The Post’s Joseph Staszewski brings you around the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle.
We are finally going to see the best version of Ronda Rousey in WWE, and it’s long overdue.
Fans have long complained about Rousey’s babyface promos. They can feel uncomfortable, unemotional, over-scripted and like she is just going through the motions. There were calls for her to get a manager or mouthpiece because the segments were so uninspiring and failed to keep the audience invested in her as a babyface after she got through a bigger heel in Charlotte Flair.
Funny how no one has been saying that the past few weeks as Rousey’s heel turn is progressing.
What we saw last Friday on SmackDown was Rousey as she should be, as she wants to be and as she is most comfortable. Isn’t that always the key to getting the best out of any performer? The “Baddest Woman on the Planet” wants to act like just that and be more heelish. She said so on Daniel Cormier’s “The DC Check-In” podcast last month when she talked about Vince McMahon nixing plans for her to return as a heel after she was cheered when she won the Royal Rumble.
“I love being a bitch!” Rousey said. “It’s my outlet for bitchery!”
She certainly got to let it out on Friday.
Rousey, who is “suspended” after her attack on a referee following a controversial loss to SmackDown women’s champion Liv Morgan at SummerSlam, entered through the crowd because she technically isn’t supposed to be there. She dumped double the amount of money she was “fined” in storyline on the table set for Morgan and friend Shayna Baszler’s contract signing. It was a boss move, a show of power to say, “I’m better than and richer than all of you here.” She should feel that way after all she has accomplished in her judo and MMA career. There was a confidence and belief in her promo that has been missing in the past as she will likely get even more freedom with Triple H now running creative.
“Let’s be honest, it’s not gonna be the last time,” Rousey said. “What can I say, being the baddest gets expensive, but I can afford it.”
Rousey, who was cheered during the early portion of the segment, should carry that attitude with her from here on out. It felt similar to what we saw — but less visually dramatic — late in her MMA career as she became more of a polarizing figure as her winning streak and fame grew. It was compelling and sold lots of pay-per-views. WWE can only hope it will have a similar effect here.
She even doubled-down on Instagram by writing, “Use that cash wisely @WWE — Maybe it can help with those ‘budget cuts.’ Bring back more asses for me to kick.”
The most intriguing portion of the whole thing on SmackDown happened after Rousey left the ring and refused, after teasing it, to put a WWE security member into an armbar. She was confronted by Baszler, who chided her for her actions and told her you don’t do that here, and if you follow the rules you eventually get what you want. Rousey then proceeded to tell Baszler, “you used to be a killer,” before her friend went on to continue her attacks on Morgan’s arm.
Rousey’s simple line sets up the whole story around the three heading into Baszler’s match with Morgan at Clash at the Castle in Cardiff on Sept. 3. Is this version of Baszler enough to win the title, or will she need to join Rousey and become the “killer” she used to be in NXT to make it happen? Or will she continue to resent Rousey’s attempt to change her and ultimately feud with her best friend before finally becoming the “killer” to either beat her or join alongside her? I’d lean more toward the former, especially with Rousey and Baszler teaming against Aliyah and Raquel Rodriguez over the weekend at two WWE live events.
WWE is still ultimately trying to get to Rousey vs. Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 39 in Los Angeles. If all continues to go to plan, we will see Lynch’s best self as “The Man” and Rousey as the cocky badass she’s always wanted to and needed to be in WWE.
Proof is in the promos
If you wanted any more proof we are in a different era of WWE all you had to do was listen to the promo from Kevin Owens and Drew McIntyre on “Monday Night Raw”. It felt unscripted, was reality based and passion while each accomplished what they needed to before hyping their unannounced match.
Owens referenced it being five years since he held a title in WWE, that he missed the old prize fighter Kevin Owens before quoting Owen Hart’s “Enough is enough, and it’s time for a change.” He then made his intensions clear that he’s gunning for whoever leaves Clash at the Castle the undisputed champion — either McIntyre or Roman Reigns.
Then McIntyre, who earlier admitted he’s working through a real back injury, said he felt disrespect by Owen and unleashed what felt like real frustration. He was rolling off his career accomplishments since returning to WWE, before making it very clear we aren’t in Vince McMahon’s WWE anymore.
“I don’t care if you’re a prize fighter, a sports entertainer or superstar,” McIntyre said. “We’re wrestlers in a wrestling ring. Let’s just freaking wrestle.”
It was the “I-can’t-believe-he-just-said-that” from one of the best promos on Raw in a long time. I can see the “Let’s just freaking wrestle” T-shirts now.
AEW president Tony Khan rolled the dice a bit by not having CM Punk relinquish his AEW world championship just days after winning it because of his foot injury. It certainly paid off last week. Punk’s return on Wednesday during “AEW Dynamite” felt big and it has a chance to be a huge shot in the arm to the company and will give All Out in Chicago on Sept. 4 an enormous main event with a likely title unification match. Interim champion Jon Moxley has been on Punk’s list of people to face in AEW since he arrived, as this version of the man formerly known as Dean Ambrose seems to intrigue him.
They have only wrestled three singles matches together in their careers – one going all the way back to FCW in 2011. All that’s left now is to see the story these two tell to get us to the match and if they both dip into their WWE past. It’s a chance for Punk to maybe get a little more raw and gritty than we’ve see since he’s joined AEW. Him coming back in a little more than two months after being injured made Khan’s decision the right one.
The 10 Count
Couldn’t be happier for Sonny Kiss, who turned heel and joined Ariya Daivari’s Truth Buster faction at the close of “AEW Rampage” via a swift kick to Orange Cassidy’s nether regions. The New Jersey native has certainly paid enough dues on AEW’s “Dark” programs to finally earn some much-deserved television time. Having this storyline originate from those shows and now spill into the trios championship tournament is also a good way to help promote viewership of Dark, also.
While I applaud NXT for tying something with the “rounds” match tweet Trick Williams and Wes Lee, let’s not try to mix wrestling and boxing again. The whole thing got a little confusing.
Triple H is quietly rebuilding WWE’s tag team division with the return of Hit Row — which doesn’t quote feel the same with out Swerve Strickland is its front man. There is also the teaming of Miz and Ciampa and Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali.
Miro’s promos on God has always been entertaining, but him telling Julia Hart “there is only one woman who can touch the Redeemer and you are not her” really cracked me up. There have been so many vailed references to his wife. C.J. Perry, that she has to show up at some point, doesn’t she?
Josh Alexander is quietly having a heck of a run as Impact world champion – including a banger of a match against Alex Shelley at Emergence last week. He’s defeated Jacob Fatu, Eric Young, Tomohiro Ishii and Moose to name a few. A six-way match on Thursday will decide his opponent at Bound For Glory with Sami Callihan and Eddie Edwards being the most intriguing.
The slow loss of trust within Diamond Mine is one of the best stories of the NXT 2.0 era.
Nick Gage crashing a wrestling wedding … what could go wrong? Well Matt Cardona and Chelsea Green found at at their vows renewal at Night 2 of Game Changer Wrestling’s Homecoming in at Atlantic City on Sunday. It involved light tubes, cake to the face and a signature pizza cutter to the forehead of Cardona, who was dressed like “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Quite the spectacle indeed. (Link contains mature content)
Mickie James tweeted last week that she feels “done in wrestling.” While I know fans would love to give her a proper sendoff after the fantastic career she’s had and how much she’s advocated for women’s wrestling, if this is it we salute her for everything she’s given to the business.
Last week a car accident, this week a trash fire in the back and Dexter Lumis’ intentions in WWE are still not known. Triple H is starting to turn WWE shows into a game of Clue now.
Bonus: A get well soon to Kris Statlander who again has had what looked like promising momentum ended by a knee injury.
Wrestler of the Week
John Moxley, AEW, GCW
It’s been a heck of a 2022 for Moxley and he added to it in a big way last week. He successfully defended both of his word titles, defeating Chris Jericho on Dynamite to retain the interim AEW championship, and then three days later taking down Effy in a spectacle of a match at Night 1 of GCW Homecoming to retain that company’s belt. Add to that he is now on his way to high-profile matches with CM Punk and Nick Gage — whose career will be on the line — and it’s hard to find someone who’s had a better week.
Match to Watch
The Young Bucks and Mystery Partner vs. Andrade El Idolo, RUSH and Dragon Lee, AEW Trio championship quarterfinal (Dynamite, Wednesday, 8 p.m., TBS)
If Matt and Nick Jackson’s mystery partner is Kenny Omega as expected, it will not only be fantastic match but mark his return in injury after losing the AEW title to “Hangman” Adam Page last November at Full Gear. Omega’s return also kicks The Elite-Dark Order-Hangman story into hyperdrive for All Out on Sept. 4.
Honorable mention: Bron Breakker vs. JD McDonagh, NXT championship (Tuesday, NXT Heatwave), Edge vs. Damian Priest (Monday, WWE Raw).
Around the Ring
- MLW’s Fightland 22 will be at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia on Oct. 30.
- Parker Boudreaux, formerly Harland in WWE, officially signed with All Elite Wrestling last week.