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The Rise of Rhea Ripley

Rhea Ripley is in the midst of one of the hottest streaks in modern wrestling memory. In the month of November alone she has gone face to face with Becky Lynch on NXT, pinned Charlotte Flair on SmackDown, pinned Shayna Baszler to win NXT WarGames and pinned Sasha Banks to win the 15 woman elimination triple threat for Team NXT at Survivor Series.

Ripley’s phenomenal run shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who have followed her career. At only 23 years of age, Rhea has made a huge impact on the wrestling scene in such a short space of time.

Ripley cut her teeth in the Australian indie scene as Demi Bennett and making her debut for Riot City Wrestling at just 17. She wrestled for promotions such as Pro Wrestling Alliance and Outback Championship Wrestling for a few years before she headed to Japan in 2015 to wrestle for REINA and Sendai Girls Pro Wrestling picking up invaluable experience.

We first saw Ripley in WWE at the first May Young Classic tournament in 2017. The tournament featured some the best women wrestlers from around the world, such as; Dakota Kai, Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler. But there was something about Ripley that stood out, which was no mean feat considering the talent on show.

Ripley defeated Miranda Salinas in the first round of the tournament and connected instantly with the crowd due to her confidence, look and size. Towering above her opponents at 5.8″, her impressive stature and a genuine ‘stand up and take note’ vibe, Rhea Ripley had arrived on WWE screens for the first time and quickly gained the “Top Prospect” moniker.

Although she lost to Kai in the 2nd round it was no surprise when reports broke that she had signed a WWE developmental contract.

Her natural athleticism, size and look drew instant comparisons to Charlotte Flair. Now, most would take being likened to one of the most dominant and decorated female stars in WWE history as a compliment. However, Ripley is not most people and wanted to prove that she wasn’t anything like Charlotte. She was better.

Rhea put serious time in at the gym and gave her look and character a whole new feel. Gone were the “baby-face” bright colours and sparkled attire. In came the studded and torn, post-apocalyptic-punk-rock gear. Along with her bad-ass take-no-prisoners attitude, Ripley now resembled someone from Mad-Max rather the plucky go-get-em, fun-loving Aussie from 2017. Along with the look and attitude shift, a change in-ring style came too, flair (see what I did there?) and finesse was replaced by force and ruthless brute-strength.

Rhea’s next televised appearances would come at the 2018 Mae Young Classic, where she would debut her new look and smash-mouth style. There was no pleasing the crowd this time around she was cocky and confident and out there to beat and defeat her opponents. Ripley would again stand out as one of the focal points of the tournament, besting MJ Jenkins, Kacy Catanzaro and Tegan Nox en route to the semi-finals but lost out to Io Sharai.

Despite the loss, it was clear that WWE was preparing her for the big time. Ripley’s star would continue to shine as she would be chosen to be the face of the newly formed NXT UK women’s division. One would imagine that was a lot of pressure to heap on such young shoulders. However, Ripley would not only deal with the pressure but thrive under it. She would become the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion, and first-ever Australian to win a WWE title after she defeated Toni Storm in the finals of a the 8-women tournament.

Ripley’s time at NXT UK would pay dividends as she would use the experience as the top heel in the fledgeling brand to hone her craft in-ring and character out of it. Ripley would dominate the division, defeating all pretenders to her throne such as Isla Dawn, Deonna Purazzo and Dakota Kai. She would ultimately lose the NXT UK Women’s Championship to the returning Toni Storm at NXT UK’s first TakeOver event at Blackpool.

Ripley’s next step to superstardom came at this year’s Royal Rumble, where she would be one of the surprise entrants. Never one to miss a chance to shine, Ripley would eliminate Kacy Catanzaro, Dana Brooke and Zelina Vega in her biggest opportunity on the big stage at the time.

Ripley headed back to NXT UK, for a feud with newcomer Piper Niven, over who was the most dominant female on the roster. The two powerhouses each gained a victory over the other until they teamed up to defeat common enemies, Jinny and Jazzy Gabert. This would be the start of the “face” turn that would see Ripley head back stateside to begin the most important wrestling journey of her career.

Rhea would once again make waves as she returned to Full Sail for the first time in nearly 2 years to challenge the undefeated Shayna Baszler, receiving a heroes welcome in the process. The shift from heel to face hasn’t been because of her actions, it is because she is a punch to the gut of a division that was in need of one. Her badass approach and imposing figure brought forth a wrestler so threatening and intimidating the likes of which have not been since Asuka‘s domination.

The reaction to Rhea since her return to NXT no doubt gave WWE the confidence to push her further into the limelight and onto becoming the hottest name in the industry. Ripley has rewarded WWE’s trust by performing her duties on television and PPV as the NXT megastar 110%. As Survivor Series weekend and it’s build proved, Rhea is more than capable of hanging with the best and biggest names on the WWE roster. Seemingly on the verge of being the one to de-throne Shayna Baszler and end her 400-day run as NXT Women’s Champion “The Nightmare” Rhea Ripley is on the precipice of becoming so hot she may just usurp Becky Lynch as the biggest name in the business.

Since day one Ripley has been touted as “one for the future” but that future, my friends is now.

What do you think of Rhea’s rise and is she the one to take the NXT title away from Shayna? Let us know below and as always stay tuned to Diva Dirt for all of your NXT news and updates.

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