Australian wrestler Rhea Ripley has risen to fame in recent years, graduating from wrestling in South Australia to make a name for herself in the star-studded WWE. In her tenure with the company, she’s become known for her hard-hitting style, her endurance, and her determination to break boundaries in the wrestling world. In the course of this quest, she hasn’t just wrestled other women – she’s also wrestled men, in both handicap and one-on-one bouts.
Intergender wrestling has long been a point of contention in the industry, with some likening the optics of women and men wrestling to depictions of violence against women. This interpretation discounts a great many things: namely, that wrestling is pure power fantasy, and that women like Ripley can certainly hold their own against their male counterparts.
Ripley has faced off against numerous male opponents in recent years, notably beating Akira Tozawa in a rare intergender match on WWE Raw in late 2022. She’s also faced off against Edge in tag team matches, and fought against NXT manager, Robert Stone.
Despite this, upcoming video game WWE 2K23 avoids this history, cutting out much of Ripley’s stellar career. While she’s certainly had impressive bouts against women wrestlers – her bout against Charlotte Flair at Wrestlemania 36 is a standout – her escapades with the fellow members of Judgement Day can’t be replicated, due to the game’s gender lock system. Women can’t fight against men, and men can’t fight against women.
In future games, Ripley wants to see this changed.
‘It is a game, so I feel like there’s no limitations to what you could do,’ Ripley recently told GamesHub of a potential expansion to include intergender wrestling in the WWE 2K series. ‘Especially if we’re doing it here, on WWE Raw. I had that singles match with Akira Tozawa. I’ve also had an intergender handicap match with Robert Stone on NXT with Aliyah. I’ve done these things – they’re part of history.’
‘You can’t erase history. I think it would be cool if we could add intergender wrestling into 2K, even if it’s WWE 2K24. I would definitely put myself against a lot of men that I would want to wrestle.’
As for who’s on Ripley’s hit list, she named Edge, Randy Orton, and Rey Mysterio as her dream opponents in a future where intergender wrestling is treated with the respect it deserves.
In the meantime, Ripley has her sights set on bigger targets – Charlotte Flair (her upcoming opponent at Wrestlemania 39) and Beth Phoenix, a legend of the WWE women’s division who has recently faced off with Ripley in tag team action.
‘Beth Phoenix is one that I always say is my real-life dream match opponent,’ Ripley said. ‘So, if I could fight her in WWE 2K23, then I will. I think that’s going to be a great matchup.’
‘Being a different shaped human – being bigger, having broader shoulders, having muscle – Beth was really a [wrestler] that I gravitated towards [growing up]. I could relate to her, and to see her not really care about people’s opinion on what she looked like, or how she had to portray herself as a “pretty woman” – I think I really appreciated that.’
Notably, Phoenix also participated in early intergender matches in WWE, and became one of very few female participants in the original version of the Royal Rumble match, which was previously male-only. It’s no wonder she’s a dream opponent for Ripley – both have become known for their work in forging a brighter future for women’s wrestling.
For Ripley, the next few weeks will be intense, between a packed media schedule, training, and other appearances ahead of her next match against Charlotte Flair, at Wrestlemania 39. The event will air on Binge in Australia from 2-3 April 2023, with the impact of their matchup likely revealing Ripley’s future in WWE.
In the meantime, keen players will be able to tackle most of Ripley’s dream matches for themselves when WWE 2K23 launches for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows PC on 17 March 2023.
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