Is Rousey Still A Draw For WWE?

Similar to many around the world, the WWE is still unsteady from the effect COVID had on its business model. The sold out stadium in Tampa that was going to be jam packed with nearly 80,000 fans for this year’s Wrestlemania was replaced with the empty WWE Performance Center.

Despite the attempt, I still say that Wrestlemania 36 will ultimately be remembered as the Wrestlemania that wasn’t.

As much as people pushed for Vince to delay the event to the summer, we saw that even a rescheduled show wouldn’t have solved the problem as we are now toward the fall and COVID numbers continue to surge in many areas of the country. The biggest hurdle is if the virus is substantial in just a few areas of the world, it’s still a major problem for the company because of how many international travelers attend the show. Keep in mind, even with the closed set of the performance center and then the thunder dome, there were still two outbreaks in the company during the pandemic.

As depressing as it is to consider, is it possible that the corona virus will impact Wrestlemania 37?

I sincerely hope not and the entire pandemic is mentally exhausting. However, it’s at least possible that COVID could still exist around Wrestlemania season next year. In fact, tickets for the spectacular usually go on-sale in November, roughly six months before the show, but with such a level of uncertainty around the status of the virus, it’s very doubtful we will see tickets advertised next month. Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has worked for half a dozen administrations over the course of nearly 40 years. As much political divide as there is currently in the country, especially just a few weeks away from the presidential election, I would say that Fauci’s medical opinion is based on the information he studied, not some type of political biased. Just a few days ago, Fauci mentioned in an interview that if a vaccine is finished by the end of the year, distribution to the general public might start around April of 2021. If that scenario happens, it’s very possible there are still crowd restrictions for Wrestlemania 37, simply because it’s not realistically possible to get the entire country vaccinated within a month.

While the Thunder dome concept made for a much better atmosphere for television, it would be very disappointing if there was a virtual crowd for WM. So much of the environment is based on the crowd response and the visual of a full stadium is what gives the event a lot of the spectacle associated with it. Again, the international aspect of the travel involved in the show makes the situation exponentially more difficult, especially because it’s unknown where the COVID numbers will be next month, much less six months from now. I have to say, I honestly thought that the pandemic would’ve been over in a few months after it started and I could’ve never guessed it would still have an impact in October when Wrestlemania was cancelled in April.

That being said, I don’t want anyone to get sick and still think that everyone should follow every precaution. This isn’t meant as a political statement, I don’t care who anyone votes for, but it would be nice if people could be more respectful of the health of others. So, what will WM 37 mean for the WWE?

A recent online report ramped up the rumor mill that Vince McMahon wants to book Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch for the event, as a rematch for the main event of WM 35 from last year. Becky, who is scheduled to give birth in December, would have four months to get ready for the bout. Ronda, who has been less than thrilled with the wrestling fan base since her WWE exit, made news recently when she posted a picture on social media of her training in the ring with James Storm, implying that an in-ring return could be possible.

I don’t know if four months is realistically enough time for Becky to get ready for such a major match, especially to shake off over a year of ring rust. Obviously, if the match happens, both athletes want to get the best performance possible from it. Another aspect to consider is, will there still be a fan demand for Ronda Rousey? As popular as she was during her peak of dominance in the UFC, some of the shine wore off of her star power after the way she handled defeats in the octagon, as well as the fan hostility in the WWE. In short, when things didn’t go Ronda’s way, she took her gloves and went home. How marketable she is to the sports entertainment genre, and more importantly, the general public remains to be seen, but in some ways, there’s almost a “been there, done that” atmosphere around Ronda’s involvement in the WWE.

The casual fans have already seen her in the squared circle and a retread of a feud from almost two years prior by the time they would get in the ring might not be the automatic draw that McMahon thinks it would be at WM 37. Basically, what new dynamic would there be for Ronda to return to the company? The whole “MMA fighter joins WWE” narrative has been done a few times already with her, Cain, and Brock so there would have to be more substance to a Rousey return.

The bigger match that I think could be used as more of a defining moment within the current era is a potential Roman Reigns vs. The Rock bout, something that both competitors have mentioned in recent interviews. As I’ve said, Roman is doing the best work of his career as a heel, and the only downside is, it took WWE brass four years to figure out that was the right move. The example I’ve used many times is that if Rocky Maivia didn’t turn heel, he would’ve have evolved into one of the biggest stars in the history of the business as The Rock. It goes without saying that with the family ties, the story writes itself and the basis of that provides the potential for some very compelling television. The heel Roman proclaims himself the “tribal chief” and The Rock returns to defend the family honor. It’s a big money match that the casual fan will tune in for and it can be used to truly propel Roman Reigns to the next level.

Granted, all of this is moot if COVID has an impact on either the WM 37 location or attendance. If management has The Rock and Rousey on the same card, along with the brand name of Wrestlemania then they have another sold out stadium show, but it wouldn’t make sense to generate a fraction of the gate money if there are COVID restrictions so it’s doubtful The Rock would be signed for anything else than a full scale event. The bigger picture is that the WWE must try to make some legitimate money-drawing stars because there will be a time that they won’t be able to depend on The Rock, Lesnar, or Rousey to sell stadium shows. John Cena is still the last money-drawing star the company had, and the company seems to try to look for nostalgia acts to bring a buzz to the product. Goldberg’s return in 2016 was great, but as with most older stars, it yields diminishing returns. Sure, there were hints on Smackdown of a potential Roman vs. Goldberg match, but if there really a demand for more Goldberg right now?

As for Ronda, I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance the potential rematch with Becky happens at WM 37, particularly because it would depend on if Lynch has enough time to prepare for it. I’d say it’s even more of a toss up that Rousey would generate buzz again, but that remains to be seen. As mentioned previously, the biggest unknown of the entire situation is not only, how does WWE rejuvenate the project after the slump of the pandemic era, but it will very interesting to see if it affects WM 37 next year.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta