The evolution of Rhea Ripley: The WWE superstar repping Australia on the world stage
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In just five short years, Adelaide-born Rhea Ripley has ticked off achievement after achievement and repped her home country of Australia while doing it.
She was just the second-ever Australian-born WWE champion in history, and the first female Aussie to secure the Raw Women’s Championship.
She’s gone from her early beginnings in the Mae Young Classic, finding her footing in NXT, headlining a WrestleMania, to now being a part of one of the most entertaining groups in WWE in The Judgement Day.
Despite all her accomplishments, it’s only now she feels she’s finally showing her true colours to the WWE faithful.
She told SPORTbible Australia: “I feel like the evolution of Rhea Ripley has been all my different personalities that have been turned up to 100.
“I feel like this is a different side of me compared to the Rhea Ripley from a year ago, it’s just different personas and emotions inside of me that get to come out.
“I’m being very cheeky on TV these days and getting my hands dirty and it’s been a lot of fun.”
For the better part of the past year, Rhea has caused havoc alongside Finn Balor and Damian Priest as part of The Judgement Day.
They’ve been locked in a feud with legends such as their former leader Edge and the ever-popular Rey Mysterio.
Rhea continued: “I watched Edge and Rey growing up, to be able to go out there and share the ring with them in any sort of way is absolutely insane.
“Even Beth Phoenix, being my dream opponent and just having her come out and protect Edge.
“These are the sorts of things that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The group have allowed Rhea to show an added layer to her already mammoth character, allowing her to impose her true personality onto the spotlight.
She said: “I’m having the time of my life and I think that comes across on TV as well.
“I’m generally really having fun out there and everything that I’m doing comes so naturally to me because it’s just how I would react to things.”
One certain aspect of the Rhea Ripley character that has certainly had fans clamouring for more each week is her relationship with Rey Mysterio’s up-and-coming wrestling son Dominik.
Throwing a wrench between Rey and Dom and separating the father-son duo has added an extra edge to both Rhea and Dom as they parade together on Raw.
Rhea said: “I never thought I’d be the reason the Mysterios broke up but here we are.
“I’m glad that he’s finally coming into his own, you can see the confidence growing in him every week and that’s what I wanted to bring out of him.
“We wanted him to be his own human, and that’s why we had to drag him away from Rey.”
It’s an aspect of her persona that Rhea never truly thought she’d be able to display when she was first starting out in the WWE.
She added: “I thought that I was just going to fit in with everyone and be this real upbeat babyface, but that’s because that’s what I was as a kid.
“I never really planned on going this way but it’s also just how I’ve also evolved as a human being and how I’ve been portrayed on TV as well.”
One man that has been instrumental in allowing Rhea to flourish in such a short time, is her now full-time boss Triple H.
On her relationship with the new CCO of WWE, Rhea said: “Triple H is sort of like that father figure that I had in NXT and now that he’s with us on Raw and Smackdown, it’s sort of gone back to that same feeling.
“He elevates you to this level that you didn’t even think you could get to.
“Him believing in me especially, after having that weird year between the first and second Mae Young I wasn’t really confident.
“He is one of the main reasons I re-found confidence in myself, he saw all this potential in me.”
And with a recent change in leadership at the WWE that sees the former WWE Champion head up creative, there has certainly been a feeling of optimism surrounding the future of the company.
Rhea said: “I feel like it’s bringing out the inner fan in us as well where we’re getting excited to see what’s going to happen on the show and if someone is actually going to come back that night because we don’t actually know what’s going on either.
“It’s been nice banding together and being excited for our friends to come back or get called up.”
Having the backing of Triple H has seen Rhea go from strength to strength and become one of the most pivotal parts of the WWE roster.
Having an Australian in such a prominent position in the industry has been an incredibly important milestone for the country, and seen a boom in Aussies and New Zealanders really thriving on the world stage.
The growth and lust for the sport in Australia have led to a huge deal between Foxtel Group and WWE, which includes a dedicated 24/7 WWE channel, and the streaming service Binge becoming the home of the WWE Network in 2023.
And Rhea couldn’t be more proud.
She said: “To be in that spotlight and helping it grow as well gives me a sense of pride.
“We’re making the world realise that we’re here and we’re players in the game as well.”
It’s a moment that when first starting out at Adelaide’s Riot City Wrestling, seemed a fairytale.
She added: “At my tryout at RCW everyone was told by the coach that it was pretty much impossible to make it to the WWE because they don’t really look at Australian wrestlers.
“It’s just wild to see how big it’s all grown.”
Catch Rhea Ripley and the year-round WWE action on Foxtel and on BINGE.