It didn’t take long for Rhea Ripley to make an impact on WWE Raw. Not long after her arrival from NXT in February she defeated Asuka to become women’s champion at WrestleMania.
From there, it she had a heated rivalry with Monday night’s queen Charlotte Flair and Nikki A.S.H. The latter has since become her unlikely tag team partner with the two becoming the women’s tag team champions. With the WWE Draft in full swing over two nights on SmackDown and Raw, we caught up with “The Nightmare” to get her thoughts on the brand shakeup.
This is your first draft. Where’s your head at right now?
Rhea Ripley: I’m quite excited. I’ve always loved watching the draft as a fan. It’s always something I’ve enjoyed. You see so many new matchups, which is absolutely amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing who ends up where. I love a good challenge. There are a lot of people I haven’t wrestled in the women’s division over on SmackDown. I’m comfortable if I go to SmackDown or vice versa.
How do you look back on your transition from NXT to Raw this year?
It was way more different than I expected it to be, especially now that we are back on the road traveling a lot. I really have one full day at home. Being on Raw is a bigger platform. When I went to Raw, a lot of people didn’t know who I was or didn’t know I was even part of WWE because all they watched was Raw and SmackDown. It was a whole new group of people who I had to introduce myself to. That was probably the most challenging apart to me, especially not having a crowd at the time as well. I didn’t have a live crowd to feed off of and see what feedback I was getting from them. I felt like I was slowly thriving and learning how to swim.
What was your initial response when they told you about your pairing with Nikki?
At first I was a little bit standoffish. But she is growing on me. She is such a good person, warm-hearted and positive. Sometimes you just need someone like that behind you, especially when you’re someone like me who just goes out there and brutalizes people. Sometimes I need to calm down a little bit, so I’m glad to have Nikki by my side. To be honest, I’m having the time of my life right now in this tag team. It’s a lot of fun. I do miss singles competition and do love it, but there are always times for a change. Right now, I think the fact we won the women’s tag team championship is truly incredible. And to do it with someone like Nikki and was in NXT when I first started. I really looked up to her. To hold these titles with her is truly extraordinary.
You created quite the bond with Bianca Belair and the current NXT champ Raquel González. How important are those connections to you?
It’s important for you to find your people in this business. The ones you connect with and get along with and bring you up when you’re feeling down. Bianca is definitely one of those people for me. Traveling with her in NXT was such a good time. We had such great chemistry. We would just go out there and batter each other. It was always a good time. We are very competitive people. She is definitely one of my favorite people to work with at WWE. Having that support system on the road is critical. You do that. Bianca and Raquel are those for me. Raquel is honestly my best friend. She is my travel buddy and I honestly don’t know how I’m surviving on the road without her. I think it was cool to have your moment with us in the ring with our championships because we all know the struggles we went through behind the scenes. To see it all come together and all accomplish our goals and have that spotlight stand together to show we made it through to the other side. That was very special. It’s a memory I will always hold close to my heart. I thank Hunter [Triple H] for giving it to us.
You speak of NXT. What do you think of NXT 2.0 so far?
I actually really enjoyed it. I was a little bit skeptical, but I like the metal setting and all that. I was worried about the color. I walked into the building before the show went on and had a good look around. It was so epic to see in person. Seeing it on TV is really cool, but seeing it in person was a step more. Seeing the talent who have come out of the Performance Center the last six months. People I don’t even know. They’ve all been working so hard. Watching the show I thoroughly enjoyed it. Just seeing the people improve who I did know at NXT. Seeing the new faces. It’s a nice change. It was something that was somewhat needed as well. I do miss the black and gold and grungy vibe. But I think this is a good move with NXT.
If you paired up two women on the roster to form a tag team, who would they be?
That’s a really tough question. Honestly, if Sonya Deville returns back in the ring, I’d think pairing her with Shayna Baszler would be good. They would be a tough challenge for sure.
Have you given any thought to your ring name with Nikki?
I haven’t. Nikki is Nikki and throwing names at me left and right. I think Super Brutality is what is sticking right now.
Is she trying to get you matching ring gear?
Sure is. I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’ve been trying to pull the darkness out of her, but that’s not going to happen. She’s too positive a person.
What have you been told about the Draft? Any preference where you want to land?
To be honest, I know nothing going on. I’m in the dark completely. I’m just going to work and we’ll see what brand I end up on. That’s exciting at the same time. I’m going to both brands anyway because I’m the tag champs, which is really cool. Hopefully, Nikki and I stay on the same brand or get drafted together. If I had a preference, I love smackdown. I love the women’s locker room there, which I know is going to get shaken up there as well. I think I would love to stay on Raw. I think red is more my color. I don’t look very good in blue. It’s three hours on Raw, so we get more TV time as well. Us girls are going to have the TV time we deserve where SmackDown I feel like they do get overlooked sometimes, which is upsetting. Sometimes they don’t get the time and deserve so much more.
WWE Raw, Mondays, 8/7c, USA Network
WWE SmackDown, Fridays, 8/7c, Fox