As Rhea Ripley prepares for arguably the biggest match of her career, one would think she is totally and solely focused on securing the SmackDown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 39, right? I mean, with the match all but certainly set to main event Night 1 of WrestleMania and the SmackDown title on the line, Ripley has a chance to secure her third WWE Championship and become a triple crown champion a la the women she’ll face off against, Flair.
And yet, in an interview with Sports Bible, Ripley mentioned another Championship match she would like to have following her run-in with Flair at WrestleMania 39: wrestle Gunther for the Intercontinental Championship.
“I would love to face Gunther,” Ripley said via No DQ. “I would absolutely be down for that. I would love to try [to] go for the Intercontinental Championship – it would be another history-making event which is all I want [to] do. I want to be remembered for breaking the stereotype for women at the same time.”
Now, understandably, such a match would be incredibly polarizing, but it’s not unheard of; Chyna and Chris Jericho famously shared the Intercontinental Championship in the 2000s, and if there’s one person Ripley gets compared to all the time, it’s Chyna. Still, Ripley isn’t simply a Chyna clone, as the heater of The Judgement Day is also hugely influenced by one of her more recent rivals, Beth Phoenix.
“She is one of the main women that I idolized growing up in the WWE just because she looked different, she had muscle, she stood out as this really really strong force,” Ripley said. “I remember seeing her get crap for the way that she looked and I hated that and it reminded me of people picking on me for the way I looked. But seeing her go out there and not care about anything and just be herself – I idolised that. So to be able to step into the ring with her and even just go face to face and just have these two beefy girls looking at each other, ready to kill, I live for those moments right there.”
Will Ripley be able to overcome the odds and dominate the WWE Universe in the same way as Phoenix before her? Only time will tell, but if Ripley can continue to build on her strong in-ring efforts and the mythology surrounding it, there’s little reason to believe she couldn’t have a similar career trajectory.
Rhea Ripley has long been a fan of Chyna and Beth Phoenix.
Speaking with Kenny McIntosh of Inside The Ropes all the way back in September, Ripley discussed just how special it was to be in a team with male performers like Finn Balor, Dominik Mysterio, and Damian Priest and how it’s impossible not to draw comparisons to Chyna during her time with DX.
“Um, yeah, so like, you don’t really see many groups with intergenders, you know,” Ripley said.. “So to be in a group with the boys, and not only just in the group, but sort of be like the muscle of the group as well. It’s wild to think, I’m very excited that I could be one of the first in a while.
“I sort of get compared to Chyna a lot, which I love, I love that. People keep making edits, and I think they’re absolutely hilarious. I did like Chyna, I thought she was an icon. and she didn’t fit in, which was great. Like, she was so different to everyone. She was muscley and just, she was beautiful. The others were beautiful, too. I’m not saying that they weren’t. But she was beautiful in a different way.
“Which is like how I was growing up, I was always bigger than everyone, I needed someone. That’s why I look to people like Beth Phoenix as well. She was different, and I loved Beth growing up. So to sort of portray that for little girls that are small and petite, and they like the bigger bill, I am very glad to be that person for them.”
While WWE has had plenty of powerhouse female performers since Phoenix and Chyna called WWE home, few have watched the promotion actually lean into that fact in order to differentiate themselves from the traditional female Superstar. By actively leaning into that fact, WWE had made Ripley feel special when viewed through a historical lens and could lead to matches against the likes of Gunther or whoever else might hold the IC Title at the end of WrestleMania 39.
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