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Why Ronda Rousey’s WWE deal is more than a short-term gimmick

There’s solid evidence that this is real.

After much anticipation, Ronda Rousey made her appearance at WWE’s Royal Rumble, where she closed the show in the ring with the women’s Royal Rumble winner Asuka, RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss, and SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte. Rousey pointed at the WrestleMania sign hanging above the ring, challenging all three to end the night. But it’s here where the details of Rousey’s deal with WWE began.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne broke the news of Rousey’s signing, but also importantly reported the former UFC Champion had signed a full-time deal with WWE. This detail is being overlooked in the discussion about Rousey, but is really the crux of why her WWE appearance isn’t a quick gimmick.

Why a full-time contract matters:

Speculation about a potential deal between Rousey and WWE was normally viewed similarly to that of Brock Lesnar. The WWE Universal Champion and resident monster is not on a full-time schedule that requires him to appear week-in, week-out at TV tapings and live shows. Instead he’s booked and billed as a prize fighter, and used sparingly by WWE for when they need a massive boost, or elevate a main event. Which is why he only competes in a handful of matches a year, and it works. There was a line of thought that Rousey would be to the women’s division what Lesnar is to the men’s. This full-time contract changes that thinking.

While it’s unlikely Rousey will have the same grueling workload a typical WWE superstar has, the contract does mean we could see her a lot more often — whether that’s routinely on pay-per views, or a staple on Smackdown or RAW.

What comes next?

WrestleMania 34 is scheduled for April 8, which gives Rousey a little over two months to be completely ready. The typical path into WWE involves hopefuls working their way up through the developmental brand NXT, normally for two or three years, depending on their experience, but it’s understandable why Rousey’s elevation will be different because of her star power.

In August a report in the Washington Post linked Rousey to former NXT trainer (and current WWE superstar) Brian Kendrick. The two had been working together in Southern California, according to sources — which makes perfect sense. Kendrick was instrumental in the development of several superstars during his time as a NXT trainer, and his personal pedigree as a trainee of Shawn Michaels made him fit the bill.

Then in December Rousey posted a video launching her new website, and people noticed one clip in her montage was particularly interesting.

It’s Rousey, putting a hammerlock on current WWE superstar Natayla inside the Santino Bros Wrestling Academy, also located in Southern California. Together with the Kendrick information it creates a tapestry of Rousey training in private in California, away from NXT — but with the support of several high-profile and well-trained superstars.

So this is all really real, huh?

Absolutely. Look, Rousey has left open the window to return to UFC — but that doesn’t mean she isn’t serious about a serious stint with WWE. She’s had a passion for sports entertainment for a long time, and WWE already went to the expense of working up merchandise and securing the rights to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” so Rousey could use it as her WWE entrance music, just like she did in UFC — so all signs point to this being a real run.

Rousey’s training and experience are definitely lighter than most people on the roster, but she has a combat background — which is more can be said for a lot of hopefuls entering NXT. Assuming she has been training with several different people while in SoCal for the last six months there’s a possibility she’ll do extremely well when it’s time to enter the ring.

The hype is real, and this is going to be fun.