Grading My Predictions for Ronda Rousey's First Year in WWE

Photo courtesy WWE.com
In what began as an evaluation of the possibility Asuka and Ronda Rousey could clash at WrestleMania 35, last February prior to Elimination Chamber I imagined what a rookie WWE year(+) could realistically look like for Rousey (as well as the interconnected aspects of WWE's women's divisions). In some cases I wound up thrilled with the bull's-eyes in my dartboard soothsaying. In other cases my darts sailed clear past the board and in to the jugulars of presumably innocent bystanders.

Going major point by major point through what I tried to project and dividing and combining them as fairly as I can estimate, I'll assign 0, 1, or 2 points depending on whether I was completely off, partially on, or spot on, culminating in my final percentage grade. Let's go.

Photo courtesy: WWE.com
Prediction: Ronda Rousey declares WrestleMania intentions at Elimination Chamber
Reality: Ronda Rousey signed WWE contract at Elimination Chamber, kicking off build to WrestleMania match
At risk of starting off on too forgiving a foot here (added to the fact that same-month predictions are far easier than year-out predictions) I'm going to say I nailed this one. Rousey was indeed scheduled in a non-match capacity for Elimination Chamber, and while the Raw contract signing with Kurt Angle, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon may not have officially firmed up the exact Mania match on the horizon it certainly gave us every clue we needed to determine the direction we were heading. My specific thought was that Rousey would make a surprise appearance after the women's chamber, following the suit of her surprise appearance after the women's Rumble, though of course it made more sense to advertise such a thing ahead of time.
I did also add the detail that the February 5 Raw would include a video package promoting Rousey's Chamber appearance, and not only did the then "Mile 22"-filming Rousey not show up on that Raw in any capacity but she was not even mentioned as WWE seemingly wanted to avoid possible scrutiny of their new star going absentee so shortly after she'd promised to be "full time." I'm letting myself slide on this detail, though rest assured the masochism is coming.
Score: 2

Prediction: Carmella defeats Charlotte Flair for SmackDown Women's Championship at Live Event
Reality: Carmella defeated Charlotte Flair for SmackDown Women's Championship at SmackDown After Mania
No matter how well I felt my predictions were coming together in last year's article, there was always one hiccup: Carmella. I still pride myself on having correctly selected Carmella and Baron Corbin as the winners of the 2017 Money in the Bank briefcases, though with the former being the first briefcase holder of her gender and the latter having dubiously squandered his own briefcase I had a hard time seeing the women's contract going to waste. Selfishly wanting "The Princess of Staten Island" to enjoy as much of a reign as possible while staying out of the way of my post-Mania predictions (which I had felt would include a still-undefeated Asuka) by dropping back to Charlotte Flair at the SmackDown-branded Fastlane, I decided WWE should bolster their conceit that "anything can happen" and pull a rare house show title change. My thought was to have Flair successfully defend her title against Ruby Riott at their February 10 Sacramento show and subsequently get beat down by the Riott Squad before Carmella took advantage of the weakened champion.
There are myriad details I'm considering here, but I'll give myself partial credit as many of these details came to pass in different forms. Flair did not wrestle Riott at that house show (instead defending in a five-way against Carmella, Lana, Becky Lynch, and Natalya) but she did wind up successfully defending the title against Riott at Fastlane. More importantly, Carmella did wind up cashing in on Flair, albeit on the SmackDown after Mania following a beat down by the debuting IIconics.
Score: 1

Prediction: Nia Jax becomes Raw Women's Champion inside Elimination Chamber
Reality: Nia Jax defeated Alexa Bliss for Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania 34
Instead of seeking her own brand's title in the Chamber, Jax wound up losing to Asuka in an effort to be added to what became Asuka vs. Flair at WrestleMania. It was a passable way to pad Jax' feud with Alexa Bliss - who retained her championship in the Chamber - out to Mania where Jax triumphed (one-on-one in the final women's match of the main card as opposed to a pre-show invitational as I had gone out on a limb to predict prior to the announcement of the Fabulous Moolah Memorial Women's WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal).
I also safely added that the chamber would be utilized to reignite the on-again, off-again rivalry between Sasha Banks and Bayley to help extend it past Mania. This indeed took place when Banks ended the pair's teamwork by kicking Bayley from atop a pod, and the two feuded straight on through what felt like a countless number of 2018's months.
Score: 1

Prediction: Ronda Rousey's first WWE match will be WrestleMania mixed tag
Reality: Ronda Rousey's first WWE match was WrestleMania mixed tag
I got fairly specific as to the beats of the build in the original article, and things went more or less along the straight-forward lines I laid out including the major aspect of Kurt Angle becoming Rousey's partner. It's another easy points pick-up as even though a Rousey/Stephanie McMahon singles match also felt plausible it was far from crazy to suggest the mixed tag of Angle & Rousey vs. Triple H & Stephanie.
Score: 2

Prediction: Asuka selects Charlotte Flair as WrestleMania opponent
Reality: Asuka selected Charlotte Flair as WrestleMania opponent
I preferred my simple yet dramatic thought for Asuka's inevitable challenge, but this was another extremely obvious call with an effective no-nonsense build. Had my predictions begun with the calendar year, I would also be easing in to points for Asuka winning the Rumble (again not a bragging point as this - like Shinsuke Nakamura for the men - was the clearly sensible direction).
Score: 2

Prediction: Asuka defeats Charlotte Flair for SmackDown Women's Championship at WrestleMania 34
Reality: Charlotte Flair retained SmackDown Women's Championship against Asuka at WrestleMania 34
Score: 0

Photo courtesy WWE.com
Prediction: Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey defeat Triple H & Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania 34
Reality: Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey defeated Triple H & Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania 34
What no one predicted was just how utterly show-stealing this match would be, and I say that as the biggest Triple H fan I know. I had my own thoughts about what exactly would go down, and if the specifics were off the spirit of the contest was there, as was the feel-good (if foregone) result.
Score: 2

Prediction: Stephanie McMahon announces hiatus due to injury at Raw After Mania
Reality: Stephanie McMahon announced hiatus due to injury at Raw After Mania
In classic Stephanie fashion, after being embarrassed at WrestleMania the "Billion Dollar Princess" wore an arm cast and falsely played for sympathy on the April 9th Raw before again falling victim to Rousey's armbar. It's become common for Stephanie to be a player in tentpole builds before receding to more behind-the-scenes and philanthropic focuses during the between months. Her absence this time was briefer than in recent years, as she returned on the May 22 Raw as part of a storyline with Kurt Angle and Kevin Owens and has since appeared sporadically to make match and event announcements.
Score: 2

Prediction: Ronda Rousey's first TV match is 30-second Raw After Mania win over Alexa Bliss
Reality: Ronda Rousey's first TV match was 3-minute August 6 win over Alicia Fox
Here is where my predictions lost the benefit of having been crafted one month in to the WrestleMania build, and it shows. Though keeping Rousey's matches exclusive felt like the way to go (and it was), I bought in to Rousey's declaration that she wanted to be treated like any other wrestler on the roster (in direct contrast to her arguable male counterpart Brock Lesnar). I also felt Rousey would be booked to rise above being treated this way after a series of matches echoing her notoriously swift UFC victories (more on that shortly).
The thought here was that in under 30 seconds Bliss would use her double-jointed elbow to immediately enhance the perception of Rousey's armbar in the context of professional wrestling. Not only did Rousey start off with fairly standard-length matches as opposed to squashes, when she did finally wrestle Bliss it was as part of a lengthy storyline as opposed to a one-off that may admittedly have compromised the valuable Bliss.
Rousey did not wrestle her first TV match (against Alicia Fox) until August 6.
Score: 0

Prediction: Asuka's undefeated streak continues through 2018/19
Reality: Charlotte Flair ended Asuka's undefeated streak at WrestleMania 34
It may bear stating that, once it came to pass, I supported Charlotte Flair's WrestleMania defeat of Asuka. It was not what I had predicted but it was a suitably significant and shocking scenario for such a defeat to occur, and as has been the case with many recent women's matches at Mania it was one of the card's absolute highlights. The unfortunate follow-through was Asuka's title feud with Carmella, which made the "Empress of Tomorrow" out to be a fool more concerned with the antics of Carmella's dopey sidekick James Ellsworth than with winning her first main roster championship. Even in becoming SmackDown Women's Champion at the end of 2018 the incredible Asuka has felt like an also-ran ever since, contrary to her indomitable NXT run I had thought would be repeated on national television. I even thought Asuka might turn heel partway through this run, as she did to an extent during her NXT feud with Ember Moon in effort to keep her prolonged winning streak fresh. Good thing I'm not assigning negative points.
Score: 0

Prediction: Shake-Up swaps Bayley & Becky Lynch, calls up Nikki Cross
Reality: Shake-Up swapped Absolution, Asuka, Natalya, & Riott Squad, called up Zelina Vega
My thought was to freshen the deck by giving who I said would be SmackDown Women's Champion Asuka new long-term rivalries to win against Bayley and Cross, while boosting Lynch to eventually become Rousey's surprise equal. I'll give myself points for Lynch when it becomes more relevant further down, but as far as the Shake-Up goes... nope, nope, and nope. Asuka did make her way to the blue brand here, but not under the auspices of having won its championship as was the basis of many of my predictions.
The Scottish Nikki Cross did make a 'local hero' special appearance on the November 6 United Kingdom edition of SmackDown from Manchester, England where she took on "Irish Lass-Kicker" Becky Lynch, and was officially called up two months later, but has sadly been treated as a complete non-factor early in her main roster TV career.
Score: 0

Prediction: Ronda Rousey wins several non-title matches in under 30 seconds each
Reality: Ronda Rousey won various standard-length matches exclusively on WWE Network
The main theme for my thoughts on how Rousey's first year in WWE would go was that it would overtly echo the UFC beats that made Rousey a household name and kept her that way. After suggesting she would quickly fell Alexa Bliss on April 9, I went on to say she would do the same to Mandy Rose the following week. That would then lead to fellow MMA-style fighter Sonya Deville suffering the same fate another week later in an attempt to avenge her friend. Though I would argue Deville deserves a higher profile role, this felt like a realistic spot that could have made for a hot one-week ratings grab if properly hyped. Per my predictions this series of squashes would have culminated in a more serious challenge from Sasha Banks (who would have been free of the brand-swapped Bayley after grabbing a fistful of tights to defeat her in a post-Mania grudge match). The Banks match would have taken place at Backlash and have been built as Rousey's greatest challenge yet, but the result would have been another quick win for "The Rowdy One." To be clear, Rousey would be the badass babyface here, her string of opponents all heel.
Banks did wind up facing Rousey much later at the 2019 Royal Rumble in what was a nicely built contest belonging among the best singles matches either wrestler has put on to date, but the circumstances were completely different.
Score: 0

Prediction: Nia Jax retains Raw Women's Championship against Alexa Bliss at Backlash
Reality: Nia Jax retained Raw Women's Championship against Alexa Bliss at Backlash
It happened!
Though I did not state it in the original article, my further thoughts were that this would be the true beginning of a Bliss face turn. This was not to be, as was best for the time being, though merchandise machine "Little Miss Bliss" (do you like my hoodie?) has intermittently shown signs of eventually going that direction.
Score: 2

Prediction: Becky Lynch wins Raw-branded Money in the Bank
Reality: Alexa Bliss won co-branded Money in the Bank
Where I had picked a brand-swapped Becky Lynch to win the Raw-branded Money in the Bank briefcase, WWE in fact moved to co-branded special events and Lynch - still on SmackDown - wound up the bridesmaid a second year in a row.
Alexa Bliss was the one to became the second-ever Ms. Money in the Bank, and successfully cashed in on Nia Jax the very same night after forcing a disqualification in Rousey's title match.
Score: 0

Prediction: Ronda Rousey defeats Nia Jax for the Raw Women's Championship at Money in the Bank
Reality: Alexa Bliss cashed in during Nia Jax (c) vs. Ronda Rousey championship match, won Raw Women's Championship at Money in the Bank
WWE wouldn't be able to help themselves, right? Rousey had to become the champ in short order, right? Well, she did wind up with the exact Nia Jax match I had predicted, though the outcome was vastly different. As mentioned above, new Money in the Bank contract holder Alexa Bliss interfered, regaining her championship and subsequently becoming one of Rousey's most important opponents as her impeccable mic skills were able to help "The Baddest Woman on the Planet" practice the art of the wrestling promo (your gauging of her success in this matter may vary). She was also the person Rousey did win the title from not long afterward.
Score: 1

Photo courtesy WWE.com
Prediction: Becky Lynch defeats Ronda Rousey for Raw Women's Championship at SummerSlam
Reality: Ronda Rousey defeated Alexa Bliss for Raw Women's Championship at SummerSlam; Becky Lynch defeated Ronda Rousey for Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania 35
My timeline was just a little ahead of itself here. I had pre-"Blood from a Blarney Stone" Lynch announcing a Money in the Bank cash-in ahead of time for a match against Rousey at SummerSlam. At this point we would have fresh memories of Rousey mowing through much of the Raw women's division in 30-second matches and essentially "going the distance" to defeat Nia Jax, making Lynch's challenge seem foolhardy. Then, in a massive upset designed to mirror Rousey's shocking UFC loss to Holly Holm, Lynch would secure the champ in a middle-of-the-ring Disarm-Her and leave no choice but submission.
I went on to say Rousey would shun backstage interviews that same night, and leave in a huff. This would be followed up on the next night on Raw when it would be announced that no one in WWE had heard from the AWOL Rousey since SummerSlam. The idea would be to transition Rousey from being the workhorse babyface to a more Lesnar-esque special attraction heel.
As it turned out, SummerSlam was in fact where the firmly babyface Rousey first won the title from Alexa Bliss. It was a big night for both she and Lynch, however, as for her part Lynch capitalized on magnified popularity with an emotional post-match attack on best friend Charlotte Flair once Flair won the title in their thrilling triple threat with Carmella after being added to the match under dubious circumstance. This of course parlayed in to an ill-conceived heel turn attempt for Lynch, but that ship's course was corrected in due time.
Of course, Lynch would go on to become Rousey's biggest rival after the two alpha females retained in their championship matches at the women's event Evolution (against Flair and Nikki Bella, respectively). Added to this, half a year later it is looking as though Rousey may take time off after WrestleMania 35, perhaps in the fashion I suggested here, though prior to this she had already proven her value. While I had thought it could be the optimal strategy for presenting her, she was not simply replicating her MMA career on a pro wrestling stage - a fundamental reason my mid-2018 projections read like an abridged alternate reality almanac - and there was no way WWE would have voluntarily written her off the regular product when they had a choice in the matter.
Score: 1

Prediction: Four Horsewomen of MMA faction debuts October 22
Reality: Three of the Four Horsewomen of MMA remained on NXT
The Horsewomen vs. Horsewomen match has been discussed by fans going back years, continually kept alive by all eight women on social media, and has even been teased as overtly as having the women posture at one another during multiple segments of 2017's inaugural Mae Young Classic in which Shayna Baszler made her indelible WWE debut.
I concocted an elaborate scenario in which Baszler, who would have dropped the NXT women's championship (though I did not specify to whom), would debut on Raw in a main event segment attack on Becky Lynch. Sasha Banks would align with her friend by attempting a save, but she would be thwarted by the simultaneously debuting Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. As the three newcomers stood tall, Rousey's theme would play and she would appear for the first time since taking her SummerSlam loss so poorly - the leader of the new heel quartet.
I'm tempted to give myself partial credit as all signs wound up pointing to Shayna Baszler going up around this time, especially after dropping the title to her top rival Kairi Sane (though before regaining it soon thereafter), and it was also around this time Duke and Shafir began working NXT house shows. Rousey even wound up turning heel a handful of months later (in completely different fashion for completely different storyline and behind-the-scenes reasons), but none of that is sufficient enough to avoid another goose egg.
Score: 0

Prediction: Four Horsewomen of MMA defeat Four Horsewomen of WWE at Survivor Series
Reality: Ronda Rousey defeated Charlotte Flair via DQ at Survivor Series
Of course this was the next step. It's the new Sting vs. Undertaker. And hey, this one is still a possibility for the future. Duke and Shafir are coming along nicely, and obviously the feud that has taken place between representatives from the opposing sides have become the defining feuds of this moment in time for WWE. As an added detail, I had Baszler and Rousey surviving the match after Baszler scored the final fall on Bayley via referee stoppage.
In actuality Survivor Series' continued "champion vs. champion" gimmick was the key turning point in several of these wrestlers' roads to WrestleMania 35 as Becky Lynch's feud with Ronda hit its most exciting point, yet due to Lynch's concussion suffered as part of that very point the then-probable Mania one-on-one between Rousey and Charlotte Flair had to be moved up to Survivor Series (and it was excellent, go figure). So, sure, a Horsewoman faced one of the other Horsewomen, but I'm not going to count that for partial credit.
Score: 0

Prediction: Ronda Rousey wins Royal Rumble
Reality: Becky Lynch won Royal Rumble
Now not only was I skipping longer periods of time between "big four" milestones as looking so far ahead presents too many variables for specificity (entirely to my final score's advantage, if unfairly, as Rousey's actual WrestleMania storyline wound up becoming insanely convoluted), but I was also past the point where I was even qualifying for partial credit by predicting events more or less correctly despite predicting them to take place at the wrong times. I not only had Rousey winning the Rumble and setting a new women's eliminations record (6), I also had her turning on Shayna Baszler en route to doing so. And then, as the weight-bearing Jenga brick, I had her using her win to challenge Asuka in a post-Rumble promo that would solidify a risky turn back to being a babyface.
Rousey did not win the Baszler-less Royal Rumble because she was still the (babyface) champion at the time and thereby did not even compete in it. Instead she defended her title in the aforementioned match with Sasha Banks, while Becky Lynch lost her own championship rematch against Asuka before entering and winning what I wrote up as one of the best Rumbles ever (for which Charlotte Flair also seemed a probable victor). The only thing I got right here was Asuka having a belt.
Score: 0

Prediction: Asuka retains SmackDown Women's Championship against Ronda Rousey at Wrestlemania 35
Reality: Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte Flair (c) and Ronda Rousey (c) for Raw & SmackDown Women's Championships at WrestleMania 35; Asuka competed in Women's WrestleMania Battle Royal
The closest Asuka came to wrestling Rousey was when Becky Lynch teased selecting her as the Survivor Series replacement and she received a warm reaction despite the agreeable inevitability that Charlotte Flair would be getting the spot. For a while it was looking as though Asuka would defend her SmackDown Women's Championship against Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose at Mania, but less than two weeks out she got the last-minute booking middle finger of dropping the title to Flair to add a bevy of further pros and cons to that larger storyline. Asuka would up the second-to-last eliminated in the pre-show Battle Royal, forced again to the background. A couple of the silver linings here include the possibility of fewer (thereby more meaningful) titles in WWE's near future, as well as a manufactured fan outcry in favor of the "Empress."
I had Asuka and Rousey being kept apart until a go-home face-to-face based around the stories of Rousey's quest to regain respect and Asuka's lack thereof which would culminate in the two earning that respect for one another on Mania's stage. To be honest picking a result for this match that was never to take place became the most difficult part of writing the original predictions article. There would be arguments to be made both ways, contingent on Rousey's health and future plans. It's even more difficult now to regain the bygone head space where this match felt probable, as while Asuka slid Rousey went on to face both Flair and Lynch in WrestleMania's coveted closing match. Though I wish I'd gone on record predicting that main event slotting (for which I also envisioned a live Joan Jett performance, as unbelievable as it may come across to say after such a thing came to be fact) I'm really just contented it happened at all, and as far from some mere token at that.
Score: 0

Photo courtesy WWE.com
Final Grade: 40%
Below half is even lower than I was anticipating going in to this follow-up, and even so it's helped somewhat by my method of breakdown. Perhaps I could have been more or less generous with the points in certain areas, but considering how much can change overnight in WWE let alone over the course of a year I honestly feel quite good about some of the general things I scored on such as the rise of Becky Lynch. I might have made it to 50% had I taken the then-unthinkable risk of predicting Asuka to lose to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34, thus presumably seeing the writing on the wall for (some form of) Flair vs. Rousey at WrestleMania 35. I may have failed miserably according to letter grades, but I won where it counts: in my [insert internal organ of choice].
The important thing is that, through the highs and the lows, the whirlwind matches and the questionable promos, Rousey's first year in WWE became one of the company's most fascinating rookie years to follow and undoubtedly one we will be discussing for a very long time. And the most important thing is that Rousey achieved what she was positioned to do - help raise the profile of women's wrestling the same way she did for women's mixed martial arts.