A Year Later, Part Two: Ronda Rousey Looks Back at The Road So Far

LaToya Ferguson

Last year at WWE’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Ronda Rousey shocked the WWE Universe and made headlines when she made her official (and of course, surprise) debut at the end of the event.

Now, heading into her RAW Women’s Championship defense against Sasha Banks at this year’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view (January 27, on the WWE Network), RondaRousey.com spoke with “The Baddest Woman On The Planet” about her memories of that night, as well as the lead-up to it and the road so far.

You can go back and read part one of this interview here.

How do you feel you’ve grown as a professional wrestler and entertainer in this past year? Do you feel you’ve grown?

Oh yeah. I think this is an environment where you’re forced to grow. It’s very adapt or die. Sink or swim. One of those. But yeah, I didn’t think that I would be able to make this much improvement in all these capacities in this short of a time period. I mean, I think, as an entertainer, I’ve grown a lot as a person. I’ve grown a lot as wrestler. I’ve grown a lot just even as someone who does—my ability to fight choreography, my ability to act, my ability to speak in front of crowds, my ability to speak in front of crowds with people actively trying to distract me. Being able to learn pages of dialogue on the fly.

To be able to learn choreography that would previously take me weeks to learn for a movie, I can learn in a day and not even have to act it out. In an hour, in a half hour, I can figure the kind of fight scene that would take six weeks to be able to practice and maybe six takes to be able to perfect in a movie I can now do in a half hour. That’s really, really cool. And I just knew that there was so much to pro wrestling that I didn’t really think that in one year I could really make enough progress to be able to realistically contribute to a match and not be a handicap or someone that they have to carry.

And I really surprised myself in that I thought that I would have to take weeks of practice between every single match, and while everyone else can wrestle every night, I’d only be able to wrestle every few weeks because that’s how long it would take me to learn that. I didn’t think at any point I’d be able to cut a promo where I’m speaking for several minutes uninterrupted. At first, I was so just over-stimulated from everything that was going on. It was very hard for me to remember even just a couple lines. And I think that as time goes on, I’m just getting more comfortable and it’s easier for me to express myself and have more of myself show out there.

That’s something John Cena and Edge have talked about a lot, where if they’re on a film or TV set, they’re able to adapt quickly and learn their lines immediately because as wrestlers—especially in WWE—it’s just “go, go, go.”

Well I think that you’re going to see a lot more people from pro wrestling moving into movies and television than anyone’s seen before. Like now, where you see the huge success that Batista and John Cena are enjoying. I think that it’s going to spread to a lot more people from the roster ’cause I think the industry is starting to realize what a great pool of talent the WWE has and how great they are at developing that talent. And how people that are successful in that environment, leave with certain skills as a prerequisite, because that’s what they need to have to be able to survive.

We already know The Miz is an A-lister.

And The Miz, of course.

Can’t forget The Miz.


What’s your favorite match you’ve had this past year? And is it can be a different answer from what you considered the best match you’ve had this year.

Which one did I have the most fun in?

Which one are you excited to look back on and think, “Wow, that was awesome”?

I feel like they were all pretty unique.

It’s kind of, they all have my little favorite things about them. WrestleMania was my favorite in that it was my first and it was so big. It was a mixed tag team match and you don’t get to see that [on that stage]. I got to be in there with Triple H! That’s insane. How can you top that? It’s just amazing. But still, I look back at it and I see myself making mistakes and I’m just [freaking out]. But it was my first match. Give me a break.

Then, I absolutely loved Money in the Bank, because I was so scared to be able to have a singles. Because I had all these other people and moving parts and things to help. I was really scared that I wouldn’t be able to function in a singles. And it ended up being an easy match and I obviously love that. And then SummerSlam was amazing because I actually won my title. And everything has brought its own unique challenges.

With Alexa, it was so challenging to be able to make people believe that Alexa could really challenge me. And I really felt like I made people believe in that match that Alexa Bliss could hold me helpless in her arms and suck people into that moment. Which I felt like that was a huge milestone as well.

Is that when you think the storytelling part finally clicked for you?

I think different things clicked at different times. Australia was amazing and I got to go back to Melbourne and confront a lot of things about my past and really just give so many positive associations to something I felt loomed over me before. And I really took a weight off my shoulders in that match, and I get to invent a double armbar. I mean, how awesome is that? I got to be there with my family and the love of my life and it was just a gigantic [experience].

I saw something about memory and saying that when you remember something, you don’t really remember. You’re not remembering when it happened, you’re remembering the last time you remembered it. And Melbourne really felt like I was remembering something in a positive way, that now every single time I remember it, I’ll be remembering the positive memory instead of the original experience. I don’t know, that was just a really big turning point for me. And closure in a way. And that was my favorite in that way.

And then Evolution and that match with Nikki Bella was also—I felt like I really made a big turning point in my promos in the build-up of that match. And that first all-women’s pay-per-view was just a huge milestone. And Nikki Bella brought her own challenges, and I really think that we surpassed every expectation, made an amazing match, an amazing story that night. And together. And I was just so incredibly proud of it. Not just of the match, but the whole entire card was so amazing. So much depended on the success of that night, and it really highlighted what was really important. What all of this was really about.

At first, it just was about getting ready to have a baby and being a good example for my kids of persevering and actually prioritizing having a good time for the first time in my life. And then, at that point, it turned a point where it wasn’t about me and my experience and making a family and all that. That’s part of it, but really, that was a point where it became about all of us. I mean, it started when I first got the title and I realized, “Oh my god, this is a big responsibility. Not just about me now.” But after Evolution, it was just such an overwhelming wave of positivity from all of these women that have been dealing with the same fucking bullshit for forever, that we’re finally making headway together. And we’re all united. And it was something that I’d never experienced before and that was my favorite in another way.

Ronda Rousey, Natalya (source: WWE)

In terms of the backstage situation, what have you learned as a WWE Superstar that you didn’t expect to learn? Is there something that you thought was a certain way in WWE that turned out not to be the case?

I made the assumption that people are super cutthroat and that I would have to keep everyone at an arm’s distance. And it is really like a family environment. It is. It’s like everyone’s around each other all the time, so everyone’s super, super close. And yeah, people can have a little bit too much of each other sometimes, but there’s no real animosity between anyone. Everyone loves everybody. There can be a moment where, like at home, you’re annoyed with your sister but you love your sister.

What surprised me is how much of a family environment it really is and how much people actually really love each other. And they are really good at convincing us that they hate each other’s guts. But what surprised me most was the real camaraderie that is back there. It really is. You’re part of a TV show that never ends, but it moves.

Was there anyone who really surprised you in terms of how awesome they were?

I think everyone. There wasn’t a single [person]. I was expecting everyone to be hating on me. I thought there would friction with me and the girls. I thought there’d be rolling eyes from the guys. And I just got met with so much kindness and respect and open arms that it blew me away. I didn’t know that people were capable of being that nice and genuine. It’s an environment that’s made me grow a lot as a person and not have such low expectations of people. I’ve had my expectations surpassed so many times that I think, just people in general, I need to expect more from them because these people are awesome.

Did you feel any resentment from anyone backstage at all?

I mean, there’s people that make assumptions. Or they just didn’t know what to make of me coming in. I think a lot of people expected me to a be super fucking high maintenance, “nose in the air.” So I had to prove myself in a way by just being myself. And if I felt any kind of, not standoffishness but reserved judgment from anyone, you know what, challenge accepted. “I’m going to make you love me and give me a couple weeks. It’ll take me awhile.”

But for someone who my whole life my career has largely been based on conflict, I’m kind of tired of it and I’m over it. Getting in fights is a job, it’s not a hobby of mine. Getting into disagreements is a job, not a hobby of mine. It takes time and energy away from my family. I’m just fucking over having problems with people. If ever a situation comes up where I think, “Oh, I could make a deal out of this.” or “I could take this up with whoever it is,” I think that WWE has really changed my perspective about people and how they behave and really looking at how they act as what’s going on with them and not what they think about me. If ever a situation comes up where I probably before would have started shit or would’ve tried to confront that person about it, now it’s kind of like I try to understand that person and help them through that situation in a positive way and try to actually use that situation as a way to kind of help me and that person’s relationship instead of divide it more.

It’s weird going from an environment that’s all about starting fights into an environment where it’s all about creating relationships. And I don’t let anyone get away from creating a positive relationship with me these days. At least I try not to.

How excited for your second WrestleMania, as a champion most likely?

I guess this WrestleMania is technically my third WrestleMania. It’s so crazy.

I guess this WrestleMania is a coming full circle kind of a thing. It’s the same day and the same event, and the only thing that’s changed is me. I think it’s going to remind me of returning to your childhood home when you’re older and thinking, “Oh my god. I see this place so differently now, in the mindset that I have since leaving here.” I’m really looking forward to seeing the new perspective that I see the same event with. And seeing how this year has changed me. And hopefully it’s for the better.

You can watch the entirety of the 2018 Royal Rumble pay-per-view (and Ronda Rousey’s showstopping debut) on the WWE Network.

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