Having long established herself as a star performer on WWE NXT, Rhea Ripley rose to new heights in 2020, challenging Charlotte Flair, one of the finest wrestlers of the 2010s, at the second night of WrestleMania 36. In spite of the loss, Ripley remained one of the WWE’s rising stars. Having won both the NXT UK and NXT women’s championships, the 24 year-old Ripley has already made her mark as the first female Australian champion in WWE history.
Staring 2021 by assembling a masterful performance versus Raquel Gonzalez in a Last Woman Standing match on NXT’s first episode of the year, Ripley followed it up by appearing at the second-ever Women’s Royal Rumble match. Entering the event at the 14th position, she assembled an event-high seven eliminations.
Among the wrestlers that Ripley eliminated included fellow NXT stars Toni Storm, Santana Garrett and Dakota Kai (whom she wrestled in the inaugural Mae Young Classic back in 2017), along with RAW stars Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair. Lasting in the event for a total of 39:06, only Flair and Belair had lasted over 30 minutes. Making it to the final two, she was eliminated by Bianca Belair, who shall face off against Sasha Banks on the first night of WrestleMania 37.
Also punching her ticket for the biggest show in professional wrestling, Ripley shall also be among the wondrous women competing in the squared circle at Mania. Unlike Belair, whose spot was guaranteed after winning the Royal Rumble, Ripley made her impact felt on the March 22 edition of Monday Night Raw, providing a highlight that is destined to be one of the decade’s finest.
As the women’s division continues to solidify its standing as one of the high spots of WWE wrestling, the number 22 certainly holds a unique coincidence for Ripley. One month prior, a viedo package aired on Raw’s February 22 episode, building up the hype for her eventual arrival, simultaneously emphasizing her potential as a main event star.
Confronting Raw Women’s Champion Asuka, one of the most entertaining and exciting wrestlers, regardless of gender, it was the type of moment that not only added tremendous momentum heading into WrestleMania, it holds the potential to become the springboard towards a great rivalry between the two.