From adorable underdog to fierce force, Rhea Ripley follows the same kind of formula as Becky Lynch. Could there be more parallels? Let’s see what Steve Cook thinks.
Like many of you, the first time I saw Rhea Ripley in the ring was during the first Mae Young Classic. I immediately saw the potential for great things. Somebody at her age with her athletic ability and look had the opportunity to run things in WWE’s women’s division for years to come. I was definitely looking forward to seeing more.
The main thing that seemed lacking to me was confidence. As a viewer, I didn’t get the impression that Rhea was entirely comfortable with herself in the ring. She was hesitant at times. Her personality didn’t seem properly exhibited. The announcers would talk about how she was a regular in mosh pits & grew up idolizing the Miz, but I didn’t get any of that from watching her. What I saw was a young girl still figuring things out, which is exactly what she was.
Rhea was 20 years old during the first MYC, so it was only natural. How far along were we in our development at the age of 20? You can go to 411mania.com and find some of the columns & recaps I wrote when I was 20, and then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Lord knows I was a mess back then, and I still am, but I’m a mess that’s more comfortable in my skin.
Not everybody can be Randy Orton & Ronda Rousey and pop out of the box ready with all the confidence in their wrestling skills. It takes most people a bit of time.
Time is on her side.
Rhea went away from WWE Network-aired events for a year, then came back for the second MYC. The Rhea Ripley we saw this time around was completely different than the one we saw in 2017. Rhea had a different look. She looked like somebody you would see kicking ass in a mosh pit. She had a different demeanor in the ring. Ripley was more aggressive, more forceful towards her opposition. She was colder to the fans. She was more confident in her abilities.
When you’re breaking in, sometimes you have a problem expressing yourself. You say what you think everybody wants to hear. That’s what 2017 Rhea Ripley did. She wanted to catch on with WWE. She became what she thought people wanted her to be. The flaw in the plan was simple: you don’t get ahead in wrestling by catering to peoples’ whims. You have to break the mold. You have to be yourself with the volume turned up to eleven. If you’re the Mosh Pit Kid, you have to show that side of yourself. You can’t be all dolled up & dressed to impress. You can’t be sugar & spice & everything nice. There needs to be a chip on your shoulder.
Rhea came into the 2nd MYC with a huge chip on her shoulder. That chip was fully intact when the NXT UK brand was introduced, and she was brought in as part of the women’s division along with a fellow Aussie & other women that fit in well with the British wrestling scene. The New Rhea Ripley (not to be confused with The New Daniel Bryan) was built for that brand.
She met up with the other Aussie in the finals of the NXT UK Women’s Championship Tournament. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Toni Storm fan. There aren’t many women in the business more talented and with more upside than her. It’s going to be Toni Time for a long time to come. However, this was Rhea Ripley’s moment to shine. To stake her claim to the future of women’s wrestling in WWE, NXT, NXT UK, wherever you want to mention.
You’ll be seeing this matchup a lot. Storm is 23 & Ripley is now 21. The future of WWE’s Women’s Evolution runs through these two. When Becky Lynch is ready to vacate her title of “The Man”, it might be Ripley or Storm that’s next in line.
It’s a tough choice, but Rhea might be the favorite.
Ripley is in a really good spot to take that title. One of the things that made Ric Flair “The Man” back in the day was his ability to take another wrestler and make them look like a million bucks. Flair made Sting’s career. He made Lex Luger’s career, along with many others. Ripley has shown the ability to make other wrestlers look amazing.
I’ve talked about Kacy Catanzaro before. I believe she could be one of the top babyfaces in WWE if she achieves her full potential. Her best match so far was against Rhea Ripley, who served as the perfect base for her offense. High-flyers need people that are able to take their stuff & bump properly to make it look good, and Ripley showed in that match that she was up to the task. As important as it is for you to look good, you need to be able to make others look good too. Ripley does that, and it doesn’t diminish her presence at all.
Rhea Ripley will forever be remembered as the first NXT UK Women’s Champion. It’ll be far from the last championship she holds. I’d say there’s a good chance she’s the next “Man”. Or is “The NXT Man” more appropriate?