Following her match with Charlotte Fair at WrestleMania 36, many expected Rhea Ripley to be next in line for a call up to the main roster. However, Ripley would have to remain in NXT for another year before arriving on RAW.
Speaking during a new interview, Ripley has now admitted that she also thought she would be debuting on the main roster in spring last year.
During an appearance on Out of Character with Ryan Satin, the former NXT Women’s Champion said that although she was never specifically told anything by the company, she expected to join RAW or SmackDown after her defeat to Flair.
Reflecting on her WrestleMania debut, Ripley described the prospect of performing in front of no fans as “terrifying” while wondering how she would feel during the match.
It took different sort of confidence in myself to go out here and treat it like a WrestleMania match when there was no crowd,” Ripley said. “That’s so difficult to do cause you really do feed off the crowd. My whole career has been based off crowd reactions. That’s honestly how I’ve gotten as far as I have because the crowd have been there for me. Everyone’s seen it, so they’ve just given me what the crowd wanted, which is fantastic.
“So going out there and having zero people in attendance, it was terrifying for me. I was like ‘is this going to feel weird? Am I going to be in the right zone and right mind space? Am I going to have that adrenaline to get me through it?’ But I still had all of that, which was wild to me. I just had to remind myself that there’s still a crowd at home watching and they’re still going to be going crazy. My parents are still supporting me even though they’re not going to be there. So I think that was the biggest lesson to me. Just staying true to myself and like, just pushing through really.”
The current RAW Women’s Champion also admitted that she could have done with a pep talk before the match, but it was difficult with so few staff actually at the event.
“I didn’t get to see many people before the match,” Ripley revealed. “Just because like, we only had a limited amount of staff there because of the pandemic and everything that was going on. Like we didn’t want to have too many people around.
“So I actually didn’t get to see many people, which I probably could’ve used. I could’ve used a good pep talk beforehand. But we went through it, we had a killer match and it’s one of my favorite matches, even though I did lose my NXT Women’s Championship. But it’s still one of my favorite matches, especially because there was no crowd and we just went completely HAM and took each other out.”
Responding to speculation that she was due to be called up to the main roster after the match, Ripley said that she was actually glad that she got to stay with NXT. The Aussie said that the black and gold brand felt like home, adding that she loved her time there.
“No one told me anything,” Ripley said. “I was just kind of going along for the ride, just doing my job. But I had a feeling that I would be going to RAW, Smackdown on the next callups. It just didn’t happen.
“I wasn’t mad about it. I just got more time in NXT, which is something that I loved. I loved being a part of NXT, I loved being around the people there and having matches with those girls. It’s definitely a real home feeling when I’m in NXT. And I’m glad I got a few more months there, a year pretty much, before I got called up.”
In contrast to the previous year, WrestleMania 37 saw fans finally return to a WWE event. The spectacular saw a limited attendance of 25,000 fans per night. At the event, Ripley claimed her first title on the main roster, defeating Asuka for the RAW Women’s Title.
On the big night Ripley was played to the ring by New Years Day, a moment she described as “surreal” and special.”
“It was crazy. Absolutely crazy,” Ripley said. “I thought I was nervous at last year’s WrestleMania. But then it came to this year and I was like ‘oh my God, holy crap. There’s a lot of people here!’ It didn’t even look like 25,000, it looked like 90,000. It was insane. I’m so glad that we had it two nights, because the first night I got to go out on stage and get teary and take it all in and be the emotional wreck I knew I was going to be. And then the second night I got to be all business, and just go in there and bring the brutality.
“And to have a band, have Ash Costello and New Years Day play me to the ring, like that’s a dream of mine, to have an actual live performance. Especially at WrestleMania, that’s a dream for like many people I guess. So it was just so surreal and so special and it definitely did feel more like my first true WrestleMania moment.
Elsewhere during the conversation, Ripley revealed that she has been taking acting classes to boost her on-screen character. The Nightmare explained that while she isn’t hugely confident or out-going in ‘real life’ she gets her confidence from being inside the ropes.
H/t to Wrestling Inc for the transcription.