Ronda Rousey is the greatest female athlete of all time.
There, I’ve said it.
She is the single-most impressive female to ever walk the planet in a sporting capacity.
It’s not what the sporting purists want to hear, but here’s why I am lauding her above any other athlete when it comes to her achievements.
Her greatest ability is that of adaptation. Her second greatest ability is being able to excel once she has adapted – and that is something that stands unrivalled by her peers both in sport – and now, in the world of sports entertainment.
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room first. Rousey is now a sports entertainer. She takes part in scripted entertainment. It’s a far-cry from the uncertain world of the Octagon, but nonetheless that’s where she is.
Now let’s get something straight to start with though – while the action may be predetermined, this does not detract in any way from the physical prowess involved, and certainly not the toll it can take on the body. This, is very, very real.
On Sunday night, Ronda Rousey made her WWE in-ring debut on the biggest stage of all – WrestleMania. Understandably, her presence has been getting huge interest from both pro-wrestling fans, and a more mainstream audience, with a general consensus that anything avoiding embarrassment would be seen as success.
Her time to train for a life in WWE has been limited. She’s had barely a couple of months to get to a standard that most would take years to get to.
All eyes were on her – and as with much of her sporting careers, people wanted her to fail.
As it turned out, Rousey didn’t hold her own. She dominated – because that’s what she does.
Take a step back to her judo days and you’ll see a record that’s unrivalled when it comes to achievements in the US. With multiple titles on home soil, around the world and an Olympic bronze medal to show for her toil, she stepped into a world where her face didn’t fit, did her own thing, and excelled.
From there she moved to MMA – and this is where she not only shone in the sporting arena, but started to transcend sport. In the male dominated world of the UFC, she had a female division practically created for her – she was the flag bearer of the women’s game and everyone who has come after her and is yet to come has to acknowledge that.
The reason women are getting paychecks in the UFC is Rousey.
It was also at the time that she was breaking into the world of the big and small screen. Late night talk shows, and blockbuster movies became part of the routine – once again opening up opportunity not only for herself but for others.
Now, it would be remiss not to mention her exit from MMA. Two high profile losses sent her into an almost reclusive state. Broken in mind more than body, her journey away from the Octagon was not a pleasant one.
However, as a judo practitioner she was never blessed with the striking skills of some other athletes – so to dominate the sport for as long as she did is more than impressive.
And now she is reinventing herself again. Opening herself up to learning a new set of skills, testing her body with the rigours of the bumps and bangs of a wrestling ring.
Some athletes have the bulging trophy cabinets, and others have longevity in sport at the highest of levels, but none have done what Ronda has.
You may not like it but you cannot help but stand back and admire Rousey.
Her attitude in MMA may not have won friends, but it was what was needed to help her succeed.
Now all of a sudden the fans are cheering for her, and she makes her way down a new path.
How long the path is, nobody knows – but what we do know is that Ronda Rousey can adapt, and once adapted can excel – and for her to do it in the number of fields she has – both in and out of sport – is why in the pantheon of female sporting greats, she stands alone with her achievements.
It was a night where the wrestling took centre-stage, with no big curve balls when it came to run ins, heel-turns and other shenanigans.
Yes, Bray Wyatt showed up in the Battle Royal and Shinsuke Nakamura turned heel but that didn’t detract from what went before.
Finishes were clean, and everything seemed to go without incident – perhaps a hat tip to the in-ring success of NXT, and a lack of need for all the added drama.
Here’s what else we learned from the latest iteration of the Showcase of the Immortals.
The women stole the show
Little doubt in this one. Charlotte and Asuka arguably had the match of the night, Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss exceeded all expectations, the Women’s Battle Royal had some good spots and a decent ending, oh, and Ronda Rousey can wrestle!
It was a huge night for the women’s division and they delivered in spades.
Hats off also to a part-time in-ringer, and mum-of-three who is now in her 40s. Stephanie McMahon, you rock.
Ronda’s got it
Can Ronda wrestle? Will she be able to hang? Can she make it through a match?
Every question that was asked of the former MMA champ was answered, and critics getting way more than they could ever bargain for.
From the second she took a hot-tag from Kurt Angle and flew across the ring at Stephanie McMahon, to the moment she locked in the final arm bar Rousey was incredible.
We know about her strength and athleticism, but the way she sold and told the story of the match could not have been anticipated – the quality of her work anyway.
The big question now is what direction she takes from here. Whatever it is, it will be must-see.
Nakamura missed opportunity?
It was the match that didn’t need the big hype. The match for the purist pitting AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura together in what should have been a wrestling dreamland.
In the end it was good, but perhaps not the heights we expected.
Styles is a worthy champion, but now Nakamura finds himself in a tough spot.
The heel-turn has to be full-blooded, and with limited skills on the mic it could be tricky.
Seth’s still the best worker around
Arguably the best men’s match kicked off the show, in the form of the Triple Threat match for the IC title.
Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and The Miz were all entrusted with the responsibility of getting the show off to a flier and didn’t disappoint.
The fact the strap ended up on Seth is yet more proof that he’s valued highly as one of the best workers around. And rightly so.
Where now for Roman
After a trip to Suplex City, and numerous F5s, the question is what now for Roman Reigns?
A bloodied mess at the end of the match with Brock Lesnar, Reigns expected win turned into little more than a playground bullying.
With Brock’s future still in question, Reigns is likely to remain in the title picture but needs to get his hands on the gold sooner rather than later
Daniel Bryan, you’ve still got it
YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES#WrestleMania @WWEDanielBryan pic.twitter.com/N5FfpPeEDA— WWE (@WWE) April 9, 2018
Well despite his layoff, Daniel Bryan hasn’t missed a step.
His timing was impeccable throughout his tag match with Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn – fast around the ring and nailing all his signature moves with unerring accuracy.
The creative decision to have him injured on the outside for much of the first part of the match wasn’t great – but once involved he blew the roof off the Superdome in New Orleans.
Appetites are very much whetted for his next steps.
Wrestlemaia 34 is now consigned to the history books, here is a rundown of the results from the night and our take in the immediate aftermath in New Orleans
Brock Lesnar defeats Roman Reigns to defend WWE Universal Championship
Spear. Superman Punch. German Suplex. F5. Mix and match, and repeat. Nothing for the purist here just high impact and improbable kick-outs. Roman getting opened up was a high point. Expect him to take the belt in the near future.
AJ Styles beats Shinsuke Nakamura to defend WWE World Heavyweight title
After the expectation around this match there was always a question mark whether it would live up to the hype. Did it? Probably. Styles is deserving of extending his run, while the Nakamura heel turn opens up some exciting angles in the coming weeks.
Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey defeat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
So Ronda Rousey can wrestle! The former MMA star had a debut to remember as she went through a repertoire of moves, sold well and generally told a story alongside Kurt Angle. This was expected to be short and sweet but such was the quality of Rousey, and indeed Steph, it more than deserved the time it went. A real high point.
Undertaker defeats John Cena
The Undertaker answered the call, the match was all it needed to be, and no more.
Raw Women’s Championship — Nia Jax def Alexa Bliss to become new Champion
Much better, and longer than expected. Alexa is certainly proving those who question her in-ring ability wrong and made a real match of this. Jax looked strong and dominant, but also vulnerable when the champ was on the attack. A good match.
Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon def. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
A bit of a slow burn with Bryan needing treatment early. Shane was brilliant to carry things early on – just remember how often this guy competes, and take that in for a moment. Bryan looked like he’s not missed a step and is right back at the top of his game. An intriguing singles run awaits.
United States Championship– Jinder Mahal wins fatal four-way to be crowned champion
Why do this on Rusev Day? He was so over with the New Orleans crowd a win would have blown the roof off. As it was, he took the pin which felt wrong. At least we have a genuine heel with gold in the shape of Jinder.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship — The Bludgeon Brothers defeats The Usos and The New Day to win titles
Looked like there could be a squash on the cards early on but turned into a pretty competitive match with the Usos, in particular, showing their worth. Expect a dominant run now from the Bludgeon Brothers.
Raw Tag Team Championship — Braun Strowman and child defeat The Bar to become new tag-team champs
What. Was. That? An odd bit of booking to say the least. Where we go from here nobody knows.
SmackDown Women’s Championship — Charlotte Flair defeats Asuka
A shock result, but an absolutely incredible match. While many would have liked to have seen the streak continue, you have to give it to Charlotte for being the best in the business on current form.
Intercontinental Championship — The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor — Seth Rollins wins Intercontinental Championship
Arguably the best men’s match of the night. Big spots from early on, Rollins curb-stomping Finn through The Miz being a particular highlight. The top-worker in the business now has the top-worker’s belt.
Cedric Alexander vs Mustafa Ali — Alexander defeats Ali to win the Cruiserweight Championship
A great match with the unenviable task of trying to capture the imagination on one of the biggest cards in history. Both men hit the required high notes and Alexander is a worthy champ.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal — Matt Hardy wins the Battle Royal
Wonderful! In a mix bereft of too many storylines, a Hardy win was always going to go down well with the crowd. Bray Wyatt’s return was a nice touch – we knew he’d come.
Naomi wins the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
The Sasha Banks and Bayley angle didn’t get the payoff we all expected but, in the main this worked well. Battles between NXT stars and main roster superstars were good, The Riot Squad had a good showing, and Naomi was a popular winner.
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