments like these that show WWE is going to present Rousey as someone to whom the normal rules for women wrestlers don’t fully apply. That’s a good thing when you are trying to take the women’s revolution to the next level. She is a badass willing and capable of fighting men and women — and rather well at that.
Rousey passed her first in-ring test with high marks. You could see those extensive training sessions paid off. Though not always fluid, her moves looked more than believable. Her counters showed off her judo skills, and WWE gave her just enough high-impact stuff to pop the crowd.
There was still the-girl-living-her-dream moments early. As Rousey walked down the ramp, dressed in her “Rowdy” Roddy Piper jacket, white sports bra with Rowdy across the front and kilt-like skirt, there was the childlike smile and a wave as she took in the massive crowd.
The place erupted when Angle finally tagged Rousey into the match. She sprinted across the ring as if MMA referee “Big” John McCarthy dropped his hand to start a fight. Rousey flipped McMahon into the ring, clotheslined her and then added a suplex. An eventual rake to the eye left Rousey’s face red, adding a bit of unexpected grittiness.
The match and the moment did what it had to do and in some ways, like her commitment to selling, exceeded them. WWE and Rousey can build off this. The foundation has been set and the ceiling is as high as we all hoped.