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At the ripe old age of 24, WWE Superstar Rhea Ripley (Demi Bennett) has already lived the career of a pro wrestling veteran.
Since leaving home in Australia in 2017 for the bright lights of WWE, she has lifted the NXT UK and NXT women’s championships. This past Sunday at WrestleMania 37, Ripley went even further. She captured the RAW women’s title and is now threatening to drop a Brutal World Order on anyone who dares to get in her way.
As is often the case with perceived overnight success stories, Ripley’s rise to the top has, in all reality, taken years of hard work and sacrifice to achieve. Ripley first tasted life as an independent wrestler back home and even trained with the harsh taskmasters of Japanese pro wrestling before settling in the United States.
Now, just hours following her historic WrestleMania victory, the young warrior from Adelaide sits down with Muscle & Fitness to make sense of it all.
WrestleMania 37 was a happy affair for WWE fans and performers alike. It marked the first time in more than a year since fans had been able to watch the action live and in person, due to the global pandemic. In all, 51,350 fans sold out the two-night extravaganza, held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. With Vince McMahon and the superstars of WWE standing on the stage to open the show, emotions ran high.
“Just stepping out at WrestleMania, and seeing the crowd go absolutely ballistic, we’ve all missed this,” says Ripley. “I was really, really trying to keep myself together. But I was standing next to Edge and he nodded at me, with tears in his eyes, and that broke me. Then I made eye contact with one of the fans, and I couldn’t help myself. I started baling my eyes out, it was so special.”
With the glow of Ripley’s WrestleMania performance still shining bright, calling home proved to be a challenge following a historic win that crowned her as the first-ever Australian-born world champion in WWE. “I haven’t been able to FaceTime my parents yet, because the time difference is so great,” she says. “I read the messages after my match, that they had sent before they went to bed. They were so excited. My mum was so over the moon, and my sister was super emotional. That really brought a tear to my eye.”
Ripley’s assent to the top of WWE is no doubt owed to her commitment to the craft, and her cultivation of a unique persona. Her rock-solid frame and imposing stature is the result of thousands of gym hours. Her inspirational Instagram posts reveal that she is currently rack-pulling 335 pounds, and is bench pressing 185 pounds —25 pounds more than her own bodyweight. “I feel like my training is always pretty insane,” says Ripley. “I’ve been preparing for WrestleMania, but my training, overall, is very intense. I try and stay as ready as I can, all year round.”
Her passion for lifting can be traced back to the Land of the Rising Sun. “When I was 17, I went to Japan. I was there for three months, and the coaches made us do so much training,” says Ripley. “So, when I got back home to Adelaide, I really got into lifting weights with my coaches Chris and Matt Basso. They taught me how to lift weights properly, and ever since then, I’ve loved the gym. It’s really my happy place. A place where I go, to let go of my stress and anxiety.”
At WrestleMania, Ripley’s grit and determination were put to the ultimate test in a highly physical confrontation that saw her pin one of the all-time greats. “Asuka is one of the best in the business,” says Ripley. “I’m a little bit stiff today. I’m so happy with that match, and I’m super stoked to be the new RAW women’s champion.” It wasn’t just Ripley that was pleased with the epic encounter, because WWE icon Triple H tweeted that Rhea Ripley represented the “Here and Now” of WWE.
“It just means that the future is finally here”, says Ripley. “Like he said, I’m the here and now. This is my women’s division now. I’m taking over, and it feels right. I’m here to show everyone exactly who Rhea Ripley is. Triple H knows exactly who I am, and what I can do, so to know that he believes in me just makes my confidence even stronger.”
Of course, Ripley wasn’t the only woman to make waves at the home of the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bianca Belair defeated Sasha Banks to become the new SmackDown women’s champion. Her win opened up the possibility of a potential dream match between the two new figureheads. Would Ripley welcome a future clash of the champions?
“Aww, hell yeah!” she says. “If we could do a champion vs. champion match, I’m down for that. I’d love to step into the ring with Bianca again. We have stepped into the ring a couple of times together already, in NXT, and we’ve always made magic. So I would definitely want to do that again.”
Such a confrontation may be some way off, but Ripley has already proven to be a worthy champion. She took on Asuka in a rematch, less than 24 hours removed from WrestleMania, on Monday Night RAW. While that match was interrupted by a returning Charlotte Flair, this only goes to illustrate that the women’s division is on fire right now. “The WWE Universe can expect a brutal champion”, says Ripley. “Someone that will take on any challengers. I’m here to defend the RAW women’s title. I’m going to absolutely brutalize the roster and prove that I am the dominant leader of this women’s division.”