Let’s Get Ready to Rumble
A few years ago, when I last wrote about wrestling for BTSB, I spoke about a burgeoning women’s revolution in the WWE. It was around the time when women wrestlers were finally starting to be treated like their male peers after years of being referred to as “divas” or otherwise regarded as not much else than eye-candy. Since that article, several milestones have been broken but none, perhaps, as significant as the one that occurred on January 28th of this year. On that day, the women had their very first Royal Rumble match in WWE history and to give you an idea as to how significant this actually is, I need to start by giving you some background information about the match itself.
The Royal Rumble match is almost as old as yours truly, with the first one taking place in 1988. Since then, it has grown into one of the most prominent events of the year, kicking off the Road to Wrestlemania, THE biggest event of the year. Each year, Wrestlemania brings in fans from around the world routinely packing in over 80,000 people into one arena. Getting to preform on the grandest stage of them all is a major goal for anyone that has ever laced up a pair of boots and winning the Royal Rumble match guarantees you a spot on the card. If you win the Rumble, it means the company is fully behind you, giving the winner of the match a huge momentum push. The women, however, have never had their own Rumble until this year.
The rules of the match are that two wrestlers start in the ring with a new one joining them every 90 seconds until all 30 wrestlers have entered the match. In order to be eliminated, you have to be thrown over the top rope with both feet touching the ground. It’s always a fun match, often featuring a few legends of the past as entrants to give the crowd a nice surprise or two. It’s also a grueling match, typically lasting an hour or so from start to finish, with several wrestlers spending over 30 minutes in there. Needless to say, the women’s match had a lot to live up to. It managed to do so and then some.
WWE succeeded on so many levels with their debut women’s Rumble. For one thing, they really highlighted the significance of it and booked it just like the men’s. It wasn’t a joke or an afterthought to the long-running men’s Rumble. In fact, it was, arguably, the bigger match of the two that night. It’s incredibly rare for any women’s match to be the last match of any card, let alone a pay-per-view event. In addition, the men’s Rumble match has almost always held that spot. This year, the women’s Rumble was tasked with sending the fans home satisfied. That alone speaks volumes about how much faith the WWE have in their women’s division.
The Rumble match itself served as a fantastic showcase for the current women’s division, highlighting how vast the talent pool is with two of the top competitors, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, kicking off the match. Sasha Banks lasted the longest in the match, wrestling for a grueling 54 minutes and 46 seconds, showing that the women have just as much endurance and stamina as the men. One woman, Naomi, also got the chance to make a memorable moment when she briefly avoided elimination by not letting her feet touch the ground. As she was tossed out, she landed on top of several other wrestlers and managed to work her way to the barricade, which she then tiptoed across until she got to a nearby steal chair. Keeping her feet on the chair, she moved towards the ring like a wheelbarrow, her hands propelling her closer and closer until she could re-enter the ring without letting her feet touch the floor.
Memorable moments weren’t limited to just the current wrestlers because the Rumble also served as a celebration of the history of women’s wrestling. It proved that even though women wrestlers haven’t typically been treated as well as their male peers in the past, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t deserving wrestlers. There’s a moment later in the match when two former rivals, Trish Stratus and Mickie James, came face to face for the first time in about a decade causing the crowd to erupt into cheers. It was a goosebump inducing moment, proving how memorable their old rivalry had been and it wasn’t the only such instance in the match. There was also a humorous moment when Vickie Guerrero, who served as a memorable general manager character years ago, came out screeching her trademark phrase of “EXCUSE ME!!!” to get everyone’s attention. When she entered the ring, she continued screaming into the microphone until the action momentarily stopped, with the other competitors lining up to look at her in confusion. One wrestler, Ruby Riot, made a show out of rubbing her ear, as if Guerrero’s continuous screeching had broken one of her ear drums. Once she had gotten their attention, Vickie, not being much of an in-ring competitor, realized how big of a mistake this was and she was promptly dumped out of the ring by the rest of the women. The reception that these and many other moments with legends from the past got from the fans proved that the talent, to some extent, has always been in the WWE but it’s never been given the respect it deserves until now.
The Royal Rumble match itself was not the only significant event to occur that night. At the end of the match, Asuka, the winner of the match, stood in the ring with the two different women’s champions considering which one she wants to face at Wrestlemania when Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation started to play. Any fan of mixed martial arts will know that the song is associated with Ronda Rousey, perhaps the most famous MMA women’s fighter of all time. Sure enough, Rousey emerged on the stage, making her debut in the WWE. For years, Rousey has been one of the most famous female athletes in the world, and her debut in the wrestling world proved that she is still a hot commodity. For perhaps the first time ever, the debut of a new female wrestler was treated with the same pomp and circumstance that a long awaited male wrestler’s debut is often given. It was presented as a talking point, something to build buzz around for weeks to come and Ronda Rousey managed to do it without saying a single word. She simply walked to the ring, looked at the other female wrestlers, and then pointed towards the Wrestlemania sign hanging in the air. Not only did the event showcase a historical moment in women’s wrestling, it ended with a debut telling the world that the best has yet to come.