‘The Queen’ is dangerously close to suffering from a bad case of night terrors – highlighted by one Nightmare in particular.
NXT Women’s Champion “The Nightmare” Rhea Ripley is only 23, yet she’s no stranger to making history.
And this weekend, at a historic WrestleMania 36, she’ll face one of the industry’s greatest history-makers in Charlotte Flair, with an opportunity to turn the tide in her young career for years to come.
The @WWENXT #WomensTitle will be defended at #WrestleMania for the very first time this weekend when @RheaRipley_WWE defends the gold against @MsCharlotteWWE!
— WWE (@WWE) April 1, 2020
Ripley – formerly known in the ring by her real name, Demi Bennett, is a native Australian who burst onto the WWE scene at the inaugural Mae Young Classic in 2017, along with Shayna Baszler, Lacey Evans and Dakota Kai, all of whom participated in the event as well.
As you can see, there was nothing nightmarish about Ripley’s look when she first arrived in WWE.
But a mere year later, at the 2018 version of the Mae Young Classic, Ripley had come out of her shell, developing her rugged, rebellious persona in the process.
Ripley would lose in the semifinals of the tournament, but regardless, her star was beginning to flicker.
She originally landed with the NXT brand, before swiftly moving over to the NXT UK brand. And in August 2018 (the matches weren’t aired until November 2018), Ripley made her way through an 8-woman tournament to become the first-ever NXT UK Women’s champion, defeating Toni Storm in the tournament finale.
Ripley held the title until January 2019, when Storm delivered ‘The Nightmare’ her first defeat and ended her title reign with NXT UK.
It was at that point that Ripley began her crossover move.
At the 2019 Royal Rumble, Ripley made her first pay-per-view appearance as the 24th entry in the Women’s Royal Rumble. She was the only participant from NXT UK.
Ripley was eliminated by Bayley, and would continue to perform under the NXT UK banner through the majority of 2019, feuding with Piper Niven and others.
It wasn’t until August 2019 that she officially returned to the NXT brand, challenging then-NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler in her debut.
Ripley’s presence was immediately felt with NXT.
Not only had she challenged its champion, she joined forces with its founder Triple H in sparking the cross-brand feud between NXT, Raw and SmackDown.
She then defeated Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair in a triple threat match on SmackDown to solidify her arrival as a WWE Superstar.
After this high-profile victory, Ripley’s star began to explode, as did her success.
At the 2019 Survivor Series, ‘The Nightmare’ led the NXT team of Bianca Belair, Toni Storm, Io Shirai and Candice LeRae in a 5-on-5-on-5 triple threat elimination match.
Their opponents were the Raw team of Charlotte Flair, Asuka, Kairi Sane, Natalya and Sarah Logan, and the SmackDown team of Sasha Banks, Lacey Evans, Nikki Cross, Carmella and Dana Brooke.
Team NXT, behind Ripley’s elimination of Banks, won the match.
Less than a month later, Ripley snatched the NXT Women’s Championship from Baszler, becoming the first women to have won the Women’s Championship under the NXT and NXT UK umbrellas.
With Ripley at the top of the NXT hierarchy, she set her sights on the top of the WWE hierarchy in February.
After Charlotte Flair won the 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble, earning herself a title opportunity in the process, Ripley challenged Flair to face her at WrestleMania 36 for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Flair made a subsequent appearance on NXT, but was attacked by Ripley and Bianca Belair.
Well, of course, ‘The Queen’ returned the favor, making a surprise appearance at NXT TakeOver: Portland on Feb. 16.
Flair accepted Ripley’s challenge in the process, but still, ‘The Queen’ and ‘The Nightmare’ couldn’t keep their fists off each other.
On March 9, Ripley punched Flair on Raw.
Two days later on NXT, Flair punched back.
Then, this past week, in typical ‘The Queen’ fashion, Flair kicked Ripley in the back in multiple-inch heels.
.@MsCharlotteWWE ambushed #WWENXT Women’s Champion @RheaRipley_WWE ahead of their encounter at #WrestleMania!#WWERaw pic.twitter.com/p7Hy20yp51
— WWE (@WWE) April 1, 2020
Needless to say, Ripley has payback on her mind entering the weekend.
Soon! 👹 https://t.co/tYMBRubVhr
— RheaRipley_WWE (@RheaRipley_WWE) April 2, 2020
If Ripley can defeat Flair – the former NXT, Raw and SmackDown Women’s Champion – her young star will only burn brighter.
And it won’t be too long before she’s everyone’s nightmare.