The last few months have been something incredible for Rhea Ripley in WWE.
The NXT Women’s champion – who was also NXT UK’s first-ever women’s champion – now has a date with Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 36 where she will defend her title.
After defeating Bianca Belair in a stellar match at NXT TakeOver: Portland, Ripley is full steam ahead to WrestleMania and is a superstar with serious buzz at the moment.
talkSPORT was able to talk to Ripley on Wednesday and discuss her recent torrent of momentum and her future plans.
Hi Rhea! Meeting Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania is a huge deal for you, but it’s also huge for NXT as a brand. Having their title defended on WWE’s biggest show is massive for the brand, does it feel like a moment that’s even bigger than just you?
I think that this is definitely going to help NXT a lot, defending the Women’s NXT championship at WrestleMania. I’ve got all the stress; everything is on my shoulders at this point in time! Just because, we are all riding on this and we feel like this is our one golden ticket to prove to everyone that NXT is the main roster as well.
And our women’s is something not to mess with, because we are the best in the world. And I’m not just saying that because I’m apart of it, I’m saying that because I’ve watched a lot of wrestling and I truly do believe that we have the best women’s division in the world and I’m here to prove to everyone exactly why that is a fact.
According to Triple H himself, Vince McMahon is the man behind the idea of Ripley Vs Flair at WrestleMania. That must be awesome for you?
I don’t talk too much about backstage stuff. I don’t really mind, as long as I’m getting booked [laughs]. But I did see that on social media and I wasn’t sure if it was true or not, but I did see that Triple H said it was Vince McMahon’s idea and that makes me feel amazing.
To be be able to have someone who’s run this business for a long time and seen everything come and go, every single different thing there is to see and to have him believe in me and what I’m doing is incredible. And it brings me pride that I know that I’m doing my job right. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve loved wrestling since such a young age and to have someone who owns the biggest wrestling company in the world trust me to be one of the next faces is just insane! I’m all for it – I’m ready to go.
You had a fantastic match with Bianca Belair at TakeOver: Portland. How was it going back through the curtain and were you personally pleased with the match?
I was very, very happy with the match. I definitely wish that I did a little bit of cardio beforehand because Bianca is very, physically fit and I obviously am not. I learned that after that match [laughs]. It was incredible, and I love being out there with Bianca. She deserves everything and I just can’t wait to see what the future holds for her because she deserves so much. To walk back through the curtain after that, it was cool to see people coming up to us and shaking our hands and just being proud of us.
That’s all I ever wanted in wrestling; I wanted people to be proud of my work and what I do. Have people excited for what I’ve just done. So, generally, seeing people happy when you come back is the best feeling ever. It’s funny, because I’ve wrestled Bianca a few times now – mostly on road loops or coconut shows – but to be to go out there with her on live TV is a whole different story. I was there for it, man. It was good fun. I’m surprised I didn’t completely die – I was tired! I can’t even hide it, you can tell I was tired [laughs].
It seems like your chemistry is so good that some people want her to get involved in the WrestleMania match with Charlotte and yourself. How would you feel about that?
Bianca and I are so unique in our own different ways, but when we get in the ring we seem to mesh. If people want to see her join our match at WrestleMania and if that does happen, I’m not going to complain. I love fighting with Bianca. Just to have one more person out there, it would be cool.
I’m not going to say no to someone else’s WrestleMania moment, you know? I’m not going to take that away from her, she deserves that as well. So if it does happen, I’m not going to complain because I’m excited for her, but if it doesn’t, her time will come. She’s a superstar and the time will definitely come, people just need to be patient.
it’s a hard one because some fans felt like Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch should have had their own match last year and then, storyline wise, Charlotte Flair was inserted into that. Many people would just want to see the spectacle of you and Charlotte too, do you know what we mean?
It’s always funny when matches get made into three-ways. Some people are excited, some people complain – and people just love to complain [laughs]. They’ll complain about absolutely anything and it’s frustrating for us because it ruins things. That match was a good match and it would have been even better if the social media impact wasn’t so negative, I reckon.
So, if Bianca gets put into this match, I’m not going to complain, but some people on social media will complain and some people will be all for it – it’s just a mix of emotions. It’s wrestling, just enjoy it? Whether it’s a three-way or a singles, it’s still going to be an amazing match.
We got a lot of fans asking questions on Twitter so here’s a couple – what’s the next tattoo you’re planning?
My dream since being a little girl is to be the most tattooed human ever. I just love tattoos, I don’t know why! I’ve always loved them. But, unfortunately for me, WWE isn’t clearing my upper body [for tattoos] – that’s why I wear pants! I got pants so I wouldn’t have to clear my tattoos because you can’t see them. I’m trying to finish my leg sleeves, then hopefully I can convince people to let me get my arm sleeves and other stuff, but we’ll see how that goes [laughs].
Did you have any influence over your theme song?
I told them I really loved my song Final Straw and I wanted something like that. Luckily for me, they got Ash Costello, the lead singer from New Year’s Day. And I love that band and I love her. She’s an amazing human being, I’m so happy she did it because I adore her and what she does. But they sent me a few different copies of it and I actually – this is embarrassing – I sent back a voice recording of me screaming the length and tone that I want like ‘just put this at six seconds in’ or whatever it was for this amount of time, but make it sound better than what I’m doing because I sound like garbage [laughs].
I helped plan the song in ways that would help my entrance, so my stomp could fit in with the song and stuff. So the whole wind-up with the scream and the stomp, I told them to put that in there at that time so I could do that. Everything else they just tried to make like Final Straw and it just turned out fantastic.
When are you going to get some pyro to go with the stomp in your entrance?!
Ah, man. I would love to have pyro. Unfortunately, I don’t get say over that. Everyone keeps tweeting me like ‘yeah, you should have pyro’ and I’m like ‘thank you, what am I supposed to do with this information?!’ [laughs]. Tweet Vince McMahon or something, I can’t do anything about this!
You’ve already got a date at WrestleMania, but would you defend the night before at TakeOver: Tampa, too?
If the championship has to be defended, the championship has to be defended. I’m a fighting champion because that’s what I love to do, so I’d definitely be there. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was little and I ain’t going to give in now even if I do have WrestleMania the next day.
Who would you personally like to face if that turns out to be the case?
I would love to face Io [Shirai]. I think she’s injured at this current time, hopefully she’ll be cleared by WrestleMania because I’d love to go toe-to-toe with her. But other than Io, I’d love to get in there with Raquel Gonzalez. She debuted on NXT TakeOver: Portland and she attempted to put Tegan Nox through a table and helped Dakota [Kai] pick up the win. But I’d love to go toe-to-toe with her because I think it would be a very great battle and we know each other so well. I feel like we’d just go out there and put on a five-star match.
Is there anyone you have been starstruck by since joining WWE?
There’s a lot of people I was starstruck by. It was so embarrassing because I’ve watched it for so long and I’ve been a massive fan of so many people that I work with now. Definitely Triple H would be one because he’s the reason I started watching wrestling and started actually wrestling.
So it’s so weird to have him as my boss now, it’s the strangest thing. But, I definitely did mark out when I saw him for the first time. Apart from that, I’m always going to go with The Miz. I don’t know, I just loved him when I was younger and I guess I haven’t grown out of it!
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