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Rhea Ripley's Road to WrestleMania

Pro Wrestling

Rhea Ripley’s Road to WrestleMania

How The Nightmare went from a rookie with potential in Australia to facing off against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania.

Demi Bennett was born in Australia in 1996. She got her first taste of wrestling when some family friends showed her a match between Triple H and Ric Flair (most likely the Last Man Standing match at Survivor Series 2005). She played soccer for nine years, however, which she attributes to helping her have a good solid foundation for her stamina and cardio in the ring, also noting that she was one of the more aggressive kids in soccer and that’s why wrestling appealed to her.

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Her first wrestling gig was with the Australian promotion Riot City Wrestling, where she began wrestling in July of 2013. She quickly steamrolled the competition, having over a 90% win rate as she powered through the promotion. However, she did have some loses during her first year, her most notable one being to Sarah Summers, then champion. However, Bennett would continue to rack up wins and soon after have a rematch to successfully win the title before the end of her first year at RCW.

The new title holder would then start making appearances at other promotions, such as NHPW, where her first match led her to face off against (and lose to) Mercedes Martinez. She also traveled to Japan for a couple of months when she was 17 and worked some of the promotions there. She attributes that brief stint as helping her get a good foundation for strong style, as is evident in her current moveset.

Later in the year she would drop the title in RCW; however, even in defeat she was established as the better competitor as she would later challenge for the title back only to win due to a count out, resulting in a win but not the title. NHPW made a point of never letting Bennet appear as weak, ensuring she was top card material throughout her run with them.

She continued to be booked as a nonstop wrecking machine all through her indie run, winning the RCW title back one last time and holding it for close to a year. When the time came for her to leave, she had a final championship match which she won, thus having to simply drop the title, making the promotion run a tournament shortly after for the newly vacated title.

Demi had vacated the title because, of course, in 2017 she went over to WWE, competing in the Mae Young Classic. She performed well but eventually lost to Dakota Kai in the semifinal. She had a couple matches on NXT throughout 2017 following the tournament and then competing once again in the 2018 Mae Young Classic, getting much further than she had the previous year but ultimately losing to Io Shirai. 

She quickly found her footing when she was transferred over the WWE’s newest brand, NXT UK. A tournament was held for the first ever NXT UK Women’s Champion where she got a win over Xia Brookside in the first round followed by a win over Dakota Kai in the second, creating a nice dynamic since she had lost to Kai a year before in the 2017 MYC. Rhea won the finals matchup against Toni Storm, who was injured during the match — the ref ended up throwing up an X, which prompted it to end early. 

Despite this unfortunate turn of events, Ripley cut a very amazing, emotional promo. This would be the last more sympathetic face-esque promo for a while, as during this time she quickly changed her attitude to more of an aggressive violent heel. Adopting the nickname “The Nightmare,” she changed her look to match her new gimmick. A look which more closely resembled her real life punk persona.

Her title run was fittingly ended by Toni Storm at Takeover: Blackpool in 2019. She was kicked around for a little bit between America and the UK versions of NXT, doing a lot of house shows until August when she came onto NXT and challenged Shayna Bayzler for the NXT championship. She than popped up and was a part of the NXT invasion of SmackDown and later took on Becky Lynch during an NXT show (which ended in a disqualification).

Ripley took part in last year’s Survivor Series where she was able to help the NXT team win despite being out two other women during most of the match. With all her momentum and being extremely well established as a top carder, she went into her championship match against Shayna Baszler and ended up winning, ending Baszler’s title run at 416 days.

Ripley has completely blown through all competition in the indies as well as in WWE. She has an absolutely amazing win loss record for TV shows (not including house shows) since she won the NXT UK belt. And her run during RCW shows that she has just had a natural talent for this.

Which brings us to 2020, when Charlotte Flair challenged Ripley to a match at WrestleMania. Both women started wrestling roughly around the same time, but Charlotte has been a cornerstone of WWE during that time. This match will come down to seeing if the training and knowledge Ripley has gained from the indies and the smaller WWE brands can match up with Flair’s experience.

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