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Wrestlemania 37: Rhea Ripley becomes first ever Australian to win a WWE main-division championship

Wrestlemania 37: Rhea Ripley becomes first ever Australian to win a WWE main-division championship

 Rhea Ripley has become the first ever Australian to win a WWE main division championship in the company’s forty-one year history.

The 24-year-old from Adelaide defeated Asuka to claim the Raw Women’s Championship in front of 25,000 fans at WrestleMania 37 at Raymond James Stadium in Florida.

Rhea (real name Demi Bennett) was the youngest person on the WrestleMania card and the victory caps off an incredible turnaround in her career after a difficult twelve months.  

 Rhea Ripley has become the first ever Australian to win a WWE main division championship in the company’s forty-one year history, defeating Asuka in front of 25,000 WrestleMania fans at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Monday

Rhea looked down and out in a brutal back-and-forth match, before ducking a kick from Asuka and hitting with her finisher the Riptide to secure the pinfall victory. 

Overcome by emotion, she burst into tears in front of the 25,000 strong crowd as she held up the title.

Other Australians have won lesser titles in the WWE, including Buddy Murphy with the Cruiseweight title and Peyton Royce and Billie Kay Women’s Tag Team titles – but this is the first time an Aussie has won the company’s top belt. 

It was an incredible moment for Rhea, who until weeks ago wasn’t even scheduled to compete.

Overcome by emotion, she burst into tears in front of the 25,000 strong crowd as she held up the title

Overcome by emotion, she burst into tears in front of the 25,000 strong crowd as she held up the title

 ‘I didn’t expect to be on WrestleMania this year. Before this, I was just sitting in catering for a good two months. Just watching the shows, biding my time,’ Rhea (real name Demi Bennett) told media before the event last week.

 The past twelve months in the WWE have been grim for Rhea Ripley, a highly-touted performer who has struggled to regain popularity ever since the decision was made to have her lose to pro wrestling legend Ric Flair’s daughter Charlotte at 2020’s edition of WrestleMania.

Momentum is everything in pro wrestling, and after that loss, she went from being the NXT (developmental division) champion and ‘next big thing’ to just another mid-carder who failed to reach her potential.

You can call pro wrestling staged - just don't use the 'F' (Fake) word - but Rhea Ripley's road to the top has been anything but pre-determined. Rhea didn't even know she'd be competing at pro wrestling's biggest event of the year until just ten days ago (pictured alongside opponent Asuka)

You can call pro wrestling staged – just don’t use the ‘F’ (Fake) word – but Rhea Ripley’s road to the top has been anything but pre-determined. Rhea didn’t even know she’d be competing at pro wrestling’s biggest event of the year until just ten days ago (pictured alongside opponent Asuka)

The WWE were criticised by fans and parts of the media for the result of her match at WrestleMania 36, accused of killing the momentum of a future star.

There were even fears the company would replace Rhea with Charlotte for Monday’s match at the last minute, but it wasn’t to be.

'I didn't expect to be on WrestleMania this year. Before this, I was just sitting in catering for a good two months. Just watching the shows, biding my time,' Rhea (real name Demi Bennett) told media last week

‘I didn’t expect to be on WrestleMania this year. Before this, I was just sitting in catering for a good two months. Just watching the shows, biding my time,’ Rhea (real name Demi Bennett) told media last week

The 17-time WWE title holder went down with COVID in early March, following several months of unexplained absence, and on April 2, Rhea got the call-up to the main division.

‘The day Asuka wrestled (fellow Australian) Peyton Royce they were like “this is your time” and I was like sweet. I’m up for anything, I can do it, this is my one shot. Might as well go for it,’ Rhea said

And in perhaps the biggest show of confidence the company could give, she stormed down the ramp on her WWE Raw debut and challenged Asuka for the title. 

The past twelve months in the WWE have been grim for Rhea Ripley, a highly-touted performer who has struggled to regain popularity ever since the decision was made to have her lose to pro wrestling legend Ric Flair's daughter Charlotte (Pictured) at WrestleMania 36

Charlotte Flair is pictured here after her victory over Rhea in 2020

The past twelve months in the WWE have been grim for Rhea Ripley, a highly-touted performer who has struggled to regain popularity ever since the decision was made to have her lose to pro wrestling legend Ric Flair’s daughter Charlotte (Pictured) at WrestleMania 36

The WWE were criticised by fans and some parts of the media for the result of her match at WrestleMania 36, accused of playing it safe and in turn killing the momentum of a future star

The WWE were criticised by fans and some parts of the media for the result of her match at WrestleMania 36, accused of playing it safe and in turn killing the momentum of a future star

‘That’s how this business goes. You have to really take your shot and shoot for the stars, because people see that and that’s how you end up with WrestleMania matches.’

Having grown up in a country where local pro wrestling won’t pay the bills and most promotions are so short on female talent that the women have to face men, the fact Rhea even made it to the biggest company on the planet is no mean feat.

But thanks to a combination of hard work, determination and an undeniable charisma, she quickly rose up the ranks to become Australia’s most in-demand women’s wrestler.

'The day Asuka wrestled (fellow Australian) Peyton Royce they were like "this is your time" and I was like sweet. I'm up for anything, I can do it, this is my one shot. Might as well go for it,' she said

‘The day Asuka wrestled (fellow Australian) Peyton Royce they were like “this is your time” and I was like sweet. I’m up for anything, I can do it, this is my one shot. Might as well go for it,’ she said

WWE soon took notice and signed her to NXT in 2017, when she was still just 20-years-old. 

Her early years with the company were far-from easy.

And in perhaps the biggest show of confidence the company could give, she stormed down the ramp on her WWE Raw debut and challenged Asuka for the title

And in perhaps the biggest show of confidence the company could give, she stormed down the ramp on her WWE Raw debut and challenged Asuka for the title

‘At times I was being told I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t improving enough and I was pretty much crap at what I was doing – which is really hard to hear when you love wrestling and love what they do and puts in 110% every day,’ she said.

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She credits her trainer, former WWE star Scottie 2 Hotty (real name Scott Ronald Garland) for keeping her going.

Having grown up in a country where local pro wrestling won't pay the bills and most promotions are so short on female talent that the women have to face men, the fact Rhea even made it to the biggest company on the planet is no mean feat

Having grown up in a country where local pro wrestling won’t pay the bills and most promotions are so short on female talent that the women have to face men, the fact Rhea even made it to the biggest company on the planet is no mean feat

But thanks to a combination of hard work, determination and an undeniable charisma, she quickly rose up the ranks to become Australia's most in-demand women's wrestler

But thanks to a combination of hard work, determination and an undeniable charisma, she quickly rose up the ranks to become Australia’s most in-demand women’s wrestler

‘I was in his class for three months and I was one of only two females in that class who made it. He was always the one who picked me up when I was feeling the worst, told me that I was doing fantastic and I was improving.

‘Without him I don’t think I would have lasted and I would probably have been in Australia right now.’  

WWE soon took notice and signed her to NXT in 2017, when she was still just 20-years-old. on Monday, Rhea will be the youngest person on the WrestleMania card, competing for the top title in the women's division

WWE soon took notice and signed her to NXT in 2017, when she was still just 20-years-old. on Monday, Rhea will be the youngest person on the WrestleMania card, competing for the top title in the women’s division

‘To be a part of WrestleMania is really a dream come true. It’s the one thing every wrestling fan watches in awe,’ she said.

‘It’s just wild to think that I’m making this sort of impact. Because I don’t really think of myself as anything special but people are pointing out to me.’

'To be a part of WrestleMania is really a dream come true. It's the one thing every wrestling fan watches in awe,' she said. 'It's just wild to think that I'm making this sort of impact. Because I don't really think of myself as anything special but people are pointing out to me'

‘To be a part of WrestleMania is really a dream come true. It’s the one thing every wrestling fan watches in awe,’ she said. ‘It’s just wild to think that I’m making this sort of impact. Because I don’t really think of myself as anything special but people are pointing out to me’

On night one of WrestleMania on Sunday, Rhea’s long-time friend Bianca Belair (Bianca Nicole Crawford) won the Smackdown Women’s Championship, a fact that boded well for Rhea’s chances on Monday.

‘This is the beginning of the future and I’m very, very excited for the future. I know she’s absolutely going to kill it and hopefully we can really take over the division.’ 

WrestleMania is streaming live on Peacock in the U.S. and the WWE Network in the rest of the world. 

'This is the beginning of the future and I'm very, very excited for the future,' she added, vowing to win the championship. The event is streaming live on Peacock in the U.S. and the WWE Network in the rest of the world

‘This is the beginning of the future and I’m very, very excited for the future,’ she added, vowing to win the championship. The event is streaming live on Peacock in the U.S. and the WWE Network in the rest of the world


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