WWE’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view is known for having lots of surprise entrants in the match, but the biggest surprise came as the show was drawing to a close: Ronda Rousey made her official WWE debut. There had been rumors for a while that Rousey was transitioning into the wrestling world, and even many saying it would happen at the Royal Rumble. However, Rousey totally denied this speculation, saying she would be busy filming Mile 22 until February. Clearly she was just trying to keep the lid on the surprise, and it worked, with fans at the WWE event stunned to see Rousey.
It was a big Royal Rumble pay-per-view for a lot of reasons, with the most notable going into the night being that for the first time ever, the female wrestlers would be getting their own Royal Rumble match. The match began in 1988, and for all of the thirty previous Rumbles only men had gotten to do the match. The WWE had a long history of featuring women in more sexualized roles, including wrestling in Bra-and-Panties matches, but in recent years has had a big push to portray their women’s division more seriously. Lately the women have been competing for the first time ever in many matches that had been exclusive to men until now, and the Rumble was one of the few left for the women to do for the first time.
The women's Rumble saw many surprise returns of fan favorites from the past, including Lita, Molly Holly, and Trish Stratus. The popular Asuka was the last remaining woman, giving the Japanese star her choice of whether she wished to challenge Raw champion Alexa Bliss at Wrestlemania or Smackdown champion Charlotte Flair. That's when Rousey interrupted the celebration, entering the ring to stare down her competition. She pointed at the Wrestlemania sign, indicating whichever champion Asuka didn't fight, Rousey would challenge. ESPN later released an interview with Rousey, where she revealed she signed a full-time contract with WWE and intends to compete. She said:
“This is my life now. First priority on my timeline for the next several years. This is not a smash-and-grab; this is not a publicity stunt."
Rousey has appeared in WWE multiple times before, most notably at Wrestlemania 31 in an appearance alongside the Rock. But the Royal Rumble is her official debut as an active member of the roster.
Rousey, who got her “Rowdy” nickname in reference to her being a fan of wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (used with Piper’s blessing, prior to his passing) showed up at the Rumble wearing Piper’s signature leather jacket, given to her by Piper’s son. Her interest in wrestling has been known for years, with her attending numerous WWE events. Rousey made shockwaves in the world of UFC, becoming an innovator in the company as it began welcoming women’s martial artists, and becoming a superstar as one of their most dominant champions. After two back-to-back losses, Rousey quit MMA with a 12-2 record, but has made no secret of her passion for breaking into wrestling. Now she has arrived in the WWE, and will no doubt continue to make an impact.