Wrestlemania 31 provided a huge buzz in both the pro wrestling and MMA communities last Sunday night (March 29, 2015) when the UFC women's bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, jumped the barricade to join forces with The Rock, in the squared circle.
The Levi Stadium crowd was cheering "Ron-da Rou-sey" repeatedly and she sent the crowd into a frenzy when she threw Triple H to the mat. Rousey, who is already one of the biggest stars--if not the biggest--the UFC has ever had. From movie roles, to late-night talk shows, to magazine covers, huge sponsorships and endorsements--the champion has mass appeal.
And her star power rose to even greater heights after her Wrestlemania 31 appearance. Websites were buzzing. ESPN Sports Center played the highlights all night long. Scenarios for a future appearance at Wrestlemania 32 were being bandied about, and the Monday Night Raw crowd began another "Ron-da Rou-sey" cheer the following evening.
As a child of the 80's pro-wrestling boom, the first thing that popped into my head when Rousey went into the ring at Wrestlemania 31, was the "Rock 'n' Wrestling" connection collaboration with the then WWF and MTV. Cyndi Lauper's appearance on Piper's Pit with Captain Lou Albano lead to a huge cross promotion era with Albano and other wrestlers appearing in several of Lauper's videos. It got music fans interested in pro wrestling and vice versa and made a big impact in pop culture.
Rousey's appearance at Wrestlemania did the same and it worked out great for both promotions.
Now that she has ventured into that territory, there are plenty of questions to be answered about Rousey's crossover appeal in the WWE and who better to answer them than Jim Ross, the legendary, Hall of Fame pro wrestling announcer and avid MMA fan.
Good Ol' JR explained why the UFC women's bantamweight champion partaking in the WWE is a good thing and beneficial to both promotions.
"Ronda is becoming a pop-culture icon with the 'it' factor and an ever growing fan base who will support her various projects," said Ross. "Cross promotion is good for any entity like WWE and the UFC. More interested eyes equates to more, new monies."
What about Rousey leaving the UFC behind and going into the WWE? She has beaten every one in front of her already, save for Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino, and that fight may never materialize. With all the action movie roles, including her latest with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Vin Diesel in Furious 7, the UFC champion could retire undefeated and head over to where the strikes and hip tosses are choreographed.
"No," Ross said when asked if Rousey could join the rank and file of the WWE. "Only as a special attraction for an event like Wrestlemania. She's an attraction...Not an every day player."
The UFC and WWE have been linked together for years now. Comparisons between the two are frequently mentioned when it comes to promotional strategy. A good example of that would be the WWE network and UFC's Fight Pass. As for influence, one would need to look no further then at Chael Sonnen's post-fight interviews that heavily paid homage to famous pro wrestlers of the past. There are legions of fans who love both companies and many that are fiercely loyal to only one.
Brock Lesnar entering the UFC in 2008 saw both worlds truly collide and brought a whole new set of eyeballs to the UFC. The announcement of CM Punk signing to a fight contract in December of last year created another resounding buzz in the MMA and pro wrestling universe and his first fight is expected to do great pay-per-view numbers.
Rousey's appearance at Wrestlemania 31 blew the roof off of Levi Stadium and proved once again that cross promotion can be a very, very powerful tool.
So, how can both promotions continue to showcase Rousey effectively, and without alienating either fan base?
"Don't over expose her," said Ross, who announced the Battlegrounds MMA card in October with Sonnen. "Many UFC fans are displaced pro wrestling fans, simply waiting on a reason to reinvest in the genre. Cross promotion must be organic and not a scripted effort."
Obviously it's easier for a fighter to appear in the WWE ring, then it is for a pro wrestler to actually fight in the Octagon, but Ross said the UFC can do their part on a basic level.
"Something as simple as having WWE stars sitting at ringside such as the Undertaker," he said. "Don't over think it, but simply keep it simple and real."
Ross left the WWE in 2013. He recently called Global Force Wrestling on January 3, 2015 for a card in Tokyo, Japan with Matt Striker. The WWE Hall of Famer continues to host his popular "The Ross Report" podcast and is currently working on a biography as well, which he began late last year.
"Slow, but it's compelling and an extremely personal project that is taking longer than I expected," said Ross on the book's progress. "I will not compromise it's content for another's deadline."