– In a post on his official Facebook page, WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley made his case for NXT Superstar Rhea Ripley winning this year’s women’s Royal Rumble match at Sunday’s event. You can read his stumping for Ripley below:
THE CASE FOR RHEA RIPLEY
With all due respect to WWE SummerSlam, the #RoyalRumble has become the second most important WWE event of the year. It’s more eagerly anticipated and inevitably has more fans talking after the show than its fairer weather counterpart. In my opinion, the WWE Superstar most likely to get people talking – and in a positive way is Rhea Ripley.
Momentum is everything in #WWE and the ability for those rare Superstars to transcend the world of professional wrestling, and appeal to a larger audience, is based in large part on maintaining and increasing that momentum. I really felt that when Ripley was crowned WWE NXT champion that she had the capacity to do what few before her had been able to accomplish – bring in new fans to see a very different face of WWE. In retrospect, Ripley may have been a casualty of the Wednesday night war. Going head-to-head with the high-quality AEW on TNT product on a weekly basis meant recruiting proven draws to the brand – which 10-time champion Charlotte Flair certainly is. There is no question that Charlotte delivered as a rating draw – a study of 2020 #NXT viewership bears that out – but when the time seemed right to place the crown on a new and very different queen, WWE dropped the ball. Despite having an outstanding match at WWE WrestleMania, the loss to Charlotte greatly slowed the young Australian’s momentum – and with it, the opportunity to be on the major face of her brand, and that rare transformative wrestler who can attract new fans to the product. I have read and heard that WWE had some big post-Mania plans for Ripley, but ultimately, those plans just never came to fruition.
Two quick things before I state the case for a Ripley victory at the #RoyalRumble:
Charlotte Flair is already one of the greatest performers in WWE and wrestling history. This article is in no way a knock on Charlotte, as it has been a great pleasure to watch her grow on a weekly basis as both a character and a performer over the past several years. She will rightly take her place one day in the WWE Hall of Fame, and occupies some very rare air as one of the greatest superstars of her generation. But she simply did not need that victory at WrestleMania. Rhea Ripley did.
I think a very good case could be stated for Bianca Belair winning the Rumble as well. She is like one of those five tool players we hear talk of in baseball; a Superstar who can do it all. Belair has the talent, the charisma, the look, the passion, that incredible athleticism, and the potential to attract attention from outside the wrestling audience that would make her a very appealing potential Rumble winner.
But Ripley’s loss at last year’s Mania gives her a built-in storyline – and one I think fans will readily get behind – especially if Charlotte were to wrest away the WWE Raw title from current champion Asuka. Asuka is a great champion, but I just don’t see a WrestleMania matchup that has the potential of Flair vs Ripley. Following her long and much deserved break, Charlotte is once again fresh, and once again at the top of her game. A Raw women’s title shakeup leading to a Flair victory at February’s #EliminationChamber PPV would put her on a collision course with Ripley in a Mania rematch that I believe most wrestling fans would love to see. While I do believe the big money is on a single showdown with Ripley and Charlotte, a three-way match up with Flair, Asuka and Ripley is also a potential #Mania show-stealer. In the event such a shakeup is not in the cards, a Ripley win at the Rumble could still lead to a WrestleMania barnburner with WWE SmackDown women’s champion Sasha Banks.
As great as the roster of #NXT is, the brand has never achieved equal status in the eyes of most casual fans. The move to either #SmackDown or #Raw is still seen, not as a lateral move, but as a call-up to the big leagues. Despite some monumental matches over the past year, to much of the #WWEUniverse, and to casual wrestling fans around the world, Rhea Ripley is still something of an unknown quantity, a secret weapon ready to once again shine on the ground a stage of them all. This time, I hope WWE will choose to strap that figurative rocket onto her back and see if they can launch her into that next dimension. With her athletic prowess, unique look and evasive “it factor” Ripley has the potential for rivalries with any number of Raw or SmackDown Superstars – Charlotte, Asuka, Bayley, Banks, Natalya, Lacey Evans, Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Bianca Belair, Naomi, Sonya Deville – or revisited rivalries with her past NXT foes. Add to that perhaps, the biggest potential rivalry of all – a returning Becky Lynch, and I believe the sky is the limit for Rhea Ripley, should she win the 2021 Royal Rumble. I just hope WWE won’t ask for their rocket back in mid-flight.
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It was previously reported earlier this month that WWE is planning a main roster call-up for Rhea Ripley. Ripley has not yet been confirmed as an entrant for the women’s Rumble match at this year’s event.
WWE Royal Rumble 2021 is slated for Sunday, January 31. The event will be held at the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. It will be broadcast live on the WWE Network.