At just 25 years old, Rhea Ripley is one of the most dominant superstars in the WWE — and her stardom only continues to grow.
But the Australian could have very easily been lost to the sport of wrestling, admitting that she found herself in a “really dark place” and came within “centimetres” of giving it all up.
That was, until a sudden realisation saw the once fresh-faced Ripley redefine both her own identity and what it means to be successful in the WWE, doing it her own way.
Now Ripley’s fans down under will have even more opportunities to follow that journey, with a major new multi-year partnership seeing Foxtel Group’s portfolio of entertainment brands become the home of WWE in Australia.
The deal includes a new, dedicated 24/7 WWE channel, which will launch from December 2022, while Binge will become the new streaming home of WWE Network in Australia from January 2023.
Speaking to foxsports.com.au as part of that announcement, Ripley said it was in the year between competing at the first and second Mae Young Classics that her life changed.
“I was in this really dark place where I was like centimetres from just absolutely giving up and wanting it to all stop and I wanted to go home,” she said.
“There was a lot of things that went into that. I just sort of had to change my mentality and realise I had worked so hard to get to the point that I was at that I wasn’t going to let these things stop me and I had to stop listening to everyone and had to sort of do it my way again and believe in myself and not listen to everyone that throws criticism my way.
“That is the best thing that could have happened to me, I just sort of changed my mentality and just didn’t care anymore.”
Ripley did not just change her mentality though. She changed her whole look, shedding her now long blonde locks to become a self-described “weapon of mass destruction”.
“It is a 10 times version of myself because I’ve not only grown as Rhea Ripley but I’ve also grown in my own life,” she added.
“It’s been a growing experience of just finding out who I am as a person and showing that off to the world.
“Growing up, I looked at people like Beth Phoenix. She was different, she was built different, big, beefy and she had muscles and she was going out there and obliterating anyone in her path. That’s someone I looked up to.
“So, to sort of be put into that role where now I’ve put in the time and effort into the gym and made my body into this weapon of mass destruction as well, but to not only do that within myself, but prove to everyone that they should be comfortable in their own skin and not care about what people think or say about them as long as they are happy within themselves and surround themselves with the right people, I think that’s really special.”
There may be the occasion negative reaction or two, men telling Ripley she needs to grow out her hair or that she looks ‘too masculine’, but to those critics she has a simple message.
“The whole thing is women should have long hair. I hate that stereotype. I hate when men say grow your hair out,” she said.
“No. This is my body, this is my choice. I do whatever the hell I want with my body and you can’t tell me what to do because I love myself, I don’t really care if you don’t love me.
“That’s so strong and I love when I get tagged in photos of women and they’ve cut their hair in the same way because ‘Rhea I found the confidence to cut my hair’, that’s just insane to me. I’m really proud and happy to be on this platform where I can help people as well.
“I get messages, tweets, posts that I’m tagged in all the time about people and their confidence growing because they’ve seen me, which is absolutely insane.”
Speaking of Ripley’s new look and approach to the sport, she is also benefiting from the new direction the WWE has gone in since Triple H took over as the new Head of Creative.
With Vince McMahon gone, Triple H is now the man in charge and having worked under him for years in the NXT, Ripley said she has noticed a “huge difference” already.
“It feels like NXT again,” she said.
“It feels like that family environment that I really loved about NXT and miss at the same time. He’s very hands-on, extremely hands-on, which is something I really appreciate. I love being able to go out there and talk to him and just get his opinion on things and learn from him every single Monday, whether it be something small or something big.
“I’m constantly learning every time I talk to him and that’s something I find so important in this business. It’s really important to have Triple H around and to me he feels like that father figure, which is really, really cool. It’s starting to feel a lot like NXT and the environment seems so happy and so excited to be at work which makes a huge difference.”
It has been a long road for Ripley, who made her debut as a teenager for Riot City Wrestling and has seen first-hand how the sport has continued to grow in Australia over the past decade.
“I feel like in Australia everyone’s love for WWE is growing and they’re finding wrestling and they’re enjoying it,” she said.
“I feel like the Australian wrestling scene has grown so much from when I first started wrestling, which was 2012. To see how far not only the wrestling scene over here has been built but Australia where WWE has their eyes on the Australian scene and everyone over there has been hustling and working so hard perfecting their craft, it makes me proud to see how much it’s grown.
“To now have WWE stand there in partnership with Foxtel and have that platform of Binge to show our premium live events and Roar and Smackdown and NXT, I think it is just going to help it grow even more and get more eyes on the product.”