Ronda Rousey just doesn’t seem to get it.
She’s rich. She’s famous. She’s great at doing something people love to see.
But all Rousey seems to do is complain about it.
The 33-year-old American sports celebrity should probably know better by now, but it’s clear that she doesn’t.
Hopefully, that changes before it’s too late. Rousey is one of the most dynamic personalities the sports world has ever seen.
Rousey Conspicuously Absent From WWE
Unlike everybody else, WWE continued making sports content during the coronavirus pandemic, including its weekly editions of Raw (USA Network) on Monday, NXT (USA Network) on Wednesday and SmackDown (Fox) on Friday.
Additionally, Wrestlemania 36, undoubtedly the company’s most-watched digital asset of the entire year, aired April 4 and 5 with the tagline “The Only Wrestlemania Too Big for Just One Night”.
It certainly was that.
But one superstar that was absent from the event as well as from the company’s many other shows over the past year or so, despite the huge welcome she received from pro wrestling fans upon her debut back in January 2018, was Rousey.
Why was that?
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Rousey Blasts WWE Universe
The former UFC champ recently shed more light on why that’s been the case as well as her relationship with pro wrestling as a culture and its fanbase.
“What am I doing it for if I’m not being able to spend my time and energy on my family, but instead spending my time and my energy on a bunch of f—ing ungrateful fans that don’t even appreciate me?” Rousey told podcaster Steve-O.
She added, “I love performing. I love the girls. I love being out there … but, at the end of the day, I was just like, ‘F— these fans, dude.”
Wow, Ronda. Just wow.
Rousey Adored by Fans Early On
WWE fans obviously weren’t happy about Rousey’s comments, and rightly so. The reason WWE exists at all is because of its fans.
Heck, the reason any sports company exists is because of fans.
If nobody wanted to see MMA fighters do their thing, the UFC wouldn’t exist either.
The same holds true for pro wrestling.
Last year, Rousey earned a base salary of $1.5 million making her the highest-paid female superstar on the WWE’s roster.
The reason Rousey made so much money, of course, was because she was hugely popular with fans.
Rousey was arguably the most important MMA fighter of the last two decades. Her success as the women’s bantamweight champion for Strikeforce and the UFC paved the way for others to follow in her footsteps and she’ll always be celebrated in fight sports as one of the most important trailblazers in combat sports history.
And when Rousey debuted at the WWE Royal Rumble in 2018, she received a huge welcome for it from pro wrestling fans. They bought her T-shirts. They chanted her name. For several months, despite her less-than-stellar pro-wrestling moves, she was practically adored by everyone.
Rousey Flustered When Boos Roll In
But that sentiment eventually began to change. Fans seemingly turned on Rousey after it became clear she couldn’t quite live up to their expectations. That, or maybe it was that she couldn’t quite perform as well inside the ring as WWE executives would have liked? Whatever the case Rousey received a big push from the company but didn’t have the ring or mic skills to warrant jumping over other stars.
By 2019, fans even started booing her.
And that’s when the disconnect started to show.
Whenever Rousey was booed, she became visibly flustered. So much so, in fact, that watching her try to continue cutting her promos in the face of all the booing became as cringe-inducing as Michael Scott on early-season episodes of “The Office.”
And that’s the thing. Rousey’s reaction both then and now to those boos is what she doesn’t seem to understand about the relationship between WWE performers and the fans.
In pro wrestling, it doesn’t matter if someone is being cheered or booed. The most important thing is getting a reaction.
Big Show: ‘I Go for the Heat’
So many performers would love to be booed like she was the day after the 2019 Royal Rumble.
On the Talk is Jericho podcast, Paul Wright (aka Big Show), a veteran in the wrestling industry, explained how heat from the crowd is actually a good thing.
Wright said that’s “Wrestling Psychology 101: You don’t necessarily buy a ticket cuz of the guy you like, you buy a ticket for the guy you hate that you want to see get his ass whipped.”
In fact, one could argue that becoming a truly hated heel in pro wrestling is one of the hardest things to pull off as well as the most valuable.
Wright added, “When [the fans] were chanting ‘Please retire!’ I was a heel. I’m not one of these heels that likes to get cheered and loved. When I’m a heel, I want you to tell me to retire because it makes my job easier. I go for heat. I don’t go to be popular.”
Real Pro Wrestlers Take the Heat
Look, every pro wrestler knows that being lucky enough to be loved by fans is great, but that getting massive heat from them as a heel is even better.
It means you have their attention. It means you have a career. It means you’re a real pro wrestler.
So Rousey’s statements about “ungrateful fans” reveal she doesn’t actually understand all that much about the thing she’s trying to do.
Nobody enjoyed a better run as a face than Hulk Hogan during the 1980s, and perhaps no pro wrestler ever enjoyed as epic a run as a heel because of it after he became Hollywood Hogan over the next decade.
Can Rousey Take the Heat?
Perhaps Rousey’s need to be liked is greater than her conviction to entertain.
If that’s the case, she’s better off doing something else.
Fighters fight. Pro wrestlers entertain.
But Rousey? She just complains.
About the people who made her famous.
The ones who made her rich.
Those “f—ing ungrateful fans who don’t even appreciate” her.