Ronda Rousey makes WWE debut at noisy Superdome

MMA


NEW ORLEANS — Two months after signing a contract to become a WWE superstar, Ronda Rousey entered the ring for the first match of her career Sunday night at WrestleMania 34 in front of a sold-out crowd at the Superdome.

Alongside her tag-team partner, Olympic gold medalist and WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, Rousey was victorious in the first bout of her career, as Angle and Rousey defeated Paul “Triple H” Levesque and Stephanie McMahon.

Expectations for this match and Rousey’s entry into the scripted fighting world of WWE were uncertain at the outset, stemming from Rousey’s inexperience in the ring. But from the “Ronda Rousey” chants that started the match to the “this is awesome chants” that echoed through the Superdome late in the match, Rousey put on a solid first effort.

“I underestimated how kind the WWE universe would be,” Rousey said in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “I thought any outsiders would be shunned. I was expecting to get shunned and to have to battle to be accepted. I worked my ass off to pay respect to what’s so important to them, and hopefully they saw that tonight.”

Rousey’s win comes three years after her first appearance on WWE TV, when she joined forces with The Rock at WrestleMania 31 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. On that night, The Rock pulled her into the ring to confront Levesque and McMahon; the in-ring showdown saw Rousey hip-toss Levesque and lock McMahon’s arm up in a submission hold.

“I’m just so grateful, man,” Rousey said. “I’m trying my best to deserve it. That’s, like, the biggest stadium I’ve ever performed in front of. It’s, like, the size of four fights.”

In January, Rousey made her first contracted appearance for WWE at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view in Philadelphia. After the close of the first women’s Royal Rumble match in WWE, Rousey walked out and pointed at the WrestleMania sign, indicating her intentions to perform on the show.

“Every single time I fight, I always look forward to being done after knowing I’d done a good job,” Rousey told ESPN. “This is the first time I was looking forward to actually doing it. Everyone was like, ‘Take your time. You don’t have to rush through it.’ And I was like, ‘Hell, yeah, I’m gonna take my time. This is fun.'”

UFC president Dana White, who watched ringside in New Orleans, told ESPN that he was happy for Rousey, saying she acted as a pioneer for women in mixed-martial arts, including two who faced off Saturday night in UFC 223, Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

“She accomplished everything she could at UFC,” White said. “She has a title defense record that still isn’t broken. The amazing fight last night with Rose and Joanna wouldn’t have been possible without Ronda kick-starting everything, and I could go on and on. She has always loved professional wrestling, and now she gets to have a blast being a part of it. She will be great at anything she sets her mind to doing. I thought she was incredible tonight.”

Rousey said she didn’t hold any regrets about her UFC career.

“I thought I would never say this, but I’m so happy I lost those [final UFC] fights because it led me here,” Rousey said. “This is so worth it. I wish I could say it was worth 100 losses, but it’s about two. Everything really does happen for a reason.”



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