There’s no doubt that the world of women’s wrestling has changed over the years, and perhaps no performer embodies that change as much as Brandi Rhodes, who is competing for the first ever Women's Championship in Ring of Honor (ROH).
Married to former Ring of Honor Champion Cody Rhodes, Brandi has worn almost every hat in wrestling imaginable. Before her current run in ROH as a competitor on the rise, Rhodes, 34, was probably best known for her work as an announcer in WWE. Despite excelling in that role, however, Rhodes always had aspirations of becoming an in-ring performer. In fact, she trained in WWE’s then-development system, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).
While she honed her craft in the developmental territory, she also points out how different women’s wrestling was then compared to today.
When I first entered the wrestling business I entered as a prospective Diva, and at the time Divas had two to three-minute matches, so they weren’t expected to really do anything. Now when you’re told ‘go as long as you need, do whatever it takes’ that is a lot of pressure… especially for those of us who were part of this business from the days where [women] were told "don’t punch."
While that rule may have been a temporary measure, and may have only been limited to hitting the face, it’s obvious to see just how differently women in wrestling are presented in 2018. Fans who watch Rhodes compete now wouldn’t realize she didn’t learn how to throw a wrestling punch until later in her career. In fact, Rhodes is currently competing in ROH’s Women of Honor tournament to determine the first-ever women’s championship in the promotion.
Ring of Honor has always been a promotion based on fantastic in-ring performances, and they’ve developed a fiercely loyal fanbase who love a solid, pure wrestling match. Rhodes, despite admitting she’s a relative newcomer to in-ring competition, has been embraced by the fans and is generally considered a favorite by the audience. Neither the fan base’s appreciation for high-end wrestling or the history of women’s competition being treated as less than has escaped her, however. Rhodes admits, there is a lot of pressure to churn out strong performances in the Women of Honor Tournament.
“It’s very surreal...The magnitude of this is not lost on me at all,” says Rhodes, who explained she had to coach herself out of being nervous. “The morning before my first round match [in the tournament], I was the most nervous I’ve been in a very long time...I couldn’t eat my breakfast… It’s very, very cool for me, and I’m definitely not taking the experience lightly at all.”
Regardless of how far Rhodes progresses, she admits the chance to compete for the opportunity to be the first ever Women of Honor Champion is an honor, especially considering the competition. Other top female talents like Mandy Leon, former Stardom champion Mayu Iwatani, and the newest addition to the Women of Honor roster, Tenille Dashwood (formerly Emma in the WWE), are all vying to lay claim to the title of the first-ever women’s championship in Ring of Honor.
It’s an honor indeed given the chance to compete, and for someone like Rhodes who was, in a way, forced into a late start to her in-ring career, it’s an opportunity she doesn’t take lightly. While nothing is guaranteed for Rhodes in terms of how far she’ll go in this tournament, fans can sit back and enjoy as the Women of Honor continue to put female wrestling on the map in this historic tournament.