Interview: Rhea Ripley on covering WWE 2K24, and the women’s wrestling evolution

Rhea Ripley is one of three cover stars for WWE 2K24.
rhea ripley wwe 2k24 cover star

Rhea Ripley’s ascent to the top of the WWE women’s division has been swift. Debuting for the company during the Mae Young Classic in 2017, after years of working in Australia’s local independent scene, she’s made a mark for a number of reasons: a hard-hitting style, a unique look, an ever-evolving character, and so much more.

As of writing, Ripley is heading into WrestleMania season – the biggest time of year for professional wrestling – as Women’s World Champion. She’s defended the championship for over a year, and is currently the second longest-serving champion in the title’s history.

From quiet beginnings, Ripley has built a legacy; building on her skills, breaking down brick walls, and evolving to become a blockbuster name – one of the most popular wrestlers on the WWE roster.

In short: it’s been a stellar run for the Australian-born star lately, and it’s no wonder she’s been crowned one of three major cover stars for WWE 2K24. She graces the cover of the Deluxe Edition of the game alongside Bianca Belair, with both representing a bright future for women’s wrestling, and for WWE. The position may be ceremonial in nature, but it’s a reflection of just how far Ripley has come since she debuted on the global stage.

“It’s wild,” Ripley told GamesHub of the achievement. “It’s still super surreal to me. It’s wild to think through the whole journey of me starting in Adelaide, South Australia, making my way through WWE, to now being on the cover of WWE 2K24 with Bianca … I feel so proud of everything that I’ve accomplished. It’s just another history-making thing that I get to be part of. It’s not only putting me on the map, but putting Australia on the map, in the wrestling scene. So I’m just really proud to be the person to do that.”

Read: WWE 2K24 will feature Cody Rhodes, Rhea Ripley, and Bianca Belair as cover stars

Notably, Ripley and Belair are part of the first women’s-only cover of the WWE 2K series. While WWE 2K20 featured Becky Lynch on the cover – a major achievement at the time – she shared this cover with Roman Reigns. Belair is also notable for being the first woman of colour to feature on a WWE 2K cover.

bianca belair wwe 2k24 gameplay
Image: 2K Games

“If there was one woman that I got to share [this] with, I’m glad that it’s Bianca – because I’ve seen how hard she works,” Ripley said. “You have to remember she didn’t do this profession before coming to WWE. She started at the Performance Center [WWE’s training headquarters] and she’s just succeeded in leaps and bounds. She’s exceeded everyone’s expectations of her, in a way, and she’s been grinding for so long.”

“It’s really cool to see someone so deserving get such a special thing, and I’m glad that we get to make history together once again.”

“History-making” is a fair description for Belair, and for Ripley herself – who has worked tirelessly over the last few years to make a name for herself, but perhaps more importantly, to bring up the entire women’s division.

Frankly speaking, professional wrestling has lagged behind in its representation of women over the last few decades, with change slow to occur. Into the 2010s, women were often still presented in stereotype, within a narrow view of femininity. While there were rare exceptions, women wrestlers were typically presented as bubbly, blonde, and lithe.

In the mid-2010s, that began to change, with countless talented women wrestlers smashing gender ceilings – Paige, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Asuka, Ember Moon, and so on. They inspired Ripley, and paved a path she continues to build.

While she entered the industry expecting to be required to look and behave a certain way – notably, she debuted with long blonde hair and that aforementioned bubbliness – one of her proudest achievements is doing away with that, and forging a new path where she can be herself.

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Image: 2K Games

“I’m able to be genuine to myself [now] and stand out in a way where I feel like I’ve brought a different scene of people into WWE, and helped inspire a lot of people out there to be themselves,” Ripley said. As for the evolution of women’s representation on screen: “It’s growing each and every year, each and every month.”

“Watching WWE growing up, it’s changed so drastically. We get to go out there and we get to be ourselves, and express ourselves, in so many different ways. There’s less limitations now, whether it’s changing the colour of our hair … everyone had to stay the same for so long, and it was so hard for people to grow, and it’s just not natural.”

“Now, we have more freedom and flexibility, and we get to express ourselves in the ring. We get to actually go out there and get time, and prove that we can go just like the guys can … We’ve already gone so far, but there is no roof. There’s no limit. I’m excited to see where it’s going to be in the next couple of years because I feel like women are going to take over.”

“I’m just proud of the growth of every single woman in the division, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us – because we’re all striving for greatness, and it’s going to be amazing.”

In many respects, Ripley is also paving the way for that future generation of women – of all ages. Not only those currently working in the ring, fighting for opportunities on the global stage, but also those watching from home, dreaming of a career in wrestling.

To young girls and boys watching her ascent, Ripley hopes she represents a brighter, more inclusive future: “It’s just [about] being comfortable in your own skin,” Ripley said. “I go out there, and I’m very genuine to who I am. I have the piercings. I have the black hair. I have the tattoos. I have the broad shoulders, the muscles, and normally that gets looked down upon. I still get a lot of hate on social media for the way that I look, and some people just can’t get past that.”

“But for me, I’m confident in my own skin, and who I am, and I feel like that helps a lot of young girls and boys, to be completely honest. [They] connect to that, and then their confidence starts to grow as well, and they start to express themselves in different ways … at the end of the day, everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin. There should absolutely be no judgement. Everyone should be themselves.”

It’s this message that has typified Rhea Ripley’s run through WWE, and an attitude that has not only buoyed her rise, but inspired people worldwide. For Ripley, having that impact on WWE fans has been one of the most important parts of her run. It’s also a reminder of why she’s one of the select WWE superstars to make the cover of the WWE 2K series.

Rhea Ripley is a groundbreaker, and it’s fantastic to see her rewarded as part of this year’s WWE 2K celebrations. She’s certainly earned her spot on the game’s cover.

WWE 2K24 launches for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on 8 March 2024.

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Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.