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Rhea Ripley Explains Her Physical Transformation, Persona in WWE

Rhea Ripley explains her journey from timid rookie to the larger-than-life WWE champion she is today!

By Chris Phelan
WWE's Rhea Ripley

The Rhea Ripley that the WWE Universe knows and loves in 2024 is the furthest thing possible from the 20-year-old rookie who debuted in NXT in 2017.

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Nowadays, Rhea Ripley is far removed from anything resembling the promising young Superstar. The reigning Women's World Champion – currently set to defend her title against Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 40 – has undergone a physical transformation in recent years, and she recently revealed the impetus for such a dramatic change in her personal presentation, which saw everything from her body type to her hair color change. 

What a difference seven years makes. We love seeing a WWE Superstar evolve throughout their career, and Rhea Ripley is living proof that what the WWE Universe sees early in a person's wrestling journey is not necessarily indicative of the Superstar they'll become down the road.

However, the transformation hasn't always been easy for Mami.

Rhea Ripley talks early WWE Appearance, NXT Debut

Rhea Ripley

During a recent appearance on the BWGS Podcast, Rhea confessed that her physical transformation wasn't necessarily the result of an organic evolution of her character but more being inspired by a fellow WWE Superstar who gave her the courage to take risks with her presentation. As it turns out, being one of the youngest participants in the 2017 Mae Young Classic caused her people-pleasing tendencies to emerge. 

"The Rhea Ripley that we all saw in the first Mae Young Classic, I was 20," she explained. "I was so young and I just wanted to please everyone. I was so scared of doing anything different or anything that I thought was different. But the Rhea Ripley you see today is what I was on the inside. I didn't let it out because I felt like I had to fit a specific mold to be in the WWE."

The WWE of 2017 is a far cry from its 2024 counterpart. Today, WWE Superstars are encouraged to embrace who they are and not avoid using outside-of-the-ring influences and motivations to affect their in-ring presentation

We know we're not alone when we say we're overjoyed that Rhea feels comfortable in how she's presented on television. And as it turns out, one ex-WWE Superstar in particular gave her the courage to be different!

Who Inspired Rhea Ripley to Change Her Appearance?

Rhea Ripley in the ring

Rhea admitted it was challenging to fit herself into the box WWE wanted her to be in, but thankfully, she found inspiration in the NXT women's locker room. 

"It was a time when females weren't big and bulky, they didn't have tattoos," Rhea recalled. "They all had the long hair and I'm glad for someone like – I don't actually give her enough credit – [former WWE Superstar] Ruby Riott – she was the first one that I really looked at and was like, 'Wow, she's covered in tattoos. She's got short hair, she looks super cool.' I remember tagging with her quite a few times on the non-televised shows and she helped me just bring out that side of me that was me."

Call her punk-rock, call her cool, call her alternative – Ruby Riott made a lasting impact on the WWE Universe during her time in WWE, and we're glad that also rubbed off on Rhea Ripley. Who knows what version of Rhea we'd be watching every week on Monday Night Raw if it wasn't for the former Superstar?

Rhea Ripley Talks WWE Future and Persona

WWE's Rhea Ripley

Now that she's more than comfortable in her own skin – she's approaching the one-year mark as Women's World Champion, after all – Rhea Ripley utilizes the benefit of hindsight when looking back on her early career.

To perhaps her surprise, Rhea explained how she felt like she wasn't herself when she first started competing in NXT. 

"I hate fake people – I was one," Rhea confessed. "And I was like, just don't care what anyone thinks about you. If they don't like you, they don't deserve to be in your life. So I just kind of decided to be myself. I cut my hair short. At the time, we had to get tattoos approved." 

Rhea quickly pointed out that she figured out a way to get around the "tattoo approval" process – something we're sure her fans will love to hear.

"I mean, we still sort of do – I just get away with it," she revealed. "I wore pants as a way to get leg sleeves. That was my little loophole."

(Never change, Rhea!)

Will Rhea Ripley Compete at WrestleMania 40?

Wwe Tattoos Rhea Ripley

Not only will Mami compete on the Grandest Stage of Them All, but she'll be defending her championship against Becky Lynch in one of the most highly anticipated matches in recent history. Because of matchups like this, WrestleMania 40 is already being touted as the biggest WrestleMania ever! 

Both WWE Superstars have been on a tear, and we can't wait to see them tear the house down in Philadelphia – just like Rhea did with Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 39. 

You can tune in to Peacock to watch WrestleMania on April 6 and 7. In the meantime, catch up on all things WWE Universe on Peacock.

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