Apart from the allegations surrounding Vince McMahon, Roman Reigns’ contract status and what’s going on with MJF, there’s perhaps no wrestling topic fans spend more time discussing than Ronda Rousey’s character presentation. The popular MMA fighter made a surprise return to WWE during the Royal Rumble in January. She won to a big ovation from the crowd, but unfortunately, very little about her story arc has hit as hard as anyone hoped in the time since. Now, Bruce Prichard and the writers are at a crossroads, and they need to make a huge decision before or during SummerSlam on July 30th.
At SummerSlam, Ronda Rousey is scheduled to wrestle fan favorite Liv Morgan, and unless there’s an unexpected twist none of us have seen coming, fans are going to root for Liv Morgan. We know this because at Money In The Bank, Morgan cashed in her contract for a title shot at Rousey, and when it appeared Ronda was going to win, fans booed pretty loudly. Morgan, of course, won, and got a gigantic pop, as well as “you deserve it” chants.
Now, you could say that a lot of those cheers were about people wanting to see Morgan finally win the title. That’s fair. A lot of that moment was about her, but it would be, in my opinion, disingenuous to say some of that moment wasn’t also about Rousey and her not being as over as anyone would hope. She gets a nice little pop when her Joan Jett music hits. Her work in the ring is mostly solid. I actually think some of her build with Natalya during the lead-up to Money In The Bank was among the best promo stuff she’s done on the microphone, but she’s still not getting the reactions you’d hope for from a babyface main eventer.
So, all of this leaves WWE with a decision to make. Unless something changes, it seems likely an overwhelming majority of fans are going to root for Liv Morgan at SummerSlam. Ronda is currently positioned as either the number one or number two babyface in the company alongside Bianca Belair. Fans openly rooting for Liv Morgan in a non-cash-in situation would be a bad look, and I’d have to imagine it’s one WWE isn’t going to be pleased with. That leaves three options: try to get Ronda more over before SummerSlam, cool off Liv or turn Ronda heel.
I think the first two options are terrible. WWE has been trying to get Ronda over for months. If there was an easy way to get her more over with fans, they would have taken that route. I don’t think cooling off Liv is the right answer either. This organic love from fans has built up naturally (which is why I predicted she'd win MITB), and since the whole point of wrestling is to get people over, I’m never a fan of intentionally thwarting that.
That leaves us with the Ronda as a heel option. There have been rumors about this potential turn for awhile. I just assumed this is the direction the writers would go, but nothing about her presentation since losing the title at Money In The Bank has indicated this is going to happen. She handed Liv her title and gave us an almost passing of the torch moment at Money In The Bank. Her promo on Smackdown was more anti-Natalya than anti-Liv. So far the build has seemed more like an Ultimate Warrior vs Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 6 kind of thing, where fans are expected to just decide amongst themselves who to root for. But at this point, it should be obvious they’re (probably) going to root for Morgan.
I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen. The absolute best play, in my opinion, would be for Ronda and Liv to go into SummerSlam both as baby faces. As the crowd roots for Liv, Ronda should start cheating more and more. She should eventually beat Liv and then attack her afterwards. In a perfect world, she would also deliver an eff you promo to fans about how she’s sick of being a good person and going to do whatever she needs to do to win because she’s the baddest woman on the planet. Is that going to happen though? I have no idea.
All I know is WWE has just a few weeks to make a big Ronda Rousey decision, and I think they need to try something. If they’re successful, either by getting Ronda more over as a babyface or turning her into a villain in a way that resonates with fans, it could set her up for a great extended run. If she comes out of this match less over than she is now, however, we may need to start having conversations about whether her time headlining upcoming premium live events is over.
Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.
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