Rhea Ripley is redefining success in WWE—and doing it in her own way.
Only 24, Ripley carries a veteran presence in the ring. She is currently one half of the WWE women’s tag team champions and plans to reach the top of the industry by sticking to the process that has brought her to these current heights: by remaining true to herself.
“I’m going out there and being me,” says Ripley (real name Demi Bennett). “This is the way I act and this is the way I dress. That’s why Rhea Ripley is so important—she’s reaching out to a group that didn’t always have someone like them to look up to. People have told me they’ve cut their hair because of me. I’m honored by that. I want people to know it’s O.K. to be yourself.”
Ripley’s spirit is undeniable every time she appears on camera. She is still evolving in WWE after a very successful NXT run, and there is no limit to what the Australia native can accomplish both in and out of the ring.
“Before, I had long hair and I looked like everyone else even though I loved goth and metal,” Ripley says. “Then I went through a lot of crap in my life, especially in between the first Mae Young Classic [in 2017] and the second one. I was going through a lot. I was being told I wasn’t improving or working hard enough, and that lit a fire under my a--. I was also struggling with my partner at the time. We weren’t in a good place.
“My depression and my anxiety were kicking in, and I decided, no more. I had to start living life the way I wanted to live it. I decided to be my true self. That’s why I cut my hair and started living truly to myself. I want to show everyone me.”
Being herself, Ripley learned, brings her a special kind of authentic happiness.
“It really, really does,” she says. “Before I was myself, life was so truly difficult. I got so much happier when I became myself.”
Ripley is teaming with Nikki A.S.H., which has brought some new excitement to Raw, which is where they will stay following the early results of WWE’s latest draft. And Ripley finds inspiration from her tag partner, who is one of the most beloved—and talented—performers across all of pro wrestling.
“Nikki is such a special person,” Ripley says. “What you see on TV is what you get in person, and I love being around her. She’s so positive and lights up a dull room, and she’s always looking to help people. That’s why the superhero character works so well for her. And we’re excited to be on Raw. The great part about being tag team champions is that we can go wherever we want, and I’m so excited to team with Nikki and make some lasting moments together as champions.”
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It is hard not to look into wrestling’s crystal ball and envision Ripley’s future. She possesses a rare blend of charisma and athleticism, and it is not out of the realm of possibility for her to one day main-event a WrestleMania against Bianca Belair. In order to ascend to that level of notoriety, Ripley is determined to stay true to herself in her pursuit of the profession’s most rarefied air.
“It’s O.K. to be yourself,” Ripley says. “That’s harder to do than say, but once you do, life gets so much better. Don’t let the hate get to you, and live life the way you want. That’s what I plan on doing in WWE.”
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.
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