Immediately before this match, Charly Caruso asked the belated birthday girl Sasha Banks about Ronda Rousey’s statements calling her emotional. Sasha didn’t take to kindly to that—of course—but she also made one thing clear:
“Ronda may be a UFC Hall of Famer, but she’s never been in the ring with a Legit Boss like me.”
Until tonight at the Royal Rumble, that is.
Ronda Rousey (c) def. Sasha Banks, for the RAW Women’s Championship (RAW)
The RAW Women’s Champion was out in White Power Ranger-inspired gear, and if that wasn’t a sign of something amazing to come, I don’t know what is.
Obviously, heading into this match, there was no love lost between either woman, but from the moment bell rang, it was on. Heated offense lead into straight up mockery—they both did each other’s poses, because respect is honestly right out the window at this point. And the Phoenix crowd made it clear they were 100% behind “The Boss” and not “The Baddest Woman On The Planet,” so it came as no surprise when Ronda decided to call out to the crowd:
“Think I can’t wrestle? I’m gonna show you that I can wrestle!”
With that, she hit Sasha with Eddie Guerrero’s patented Three Amigos—adding more insult to injury—to punctuate her point. Unfortunately, Ronda was not able to hit the third amigo, as Sasha reversed and turns it into a Backstabber. (Corey Graves didn’t say it, but he was probably thinking: Typical.)
Like the Becky Lynch vs. Asuka match earlier tonight, neither woman was afraid to strike the hell out of the other. Sasha would slap Ronda, and Ronda would kick her back, right in the gut. Ronda then eventually went on to beat Sasha down on the outside, with the momentum only shifting once Sasha used her speed to deflect. (As a result, Ronda ended up elbowing the LED corner. Very hard.)
By that point, the WWE Universe was more split between both women, with dueling “LET’S GO RONDA” and “LET’S GO SASHA” chants. Also by this point, Sasha had a very smart strategy: Go after Ronda’s now-injured right arm. This put Sasha into the driver’s seat, even reversing Ronda’s attempt at a Piper’s Pit into a very upsetting arm wrench.
She even started going after Ronda’s fingers. Then she put Ronda in the Banks Statement. Ronda was close to the rope, but Sasha knew this and kicked the rope for the roll through, ultimately breaking the hold.
Eventually, Ronda Rousey was able to make Sasha Banks tap out… on the outside. (This was after Sasha went for her second suicide dive of the night, which was the wrong move at the wrong time.) Unfortunately, while that was proof Ronda could tap Sasha out, it was also not a legal tapout, so back to the ring they went.
But as Sasha had been saying for weeks, Ronda wasn’t the only one who knew submissions, and back in the ring, it wasn’t long before she got Ronda in the Banks Statement. And she did so with added (illegal) leverage in the form of one of her arm wraps. Using that as a way to kind of choke Ronda while holding in her in the Banks Statement—and even stomping on Ronda’s hand while doing so—it looked like the end was near for the champ. But ultimately, the Rowdy one had to remind us all what it means to be a “true champion.”
One last Piper’s Pit from Ronda—and after a lot of back and forth between these two women—and it was officially over.
After the match, Ronda helped Sasha get back up on her feet and went back to showing her the respect this whole situation began with. She even held the ring ropes open for Sasha on her way out. Sasha was obviously very disappointed, but she eventually came back to shake Ronda’s hand when they were both outside the ring… before putting up the Four Horsewomen gesture.
Respect was seemingly earned, but after that, who knows where Sasha Banks stands? And after Becky Lynch won the women’s Royal Rumble match later this night, there are even more questions ahead.