Rhea Ripley Before WWE Was Completely Different To Now

Stewart Harper

2023 Royal Rumble Rhea Ripley is quickly becoming one of the most popular women on the WWE roster. Her performances alongside Dominik Mysterio in recent months have drawn her comparisons to WWE Hall of Famer Chyna, with many fans wanting to see he wrestle some of the male WWE wrestlers.

As a former Raw Women’s Champion and NXT Women’s Champion, Ripley is one of the most decorated women on the roster. Alongside Judgement Day she is regularly featured in the main event of Raw and is considered one of the top wrestlers in the division.

Rhea Ripley only signed for the WWE in 2017 when she was just 21 years old. She was one of the youngest wrestlers to compete in the inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament, WWE’s first all-women tournament in the vein of the Cruiserweight Classic. She was signed to be a big part in that first tournament, winning her debut match against Miranda Salinas but losing in the second round to Dakota Kai.

However, the Rhea Ripley seen in her WWE debut was much different than the one we see today. WWE signed Rhea Ripley for her work outside WWE and was hoping that she would become a big star in the company. She had a completely different look and was almost a different person than you see wrestling with Finn Balor every week.

Outside of WWE Rhea Ripley was a much different wrestler. Known as Demi Bennett, the Australian star wrestled all over Australia between 2013 and 2017. However, instead of her short haircut and all-black, grunge look, she sported long, curled blonde hair and a much more traditional, diva-esque look to her. You would hardly recognise Rhea Ripley outside WWE if you saw her now.

However, she still had the physique and strength that helps her stand out in the WWE Women’s division. While she was outside of WWE Rhea Ripley became a top women’s star all over Australia. She is a former RCW Women’s Champion, holding the title twice for a combined reign of over a year. That championship has also been won by fellow NXT alumni Indi Hartwell.

She wrestled for Riot City Wrestling (RCW) for a number of years in Australia. She called that her home base but appeared in a multitude of indies, working as much as she could to get noticed by the WWE. She impressed and was spotted by talent scouts in 2017 and signed up for the May Young Classic tournament, with her unrecognisable blonde look.

Her last RCW match came on April 22, 2017, where she defeated Kellyanne before vacating the RCW Women’s Championship, promising to return one day and reclaiming the title she never lost. She then signed for WWE and competed in her first match during the Mae Young Classic in 2017 under the name Rhea Ripley.

Rhea Ripley First Match

After impressing outside of the WWE, the company hired Rhea Ripley as one of the wrestlers competing in the first ever Mae Young Classic. The tournament was announced as being a 32 all women tournament, in the same vein as the Cruiserweight Classic the year prior. It was named in honor of pioneering WWE Hall of Famer Mae Young, who had passed away a few years prior.

A number of wrestlers who later became stars in WWE made their debuts as part of this tournament. As well as Rhea Ripley, indie talents like Toni Storm, Dakota Kai, Piper Niven and Tessa Blanchard all wrestled their first WWE matches in the tournament. Tegan Nox, a young Welsh wrestler, was also signed as one of the stars of the tournament but was replace before it started due to an ACL tear.

In her debut match in WWE, Rhea Ripley wrestled against fellow recent signee Miranda Salinas. The Australian powerhouse easily defeated her American counterpart, ending the match in just three minutes. She won the match with a delayed dropkick into the corner, a move more commonly associated with stars like KENTA or Katsuyori Shiabta.

She would go on to lose in the second round of the tournament to Dakota Kai. In next years edition, she came back with a new look. She looked more similar to her current look on the WWE main roster, with Ripley admitting she felt more like herslef this way.

Rhea Ripley made it all the way to the semi finals of the second Mae Young classic. She defeated Tegan Nox in the quarter finals before losing to Io Sharai by pinfall in the semis. She later went on to be the first NXT UK Women’s Champion and an NXT Champion. The Australian won the 2023 Royal Rumble and will face Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at Wrestlemania 39.

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