Planned WWE WrestleMania 39 Match A Welcome Change For Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey will be at WWE WrestleMania 39, but she won’t have a top match on the show.

According to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t SEScoops), Rousey is slated to team with Shayna Baszler in a match against Io Sky and Dakota Kai for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship, a surprising twist for a high-profile star who has typically dominated the world title picture.

Rousey’s future has been up in the air after the former UFC star shockingly dropped the SmackDown Women’s Championship to Charlotte Flair last December. That was one of many reported changes to plans involving Rousey and the upper echelon of WWE’s women’s division, with Rousey once slated to face Raquel Rodriguez before that match was ultimately removed from Royal Rumble and Rousey was taken off the pay-per-view altogether.

At one point penciled in for a SmackDown Women’s title defense at WrestleMania 39, Rousey couldn’t agree to terms on a number of “suggested matches” for the flagship show, according to Fightful Select (h/t YardBarker). That included a bout with eventual Royal Rumble winner Rhea Ripley, which seemingly became Option B after Rousey’s originally planned Mania match with Becky Lynch was scrapped.

So, Rousey won’t be facing Ripley, Lynch, Charlotte Flair or Biance Belair, which begs the question: Is a tag team title match the best WWE and/or Rousey could come up with? Not in the slightest. But it is refreshing.

Seeing Rousey in a midcard match at WrestleMania 39 rather than one of the top bouts on the show is a welcome change, especially at a time when her performances both in the ring and on the microphone have been, to put it mildly, quite lackluster.

WWE reportedly once wanted to build up Rousey as the women’s division’s equivalent to Brock Lesnar, who remains a must-see attraction even though he’s no longer in the world title scene. While Lesnar has managed to keep his aura and is still one of the most popular stars in the company, however, the same can’t be said of Rousey.

It’s been—to say the least—odd to see the way Rousey has essentially regressed since first wrestling for WWE at WrestleMania 34 in 2018. Her performance alongside Kurt Angle in a mixed tag team match against Stephanie McMahon was arguably the best in-ring debut in company history, and over the course of the year that followed, she put together arguably the most impressive rookie year in WWE history.

But this current WWE run has been a far cry from the red-hot-rookie version of Rousey, who put on performances that were better than they had any right to be and who got herself over in a massive way with a WWE fan base that is notoriously difficult to please.

Since winning the 2022 Royal Rumble last January, Rousey has just felt, well, off. Her once undeniable superstar aura has clearly diminished. Her in-ring performances have taken a step back. Her promos, though never good, have somehow gotten worse. Yet, WWE still pushed her as a top star and even had her penciled in for a huge match with Ripley before plans fell apart.

But with the lure of a match against Lynch gone after WWE waited far too long to deliver it, Rousey didn’t figure into WWE’s world title plans, either. WWE, though, still seems something special in her, even avoiding putting her in the Royal Rumble just so she wouldn’t have to be eliminated from a match she wasn’t planned to be in.

Now, Rousey is finally being knocked down a peg. Long a dominant force in the women’s division during the rare occasions when she is around, Rousey will instead be—in a way—relegated to a mediocre midcard feud that won’t be getting much buildup and that involves a set of women’s tag team titles that have been neglected so much that their poor treatment ultimately played a role in Sasha Banks leaving the company.

But here’s the thing: Given the lukewarm reaction to Rousey as of late and the so-so performances that have come along with that, this just may be the best role for her. After all, the women’s tag titles need some rehabilitating, and Rousey is a big enough star to help accomplish that goal.

At this point, it’s difficult to envision the women’s tag titles ever meaning as much as they should, but WWE creative head Triple H has done a masterful job of improving the prestige of both the United States and Intercontinental titles over the past six months. Perhaps Rousey can do the same for the tag titles.

And the best part? It ensures that she won’t be dominating the women’s title picture when that’s clearly not what WWE fans want to see.

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