Rhea Ripley Shares Story Of Road To WrestleMania Glory

What a difference three years makes. Especially if you’re Rhea Ripley.

Following WrestleMania 36 in 2020, it felt as though the Australian superstar had seen her months of momentum evaporate. Despite a show stealing performance against Charlotte Flair.

At the time, Rhea Ripley was arguably NXT’s hottest property. Her performances at the 2019 Survivor Series, NXT WarGames and 2020 Royal Rumble had solidified her as a ‘next big thing’ level superstar.

In capturing the NXT Women’s Title from the seemingly unstoppable Shayna Baszler in a white hot bout in December 2019 it seemed like a matter of when, not if, Ripley would have the proverbial rocket strapped to her back and be propelled to main event superstardom.

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Only then came Charlotte Flair. In a historic title defence, an NXT Title was defended at WrestleMania for the first time. However, taking place just after Covid-19 had shut the entire world down, the match was not fought in front of fans. Instead, Ripley and Flair knocked out the match of the weekend within the sterilised walls of the WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.

And, instead of a coronation, it was the existing Queen who was re-crowned that night.

Momentum Halted

In the days after Ripley tapped out to Flair’s Figure Eight, WWE’s Chief Content Officer Triple H would explain that a story was being told and that there was a long way to go in the tale of Ripley vs the Queen City’s finest.

So, naturally, it was expected that within a few months, The Nightmare would have her win back, perhaps with a rubber match victory thrown in for good measure. Only, it never happened.

Speaking exclusively to SPORF during WrestleMania weekend at the end of March, Ripley revealed no such plan was in place, at least to the best of her knowledge.

“I don’t know if they had a plan that I didn’t know about, I have no idea. But for me it was definitely like everything was thrown at me and I just had to sink or swim.

“I believe I swam. And then WrestleMania 36 happened and Charlotte and I, I believe stole the show. Even though it was a no crowd WrestleMania, we went out there and left everything we had in that ring.”

A Long Road Back

Over the course of the next 12 months Ripley would try and fail to regain the championship, twice coming up short against Io Shirai.

Arriving on Monday Night Raw in March 2021, it felt as though Ripley’s reset was finally complete when she challenged Raw Women’s Champion Asuka for her title. At WrestleMania 37, in front of over 25,000 fans, The Empress of Tomorrow failed to swim against Ripley’s Riptide and a new era finally appeared to be upon us.

Only then came Charlotte Flair. Again.

Just 98 days into her reign, Ripley was once again dethroned by The Queen, this time at the first major event with crowds allowed back into arenas post-covid, Money In The Bank. Different atmosphere, same result. And despite having made her mark on the main roster for a second time, it didn’t feel as if the former NXT Women’s Champion was actually making any progress.

Then she added some edge to her game.

The Mami Era Is Here To Stay

Aligning with the Judgement Day almost a year ago, Ripley’s heel turn immediately planted the seeds for a new direction that wasn’t just fresher, but also laden with a lot more success.

While being Dominik Mysterio’s ‘Mami’ has undoubtedly been a high point of WWE programming for the past eight months, Ripley still needed the ultimate validation to make her character transformation complete.

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Cody Rhodes wasn’t the only person looking to finish the story at WrestleMania.

When Rhea Ripley outlasted the entire field at the Royal Rumble in a history making performance, the expectation among many WWE fans was that the all conquering Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair would be her target for the Grandaddy of ’em All.

But there was a chapter left unwritten. An unhappy ending that needed rewriting. There was a Queen to slay.

Then came Charlotte Flair. Only this time, she came and went. Dealt with by a completely different Ripley than she had encountered before. For almost 24 minutes the old foes fought out an instant classic. The crowd inside the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles coming unglued from the opening bell to the final one.

It was not a match that Ripley expected to be happening after their initial encounter three years ago.

“I never expected for it to keep going three years later. Now we’re at WrestleMania 39 and we finally get this match again. Only this time she’s the champion and I’m the challenger. I think it’s just a happy coincidence, but we’re sort of trying to play off of that as well.”

Putting In The Time

And while heading into this year’s Showcase of the Immortals, Rhea Ripley’s transformation on-screen has been evident for all to see, the fans haven’t been privy to the work that has gone on behind the scenes to make her current run such a runaway freight train of success.

“I’ve taken any piece of advice that I can get. I feel like I’ve not only grown in the business but outside the business, as a human being. Me maturing and becoming more of an adult has definitely helped me in this situation.

“I’ve put the time and effort into the gym to grow and perfect me. And I think that’s shining through in my work. Now I do get the opportunities to work with some of the boys. I get to learn from legends like Edge, AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio…”

Speaking to Ripley over WrestleMania weekend and seeing her tear the house down with Charlotte, it was easy to forget that this is a woman who is still only 26-years-old. Over the last three years it feels as if she has already lived three careers. There is a maturity and confidence that emanates from her that is rare to see in such a young performer.

Rhea Ripley – A One-Woman Demolition Derby

Nowhere is this confidence more apparent than when Rhea Ripley talks about mixing it up with the boys.

“I really do like throwing them around. It’s like a dominance thing. I’ve always been someone who loves to throw the guys around. I remember in primary school we would play tackle chase and I was the only girl who played. I just used to demolish the boys.

“This is just me being me.”

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In being herself, it would appear Rhea Ripley has gone the long way round to discovering who she was always meant to be inside the squared circle. Dominant. A one-woman demolition derby. A nightmare for every opponent.

No longer a main eventer-in-waiting. Ripley is the main event now. A stare down with Bianca Belair during this year’s Raw after WrestleMania hinted at something seismic at next year’s event in Philadelphia.

The 40th edition of the spectacular will be known as WrestleMania XL. A fitting name for a potential main event of such magnitude.

If the current path is steered correctly, WrestleMania’s 40’s should be Ripley’s decade of dominance.

All 39 WrestleManias can now be streamed only on the WWE Network and Peacock

Featured Image Credit: WWE