New WWE Raw Women's Champion Nia Jax will defend her title against the promotion's biggest signing in some time, Ronda Rousey, at Money in the Bank June 17.
But she shouldn't. Actually, Jax vs. Rousey could not have any more going against it. Lucky for them and WWE, though, the match is taking place at an event that offers the perfect escape route.
The problems with the match start with the way it was made. Jax challenged Rousey — yes, the champion made the challenge — last week at the NBCUniversal Upfront, a glitzy presentation of the company's programming lineup that pretty much no one outside the media class even knows about. In other words, WWE ran the angle for suits, not fans. That's not surprising: The promotion's TV rights are up for bid, and reports have suggested WWE could bank as much as three times the amount of its current deal. And one commonly cited factor for the increase is Rousey's mainstream star power.
Still, the company's headline grab was so obvious that it felt a little insulting. That's also because the execution was even worse than the idea: Both Jax and Rousey were tepid and unconvincing, and showed none of the fire you'd expect to see out of two women set to fight each other in a few weeks. And as soon as the challenge was accepted, they proceeded down the red carpet arm-in-arm with Charlotte for more interviews and photo ops, their carny business complete. I sure as hell don't remember Rousey doing anything of the sort with Miesha Tate or any of her other UFC challengers.
Anyway, the match is made. And that's where the real problems with it begin. First, and most glaring, is Rousey's lack of ring time. She showed promise at WrestleMania, blowing away expectations with a spirited performance that saw her throw a cool somersault clothesline and some decent punches, on top of trash talk with 100 times the personality of her promos. But that was a tag team match with three longtime pros in Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Kurt Angle, and one that was no doubt rehearsed move-for-move at some warehouse in Stamford or Full Sail.
This match is not that. This is a singles match with Jax, who is still inexperienced herself. She's had good matches with Asuka, and her series with Alexa Bliss was solid, but Jax is nowhere near the level she needs to be to carry someone wrestling their first singles match to something that isn't met with "boring" chants. That's why it's puzzling that said match didn't pit Rousey against a veteran like Mickie James or Natalya, which was the direction WWE appeared to be heading before last week. James, especially, could have given Rousey the kind of broomstick treatment that'd raise her stock even further.
with a digital subscription.
But WWE wants to keep those Variety reporters googly-eyed, so here we are. Now what's the finish?
Surely Rousey won't take a clean loss already, and one for Jax would all but undo a WrestleMania face push that was written with care. In fact, challenging Rousey is the only significant face move Jax has made since she dethroned Bliss. Aside from introducing Ember Moon, she's done next to nothing on Raw for weeks. I'm inclined to say she was better off a monster heel, but WWE hasn't given her a proper chance to prove otherwise. So it's fitting she challenged Rousey, because despite being the champ, Jax is the one who stands to gain more from the match.
All those concerns are aggravated by the fact that this match will likely end within minutes, if not seconds. So it won't be the kind of match where the loser can maintain their credibility with a show of guts, like a bloody Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. Jax will likely tap to an armbar inside of a minute, then angrily beat up Rousey and go back to the same place she was when 2018 began.
The only escape route is shenanigans. McMahon, for instance, could return to cost Rousey the match as revenge for having her arm broken by the former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion the night after WrestleMania. But most forms of interference would feel cheap, and betray WWE's lack of planning past the point of booking Rousey in a title match and watching the media requests roll in.
One form of interference wouldn't, though: a Money in the Bank cash-in. It could be Bliss, Ruby Riott or even a woman from Smackdown, but someone interrupting Jax and Rousey's match with the briefcase they won earlier in the night would be the best way to end it. They could even blindside Jax before the match begins, exposing Rousey as little as possible. Chicago would pop for it, as all crowds do for cash-ins. The briefcase holder would appreciate not having to lug it through airports and wonder when they'll be able to use it. And, most importantly, WWE would still get its Rousey headlines.