The Rowdy Rewind looks back at Ronda Rousey’s first year of matches and segments in WWE, the ones that have yet to be covered by RondaRousey.com.
On Sunday, April 8, 2018, WWE aired WrestleMania 34—live from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana—a show notable for the women’s matches on the card. It featured the first-ever WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal, Charlotte Flair defeating Asuka and breaking the infamous undefeated streak, and Nia Jax finally defeating her former bestie Alexa Bliss to win the RAW Women’s Championship. The pay-per-view also featured a mixed tag team match between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon versus Kurt Angle and a WWE rookie you may have heard of named Ronda Rousey.
In fact, WrestleMania 34 was especially notable for being Ronda Rousey’s official in-ring debut in WWE, as well as her first wrestling match ever. And it was a match three years in the making, after her confrontation (alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon all the way back at WrestleMania 31.
As for Ronda’s time as a WWE Superstar, it all started when she showed up at the end of the Royal Rumble 2018 pay-per-view, right after the main event Women’s Royal Rumble match. While it looked at the time like Ronda may have wanted to make a WrestleMania challenge directed at one of the then-champions—either SmackDown LIVE’s Charlotte Flair or RAW’s Alexa Bliss—or even Asuka, who had just won the Royal Rumble and hadn’t declared which title she was gunning for yet, instead, she ended up facing off against The Authority.
After it was announced that Ronda would officially be signing with WWE (and the RAW brand, specifically) the following month at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, it seemed like WrestleMania 31 bygones would be bygones. At the contract signing, Ronda was joined in the ring by Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and RAW General Manager Kurt Angle… who revealed that Triple H and Stephanie had nefarious reasons for wanting to sign Ronda. Yep, they wanted revenge for WrestleMania 31, and even more so, they wanted to sign Ronda so they could “manipulate” her and, well, “own the bitch.” As a result, Ronda threw Triple H through a table, Stephanie ran away (after getting in a slap, of course), and “The Baddest Woman on the Planet” signed her WWE contract. A contract that stated her first match would be at WrestleMania 34. And now, the (broken) table is set for this mixed tag team match.
While the pressure was high for Ronda Rousey going into this match, she made clear that pressure was the type of thing that only brought out the best in her. Meanwhile, Stephanie McMahon went on about how Ronda should be threatened by her—even though Ronda had threatened to rip her arm out of the socket—and Triple H was pissed off about how much of “an idiot” Kurt Angle was during this whole situation. But one thing Stephanie and Triple H both agreed with was that WWE was their world, and Ronda didn’t know what was about to hit her. Stephanie promised to “repackage” Ronda after the match, after they would “humble” her like they had “every other Superstar in WWE.”
“The odds are completely stacked against her.”
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle def. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H
Out first were Triple H and Stephanie McMahon—together—with a gang of lady bikers leading them to the ring as they rode on their own his and her motorcycles. Now, despite all the confidence and cockiness leading up this match, this was actually Stephanie’s WrestleMania in-ring debut as well. For Triple H, on the other hand, this was his 22nd WrestleMania match. That’s a lot of WrestleMania experience. Next out was Kurt Angle, and this was his first WrestleMania match (12 years since his last WrestleMania match) since returning to WWE; he had returned to the company the previous year as a Hall of Fame inductee.
Then, it was time for Ronda Rousey’s entrance, where she, of course, paid homage to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper with her ring gear. As she and Angle entered the ring together, Triple H and Stephanie grimaced on the outside, and the capacity crowd chanted “RONDA ROUSEY.” And Ronda Rousey? While she was all smiles on the way to the ring, once inside the ring, she was 100% in fight mode.
After some jaw-jacking from the husband-wife duo to the Olympic duo (and a pieface and cheapshot hair pull from Stephanie to Ronda), Triple H started the match, meaning Kurt Angle had to wrestle him. Mixed match tag team rules and all. (But you might as well forget about that by a certain point in the match.) Commentary noted how Triple H had told the referee for this match to “Remember who signs your paychecks,” so that had to be in the back of everyone’s mind. Especially as Triple H and Stephanie McMahon seemed to think they own everyone and everything in WWE.
Angle started hot on Triple H, pounding away on him to the sounds of “YOU STILL GOT IT” chants, and with such a hot start, the WWE Universe almost immediately wanted Ronda to tag in to get her some McMahon-Helmsley too. They chanted “WE WANT RONDA” chant, but Stephanie momentarily stepping into the ring caused Ronda to do the same to prevent interference, which caused the referee to hold Ronda back in her corner… while Stephanie used that distraction to help send Angle crashing to the outside. That’s some classic wrestling villainy Ronda had to deal with in her very first match.
Commentary noted that Triple H and Stephanie were “working as a perfect team so far,” and that was backed up by Triple H throwing Angle into the stairs, then going back into the ring to trash talk Ronda while Stephanie smashed Angle’s face into stairs again. Ronda tried to check on Angle, but the referee again sent her back to her corner. Angle returned to the ring, but Triple H just ended up pounding on him, bringing him over to the McMahon-Helmsley corner of the ring so—again—Stephanie could get in some more cheap shots while the boos rained down upon her. Triple H then hit a patented spinebuster but only got a two-count.
Angle was soon “fingertips away” from tagging Ronda, but Triple H whipped him back into his corner. He then kicked Triple H away but Stephanie grabbed him and held him back, almost getting punched in the face by her husband when Angle ducked at the last second. Angle took this as an opportunity to back suplex Triple H and finally answered Ronda’s pleas for a tag… but Stephanie just pulled a Revival and pulled Ronda off the apron, before gunning it right back to her corner. Say what you will about Stephanie McMahon’s in-ring abilities, but that was just smart as hell tag team wrestling.
Angle was left in the ring with a recovered Triple H, but he was able to fight him off again and get him to the outside. And unlike Triple H, Ronda was able to recover and get back to apron for a tag. Stephanie screamed “HUNTER” as Angle crawled over to Ronda, and… TAG! Ronda was finally, legally in the ring, and she dragged Stephanie right in there with her before just going to work on the then-RAW Commissioner. Naturally, the crowd went wild, and they even bust out a “YES!” chant once Ronda started hitting Stephanie with the strikes in the corner. Stephanie eventually ended up seated in Ronda and Angle’s corner, pleading and begging for mercy, which only caused the WWE Universe to chant “BREAK HER ARM!” So Ronda took Stephanie to the middle of the ring, ready to do said arm-breaking—but Steph blocked the armbar for dear life and even almost pinned Ronda in the center of the ring. She didn’t though, so she went to rake the eyes before going back to her corner for a tag…
Only, Triple H was still down on the outside. So Stephanie continued fighting, kicking Ronda in the face and then planting her with a DDT, but only getting a 2-count. She kicked Ronda’s back and then she went to work on that body part, and while Ronda tried to fight back, Stephanie slammed her to the mat and kept toying with her, eventually mimicking Ronda before she went to strike. That’s the worst thing Stephanie could have done though, because Ronda grabbed her by the throat, hit the Piper’s Pit, and went for the cover and win, which is exactly when Triple H pulled the referee out of the ring to break up the count.
With that, Ronda was even more pissed, telling Triple H that he and Steph were “the biggest cheaters [she’d] ever seen” and that she was going to go back to beating up his wife, referee or not. So Triple pulled her out of the ring too, and she crashed face first onto the outside. Even the referee was shocked, and Angle started throwing hands at Triple H. He beat him into the announce table and even tried to German suplex him onto another one, but instead, Triple H countered and tossed Angle into the Spanish announce table. After that, Triple H went to check on Stephanie in the ring (kind of sweetly, she told him, “I’m glad your here, honey.”), only to be physically challenged by Ronda a few seconds later. The referee tried to stop this confrontation—mixed match rules and all, you now—but Triple H moved him into the corner to let him know the adults were talking right now. (Sorry, Drake. You didn’t deserve this disrespect.)
Ronda immediately hit Triple H with the flurry of punches that lead him right into the corner, and then when he tried to kick her in the midsection, she got him onto shoulders for Piper’s Pit, only stopped once Stephanie saved him from the move (and the embarrassment). Then, Stephanie slapped Ronda. And she knew it was a bad choice on her part, because she immediately ran out of the ring after the fact, with Ronda chasing her. Stephanie tried to escape through crowd but Ronda got her and tossed her into the barricade. Once she tried tossing her again, Stephanie reversed, pushing Ronda face-first into the ring post.
However, back in the ring, Kurt Angle and Triple H were going back and forth. From back-to-back belly-to-belly suplexes (Angle), to the knee (Triple H), to the three German suplexes in a row and an attempted Angle Slam (Angle). Triple H countered that into a Pedigree, which was then countered into an ankle lock, into a Pedigree, into Angle slingshotting Triple H into the corner, into another Angle Slam, and… only a 2-count! Angle went for the ankle lock again, but this time, Stephanie tried to step to him, shouting at him about ruining everything. She tried to kick him, but he caught her foot and decided to ankle lock her too. Triple H broke the hold and hit Angle with the Pedigree, but Ronda made the save.
That just upset Triple H (as the match got a “THIS IS AWESOME” chant), so he decided to Pedigree Ronda. Actually, he turned it into a powerbomb attempt, but Ronda reversed with a hurricanrana into armbar attempt on Triple H. Then, Stephanie came to save her husband by locking Ronda in a rear naked choke, but Ronda eventually flipped her and went for an armbar. Triple H landed in an ankle lock from Angle as he tried to save his wife, but Ronda locked in that armbar. Triple H grabbed for Stephanie’s other hand… and then was able to roll through and send Angle crashing right into Ronda and Stephanie to break the armbar.
By this point, everyone in this match was just spent, but Angle got up first. He was immediately thrown shoulder first into the post by Triple H, and then Stephanie did the same to Ronda. But Stephanie’s arm was fucked and so was Triple H’s leg, so Triple H told her the game plan to end this all: stereo pedigrees. Only, Angle countered and tossed Triple H to the outside, and then Ronda countered a shocked Stephanie’s attempt and put her in the armbar. Stephanie screamed and begged and pleaded and apologized, but Ronda locked the armbar in and Stephanie immediately tapped out.
With that Ronda Rousey won her first ever WrestleMania and WWE match, in the most impressive debut performance of all time.
You can go back and revisit this match (and the entirety of WrestleMania 34) on the WWE Network.