WWE Money in the Bank 2018 didn’t end with Ronda Rousey or Nia Jax as Raw Women’s Champion. Instead, Alexa Bliss cashed in the briefcase she had won not even two hours earlier to become champion for the fifth time.
Vince McMahon and WWE’s not-so-creative team made the questionable decision to rush Rousey into a pay-per-view title match even though company officials deemed Rousey “not ready” for singles matches on the European tour last month. The thought process behind giving Rousey a title match so quickly was that WWE really had no other choice and, due at least in part to the absence of Brock Lesnar, needed a substantial draw to wrestle at Money in the Bank.
But with WWE hesitant to put Rousey in a ladder match so soon and apparently no other match options for her on the Money in the Bank card, the company did what it often does and jumped the gun on a major storyline that took place with little build and could have been much better had the company simply waited a bit to make it happen. The second WWE announced Rousey vs. Jax, though, the outcome should have never been in doubt: Rousey should have defeated Jax in quick and dominant fashion.
Instead, Raw’s women’s division took one step backward by putting the title back on Bliss, who’s been a consistent title contender on Raw or SmackDown for the past two years.
In the world of pro wrestling, Rousey still had a relatively clean slate. Prior to Money in the Bank, she only had one televised match, that epic debut in mixed tag team action at WrestleMania 34 that truly made her look like ‘The Baddest Woman on the Planet.” That moniker would ring truer if Rousey had soundly defeated Jax at Money in the Bank.
WWE already found itself in quite the conundrum with Rousey because she signed a full-time deal and has been working more dates than expected, meaning that she’s around much more than Lesnar, Triple H, The Undertaker and other stars whose schedules Rousey’s was expected to mimic. The widespread belief is that Rousey’s busier-than-expected schedule is, in and of itself, a detriment to her star power because she’s around so much that her appearances won’t feel as special when she’s on TV and PPVs so consistently.
After Rousey came up short at Money in the Bank, however, Raw’s women’s division is back to where it was before WrestleMania 34.
Make no mistake about it, what made Rousey one of the biggest draws in UFC history and the world’s most famous female athlete was the aura and mystique she created when she began her MMA career 12-0 and generated more than one million PPV buys on multiple occasions. Fans tuned into Rousey’s fights in record numbers because she was absolutely unstoppable for the majority of her MMA career, wreaking havoc on the UFC Women’s Bantamweight division in much the same way that she should be running through Raw’s women’s division.
Why risk that for yet another title reign for Bliss?
It’s bad enough that Rousey has been portrayed in WWE as a smiling, almost goofy babyface who simply looks happy to be there, but what’s worse is that WWE almost went all in on Rousey in her first match, only to pull the plug at the last second. Rousey has been put in far too many situations in which she needs to cut promos, which are not her strong suit (and are so weak that Stephanie McMahon was used to cover for her on Raw), instead of being the quiet destroyer like what we see with Lesnar, and a decisive win over Jax could have helped her recover from that.
Although Lesnar’s push doesn’t sit well with some fans, there’s no denying that he’s been protected so much since 2014 that it makes him stand out enough that he’s been labeled WWE’s biggest draw. Rousey, who has already demonstrated her drawing ability in WWE, should be booked in much the same way: She certainly shouldn’t be losing, and when she does win, her victories should come in the dramatic, lopsided and realistic fashion you would expect out of a former MMA standout.
WWE, however, chose not to put the Raw Women’s title on Rousey at Money in the Bank when any other outcome would have been a knockout blow to the aura that made Rousey’s WWE signing such a big deal. WWE could have avoided that by, well, avoiding Rousey vs. Jax in the first place, but it didn’t and Rousey’s drawing power could suffer significantly because of it.
After all, it’s difficult enough to build up legitimate draws in the WWE Network era, but WWE isn’t making it any easier with the booking of Rousey. Yes, WWE should push her heavily and feature her in high-profile matches, but failing to decisively win her first match?
Who on earth though that was a good idea?
Blake Oestriecher is an elementary school teacher by day and a sports writer by night. He’s a contributor to the Forbes @SportsMoneyBlog, where he primarily covers WWE. You can follow him on Twitter @BOestriecher.