Shayna Baszler details working with Ronda Rousey for final WWE match: ‘It’s fitting that it was me’

From the day Ronda Rousey first arrived in WWE, Shayna Baszler couldn’t wait to work with her longtime friend.

Unfortunately, Baszler didn’t have much chance to work with Rousey until the ex-UFC champ’s WWE career was coming to an end. Outside of a couple random moments, including a 30-person, over-the-top rope battle in the Royal Rumble, the two hardly crossed paths. Then, following the birth of her daughter, Rousey decided to leave pro wrestling. She was disenchanted with constant travel and the direction she was headed.

Before Rousey left, however, she and Baszler became WWE tag team champions. That set up the ultimate pro wrestling move, a double-cross that promised a confrontation of epic proportions. The following week on TV, Baszler let loose a scathing promo, claiming unlike Rousey, she paid her dues to earn a spot on the roster. Baszler added nothing had been handed to her – like a main event spot in WrestleMania Rousey earned barely a year after her debut.

It felt all too real, because that’s exactly how Baszler and Rousey planned it.

“Obviously with television and WWE, there’s still some restraints, and things we wish we could have done, but the promo work, you hear wrestlers say it all the time, if you can make it come from somewhere real, it’s going to come across as genuine,” Baszler told MMA Fighting. “We were writing our own promos.

“We’re friends, so we’re like, ‘Gloves off, let’s just say all the stuff people think we should say to each other.’ It made people interested.”

Baszler received rave reviews for the promo, but the bigger moment came weeks later when she got matched up against Rousey at Summerslam, an annual tentpole event for WWE.

By that time, Rousey knew she was on her way out. But the multi-time WWE champion wanted nothing more than to put her friend over — wrestling terminology for making it look good so the crowd will care — in a final match.

As much as it stung to see Rousey leave, Baszler appreciated being the person on the other side of that ring for her friend’s last appearance in WWE.

“The match we had, we knew going in, it was this huge stadium, and there wasn’t a jumbotron like normal, above the ring so everyone could see,” Baszler explained. “We knew going in wanting to have a more MMA style match that the stadium crowd was maybe going to get lost. Because this isn’t an MMA audience. This is a pro-wrestling audience. They’re used to motion, and they’re not used to seeing grappling in the one spot.

“We kind of knew going in what the reception was going to be, and we hoped that it’s a legacy we leave that perhaps years down the road people are going to see.”

In her new autobiography, Our Fight, Rousey documented those last moments spent alongside Baszler. She felt sheer elation leaving the ring as the crowd cheered for her friend, who won the match.

“The crowd booed and jeered at me as I walked away from Shayna celebrating in the ring with my hands on my hips and my head down,” Rousey wrote. “As I headed toward backstage, I wanted so badly to look back, to cheer for her right along with the fans as she raised her arms victoriously.”

In a perfect world, Baszler hopes she’ll get the chance to work with Rousey again, though the former UFC champion has seemingly made it clear that she’s put WWE behind her for good.

Regardless, Baszler was proud she got the share that moment with Rousey.

“People that maybe haven’t done sports, maybe won’t understand this, but I’m the first person to submit Ronda Rousey in a combat sport,” Baszler said about her rear-naked choke win over Rousey at Summerslam. “It’s fitting that it was me. Friends.

“If that had been someone else, I don’t think it would have been the same. There’s a lot to say. I wish we could have another. I wish we could tell this story over a longer time period. Like you said, never say never, but if that was it, I’m glad that it went that way for sure.”

Baszler hopes to experience another huge moment in her career on Thursday night when she performs at the Bloodsport pro-wrestling event in Philadelphia. The show is promoted by former UFC champion Josh Barnett, who also happens to be Baszler’s coach, mentor and lifelong friend.

Because she’s still under contract with WWE, Baszler actually never imagined she would have the chanced to share a card with Barnett. But the powers that be at the pro wrestling powerhouse suggested the idea to her.

“On my end, I talk to Josh all the time obviously, and I know he had been talking to some WWE higher ups about possibly using some talent,” Baszler revealed. “I just assumed it was going to be like newer NXT recruits that hadn’t been used or something and it was just never a thought in my mind.

“I get pulled in the office, and they’re like, ‘Would you like to wrestle on Josh’s Bloodsport?’ I’m like yeah, is everything cool? They’re like yeah, he was just looking for people, and there’s only a few wrestlers that we have that know how to wrestle that style, and you’re one of them, so are you interested? I said yes, 100 percent. It was a complete surprise on my end.”

Considering Baszler learned from Barnett, she’s honored to compete on a card with him. More importantly, she’s excited to return to her roots for a shoot-wrestling style that’s vastly different than a typical WWE broadcast. It’s a style that she adapted when she got into WWE, but she’ll get to display everything she knows in her next match.

“It’s definitely a full-circle moment,” Baszler said. “It’s not just about wrestling on a card, obviously Josh being a huge influence on my career and my life, being my mentor, but for people or MMA fans that don’t know a lot about pro wrestling, the style of pro wrestling that Josh’s event Bloodsport is very much in the lines of old-school Pancrase, old-school RINGS. If everything is done right, you should watch it and go, ‘Holy smokes.’ Understand, back in the old PRIDE days, those guys would claim pro wrestling as their martial art when they were fighting in PRIDE.

“That all comes from UWFI (Union of Wrestling Forces International), which was started partially by Billy Robinson and Billy was Josh’s coach and I also learned directly under Billy for a little bit while he was still around. It’s not just about Josh. It’s about the entire lineage.”