Spiteful feud is ruining Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey isn't Becky Lynch, and she's unfairly paying a price.
The WWE Raw women's champion was barely able to make it through her awkward in-ring promo last week on Monday Night Raw, with the Phoenix crowd booing her and chanting for Lynch. The former UFC star even at one point said: "All right, all right, you got me to stutter. Good job," before soldiering on.
Rousey, who seemed rattled at times, didn't get to verbally offer her open challenge. It felt like Bayley was abruptly sent out to either save Rousey or make sure the show didn't run over. The crowd's dislike for Rousey continued when Lynch challenged her to a match at WrestleMania.
This problem isn't going away for WWE and Rousey, who is technically the babyface in the feud. It's obvious she isn't getting sympathy from the crowd and likely a good portion of the audience at home.
"She suffers from greatness hate," WWE icon Mark Henry said on SiriusXM's Busted Open Radio last week.
Rousey has done nothing to deserve this. During her first year with WWE, she has had one of the best matches on the pay-per-views she's appeared on and her in-ring work continues to get better. She easily could have been a part-timer like Brock Lesnar, but jumped into the deep end of the pool instead.
"She could have coasted in WWE on her name alone," Henry added. "Instead, she extends a hand to her colleagues and puts in the work."
Rousey has had some awkward promos - and some very good ones - but she has only been at this a little more than year. Heck, Lynch only found her true voice after five-plus years in the WWE system, starting in NXT in 2013 and years in the indies before that.
Rousey will be truly tested now. Her honeymoon period appears to be over. The fans expect more. The audience can grow weary of the unbeatable hero. They often gravitate to vulnerability, swagger or a character's struggle.
Rousey doesn't truly have a character. She is simple Ronda Rousey, ex-UFC fighter and the "baddest women on the planet", who has not been pinned or submitted in WWE. Her open-challenge promo was delivered with little emotion and felt scripted.
It's part of the dual personality we get from Rousey. She will be thanking Sasha Banks for a great match one minute and the next tell Lynch she can "kill you with my bare hands without even breaking a sweat". Rousey and WWE need to define what they want Rousey to be.
The more aggressive Rousey is who we need to see more of now. A match between two alphas who won't back down from the other is far more compelling than watching Lynch run over Rousey verbally.
Right now, Lynch is the one with the swagger and confidence Rousey was supposed to exude. Rousey needs to drop the nice act and use physicality more than words to get her point across, even if it's not against Lynch to start. Think what she did with Stephanie McMahon during last year's WrestleMania build.
Yes, this could blur her babyface line, but right now Rousey at times doesn't look like Becky's equal or better.
The only way this story works correctly is if Lynch beats a strong-looking Rousey. Rousey said in her promo this past Monday she wants to beat "the best version of Becky Lynch that has ever existed". Lynch needs the same from Rousey - especially when a win for The Man at WrestleMania seems inevitable.
If this doesn't start to work, maybe WWE inserts Charlotte Flair back into the match. The audience would probably dislike her more than Rousey.
The fans' reaction to Rousey could, however, be a long-term blessing. If she is open to it, either after WrestleMania or coming back from starting a family, she has the perfect ammunition for a heel turn. It could spark or add to a potential Four Horsewomen feud.
Rousey's friends Jessamyn Duke, Marina Shafir and NXT women's champion Shayna Baszler are all heels - and damn good ones - in NXT.
Rousey, Banks and Baszler have all revved up the Four Horsewomen mentions on social media. Banks showed Rousey the four fingers twice during their feud. If it doesn't happen at some point, WWE is leaving a major storyline on the table.
Rousey didn't do anything to deserve the reaction she received this past Monday, but now it's up to her and WWE to deal with it. Lynch's star and performance keeps rising and improving. It's now up to Rousey to keep up.
This article first appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission