Rhea Ripley defeated Shayna Baszler on Wednesday to become the new NXT Women’s Champion, continuing her ascent to stardom.
Seldom does anyone seize the moment in the fashion that the seven-year veteran from Adelaide, South Australia, did this past Wednesday. The match’s finishing sequence was particularly heart-stopping, as Ripley gave her signature Riptide—a pumphandle powerbomb—to Baszler off the second rope to secure the win.
“I was ready for that moment,” said Ripley, who is 23-year-old Demi Bennett. “I knew I had her exactly where I wanted her. She’s on my lap, I’m thinking I got this, but then the fear of slipping came into my head when I stood backwards. I tried to ignore that and just go with it, and that’s when I knew it was mine.”
Ripley perfectly executed the finishing spot off the middle rope, staking her claim to a place where Bret Hart once created his undeniable magic. She noted that an assist should be credited to Cesaro, who helped construct that spot.
“My finisher Riptide is hard enough to do in the ring, let alone on two little ropes, and Cesaro helped me figure it out how to do it from there,” said Ripley. “We were at the PC struggling with it and he came out of nowhere to help.”
The match was an incredibly executed version of pro wrestling. The story saw Ripley overcome multiple obstacles to defeat Baszler, who provided authenticity and legitimacy to the title throughout her 416-day reign.
With the victory, Ripley becomes the ninth woman to hold the NXT Women’s Championship, a title with only six years of lineage yet, courtesy of the incredible caliber of talented wrestlers to hold the belt, is now one of the most prestigious honors in the industry.
“It’s slowly sinking in,” said Ripley. “I’m feeling all sorts of feelings right now. I’m happy, I’m sore, I’m excited. I’m everything, plus a bit of tiredness.
“It was live TV and all eyes were on me, so I just needed wrap all my nerves up and turn them into confidence. It was an amazing night. It felt like forever leading up to it, and then it was like, snapping my fingers and it was done.”
Ripley also delivered a mesmerizing performance at last month’s Survivor Series, which served as preparation for the singles match with Baszler.
“Shayna is definitely a bad ass, she’s credible, and she deserved to hold the title for so long,” said Ripley. “It’s hard to describe, it’s more of a natural feeling, but stepping into the ring with her taught me a lot about myself and what we do in the ring.”
The post-victory celebration was also memorable. The ring packed up with the majority of the NXT roster, who hoisted Ripley up onto their shoulders.
“I don’t really get picked up too often, so I was absolutely terrified,” said Ripley. “At one point, they put me up on the corner of the ring, and I looked into the crowd and saw this fan named Kyle, who is always at all of our shows and everyone knows as the ‘Florida Wrestling Fan.’ I don’t know what it is about Kyle, but I feel very comfortable when he’s there, maybe just ‘cause I see his face all the time. I saw him, and he goes, ‘Crowd surf!’ And I thought, ‘That is a bad ass idea.’ So I looked at the fellas around me and was like, ‘Reckon everyone can hold me for a crowd surf?’
“It felt like I was back at a concert. I haven’t been in a mosh pit in so long, and that’s the spot I always wanted to be in. Wrestling is my calling, and it was absolutely amazing.”
Following the in-ring celebration was the obligatory backstage title photo with Triple H, which is a moment Ripley had been awaiting since August 2018.
“Triple H is someone I’ve looked up to since I was a little girl” said Ripley. “He was the reason I started watching wrestling, and I loved our photo together this time.
“I got one when I won the NXT U.K. Women’s Championship, and I was legit so excited. I had this massive cheesy grin and I hated myself for it. I was like, ‘I can’t believe you made yourself like a goober in your one chance with the Triple H photo.’ So I’m glad that I got a second chance.”
Holding the NXT Women’s Championship undoubtedly comes with a lot of pressure, but Ripley is ready to set a new standard of excellence as champion.
“I’m going to keep working until I prove to everyone that I’m worth it,” said Ripley. “I’ve got to fill some big shoes, and I’m going to do it.”