WWE has an amazing opportunity in front of them in which they can involve established mainstream culture figures who have a legitimate passion for their product. Vince McMahon and company did a nice job at WWE SummerSlam 2015 utilizing the fandom of both Arrow star Stephen Amell and longtime Daily Show host Jon Stewart to potentially bring in some new and different viewers for one of their bigger events of the year.
While both Stewart and Amell did their part to increase the visibility of WWE, their most prominent fan in American popular culture presents a far more important challenge to handle correctly.
Ronda Rousey combines a few major attributes for a WWE crossover: insanely successful in her field, incredibly popular and a well-known fan of the company. Her appearance with Dwayne Johnson, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at WWE WrestleMania 31 earlier this year led to visions of a mixed tag at WrestleMania 32 at JerryWorld in Dallas.
If Rousey is game and her UFC contract allows for it, WWE can do much better than they would with a match involving three personalities who are not on the active roster. As luck would have it, NXT has built and cultivated the next generation of female wrestlers who possess the goods to be stars in and out of the ring. Amongst that talented group of performers, Sasha Banks has already shown immense potential to become a gigantic star in the business. Sasha’s trajectory is more in line with male predecessors like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Roddy Piper than it is Trish Stratus and Lita. At just 23 years old, Banks can bring it in promos and more importantly in the ring as both Banks vs. Becky Lynch and Banks vs. Bayley are among the best matches under the WWE umbrella in 2015.
A Banks/Rousey angle building into a WrestleMania match brings the realistic/MMA elements that have become more en vogue in WWE recently to the forefront in a way that could help build one or more stars. It also makes more sense in terms of preparation because, as a member of the active roster, Banks can build the feud and her own notoriety in the ring while Rousey makes it on to WWE programming when she can.
Strong point by Bruce Mitchell on latest WOR comparing Tyson/Austin to Rousey/Steph & why not use Rousey to create a star like Sasha Banks.
— Brandon Howard (@adecorativedrop) July 19, 2015
Pairing Rousey with a legitimate wrestler also gives them the opportunity to present a mainstream women’s match in the way the division should be headed: talented competitors who happen to be women. A renewed focus on development has borne amazing fruit and the Four Horsewomen (Banks, Charlotte, Lynch and Bayley) along with Natalya Neidhart and Paige have the capability of working matches and angles that connect with both casual and hardcore fans. The NXT Women’s Title match on NXT’s TakeOver: Brooklyn show elicited stronger live reactions than the Balor/Owens contest because it became the capstone on a story they had built for over a year in a match that featured psychology, storytelling and real stakes.
Banks/Rousey also makes sense because both have tweener elements that suit this kind of match well. As an excellent natural heel, Banks can allow Rousey to be the fan favorite while also permitting for fans who support WWE talent over part-time players to go the other way. Having a wealth of Banks matches on the WWE Network will allow the fans more into their network TV product to catch up and see why these two will produce a match worth watching.
Sasha Banks vs. Ronda Rousey would be money. Piles of cash.
— Brady Livingston (@BLivingston33) July 28, 2015
A Ronda Rousey match in a WWE ring will generate mainstream attention regardless of her opponent so they should use the opportunity to build the brand through a match that can stand as the launching point for the new era of women’s wrestling.