Rhea Ripley is not good for her anymore. And he is not willing to sit back and take things as they come.
The NXT superstar born in Australia is in shooting mode and running. The last month has seen both WWE “Raw” and “SmackDown” invade alongside fellow NXT stars, captain of the team in a win in a WarGames fight at NXT Takeover and then lead the NXT team to a huge win against two. WWE Chips in the Survivor Series.
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So there’s a good reason why 23-year-old Ripley is hailed as the star and future of the women’s fight. The metal metal-loving powerhouse brings with it a ruthless tension and is not afraid to speed up anyone. But behind all this, he swears that he is a nice person who is scared, by all people, of the Miz that he is idolizing.
Ripley is on a collision course with Shayna Baszler in her quest to become the NXT Women’s Champion. First things first: It has some work to do with Dakota Kai, with the two ending off Wednesday night’s NXT television broadcast, which airs weekly on the US Network from 8:00 – 10:00 pm. ET.
Sporting News recently spoke with WWE’s “Mosh Pit Kid” about its busy month, its new popularity, the big change it made last year and the development along with the NXT brand.
Sport News: I’m sure the last four weeks have been for you. Anything special?
RHEA RIPLEY: It’s all these amazing things that are happening. There really isn’t one thing that stands out to me the most. I suppose, this whole week when I got to beat Becky (Lynch) on Wednesday night at NXT, that was pretty amazing. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And then “SmackDown” and the fight between Charlotte (Flair) and Sasha (Banks) and in fact the pull of victory was just completely absurd to me. I didn’t expect this at all. Then at WarGames, I always wanted to be in a race where I could use weapons and (laughs) to have it that week, and the things I did were just crazy. I was so happy and so ecstatic and I just wanted to hit people with things, you know? (laughs)
Then the next day in the Survivor series, it was absurd for himself to be in the Survivor series. I didn’t think it was going to come any time soon.
SN: Has it really kicked in how big a deal this period was for you and your career?
RR: It’s a bit kicked in a bit, but then, at the same time, I don’t think it’s complete, because it happened so fast and everything happened immediately. I didn’t really have time to take it too much. Yes, I really appreciate everything and I love what happened, but at the same time I couldn’t sit down and be the little kid I had to do and just point out to myself.
SN: At the same time, it’s probably a good thing because then you don’t care too much about it and you live longer now?
RR: Yes, I think so. The more I want to point out about all these things, I know there are bigger things to come. I don’t know when exactly. I don’t know what exactly, but I have to know that I have to grow up sometime. (Laughs)
SN: There are many people tagging you, like Triple H, Paige and Trish Stratus, who have all said that Rhea Ripley is the star of NXT and the future of the women’s fight. What is it like hearing these people fill that kind of praise?
RR: Man, he’s totally crazy. Every day, like last week, I went online and watched someone else say something positive about me. And I’m coming from these superstars and people, it’s just … I don’t even know how to put them into words. It makes me feel so special. It makes me feel I have achieved something and proven to everyone exactly what I can do and who I am.
Even Triple H, man – I know he’s my boss and all that, but that’s so bloody. Triple H! This is the guy that got me into the fight. Watching him was the reason why I wanted to start the fight, let alone watch it. So to hear him, even my name comes out of his mouth is very cool. (Laughs)
SN: What is it like being close to Triple H on a regular basis and having him mentor?
RR: It’s great, super cool and it’s so smart. He knows so much about business. I try to absorb as much as I can and listen as much as I can, even when he is not speaking. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that she is there and has all our backs. It’s there to help all of us succeed in what we want to do and what we’re doing right now. He is one of our greatest cheerleaders and he is amazing.
SN: Report all the positive comments about you online, but you are the one used to deny negativity. What was it about turning it around and having so many positive vibes coming your way?
RR: It makes me feel really special. It’s really, really cool. It’s nice to see people staying behind me and supporting me in what I like to do. I’m happy to be able to make people proud and make people want to see this product because fighting is such a big part of my life and the lives of many people and it gets a lot of shit out of people. I’m here to prove to people that the fight is great. If you don’t like it, don’t pay attention. That’s right, but we don’t need to talk about crap because the fight with the law saves many lives, and I’m here to prove to everyone why it’s amazing again. And I’m glad people are behind it.
SN: You feel like you’re a very different performer just a year ago. What was it like during this time to be a part of the NXT system and to see it grow with you?
RR: Man, there was so much that happened in that short time. To be honest, I have a lot of spiritual demons in life and the fight has definitely helped me with that. Yeah, to see where I was a year ago and two years ago … I don’t want to say I’m a different person. I’m the same person. I just get a lot less crap these days. I have finally come into mine and I know what I deserve and I know what I want. I’m here to get it.
SN: What did it take to get to this point? Was it a particular moment or break point where you knew you had to get up for yourself and do what you felt was right for yourself?
RR: Yes, before the second Mae Young Classic I went through a breakup with my partner, who I was with for a couple of years and moved here with me. The one coming back to Australia and our battle, of course, just made me not care too much and I was like being salty in the world. I guess it kind of made me sit down and realize exactly what I wanted in life and exactly how to do it. It made me start to figure out what to do and something in my mind just broke and I was like ‘I don’t care. I do not care. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do what I want. I do not care “.
I guess I just stopped caring about what everyone thought because I had so many negative things going on in my path. I just started blocking him and it was like I didn’t care. Then I went out to the Mae Young Classic, the second one, and I had that “I don’t care about attitude” and everyone seemed to really have it back, you know? I continued with that. I don’t like to call it a character or a trick because it’s 110% me. It’s just my side that I don’t like showing on a daily basis because, you know, I’m a little snarky. (laughs) It’s me. I’m at a concert and I’m in a pit mosh. That’s how I act. I become a completely different person, an animal to be honest. I just go there and do whatever I want and get what I want, and I don’t care.
SN: When the NXT audience first got to know you, we saw you as a shy, smiling blonde, and you have completely transformed your look into this grin, the metal, on your face. What was it about this period that made you decide to change your look?
RR: I suppose before, when I was like, I was the beachfront little Australian that everyone loved and I was trying to be this smiling character that everyone would love and go back to. But I learned really quickly that you don’t have to do what other people want to do. You have to be yourself 110 percent of the time, because who really cares what people think about you?
I started, as I said before, to not care and changed into the behavior I have now. That was one of the reasons. I had so many reasons. Another reason is that so many people kept comparing me to Charlotte and Toni Storm and I didn’t want to be compared to anyone. I just wanted to be myself. I wanted to be Rhea Ripley. The only way I knew how to do it was to make myself look completely different from them because that’s the only reason people compared me to them. Because I had the long blond hair and the color of my gear and all that stuff.
I had to get my hair done and finally I did. So I went and got my hair cut off and I was just like anything. It will increase if it doesn’t look good. Does not matter. It’s just hair. So, I did that and then I got all these new tools. A lot of my inspiration for tools and materials is from bands. I’ve noticed that I look a lot like Chris Motionless from Motionless in White and I didn’t want to do that (laughs), but I look at him a lot which is very hilarious because he’s one of my favorite singers. I look a lot like him these days. I was just trying something and it worked. I put my ass on the line and it worked.
SN: How different did it feel that the first time you had the new look and the new device and got a good look at yourself in the mirror? Did it feel good from the get-go?
RR: Yes definitely. I felt great. I felt like I was finally accepting myself and I didn’t like if anyone else did. I accepted. I looked in the mirror and it was just like me. I feel comfortable now. Then I went out there and did what I did. Man, I was, if not, the best fight of my entire career in Mae Young Classic 2 against Io (Shirai) and that fight didn’t even have to happen. It was totally crazy how confident I was with this new trick, though not a trick. I just felt confident in myself and knew that I could do nothing.
SN: I think we see this confidence playing out. We see you off camera, you are a very good person. What is it like turning the switch on when you are in front of the camera and being able to turn on the volume the way you do?
RR: (Laughter) It’s really easier than you think. I am a good person. I’ll put it out there. I’m a nice person, but I also have Italian in my family. My mom’s side is Italian and my mom’s a very scary human being. I get a lot out of this tension and am drawn to it directly from it. It’s terrible. Beautiful girl. Beautiful mother but when she is angry, she is absolutely scary. It’s a cursed monster. I guess from there I found it. My father is just cold. She has no care in the world, but my mom can break in and go full Italian to you.
SN: I know you are a big fan of The Miz and that is your inspiration. Did you spend any time with him when you were on “SmackDown?”
RR: Not because I was too scared. Oh man. I feel like saying this biggest rag. I grew up in love with Miz, absolutely adored him, and then to see him at work, I was just like “no, I can’t talk to him”. Really, by accident, I ran into him. He was leaving the office and I was going to go and we did all this awkward step sideways, like ‘Uh, uh, uh. Oh no.’ I think I was light red, to be honest I think I went in bright red and it was like “I’m so sorry.” I just went out of the way and it was like I couldn’t do it.
SN: Obviously, you’re a huge metal fan and you’ve got your fair share of chimneys. Who were the toughest?
RR: To be honest, there are a lot of random mosh pits I went into. We used to go to this music festival called “Download” back home and many bands would come. If I didn’t know anyone playing, I would just go into random mosh pits and some of them were clearly brutal. It was intense. So, I’m in enough. I think one of the most intense I’ve found, I mean definitely Motionless in White was one of them and then I went to a Slipknot one. They are very intense. There are people flying everywhere.
SN: Between that and the singer who shouted at everyone to get up.
RR: I thought howling. And I remember the drummer – it was in that, like, scene going up in the air – and I was like, “What …? How is it playing now? I would be so scared. I was so confused. What if it falls? I’m on the train just trying to survive and you’re there playing drums ten meters in the air. Crazy.
SN: Build up to face Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship at some point. It’s one of the most anticipated fights in NXT and in the entire WWE. What is the accumulation so far?
RR: It was a tornado of emotions, to be honest. It was absolutely crazy and so intense, but I love every second of it and dip it in. I do not care. I live for that. Every Wednesday that comes around, I’m like “Ooohhh, what am I going to do today?” I am so pumped and can’t wait to face Shayna again. I think it’s definitely going to be a fight that no one wants to lose. I can not wait. I don’t know if Shayna can wait, but I can’t wait.
SN: Given that you enjoy playing the ring naturally and that Shayna likes to get physical, it will probably be a pretty physical fight whenever that happens.
RR: Oh, sure. I think it’s a quarrel, to be honest. And I like a fight. I absolutely love a fight, so I can’t wait to see how it all goes.