Last week on NXT UK, Rhea Ripley stunned the WWE Universe when she defeated heavily favorited Toni Storm to be crowned the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion. It’s been a long five year journey for the former Australian indie star, who has beaten the odds and expectations to emerge as one of the best heels in the WWE and now the first women’s champion for the fledgling NXT UK brand.
Only 22 years old, Ripley made her debut as a 17-year old in June of 2013 with her hometown promotion in Adelaide, South Australia, Riot City Wrestling. Wrestling under her real name, Demi Bennett, it didn’t take long for Bennett to make an impression with RCW. Just five months after her debut, she had a qualifying match for the RCW Women’s Championship tournament, but fell short to Aussie indie veteran Savannah Summers.
But her story in the quest for the RCW Women’s title – and her loss to Summers – didn’t stop there. Bennett continued to improve her game and in 2014, she defeated Summers for the RCW Women’s Championship at RCW City Chicks Unleashed. She held the belt for an impressive 189 days before losing to Harley Wonderland at the end of the year. In June, she also made her Melbourne City Wrestling (MCW) debut, defending her RCW Women’s title against Summers and another young Aussie indie star named Toni Storm.
In the spring of 2015, she traveled to Japan for a tour with All Japan Women‘s legend Kyoko Inoue‘s promotion, Diana, as well as Sendai Girls and Pro Wrestling ZERO1. By the end of the year she was back in RCW trying to reclaim her title – which had since been reclaimed by Savannah Summers, but to no avail. It took most of 2016 for her to finally get her belt back from her arch-rival Summers, and this time she held on to it tight. She held the RCW Women’s title for a whopping 309 days. In early 2017, she signed with the WWE and in April, defended her RCW Women’s title one last time, against Kellyanne, before departing the company and vacating the belt.
She made her WWE debut last summer, as part of the inaugural Mae Young Classic. Renamed Rhea Ripley, her happy-go-lucky persona was a hit with the crowd and she won her first round match against Miranda Salinas, a prospect from Booker T‘s Reality of Wrestling (she’s spent the bulk of 2018 with Stardom in Japan). In the second round, Ripley was defeated by another Australasian star in Dakota Kai.
That October, she made her NXT debut in the NXT Women’s title #1 Contender Battle Royale, before hitting the NXT Live Event circuit. It would be her last televised appearance until she appeared in this year’s second Mae Young Classic, where she emerged hungrier, meaner, and stronger. With a new found attitude, Ripley easily advanced through the first two rounds – defeating MJ Jenkins and Kacy Catanzaro – before reaching another heavy favorite in Tegan Nox. Sadly, an injury mid-match hobbled Nox, and Riply got the win, ultimately losing in the Semi-Finals to Io Shirai.
Ripley then traveled to the UK to join the NXT UK Women’s division, where she once again dominated another tournament. She took out Xia Brookside in the first round, then avenged her 2017 Mae Young Classic loss to Dakota Kai by eliminating the Team Kick captain in the Semi Finals to advance and face Toni Storm in the finals last week. While Storm was battling an injury, Ripley once again took advantage, claiming the victory and the gold.
With NXT UK gold around her waist and a fierce new attitude, Rhea Ripley has put the NXT UK women’s division on notice that the once sparkly girl from the Aussie indie scene is dead and gone, and that there’s a new “Nightmare” in town. And she’s not about to give up her title without a fight.
— RheaRipley_WWE (@RheaRipley_WWE) December 7, 2018
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