There aren't many wrestlers who have grinded like Rhea Ripley. Back in 2019 we checked in with the "Mosh Pit Kid" when she was in WWE's developmental territory NXT. There, she stood out among the entire roster for how hard she went in the ring, and for her personal aesthetic, which brought a spiked leather look to the brand. Since then, she's graduated to WWE's flagship show Monday Night Raw, and immediately made herself known as a main event performer and a charismatic figure for the audience to feel passionately about.
Ripley also notably brings a side of metal and rock to WWE that hasn't been seen there before. As she proudly backs bands like Suicide Silence and New Years Day, heavy music's attitude seemingly informs everything she does in the ring. Indeed, late Suicide Silence frontman Mitch Lucker even inspired the thunderous stomp she's frequently deploys.
This Sunday at Wrestlemania 37 she'll be taking on Asuka for the WWE Raw Women's championship. The match stands as a testament to the work Ripley has put in, climbing up from NXT to star in one of the night's marquee events. Making the night extra special, she'll be played to the ring by Ash Costello of New Years Day, who sings her theme, "Brutality." It's a victory for metalheads and wrestling fans alike that Ripley's made it to what she describes as "the grandest stage of them all."
We spoke to her about her last couple of years in the ring, how she found heavy metal and what we can look forward to this weekend. You can catch Wrestlemania 37 this weekend on Peacock.
SO IT'S BEEN A COUPLE YEARS SINCE WE LAST CHECKED IN, AND IT'S BEEN A GNARLY COUPLE OF YEARS. WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE ON YOUR END AS A WRESTLER?
RHEA RIPLEY It's been wild, really really wild. ... It's weird, I feel like I've not only been growing as a professional wrestler but also as a human being. Since I'm only 24, I've had a lot of growing up over the last few years, so it's been an emotional roller coaster for me. [Laughs] But I feel like I'm overcoming everything and I'm becoming this strong individual, and it's really showing on Raw and I'm excited to see where my career goes and how I can brutalize everyone pretty much. [Laughs]
I FEEL LIKE WITH WRESTLING FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A VIEWER, YOU CAN REALLY SEE A LOT OF THE PERSONAL STUFF SEEP ITS WAY INTO THE PERFORMANCE, AND THAT'S KIND OF THE MAGIC OF WRESTLING, THAT MIDPOINT BETWEEN WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH THE PERSON OUT OF THE RING AND INSIDE IT.
Yeah, definitely. I feel like it's more special and you can connect more when the athlete is being genuine, and I feel like that's why I connect with people. I'm just being myself. I'm just being a 10-times version of myself and I love it. I don't really have to put on a front. I don't have to do much, I'm just me. Like me, Rhea Ripley is how I get angry on the daily. [Laughs] I just try not to take it out on people like I do in WWE, otherwise I'd go to jail. So I have to hold myself back a little, but when it comes to work I can pretty much do whatever I want, which is fantastic.
I'M CURIOUS HOW YOU GOT INTO METAL. I FEEL LIKE, AS A KID, I ALWAYS ENVISIONED AUSTRALIA AS BEING LIKE A BADASS ISLAND WHERE EVERYONE WAS DOWN WITH PARKWAY DRIVE AND I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN.
Growing up music-wise, I listened to a lot of different genres because I had different friend groups, I listened to different music so I experimented in everything. But I remember watching RAW and hearing Papa Roach for the first time and thinking, "These guys are really cool, like, I really like this song." So I looked them up on YouTube and you know how that goes, you just keep watching the next videos and going through playlists and it's got all different bands. I remember thinking, "This music is sick. It's getting me pumped up." So I started downloading the music and listening more, especially in high school, every time in class I'd either be watching Dragon Ball Z or listening to music. [Laughs] That's pretty much what my schooling years were like, which isn't the best thing to say. Kids, don't follow in my footsteps! But that's what my life was. I remember being in art class and sitting there with my headphones drawing, listening to Suicide Silence and headbanging. I'd start opening mouth like I was screaming. My friend started recording me like, "What the hell is she doing?" And I still listen to a bunch of the bands from high school, like, I haven't ventured too far away from that.
I MEAN THAT MUSIC FLOWED SO WELL WITH DRAGON BALL Z, TOO — YOU COULD FIND LOADS OF VIDEOS WITH FIGHTS SET TO SUICIDE SILENCE AND PARKWAY AND ALL OF THAT.
Oh yeah, pumped-up videos with screamo over the top. It's awesome. [Laughs]
IT'S FUNNY YOU SAY THAT ABOUT PAPA ROACH. I WAS LOOKING THROUGH THE COMMENTS OF NEW YEARS DAY'S STUFF AND ALSO YOUR THEME, AND PEOPLE COMMENTING HOW THEY FOUND THAT BAND NOW BECAUSE ASH COSTELLO SINGS IT. LIKE, YOU'RE THE LATEST IN THAT LINEAGE TO INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO METAL THROUGH WRESTLING.
Yes, that makes me so happy. [Laughs] That makes me so excited, I remember listening to New Years Day before Ash sang my song and I remember thinking they were really, really cool, and then once they got Ash to sing my music I listened to them more and more. Even posted them on my social media, and people would message me over my Instagram story. It makes me really happy to introduce people to all kinds of music 'cause some people just don't know, and to get more eyes on this scene because it's amazing. It's not just metal and screaming and all that — there's actually great messages behind it.
OH YEAH, AND ASH SPECIFICALLY, I THINK ALL OF HER LYRICS FEEL LIKE EXTREMELY EMPOWERING AND BASED AROUND FINDING ENERGY WITHIN YOURSELF.
Absolutely. So much of her music has gotten me through some really dark times in my life because I can relate to it so well. I'm like, "This chick's doing so well and she's been through this and is telling me I can overcome it and be confident." It got me through a lot, so I know it can get other people through stuff also. I mean, it's what's super cool about music — it's just so meaningful.
HOW STOKED ARE YOU FOR HER TO BE AT WRESTLEMANIA?
I'm so excited. I'm so bloody excited, words can't even describe it. I've been messaging Ash pretty much every day: "This is gonna be so cool!" I can't wait to share this moment with Ash and New Years Day, and I can't wait to see the photos that come from Wrestlemania. I'm honestly going to mark out over them, because it's such a cool moment for me and them. I know they haven't been touring because of the pandemic so this is an awesome thing for them. It's a way for them to perform and do what they love again, and I'm just so excited. [Laughs] I'm still in shock that it's a thing and it's happening.
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO LATELY?
A lot of Motionless in White, New Years Day. I just started listening to Attila. I just discovered them — they're actually really good. I'm not sure how I haven't stumbled upon them yet. I'm still listening to Falling in Reverse, Of Mice and Men, Suicide Silence. I love all those bands.
LAST YEAR YOU PULLED FROM DRAGON BALL Z'S VEGETA. ARE YOU PULLING FROM ANOTHER ANIME THIS YEAR FOR YOUR ATTIRE?
I loved that I did Vegeta last year. It was definitely something I wanted to do in WWE and I'm glad I got to bring that to life. This year I'm sort of doing a mesh of different things. I'm not going to give it away but it's a couple of things put together that are cool. This year I want to look like Rhea Ripley and look like a badass and get some sick photos with New Years Day.
DID YOU KNOW FROM THE BEGINNING YOU WANTED TO BRING A METAL AESTHETIC INTO WHAT YOU DO?
Yeah, I feel like it's always been me. It took me a long time to accept that that's me. When I first came here, and even in Australia I had a denim vest with heaps of different band patches and some spikes, but when I came here, everything sort of got flipped around. I sort of just did what people were telling me to do in order to fit in and make sure everyone's happy, but eventually it was like, "Screw this, I'm going to be myself." If myself is these massive spikes then so be it. Over the years they've gradually gotten bigger and bigger. The first year it was just smaller spikes and some chains, but now they're just bigger and heavier and ridiculous.
THE MORE YOUR POWER GROWS, THE BIGGER THE SPIKES GET!
Yeah! [Laughs] I need to find some massive spikes. I just haven't found the right ones.
IT'S FUNNY, I FEEL LIKE AS A KID I WAS ALWAYS WAITING FOR THE "GOTH WRESTLER" TO COME OUT, AND WHAT YOU DO SORT OF HITS THAT BUT IN YOUR OWN WAY. THERE'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE THAT KID ROOTING FOR THE ALT.
I feel the same. There's never been someone that dresses like me, at least not before Paige. Paige leaned into it a little bit, but I feel like I take it a step further in trying to really harness who I am as a person. 'Cause I wear this stuff in every day life, too. When I'm not going to the gym and I actually dress up for something, I wear this. It's different from everyone else, but it locks into a certain person and crew. It's my crew.