SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Thunder Rosa: ‘Me and Shida at All Out, it’s going to be magic’
The segment of the wrestling world unfamiliar with the work of Thunder Rosa should prepare itself for an introduction.
“If you don’t know who I am, you will,” Rosa says. “People are going to know exactly who I am after All Out.”
Rosa, the reigning National Wrestling Alliance world women’s champion, has arrived in All Elite Wrestling for a cross-promotion match against AEW women’s champion Hikaru Shida that will take place this Saturday at All Out. Rosa’s entry into AEW adds another shot of adrenaline to a card already packed with potential.
“I’m the NWA women’s champion, and I get to walk into an AEW pay-per-view for a match against Hikaru Shida—to me, that is an honor,” says Rosa. “I know people have been very hesitant about what they’ve seen in the last couple of weeks in the AEW women’s division. I’ve read the criticism, but we are going to show what a championship match should look like. I’ve been visualizing my entrance, my moves, my MMA technique, and I wish I was getting in the ring with her right now.”
Rosa is 34-year-old Melissa Cervantes, and she is in the process of bringing even more prestige to the time-honored NWA’s women’s championship. That belt has a lineage dating back to 1935 but is best known for the Fabulous Moolah’s title run stretching from 1956 to 1966. Rosa defeated Allysin Kay for the belt in a fantastic match this past January at the NWA’s Hard Times pay-per-view. Her style, which is a ground-and-pound blend of brawling and submission techniques, makes her work in the ring extremely compelling.
Only the AEW title is on the line at All Out, but a cross-promotion match with gold involved always brings a certain air of electricity. And for Rosa, she fully grasps the magnitude of the moment. Her match at All Out marks a valuable opportunity to represent the NWA brand, which has not run shows amid the pandemic, as well as the chance to show wrestling fans that the future of the industry is covered in her signature Day of the Dead paint.
“I have absolutely nothing to lose at All Out,” Rosa says. “I want my hand raised, and then I’ll defend the AEW title, too. But no matter what, you’re going to know who I am.”
Rosa is scheduled to wrestle on Wednesday’s Dynamite, which will provide her with a chance to make viewers believe in her aura, intensity and passion. Though she is new to AEW, she is well-versed in the universal language of pro wrestling. Rosa has worked extensively in Mexico and Japan. In addition to the NWA title, she is also the reigning international princess champion for Tokyo Joshi Pro, and her nonstop travel has given an international flair to her style. Her wrestling journey also has a substantive backstory, which connects directly to her family and offers an entirely different meaning to her half-painted face.
“My first month wrestling in Japan, I suffered a concussion,” Rosa says. “My husband thought I should wear face paint as a symbol that I was half dead and half alive. But at first, I didn’t want to wear it.
“There was a promotion in the United States that asked me to use face paint because they thought I would appeal more to the Latino community because I’m Latina. I hate when people make me feel less than because I’m Latina or because I have an accent, and in all honesty, I was running away from my culture. So I didn’t wear the face paint.”
At that point, Rosa’s career was stagnant. She had yet to find the right style in the ring, still seeking the genuine connection with the crowd. She was then struck with an epiphany that forever changed the way she approached wrestling.
“When I came back to the United States from Japan, my uncle started asking me all these questions about wrestling, and he wanted to know what Thunder Rosa was all about,” Rosa says. “Without even knowing all the details of my career, he told me this story about why I should wear the Day of the Dead paint.
“He told me how my grandfather passed away while watching lucha libre in Tijuana. At the time, my uncle was only eight years old, just a little boy, sitting on my grandfather’s lap when he died. My uncle told me that my grandfather loved watching, that this was in my blood, and it was now my destiny to represent those that couldn’t make it. That’s why I wear the paint. My career is a celebration of those that brought me here.”
Ever since that conversation with fate, Rosa has been a living embodiment of her uncle’s prescient words. Her travels over the past six years have brought her across the globe, wrestling on three different continents. And though she is fully immersed in the unique world of pro wrestling, the former social worker knows there is a much deeper meaning to her work than merely victories and titles.
“People make sacrifices to see me,” says Rosa, who teared up as she articulated the importance of her fans, particularly young women. “There are girls that always come see me. I wait to see them at my shows. They see me as their inspiration, and that drives me. They make me strive to be a better person.
“I am here for a reason. This isn’t a job. Wrestling has allowed me to create relationships with people that I never would have met, to make a difference—and I was put in this world to make a difference.”
The NWA returns to prominence this Saturday on AEW’s pay-per-view, but this is not a throwback appearance from a legend like Ric Flair or Terry Funk. Instead, viewers will be treated to a furious and ferocious style from wrestling’s next star, Thunder Rosa.
“Me and Shida at All Out, it’s going to be magic,” said Rosa. “You’re going to see passion, you’re going to see conviction, and you’ll learn why I am who I am.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Somehow, the Rock even made the dictionary go viral (while also paying his respects to the Iron Sheik).
- How much of a role has the Rock played in this edgier version of Roman Reigns? There are certainly parallels.
- Dolph Ziggler did a tremendous job ensuring Keith Lee shined this Monday on Raw, and even though the night didn’t end with a victory in the triple threat, Lee is on a fast-track to stardom.
- If WWE doesn’t go all in on a Randy Orton title victory at Clash of Champions at the end of the month, then I’m not sure when the timing will be right to see him again as champ.
- On the subject of champions … no new NXT champion was crowned on Tuesday night, as the Iron Man match ended with Finn Balor and Adam Cole tied. Their sudden death overtime will take place on next week’s NXT, which also takes place on Tuesday, and I understand why people wanted a conclusion after the 60-minute match Tuesday night. But I like the idea of pitting Cole against Balor, a battle of the two longest-reigning NXT champs of all time, in a match to determine the new champion.
- Tetsuya Naito was crowned the new IWGP heavyweight and intercontinental champion this past weekend in Tokyo at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Summer Struggle in Jingu show. Naito is a genuine star, so it isn’t shocking that he won back both belts, but the bigger question is how EVIL will be presented after having only 48 days in his run with the belts.
- MJF challenges Jon Moxley for the AEW championship this Saturday at All Out. I think MJF will leave the show as champ, though there will certainly be some nefarious methods in practice to make it happen.
- The world title also changed hands Tuesday night in Impact Wrestling, as Eric Young is now a two-time Impact world champion after defeating Eddie Edwards.
- Another highlight of Tuesday night’s Impact was Deonna Purrazzo’s championship celebration, which saw the return of Tenille Dashwood and a chaotic end to a fantastic segment.
- One more note on champions, or in this case, future world champs: count Renee Young among those who believe Big E will be a phenomenal fit as WWE champion.
- And here is the video about Big E to which she is referring:
- Wrestling is a forum for creativity and new ideas. So why is the Matt Riddle–Baron Corbin feud discussing Riddle’s real-life marital issues on WWE programming? This connects to allegations of abuse toward Riddle that were brought to light during the industry-changing #SpeakingOut movement, and there is no place for it in a story line.
- As first reported by The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, Mauro Ranallo has parted ways with WWE.
- I loved Daniel Bryan’s connection between the Griffeys and the Mysterios. Rey gutted his way through a torn triceps suffered Sunday at Payback, but the story of the match, and again on Raw, was the brilliance of his son Dominik in the ring.
- There is something inherently wholesome about content involving Kurt Angle and milk.
Tweet of the week
More brilliance from Brian Gewirtz.